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Tenzing Norgay OSN GM (29 May 1914 – 9 May 1986), born Namgyal Wangdi and often referred to as Sherpa Tenzing, was a Nepali Sherpa mountaineer.He was one of the first two individuals known to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which he accomplished with Edmund Hillary on 29 May 1953. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
There are conflicting accounts of his early life. The account he gave in his autobiography, accepted for several years, is that he was a Sherpa born and raised in Tengboche, Khumbu, in northeastern Nepal. In an interview with All India Radio in 1985, Tenzing Norgay said that his parents came from Tibet, but that he was born in Nepal. According to many later alternate accounts, he was born in Tibet,at Tse Chu in the Kama Valley, and spent his early childhood in Kharta, nearby to the north Tenzing went to Nepal as a child to work for a Sherpa family in Khumbu.
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. Norgay was a Nepalese Buddhist Buddhism is the traditional religion of the Sherpas and Tibetans.
His exact date of birth is unknown, but he knew it was in late May by the weather and the crops. After his ascent of Everest on 29 May 1953, he decided to celebrate his birthday on that day thereafter. His year of birth, according to the Tibetan Calendar, was the Year of the Rabbit, making it likely that he was born in 1914.
Norgay was originally called “Namgyal Wangdi”, but as a child his name was changed on the advice of the head lama and founder of Rongbuk Monastery, Ngawang Tenzin Norbu. “Tenzing Norgay” translates as “wealthy-fortunate-follower-of-religion”. His father, a yak herder, was Ghang La Mingma (d. 1949), and his mother was Dokmo Kinzom (who lived to see him climb Everest) he was the 11th of 13 children, most of whom died young.
Tenzing ran away from home twice in his teens, first to Kathmandu and later Darjeeling, India, at that time the starting point for most expeditions in eastern Himalaya. He was once sent to Tengboche Monastery to become a monk, but he decided that was not for him and departed. At the age of 19, he eventually settled in the Sherpa community in Toonsong Busty in Darjeeling.
Norgay received his first opportunity to join an Everest expedition when he was employed by Eric Shipton, leader of the 1935 British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition. As a 20-year-old his chance came when two of the others failed their medical tests. As a friend of Ang Tharkay (a Sherpa sirdar who had been on the 1933 British Mount Everest expedition), Norgay was quickly pushed forward, and his attractive smile caught the eye of Shipton, who decided to take him on.
Norgay participated as a high-altitude porter in three official British attempts to climb Everest from the northern Tibetan side in the 1930s.On the 1936 expedition, he worked with John Morris. He also took part in other climbs in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. For a time in the early 1940s Norgay lived in the Princely State of Chitral (that later became a part of Pakistan on partition of India) as batman to a Major Chapman. Norgay’s first wife died during his tenure there and was buried there. He returned to Darjeeling with his two daughters during the Indian partition of 1947, and managed to cross India by train without a ticket and without being challenged by wearing one of Major Chapman’s old uniforms.
In 1947, Norgay participated in an unsuccessful summit attempt of Everest. Canadian-born Earl Denman, Ange Dawa Sherpa, and Norgay entered Tibet illegally to attempt the mountain the attempt ended when a strong storm at 22,000 ft (6,700 m) pounded them. Denman admitted defeat, and all three turned around and safely returned. In 1947, Norgay became a sirdar of a Swiss expedition for the first time, following a magnificent performance in the rescue of Sirdar Wangdi Norbu who had fallen and been seriously injured. The expedition reached the main summit of Kedarnath at 22,769 feet (6,940 m) in the western Garhwal Himalaya with Norgay being one of the summit party.
In 1938, after Norgay’s third Everest expedition as a porter, the Himalayan Club awarded him its Tiger Medal for high-altitude work.
On 7 June 1953, it was announced that the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II wished to recognize Norgay’s achievements, and on 1 July 10 Downing Street, announced that following consultation with the governments of India and Nepal the Queen had approved awarding him the George Medal.He also received, along with the rest of the Everest party, the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal.
In 1953, King Tribhuvan of Nepal presented him with the Order of the Star of Nepal, 1st Class (Supradipta-Manyabara-Nepal-Tara).
In 1959, the Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of India.
Norgay also received several other decorations through his career.
In May 2013, Norgay’s grandson, Tashi Tenzing, said he believed his grandfather should have been knighted, not just given “a bloody medal”.
In September 2013, the Government of Nepal proposed naming a 7,916 metres (25,971 ft) mountain in Nepal Tenzing Peak in Norgay’s honour.
In July 2015, the highest known, 3.4-kilometer-high, mountain range on the dwarf planet Pluto was named Tenzing Montes.
Norgay was married three times. His first wife, Dawa Phuti, died young in 1944. They had a son, Nima Dorje, who died at the age of four, and two daughters: Pem Pem, whose son, Tashi Tenzing, climbed Everest, and Nima, who married a Filipino graphic designer, Noli Galang.
Norgay’s second wife was Ang Lahmu, a cousin of his first wife. They had no children, but she was a foster mother to his daughters.
His third wife was Dakku, whom he married while his second wife was still alive, as allowed by Sherpa custom (see polygyny). They had three sons (Norbu, Jamling and Dhamey), and one daughter, Deki. Jamling would join Peter Hillary, Edmund Hillary’s son, in climbing Everest in 2003 on the 50th anniversary of their fathers’ climb.
Other relatives include Norgay’s nephews Nawang Gombu and Topgay, who took part in the 1953 Everest expedition his grandsons, Tashi Tenzing, who lives in Sydney, Australia, and Tenzing, Kalden and Yonden Trainor. Tenzing Trainor rose to fame on Liv and Maddie.
Norgay died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India, on May 9, 1986 at age 71.His remains were cremated in the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling, his favorite haunt. His widow Dakku died in 1992.