Switzerland, 1954

Tenzing liked Switzerland, and thought the Alps resembled his homeland of Khumbu
Tenzing Norgay with a Swiss cow
Tenzing Norgay with a Swiss cow

Although Tenzing Norgay achieved his Everest success with the John Hunt-led British team in 1953, if there was one western climber that he was really close to it was the Swiss legend Raymond Lambert. The successful Everest reconnaissance of 1951 under Eric Shipton had shown the possible route up the mountain. The next year, while the British were doing practice climbs on Cho Oyu nearby, the Swiss launched a major expedition to climb Everest. Tenzing was well known to climbers like André Roch, as they had climbed together in Garhwal in 1947. So it was no surprise when the Swiss appointed Tenzing as expedition sirdar and for the first time ever, gave him an equal status as a full expedition member. Lambert and Tenzing reached a height of 8,600m in late May before they turned back, and, although they tried again in the autumn, the mountain still wouldn&rsquot yield.

In his autobiography, Man of Everest, Tenzing recounts his fondness for Lambert, and their shared sadness in not being able to stand on Everest together. However, when fleeing the post-Everest adulation &mdash there was some ugliness as well, regarding who had set foot on the summit first &mdash Tenzing returned to Switzerland to explore the Alps with his friend. In 1953, they visited Jungfrau and Chamonix for a couple of weeks, and climbed the Semilistock together. He also met and was awed by the hero of Annapurna, Maurice Herzog, especially when the latter showed how losing all his fingers and toes to frostbite had not dimmed his prowess behind a steering wheel.

Tenzing liked Switzerland, and thought the Alps resembled his homeland of Khumbu, albeit on a miniature scale. He returned in 1954, for a hike in the Rosenlaui valley near Meiringen where this photo of him was taken. No one knows what Tenzing thought of Swiss cows.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller