By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD

It is 61 years of the successful ascent of Mt. Everest. Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary had scaled Mt. Everest for the first time on 29th May 1953. This was without doubt an epoch-making day in the history of mountaineering. Their extraordinary feat inspired several mountaineers to set their feet on the summit of Mt. Everest. In the course of time, old records broke and set new ones.

But it was not without paying a price…a painful price indeed. In the mad rush of setting new records, many lives were lost in the treacherous icy inclines. So far, more than 170 mountaineers have lost their lives including Babu Chhiri Sherpa and Pasang Lhamu Sherpa. Alongside joy we also have sad memories associated with mountains.

A panoromic view of Mt. Fish Tail from International Mountain Musium

Mighty Everest and the other high Himalayan Mountains have always lured hundreds of thousands of mountaineers and explorers from all around the world. For years, climbing the highest peaks has been a symbol of human courage, endeavour, skill, endurance and strength of will. Mountains have always fascinated human beings since the time immemorial. Mountains and rivers have unique place in life. Many ancient civilizations flourished alongside the mountainsides and the rivers meandered through mountains by giving life to the people.

Let’s not forget that climbing Everest is by no means an easy task at all. Treacherous slopes, camouflaged crevasses, unpredictable avalanches, snowstorm and volatile weather are few dangers to name which pose constant threat to mountaineers. However, the number of daredevils, willing to scale Mt. Everest has regularly been increasingly.

The Himalayan range sprawls along 2,400km of Nepal and China’s autonomous region of Tibet. Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world. It is measured 8,848m from the sea level. Before the mountain was named Everest, it was named Peak XV. Later Sir Andrew Waugh, India’s surveyor general named it Mt. Everest in honour of Sir George Everest, British surveyor general of India.

He had discovered the peak in 1852. Mt. Everest has various names that are popular among different groups of people. In Tibet, it is called Chomolungma while in Nepal it is fondly called Sagarmatha, a name given by Baburam Acharya in 1956.

Mt. Everest is not only the highest peak, but it is extremely difficult to climb, especially a few meters below the peak, say many mountaineers. However, it is human nature to take risk to conquer what is seemingly difficult or impossible. After having discovered the Everest, several attempts were made to conquer it but unfortunately 24 mountaineers had already lost their lives before Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary set their feet on the peak of Everest.

Once the duo climbed Everest, the traffic on the highest peak surged to an amazing level. One after another, several attempts were made to summit the tallest mountain. As a result, many old records were broken and new records set in a row. Reinhold Messner and Peter Habler left everyone surprised when the duo climbed up Mt. Everest without using supplementary oxygen in 1978. Messner’s extraordinary feat did not end here. He scaled all peaks over 8,000m and became the first person to do so.

Following the Messner, Appa Sherpa dared to scale Everest for 12 times and broke Ang Rita Shepa’s record of maximum ascent. Late Babu Chhiri Sherpa ascended Everest in Just 16hrs 56 minutes on May 21, 2000. Moreover, he was the only person to spend record 21 hours on the summit. Temba Chhiri Sherpa, a young boy of 15 years and 18 days, successfully scaled Mt. Everest and broke the record of Sambhu Tamang, who had set the record in 1973 at the age of 17. In the same vein, Tomiyasu Ishikawa, 65, and Tama Wanatabe, 63, of Japan became the oldest men to scale the Everest in May 2002.

The whole mountaineering fraternity felt dumbfounded when Tom Whittaker, USA, scaled Mt. Everest on May 27, 1998 and became the first disable person to do so. Going one-step further, Erik Weinhenmayer, USA, climbed up Mt. Everest in 2001 and became the first blind person to summit the peak. The list of records goes on with no end in sight.

In the history of mountaineering, a new chapter was added when International Mountain Museum IMM came into existence in Pokhara city, 200km away from Kathmandu. The foundation stone of the museum was laid on 1st November 1995 by then Minister for Tourism Chakra Prasad Bastola. The soft opening of the museum was on 29th May 2002 by famous climbers Junko Tabei and Appa Sherpa. The grand opening of the museum was on 5th February 2004 by the then Prime Minister Surya Bahdur Thapa.

The founding of the International Mountain Museum (IMM) in Pokhara is a tribute to mountains and mountaineers. A sincere effort has been made to preserve the history of mountain climbing expeditions in Nepal, before it is lost forever. The Nepal Mountaineering Association has taken an important step to highlight and preserve the history of mountain climbing and the cultural diversity of Nepal under one roof.

The construction of the International Mountain Museum had begun in 1996 and it covers an area of 4,242 square metres. It is the first of its kind in the world and is a huge enterprise, the prime purpose of which is to present the geography, ecology, and culture of the Himalayas, and in addition exhibiting mountaineering history and methods.

The museum has five huge halls. They are the Hall of the Himalaya, the Hall of International Mountains, the Hall of Expeditions, the Hall of Fame, and the Exhibition Hall. A few more halls have recently been constructed which are an administration building, library, research, conference halls, video hall, and a restaurant. A lofty model of Mt. Manaslu has been constructed which is 31 feet high, another attraction for the visitors. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal climbing wall is an artificial climbing wall of about 21m height in the museum premises that is another sensational facility.

The museum is surrounded by lush foliage and flowers, the Seti river flows from just outside the museum compounds, and the magnificent Macchapuchhare Mountain itself stands in splendor overlooking the museum. This outside area is beautiful and very pleasant to sit and gaze at this modern, beautiful-looking building that perfectly fits in with the surroundings.

The Hall of the Himalayas is a display of the geography and the notable peaks of the Himalayas, the study of ornithology, flora, fauna, the multi-ethnic society and their occupations in the region. The Hall of Internal Mountains displays the internal mountain ranges and peaks, the culture of different tribes in the mountain regions, and information about famous climbers of these peaks.

Similarly, the Hall of Fame displays the feats of great mountaineers, memorable events associated with them and famous explorers, researches and discoveries. Likewise, the Hall of Expeditions displays the history of mountaineering, types of equipment used, development of mountaineering techniques, and famous expeditions in the Himalayas.

All efforts have been made to display documents and records about natural history, cultures of the Himalayas, mountaineering history in the Himalayas and other world mountains in a chronological order. The museum also functions as an educational and recreational centre for mountaineers, students and the general public. In brief, the museum has become a storehouse of mountain archives and research materials.

Both joy and sorrow are associated with the Himalayas but always the quest for reaching newer heights of bravery, endurance, and discovery is undertaken. This is what the International Mountain Museum has professed and wished to present to the world through the museum.

LB Thapa, the blogger, takes his stance with an ancient sword and a shield.

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