Tenzing Norgay 'should have been knighted too'

ON TOP: Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary after their Everest triumph.
ON TOP: Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary after their Everest triumph.

Sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s grandson says his grandfather should have got a knighthood and not an inferior honour to Sir Edmund Hillary.

In a report in The Guardian, Tashi Tenzing, who has climbed Mt Everest three times, appealed for Britain to make a gesture towards the local climbers who helped Hillary’s first ascent in 1953.

It was his grandfather who took Britain’s flag to the summit.

He is critical that Tenzing Norgay got a George Medal, while Hillary and John Hunt, the British army officer who led the 1953 expedition, got knighthoods.

‘‘I think my grandfather should have been knighted. He was a member of the expedition, not just a Sherpa. They just gave him a bloody medal,’’ said Tashi Tenzing, 49.

He has been outspoken before about the difference, saying without Tenzing Norgay Hillary would not have reached the summit. He has previously called Hillary a great man and an inspiration.

Hillary had insisted that he and Tenzing had reached the summit simultaneously, although he later said he was in front, cutting steps into frozen snow, during the final stages of the climb.

The Guardian says the honour slight has long rankled in Nepal.

A folksong includes the lines: ‘‘Our Tenzing Sherpa climbed the highest mountain, pulling Hillary along.’’

One local political party suggested renaming Everest ‘‘Tenzing Peak’’.

Tashi Tenzing admitted his grandfather was not particularly interested in fame.

‘‘I don’t think he was really bothered. He climbed Everest because it was part of his life and because the work allowed him to look after his children. It was not for recognition,’’ he said.

The Guardian said some Sherpas compared him unfavourably with Hillary, who worked hard for the development of the Khumbu, the community’s mountainous home.

Last Sunday, schoolchildren, villagers and clerics held a short ceremony of commemoration at a monument in Hillary’s memory erected on a hillside above the village of Khumjung.

Tenzing left the area and became an Indian citizen.‘‘He did not help us like Hillary did,’’ Kancha Sherpa, an 81-year-old veteran of the 1953 expedition, told The Guardian.

Fairfax Media