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The day when highest peak was conquered



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By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, May 29: Friday, May 29, 1992, the streets of Kathmandu saw an unusual rally, in which the ralliers were celebrating a day that many Kathmanduites, or indeed many Nepalis, did not even know existed. It was a rally marking the first ascent of Sagarmatha by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953, organised on a day dubbed by its participants as Sagarmatha Day. One of the people at the forefront of that rally was Jyoti Adhikari.
“May 29 is a glorious day when two human beings stepped on the highest point on Earth. It was an achievement for the entire world and it happened in Nepal. So, shouldn’t we remember it? Shouldn’t we promote this at a global level? These were the questions that prompted us to hold that rally,” Adhikari remembered.
The rally was a success, attended by the likes of Beni Bahadur Karki, the late chairman of the National Assembly. But Adhikari was not satisfied. The two questions did not leave him, they did not leave him as he devoted himself to Nepal’s tourism business and they were still with him when he became the president of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) in 2007.
These questions were shared by many others in TAAN and collectively, the association, along with other tourism and mountaineering related organisations, including the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), lobbied the government after Sir Hillary’s death on January 11, 2008, to have May 29 declared the International Sagarmatha Day to honour the achievements and contributions of Hillary and Tenzing Sherpa.
“Leela Mani Paudyal, who was the secretary at the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation played a very positive role in having the day recognised,” Adhikari said.
Santa Bir Lama, president of NMA, informed that Sagarmatha Day started to be celebrated at the international level from 2008 following recognition by the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA).
“Sagarmatha Day is an occasion to highlight the relationship between man and nature, advertise the attractiveness of Nepal’s peaks and attract visitors,” Adhikari claimed.
This year marks the 13th International Sagarmatha Day and the 67th Anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain. However, for the second year in a row, no formal programmes will be held to celebrate it due to COVID-19, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation informed.
But the NMA will hold a virtual interaction with stakeholders and mountaineers on Saturday and will organise an event to honour and award the record holders and breakers in coordination with the government once the COVID-19 situation improves, President Lama informed.
Since Hillary and Sherpa’s first ascent more than six decades ago, 5,790 people have reached the top of the world’s highest peak, according to the Himalayan Database. The actual number of people though will be much higher since the climbers are accompanied by guides and helpers.