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Hillary a different sort of climber

Dear Editor:

Over the years, I had the chance to meet Edmund Hillary several times, first in 1967 in Nepal, where I had visited the schools and medical clinics he had brought to the Sherpas. He loved the Sherpas and they he.

In this respect there is something about the 1953 British expedition to Everest which is not often discussed. There was a snobbery about the Sherpas. They resented it and it took all the diplomatic skills of Tenzing to keep them from quitting before the expedition left Kathmandu. Tenzing knew more about the mountain than any of them and nearly climbed it the year before with the Swiss. On this expedition he was treated like a member and not a glorified hired hand.

On the British expedition none of the climbers, other than Hillary, would have shared a tent with a Sherpa. It was just not done. But Hillary was an outsider too and impervious to race and class. It is fitting that these two outsiders were the first to climb Chomo-Lungma ” the Goddess mother of the world.

Jeremy Bernstein

Aspen


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