Mountaineers willing or have tried to tackle the challenges of Everest are likely conquest climbers.

Everest is the mountain at the top of their bucket lists not because it is the most prestigious or technically demanding, but only for it is the highest.

More than just visitors, conquest climbers crave the bragging rights; they want to be victors sitting at the throne of the summit.

Many things can go wrong when climbing a mountain; accidents do and will often happen, which is why even the climbers themselves call the experience a “Type 2” fun – an excitement enjoyable only in hindsight instead of when they’re doing it.

There have been thousands who summited Everest over the years.

The first climber confirmed to make the achievement was the always celebrated Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953.

But the first person to reach that summit was not alone when he did that; climbing beside him was the much unsung Tenzing Norgay, who never had the kind of recognition as Sir Hillary did.

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10 /10 Porter Mountaineer

Tenzing Norgay was born Namgyal Wangdi in the village of Thami, sitting at 12,500 feet altitude in the Khumbu valley in northern Nepal, most likely in 1915.

The exact date of his birth is uncertain. He was a Sherpa, a Tibetan ethnic group native to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas, Nepal, and Tibet.

Just like a lot of his fellow Sherpas, as a young man, he moved to India, where he was then selected as one of the local porters for the 1933 British expedition to Everest.

Tenzing would join more trips in later years, starting from Tibet and Nepal.

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9 /10 Immigrant Tibetan

Some other sources claim he was born in Tshechu, Tibet (now Tibet Autonomous Region of China) in 1914.

It remains unclear how Namgyal Wangdi ended up in Khumbu, Nepal – no one also knows why or when he presumed the name, Tenzing Norgay.

Assuming he was an immigrant Tibetan, he would have been a Khamba, a low social class with little wealth. Before he moved to India as a teenager, he had worked for an affluent family in Khumbu for several years.

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8 /10 First Expedition

English mountaineer Eric Shipton was involved in most expeditions to Mount Everest in the 1930s.

The British reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1935, led by Shipton, was Tenzing’s first attempt to conquer Everest.

Tenzing would join more trips than other climbers in the next few years, and eventually, after World War II, he moved up a rank as a sirdar or an organizer for porters.

In 1952, the Swiss-made the first two serious attempts to reach the summit from the southern side; Tenzing was the sirdar in both expeditions.

7 /10 British Expedition, New Zealander Partner

Again in 1953, he was involved as a porter in the British Everest expedition led by John Hunt. Divided into two groups, the party left for Everest on March 10 and 11.

After more than two months on the climb, most groups had returned down the mountain due to exhaustion. The first pair to make the push for the summit was Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon on May 27.

They had to abandon the effort at just about 300 feet below the summit because one of their oxygen masks malfunctioned.

6 /10 Push For The Summit

Two days later, in the early morning at about 6:30, Tenzing and Hillary made another push. It was an overall crystal clear morning; the weather was great, and so was the visibility.

They wore their oxygen masks and climbed the icy snow for about two and half hours before reaching the South Summit, still below the actual summit.

The journey to the top was a 40-foot vertical climb on a rock now known as the Hillary Step. Going through a ridge, they found themselves at the top of the world by 9:00 a.m.


5 /10 Conquerors Of The Mother Of The World

Tenzing and Hillary soldiered on from a tent at 27,900 feet on the Southeast Ridge and finally reached the true summit on May 29.

They were the first to get there and spent about 15 minutes at the top, just enough time to absorb the victory and take some photos.

Hillary captured a photograph of Tenzing unfurling the flags of Nepal, the United Kingdom, India, and the United Nations.

They conquered the Chomolungma, Mother of the World, at 29,029 feet above sea level. Tenzing, being a devout Buddhist, left an offering for food.

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4 /10 Most Famous Porter

While the whole world knows that Sir Edmund Hillary claimed to be the first to reach the summit, Tenzing was also there with him. Since he was not familiar with the camera, there was no photo of Hillary at the meeting.

With such achievement, the porter single-handedly made the Sherpas popular, known worldwide as skillful natural climbers.

Tenzing spoke at least seven languages from his work as a porter, although he never learned how to write.

That said, he wrote some books by dictation, providing a different view on the Himalayas when the mountains were still largely untouched.


3 /10 Saving Hillary

At one of the most challenging moments in the 1953 expedition, Hillary found himself tumbling down into a crevasse when an icy cornice he landed on unexpectedly snapped.

The incident happened on an ice field still at the base of Everest.

Being roped together with the New Zealander, Tenzing acted quickly and managed to tighten the rope just in time to prevent his partner from smashing onto the rocks at the bottom.

Tenzing and Hillary did not become personal friends until long after the historic achievement, but they learned to respect one another as professional mountaineers.

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2 /10 No Knighthood For The Porter

Following the achievement, Queen Elizabeth II knighted both Edmund Hillary as the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest and John Hunt as the leader of the expedition.

Tenzing Norgay received no such honor, but he was awarded the British Empire Medal. The good thing was that the porter was able to afford comfortable living after the triumph.

In later years, he encouraged and trained young Asian boys and girls in mountaineering skills, so perhaps they too could find the path out of poverty.

In 1957, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave supports for Tenzing’s efforts.

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1 /10 Tenzing Norgay Adventures

In 1975, Tenzing Norgay was appointed by the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (of Bhutan) to guide the first foreign tourists allowed to visit the Kingdom of Bhutan.

About three years later, he founded a trekking company, Tenzing Norgay Adventures, now managed by his son. Tenzing passed away on May 9, 1986.

Some sources list the cause of death as cerebral hemorrhage, while others say bronchial condition. Throughout his life, Tenzing rarely spoke of his childhood. His life story began as a mystery and also ended with one. 

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