His father had advised him to keep away from the mountains. But as a child who grew up in the lap of Himalayas, Jamling always looked up to its summit. And when the time came, he climbed. He knew that in order to understand the greatness of his father, he had to follow his footsteps.
His father Tenzing Norgay was a legend. One of the two bravehearts to have conquered Mt. Everest for the first time in history. Edmund Hillary was his partner in the historic achievement. As a person who knew the deathtraps in mountaineering, Tenzing didn't want Jamling to follow him as a mountaineer. But Jamling, with the same high spirited blood of his father in his veins braved death and climbed to the top of the world. And there he was, where his father once scripted history! And Jamling said, that step, 'was a pilgrimage for me to know my father.'
Fast forward to April 2015. Ten brave ladies from different parts of the country gather for an expedition and are at the Everest Base Camp. They have the best leader available for the mission, none other than Jamling Norgay. It was on their trek to the camp that the earthquake with its epicenter at Kathmandu shook Everest. Jamling's Rambo act rescued them. While at the rescue camp, the ladies had the excitement of their lives. Out of the blue came Peter Hillary. Edmund Hillary's son! Earthquake had united the sons of Everest! The saying, 'always expect the unexpected' seems to be the spoken word of truth especially when you are at the Everest.
I am climbing so that you won't
Jamling's trek to the Everest in 1996 was also an unexpected one. His father, Tenzing used to climb the Himalayas to earn the daily bread for his family. 'I am climbing now so that you won't have to in future', he used to say. He sent Jamling, who had an aptitude for mountaineering, to study business management in the USA. After completing the course, Jamling moved on with his life. Years passed by. The life changing point knocked at his door, at the age of 36. US based IMAX studio team had plans to do a documentary on the Everest. And they wanted Tenzing's son in the team. The mountaineer in Jamling was thrilled. He accepted IMAX's offer.
Everest was waiting for Jamling and his team. And she was in one of her fiercest moods. The peak trembled in the worst avalanche. Another team who moved in front of them suffered severe casualties. The memories are still fresh in Jamling's mind. "Above 26,000 feet, it's death zone", says Jamling. "In this area climbers even cut their toothbrush to half to reduce weight they carry, sherpas who assisted us carried heavy IMAX cameras. The weather was extremely harsh. But we kept on moving step by step. The whole team supported each other. The determination paid off, finally we were on top of Everest".
Back home, Jamling was greeted by The President of India and Dalai Lama. His wife, Soyang asked for a promise—that he would never again climb to the summit of Everest. A promise Jamling gave to his loving wife 19 years ago, still remains unbroken.
Jamling, how fearful was your mission?
The final 3000 meters to the summit were extremely difficult. At that altitude with temperature as low as -30 degree Celsius, your mind will be sluggish, like in a slow motion picture. You won't be able to sleep properly, you won't feel the hunger. We started the final lap at 12 in the midnight. It took us 12 hours to reach the summit.
What did you do upon reaching the summit?
I placed framed pictures of my parents and Dalai Lama there. My eldest daughter had given me her favourite toy. I kept it on top of the world!
What did it feel like, standing there?
I touched my father's soul there. I felt as if my father was smiling at me from heaven. He would have been very proud of me. I was filled with emotions. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I didn't climb to "conquer" the Everest. It was a pilgrimage for me to know my father in the heights of the mountain.
2015 marked the 50th anniversary of India's first successful expedition to the Everest. Delhi based Adventure travel company, Mercury Himalayan Explorations (MHE) had a novel idea for celebrating it. MHE arranged an expedition to Everest Base Camp for ten ladies with Jamling as their leader. More than 7000 ladies from every nook and corner of the country applied for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. From among them, the best ten—Neha Dua, Neha Yadav, Aparna, Vartika, Kanika, Navrattan, Nidhi, Chitra, Sanchari and Moramee were selected.
The group travelled to Kathmandu from Delhi. On April 20, they started their trek to the base camp. Himalayas with all its prowess stood in front of them with its head held high. Jamling was an "Everest of knowledge" for the girls. Sharing his vast experience with the team, he led them from the front. Each step with him was memorable for them. “The time spent with Jamling sir, one of the greatest mountaineers, was a memory to cherish for a lifetime”, says Neha Dua.
April 25. The weather was calm. The team was having lunch at a lodge en route the base camp. Suddenly, it happened! The earth trembled beneath their feet. "Earthquake", shouted Jamling. Like an Army commander, he ordered the girls to jump out of the lodge. Huge rocks came cascading down. Knowing that standing there would be life threatening, Jamling asked the team to move forward. His plan was to reach Tengboche, where it would be much safer. Jamling with his vast knowledge of the Himalayas, led the girls through the safest route. Braving the unfriendly weather, the team walked three hours to finally reach Tengboche.
The unexpected guest
The team had planned to take shelter in a Budhist monastery at Tengboche. But as the building suffered damages due to earthquake, they moved to a camp nearby. It was the second day in the camp; Jamling and the girls were huddled together for dinner. Moving aside the door curtains, a tall, fair man entered the room. Jamling jumped up and called, "Peter!"
“Girls, this is Peter Hillary, Edmund Hillary's son”, Jamling introduced the unexpected guest. Seeing the mountaineering legends together, the girls stood spellbound. Their excitement knew no bounds. Peter had come for an Everest expedition with his college mates. Though Jamling and Peter moved in different routes, earthquake brought them together, and into one room.
Peter invited Jamling and his team to his camp. They shared jokes, mountaineering experiences, the story of their legendary fathers. It was a night to remember forever. Neha clicked a picture of Jamling and Peter together.
In heaven's most beautiful room, Tenzing and Edmund will keep that picture framed forever!