Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After Everest, by Tenzing Norgay as told to Malcolm Barnes

After Everest, an autobiography of Tenzing Norgay put together by Malcolm Barnes, picks up where Ullman's Tiger of the Snows left off in 1955. Because Tenzing could neither read nor write, his autobiography necessarily has a co-author. After Everest tells the tales of the founding and running of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling as well as the many travels of the author. The book also covers Tenzing's life in Darjeeling and the story of his family.

The book stars an all-star cast of Everest climbers, including Americans, Swiss, British, Indian, and others. I was impressed by how much contact he had with other Everesters, especially Lute Jerstad and many of the Swiss. I also took note how relatively little I read about the British, including Sir Edmund Hillary, in this book. While Tenzing attends a couple reunions and makes a tour of New Zealand with Hillary, it doesn't seem to me that he seeks out contact with his 1953 teammates. He does discuss near the end that the Swiss expeditions overall had a greater impact on his psyche, since they were new adventures and overall much harder work than the British venture. I also didn't previously know (or perhaps remember?) of his role of organizing gear and porters for the three Indian Everest expeditions of 1960, 1962, and 1965, or that the HMI ran shakedowns for these trips. (It's been several years since I read Douglas' Hero of Everest, my most recent Tenzing adult biography, and it's quite possible this information is in there somewhere.)

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is something quite amazing. With the help of many Swiss mountaineers and the governments of India and West Bengal, Tenzing helps establish a top-of-the-line climbing school, with basic and advanced courses for all ages, as well as adventure programs for teens. The students trek into Sikkim for several weeks of on-site mountain training. The programs provides several scholarships for Sherpas, and the tuition overall is rather low thanks to government subsidies. I was amazed that the basic program has only a ten percent graduation rate due to the staff's high standards.

Tenzing travels worldwide, and is especially fond of Switzerland. Everywhere he travels, people want to show him their native mountains, and he gets to see many of the world's great ranges (the Andes being the big exception). I was especially happy to read about his trip up Mount Ranier with Lute Jerstad, Jim Whittaker, Tom Hornbein, and Barry Bishop. They made one of the harder routes sound like a holiday in the park!

And lastly, I learned that I actually have something in common with Tenzing Norgay: "If I can find in any country plenty of good cheese, milk, and fruit, I can be a very satisfied man."

1 comment:

  1. Jamling Tenzing Norgay's "Touching My Father's Soul" largely picks up where "After Everest" leaves off, if you'd like to finish Tenzing's story from a familial perspective. Jamling comes of age soon after the publication of "After Everest," and Jamling's book contains a lot of details of Tenzing's late life and is a much more personal account than either of Tenzing's autobiographies.