Nepal marks 60 yrs of Everest glory
Nepal yesterday marked 60 years since the first ascent of Everest, celebrating the pioneering climbers whose bravery spawned an industry that many mountaineers fear is now ruining the world's highest peak.
Four days of ceremonies dubbed the "Everest Diamond Jubilee" ended yesterday with family members of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first summiteers, laying garlands on statues of the legendary pair.
The British-funded trip to the highest point on earth -- 8,848 metres (29,029 feet) above sea level -- changed mountaineering forever and turned New Zealander Hillary and Nepalese guide Norgay into household names in many parts of the world.
"Hillary and Tenzing were rock stars of the 1950s and into the 1960s," Hillary's son Peter told AFP in an interview. "The biggest thing about 1953 is that they were going into the unknown.
But the 60th anniversary of the feat has been overshadowed by charges that the peak is now overcrowded and over-commercialised.
Reinhold Messner, one of the world's most famous living mountaineers, told the Guardian that climbing Everest had now become "high-class mountain tourism".
More than 3,500 people have so far reached the peak, according to government figures.
This season alone 540 people reached the summit, including the first female amputee, the first women from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and the first armless man.
* British expedition led by John Hunt aimed to get to men to the summit
* Hunt, Hillary and Tenzing have apparently areed not to reveal who first set foot on the summit but Tenzing later revealed in his autobiography that Hillay preceded him*
The peak, named Everest in 1852 during Britain's colonial rule of India, is called Chomolungma -- meaning "Holy Mother" -- in the local Sherpa language. The Nepalese government dubbed it Sagarmatha in the 1960s, meaning "Head Touching the Sky".