Jamling Tenzing Norgay: Man, Myth, Legend

UP-CLOSE WITH NEPALI CLIMBER AND AUTHOR JAMLING TENZING NORGAY, SON OF TENZING NORGAY

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Every morning, before the sun rises in Darjeeling over the verdant foothills of India’s Himalayas, Jamling Tenzing Norgay is up. The expert climber, and New York Times best-selling author of the 2001 memoir Touching My Father’s Soul, begins his ritual walk (totalling 16 kilometres each day) with wife Soyang, followed by a three-hour tennis session. Suffice to say, staying healthy and fit is a regular requisite for the Darjeeling-born-and-based Nepali, whose life is spent exploring the mountains.

No stranger to high altitudes, Norgay’s Alpine ease comes from his DNA. Not only is he the son of Tenzing Norgay, the legendary trailblazer who was first to summit Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953, but he’s also of Sherpa descent, a time-tested tribe from the high Himalayas that migrated from Tibet into East Nepal’s Khumbu Valley 500 years ago.

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“We Sherpas believe that mountains are a sacred place. We don’t climb mountains for leisure or sport … it’s a way of living.”

“Until the day my father reached the summit of Everest, nobody knew what a Sherpa was”, Jamling tells Bally. “They often thought Sherpa is a profession, a guide, not a culture or ethnic group. Even today people don’t know, so I try my best to educate them.” Jamling adds, “I think people come to the Himalayas to enjoy its beauty – the highest mountains in the world. They forget that the beauty lies not in the mountains but in the culture. We Sherpas believe that mountains are a sacred place. We don’t climb mountains for leisure or sport … it’s a way of living.”

Following his father’s footsteps, Jamling first summited Everest in 1996 as part of the IMAX expedition during an ominous climbing season characterized by a deadly blizzard. Capturing the events surrounding the tragedy, Jamling and the IMAX film became global phenomena, not dissimilar to Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary themselves.

“I looked up to my father as my greatest role model,” Jamling recounts. “He was my hero. Climbing Everest was more of a pilgrimage for me. I didn’t look at it like a challenge. Since I was a child, I dreamt of climbing this mountain. It was meant to be … a lesson of learning for me of myself, my father and our Sherpa beliefs.”

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“Climbing Everest was more of a pilgrimage for me … a lesson of learning for me of myself, my father and our Sherpa beliefs.”

Today, Jamling continues to guide groups to the world’s peaks and through his adventure travel company, Tenzing Norgay Adventures, he helps to promote greater cultural awareness of Sherpas around the world and provides support for local and Himalayan communities, including educational and scholarship opportunities, improved healthcare and environmental conservation through the Tenzing Norgay Sherpa Foundation. “Everest is just the beginning,” he concludes. “We have to set ourselves new challenges.”