The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

16 January 2008

Remembering a great man

A great man died in January 2008. It was not just that he undertook a truly heroic event in the 20th century; but it was also the work he did subsequently for the Himalayan people. In a world full of media celebrities and “instant heroes”, here is a person we should admire and remember.

Edmund Percival Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest on 29th May 1953. Hillary died on 11th January 2008.

Since this successful expedition led by John Hunt, and with the advance of mountaineering technology and better knowledge of the problems of the impact of high altitude on the human body, Everest has been climbed many thousand times. By 2006 there had been 3050 ascents by 2062 individuals, and the mountain is now a tourist destination for those wanting an extreme experience. In 1978 Reinhold Messner (Italian) and Peter Habeler (Austrian) made a successful climb without using oxygen. In 2005, Frenchman Didier Desalle landed on the summit in a helicopter.

The Himalayan Trust: In the years that followed the 1953 Everest expedition, Edmund Hillary returned repeatedly to Nepal and to his friends the Sherpas, the mountain people of Nepal. They are some of the most friendly, generous and tough people on earth, but their lot is a hard one, living at high altitude, without most resources that we take for granted in the west.

Inspired by his admiration and respect for the Sherpa people, Hillary established the Himalayan Trust in 1960. At that time, the Everest region was very isolated from the outside world and lacked many basic human needs such as education and health care.

During a journey with his Sherpa friends across a mountain pass in early 1960s, Hillary asked if there was anything he can do for the Sherpa people. A Sherpa friend immediately replied, “Burra Sahib (big Sahib), our children have eyes but they are blind and can not see. Therefore, we want you to open their eyes by building a school in our village of Khumjung.” Hillary began to raise funds and was able to build a school in Khumjung village in 1961.

This was the start of the work of the Himalayan Trust in the Everest region. Since then, the Trust has been involved in education, health services, reforestation, building airports, trails, bridges, water supplies and preservation of local cultural monuments.

About the Sherpas: The word Sherpa does not mean mountaineer, guide or porter, but is the name of a race of people. Tibetan in origin, they inhabit the southern flanks of the Himalayan range in north-east Nepal. Few who visit them can remain indifferent to their loyalty, affection and charm or be unimpressed by their remarkable toughness and courage. The Sherpa language is a dialect of Tibetan; their customs and dress are basically Tibetan and their religion Buddhist.

Potatoes are the basic crop of the Sherpas and they rear Yak in Alpine pastures up to a height of 17,000 ft. Deforestation, much of it due to the growth of tourism, is a major problem, it results in the loss of topsoil, threatening crops and contributing to flooding downstream.

Many of their basic needs, such as foodstuffs, building materials and medical supplies, have to be carried for many days over wild terrain on a man’s back – this work is also undertaken by women. Some Sherpa children, eager for education, walk for two hours a day each way to attend school.

Find out about the work of the Himalayan Trust, and support it: in Nepal, and in the UK, and in Canada.


Blogger nepalwriter said...

I had the privilege of meeting Sir Edmund Hillary twice, once in Colorado and once in Namche in the Everest region where I used to lead treks to the base camp. He dedicated his life to helping the Sherpas who were such a critical part of his first ascent. Beyond the Summit is the first work to dramatize their lives in fiction. Hillary's work in the area is mentioned frequently as well as his climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay.
Details of Sherpa culture and religion are interwoven in a tale of romance and high adventure. The story has something for everyone: a love affair between an American journalist and Sherpa guide, conflict between generations as the modern world challenges centuries of tradition, an expedition from the porter’s point of view.

Below are selections from reviews. To read the complete ones and excerpts go to [www]

Beyond the Summit, is the rare gem that shows us the triumphs and challenges of a major climb from the porter’s point of view. The love of two people from diverse cultures is the fiery centerpiece of a novel that leads its readers through harshly beautiful and highly dangerous territory to the roof of the world. Malcolm Campbell, book reviewer

Conflict and dialog keep this gripping story of destiny, romance and adventure moving from the first page to the last paragraph. LeBlanc has a genius for bonding her readers and her characters. I found I was empathizing in turn with each character as they faced their own personal crisis or trauma.
Richard Blake for Readers Views.

A gripping, gut-twisting expedition through the eyes of a porter reveals the heart and soul of Sherpas living in the shadows of Everest.

A hard-hitting blend of adventure and romance which deserves a spot in any serious fiction collection. Midwest Book Review

LeBlanc is equally adept at describing complex, elusive emotions and the beautiful, terrifying aspect of the Himalayan Mountains. Boulder Daily Camera

LeBlanc’s vivid description of the Himalayas and the climbing culture makes this a powerful read. Rocky Mt News Pick of the Week

A rich adventure into the heart of the Himalayan Kingdom. Fantastic story-telling from one who has been there.

This is the book to read before you embark on your pilgrimage to Nepal. The author knows and loves the people and the country, and makes you feel the cold thin air, the hard rocks of the mountains, the tough life of the Sherpa guides, and you learn to love them too. This is a higly literate, but also very readable book. Highly recommended.”
– John (college professor)

Memorable characters and harrowing encounters with the mountains keep the action moving with a vibrant balance of vivid description and dialogue. Literary Cafe Host, Healdsburg, CA

This superbly-crafted novel will land you in a world of unimaginable beauty, adventure, and romance. The love story will keep you awake at night with its vibrant tension and deep rich longing. Wick Downing, author of nine novels

Such vividly depicted images of the Everest region and the Sherpa people are the perfect scenario for the romance and adventure feats narrated. It’s a page-turner, so engrossing you end up wanting to visit Nepal! Not just novel, but perfect for those seeking to get acquainted with the culture of this country.
By Claudia Fournier (América, Bs. As., Argentina)

Available through Barnes and Noble, Borders,,, and the web site

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