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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 14:29 GMT
Nepal honours two Everest heroes
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay
The pair conquered Everest in 1953
The government of Nepal says that the closest airport to Mount Everest has been renamed to honour the first two men known to have climbed the mountain.

The minister of culture and tourism told the BBC that the cabinet had decided that Lukla airstrip will now be known as Tenzing Hillary Airport.

It commemorates the Nepalese Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay and the New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary.

They climbed the peak in 1953. Sir Edmund died last month in New Zealand.

Dramatic introduction

The Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Prithvi Subba Gurung, said the trail from Lukla to Everest base camp would now be called the Tenzing Hillary Trekking Route and that research was in progress to name a mountain after the two explorers.

Sir Edmund Hillary at home in New Zealand
Sir Edmund was awarded the Order of the Garter in 1995

Except for the purists who walk all the way in from the nearest road head, most visitors' first experience of Nepal's spectacular Everest region is the airstrip at Lukla.

It is a dramatic introduction, as the plane has to drop steeply between the mountains and then lands on a runway which slopes steeply upwards.

Sir Edmund inspired the building of the airstrip in the 1960s. And since then it has been a motor for the development of health, education and tourism in the area.

The 88-year-old mountaineer was buried last month in New Zealand at a state funeral in Auckland after a heart attack. Tenzing Norgay died in 1986.

Elizabethan age

As much as anything the honour from Nepal is a tribute to the friendship between the two men and their families, which remained strong, with Sir Edmund visiting Nepal regularly until the end of his life.

Dignitaries from around the world attended Sir Edmund's funeral in New Zealand, which was beamed around the world via satellite links.

Mount Everest
The pair were the first to prove they reached the top of Everest

After conquering Everest, Sir Edmund led several expeditions to the South Pole and helped ethnic Sherpas of Nepal's Khumbu region through his Himalayan Trust.

Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay's ascent of Everest on 29 May 1953 ushered in the second Elizabethan age, coming as the achievement did just days before the monarch's coronation. The Queen knighted Sir Edmund on his return.

Everest is shared between Nepal and Tibet.

Most expeditions are now done from the Nepalese south side, but before Nepal opened up to the world in 1950, all attempts on the peak were made on the Tibetan side.

They included the doomed 1924 expedition by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine.

The two men died on the mountain and some people believe they had reached the summit first - but there has never been any proof.



SEE ALSO
Nepal mourns 'friend of Sherpas'
11 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Tributes for Everest 'colossus'
11 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Obituary: Sir Edmund Hillary
10 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific

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