[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
LANGUAGES
Urdu
Hindi
Bengali
Pashto
Nepali
Tamil
Sinhala
Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 07:12 GMT 08:12 UK
Everest half-century celebrated
Celebrations have taken place across Nepal to mark the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and the late Tenzing Norgay.

Rally for 50th anniversary in Kathmandu
Rallies were held to mark the anniversary
On Thursday, Sir Edmund was granted honorary citizenship of Nepal by Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand at a ceremony in the capital Kathmandu.

Sir Edmund, now 83, was one of the guests at a gala dinner in the capital attended by hundreds of people who have reached the mountain's summit.

In all, more than 1,300 people have stood at the peak of the world's highest mountain over the past 50 years.

Sir Edmund's son, Peter Hillary, was the guest of honour at celebrations higher up the valley at Tyang Boche, the site of a Buddhist monastery where all Everest expeditions stop for blessings.

Since scaling Everest with Nepali Tenzing Norgay, the New Zealander has become highly regarded for his work building schools, hospitals and clinics for the Sherpa people around Everest.

Royal medals

Thursday also saw him presented with a medal at a ceremony by Nepal's Crown Prince Paras, who also handed out decorations to Junko Tabei of Japan, the first woman to conquer Everest, and Reinhold Messner of Italy, the first to climb the peak without bottled oxygen.

1953 EVEREST EXPEDITION
Everest formed 60 million years ago
Rising 4-10 cm a year
Called Sagarmatha in Nepal
Down to -72C at top
1,300 people have reached summit

Tenzing Norgay was represented by his son, Jamling Norgay, who has also climbed Everest.

In London, the Queen met some of John Hunt's 1953 British expedition team, of which Sir Edmund was a member.

News of the team's success reached London in time to be on every newspaper front page on 2 June, 1953 - the day of her Coronation.

Team member George Lowe, 79, attended the event at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square.

Greeting Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay on their descent from the summit he was the recipient of the former's famous line: "We knocked the bastard off."

Attempts by two teams of climbers to reach the summit on the 50th anniversary of the original ascent, however, have been abandoned because of high winds.

On Wednesday, celebrations were marred when a helicopter crashed while trying to land at Everest base camp, killing two people on board and injuring five others, some seriously.

The helicopter was flying in to take a team of climbers back down the valley to Kathmandu.

Commercialisation

Base camp has been its busiest ever over the last few weeks, but having successfully reached the summit, many mountaineers have left to take part in the lavish anniversary celebrations.

The government hopes the year-long commemorations will help shake off the effects of a seven-year Maoist insurgency that has scared away tourists.

A ceasefire with Maoist rebels was agreed in January.

Sir Edmund Hillary (centre) at celebrations in Kathmandu
Sir Edmund Hillary (left) at celebrations in Kathmandu
The government has unveiled a special stamp to mark the anniversary of Everest's first ascent.

But although Nepal is hoping to make the golden jubilee a celebration of mountaineering, many of the conquerors of Everest have voiced disappointment about the increasing commercialisation of the Himalayas.

"At base camp there are 1,000 people and 500 tents, there are places for food, places for drinks and comforts that perhaps the young like these days," Sir Edmund said.

"Just sitting around base camp knocking back cans of beer I don't particularly regard as mountaineering."

Everest mountaineers gathered later on Thursday for a symposium to broach such thorny issues as whether to limit the number of Everest climbers.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Everest 50 years on
Special BBC reports and archive



EVEREST CONQUEST 50 YEARS ON

FEATURES

1953 file photo of Edmund Hillary Hillary lament
The mountain's first conqueror criticises those who buy their way to the summit

Everest collection
A history in pictures

IN THEIR STEPS - A DAILY DIARY
 

NEWS


FROM THE ARCHIVE


ASK THE EXPERT



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific