Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Following in his father's footsteps
Something that really struck me was Tenzing Norgay's refusal to let Jamling climb Everest. He said to Jamling, "I climbed Everest so that you wouldn't have to." Although Tenzing's position makes sense since he knows exactly how dangerous climbing Everest is, I would expect Tenzing to be more sympathetic towards the "need" to climb, which so many others have expressed in the other texts. I found myself wondering if there is something to Tenzing's claim, or if it simply provided a convenient excuse to keep his son safe. On the one hand, Jamling describes Tenzing's attraction to the mountain since his youth and his intense desire to summit Everest, but, on the other hand, he may have felt compelled to climb for economic reasons. We questioned in one of the first classes whether the motivation to climb and always achieve the most extreme feats might be largely a western phenomenon. It seems like climbing might be a luxury for those who are privileged enough to not have to worry about day to day survival. Sherpas, who already live at a very high elevation and most of whom live relatively modest lives, probably view climbing as crazy and irresponsible. However, Everest has become a huge source of income for Sherpas, and, for many, the increase in income might outweigh the risks. Jamling writes that "By the 1990s Khumbu Sherpas had, by and large, gained enough economic independence to be able to retire from high-altitude mountaineering work" (48). The fact that Sherpas tend to "retire" from climbing once they gain more financial stability shows that they climb out of necessity rather than desire. In this context, it seems likely that Tenzing's claim is sincere. He viewed climbing as a means through which to create a comfortable and safe life for his children. His father's intentions complicate Jamling's justifications for climbing since much of Jamling's inspiration and connection to Everest is derived from his father's climbing career.