The style of narration used to compose Touching my Father’s Soul as determined by Jamling Tenzing Norgay brought the questions of “Why climb mountains?” and “Why write about climbing mountains?” into starker relief for me compared to the accounts by Herzog, Blum, and Krakauer. His method of inclusive explanation for all aspects of this emotional, spiritual, and adventurous story leaves behind a feeling of raw personal experience that is uniquely disentangled from ulterior motives regarding selling books, cultivating readership, or becoming famous. Interestingly, I found Norgay to be the most trustworthy of the narrators I’ve read in this mountaineering subject, despite his relative irregularity in terms of spirituality. He struggles between skepticism and being a devout Buddhist, but that conflict only bolsters his integrity in my eyes. In this story the Mountain represents that conflict, as personified by his stepmother Ang Lhamu being a supposed reincarnation of Miyolansangma’s spirit.
The motives of the “Mikaru foreigners” are as enigmatic to Norgay as they are to myself, leaving him to postulate that “personal challenge,” or the conquering of “inner demons” was responsible for their seemingly reckless actions (80). As we discussed in class, their motives are undoubtedly individualistic, as allowed by the commercialization of climbing Mount Everest, making it accessible to anyone who can afford it. The most interesting additional perspective to this discussion, which Norgay’s narrative amply provides, is that of the Sherpa community profiting from the commercialization. I immensely enjoyed the Sherpa woman’s description of foreigners as “much like cattle…aimlessly wandering about all day long…getting sick…and you have to lead them by the nose over difficult terrain or they’ll fall off the trail…But if you feed them well, they’ll produce a lot of rich milk for you” (48). My interpretation of Norgay, as purposefully described from a Sherpa’s perspective, is that he is the first narrator that we have read who would unquestionably be identified as a Mountaineer as opposed to a Summiteer. His goal is much less about standing on top of Everest as it is about taking something away from the comprehensive experience. I therefore felt vicariously rewarded in reading about his experiences from my armchair, and came away from this story with a much longed for feeling of accomplishment.