What’s in a name?
63 years ago today…
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Mount Everest, 1953
After leaving school I managed to land a job collecting glasses in a pub in a ski resort, this was my first time in the Alps and started my love affair with the mountains. Around the same time, to add to the mystique of the mountains, my family moved into a house in an Essex village that, for many years, had been owned by Dr Charles Warren.
Hanging in the house was an ice axe, a gift to Charles from someone who had put his trust in him and whom Charles had trusted implicitly.
Ice axe purchased used on 1953 ascent of Mount Everest, European Ash handle, with forged steel head and spike
1935 British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition
Precipitated by unexpected permission from Tibet, the 1935 British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition was planned at short notice as a preliminary to an attempt on the summit of Mount Everest in 1936. Eric Shipton was appointed leader following his successful ‘trekking style’ of expedition to the Nanda Devi region in India in 1934.
Explicitly there was to be no summit attempt and supplementary oxygen was not going to be used. Charles Warren and Edmund Wigram, both Cambridge medics, Edwin Kempson a Cambridge mathematician, Michael Spender a surveyor and Dan Bryant, an ice climber from New Zealand agreed to take part. They engaged fourteen Sherpas but Shipton decided he needed perhaps a couple more and a nineteen-year-old was selected. He was completely inexperienced in mountaineering but was chosen according to Shipton largely because of his attractive grin, this was the first time that Charles Warren and Tenzing Norgay met.
The monsoon was unusually late that year and, beset by the weather little was achieved regarding the summit. However, a very large number of lesser peaks were climbed for the first time and a southern route up the Western Cwm was identified as a possible line of approach. The expedition would have considerable influence on post-war British efforts on Everest from Nepal, with Shipton himself leading the 1951 southern reconnaissance.
1938 British Mount Everest expedition
The 1938 British Mount Everest expedition was a low-key, low-cost expedition which was unlucky in encountering a very early monsoon. Leading British climbers of the day, Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman were to spearhead the expedition, Frank Smythe, Noel Odell, Peter Lloyd, Peter Oliver and again Charles Warren agreed to participate. Ang Tharkay was Sirdar and Tenzing was one of the Sherpas. The weather conditions defeated the attempts to reach the summit. The North Col was climbed for the first time from the west and an altitude of 27,200 feet (8,300 m) was reached on the North Ridge.
Charles and Tenzing built a strong bond with each other and in 1953, when Tenzing visited Britain after climbing Everest with Edmund Hillary, he stayed with his old friend at Warren’s home in Felsted, Essex.
Colonel John Hunt, Tenzing Norgay, and Edmund Hillary make a jubilant return to Britain after becoming the first men to scale Mount Everest.
Tenzing was born and raised in Tengboche, Khumbu, in northeastern Nepal. Khumbu lies near Mount Everest, which the Tibetans and Sherpas call Chomolungma, which in Standard Tibetan means “Holy Mother”, or the goddess of the summit. His exact date of birth is unknown, but he knew it was in late May by the weather and the crops and he was the 11th of 13 children.
63 years ago today
1953 British Mount Everest expedition was the ninth mountaineering expedition to attempt the first ascent of Mount Everest. The expedition totalled over 400 people, including 362 porters, 20 Sherpa guides, and 10,000 lbs of baggage, and like many such expeditions, was a team effort.
Edmund Hillary was part of the team and early in the expedition suffered a near-miss following a fall into a crevasse but was saved from hitting the bottom by Tenzing’s prompt action in securing the rope using his ice axe. This led Hillary to consider him the climbing partner of choice for any future summit attempt.
They reached Everest’s 29,028 ft (8,848 m) summit, the highest point on Earth, at 11:30 a.m. on 29th May 1953. They spent only about 15 minutes at the summit. Hillary took the famous photo of Tenzing posing with his ice-axe.
Tenzing Norgay, Mount Everest Summit, 29th May 1953
Hillary was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and Tenzing received the George Medal for his efforts on the expedition.
Tenzing and Hillary were the first people to set their feet on the summit of Mount Everest, but journalists were persistently repeating the question: “Which of the two men had the right to the glory of being the first one, and who was merely the second, the follower?” Colonel Hunt, the expedition leader, declared, “They reached it together, as a team.”
Although Hillary and Tenzing represented their triumph as belonging to a team effort by the whole of the expedition, there was intense speculation as to which of the two men had actually been first to set foot on the summit of Everest. In Kathmandu, a large banner depicted Tenzing pulling a “semi-conscious” Hillary to the summit. Tenzing eventually ended the speculation by revealing that Hillary had been first to the summit.
And in the world of private equity…
The traits, personality, ambitions and achievements of Tenzing Norgay underpin the culture and philosophies of our firm and have inspired our name. His life story and, above all his relationships with both Charles Warren and Sir Edmund Hillary, provide an analogy to guide our firm in our relationships with our portfolio companies, management teams and stakeholders. Supporting others to achieve their ambitions, no matter how great, using local knowledge built up over many years and generations, humbly ensuring that our partners gain the limelight they deserve and then working with new and equally inspiring teams on different challenges and approaches as they arrive is at our core.