The Himalayas are, quite deservedly, the most famous peaks in the world. The name, short in sanskrit for ‘abode of snow’ aptly describe these natural wonders. The Himalayan mountain system is the planet’s highest and home to the world’s highest peaks, the Eight-thousanders, which include Mount Everest and K2. The result of massive subterranean collisions, these mountains are so gargantuan they completely control the weather on the Indian subcontinent.
Notably, the Himalayas are the youngest mountain ranges on the planet, and consist mostly of loose sedimentary material. Due to the continuing collision of the continental plates beneath the Eurasian and Indian subcontinent, the Himalayas are continuing to shift upward, growing ever larger and more formidable.
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Surprisingly, nearly 40 million people inhabit the Himalayas. generally, they are Hindus of Indian heritage, dominant in the Sub-Himalayas and the Middle Himalayan valleys from eastern Kashmir to Nepal. To the north Tibetan Buddhists inhabit the Great Himalayas from Ladakh to northeast India. In central Nepal, the Indian and Tibetan cultures have intermingled, producing a combination of Indian and Tibetan traits. This is where we find the major urban centers (as well as popular tourist destinations) of Kathmandu, Simla and Srinagar. The settlement patterns in the Himalayan region is greatly influenced by the topography, economic pattern and the climatic condition. The climate condition is one of the main factors for the population settlements since extreme wind and cold imposes a restriction on the living conditions and tends to inhibit movement and communication. But the ethnic groups living in remote valleys of the Himalayan region have generally conserved their traditional cultural identities.
The Himalayas are most important to would be backpackers and bespoke adventurers because of Mount Everest the significance in the climbing community. The highest mountain in the world attracts climbers of all levels, from well experienced mountaineers to novice climbers seeking to hire professional mountain guides and sherpas to complete a successful climb and experience the foremost in luxury adventure travel. Amazingly, Everest has claimed 210 lives, including eight who perished during a 1996 storm high on the mountain. Conditions are so difficult in the death zone that most corpses have been left where they fell. Some of them are even visible from the standard climbing routes.
Of great importance is Sir Edmund Hillary, world famous for being the first human being to set foot on the summit of Mount Everest. In his obituary he is praised as one of mankind’s most notable heroes with his biographers noting:
By the time Sir Edmund attempted his ascent, seven previous expeditions to the top of the world’s highest mountain had failed. Sir Edmund recalled: “We didn’t know if it was humanly possible to reach the top.”
Despite this general trepidation, the determined New Zealander joined a trip led by British climber, Sir John Hunt.
After a grueling climb up the southern face, battling the effects of high altitude and bad weather, Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay managed to reach the peak at 1130 local time on 29 May.
‘All this – and Everest too!’
When they finally reached the top Sir Edmund, who lost four stone on the expedition, reported his first sensation as one of relief.
He took the famous photo of his Sherpa companion posing with his ice-axe, but refused Tenzing’s offer to take one of him, so his ascent went unrecorded.
On the morning of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in May 1953, her subjects were told that Sir Edmund had made it to the summit.
As he was a New Zealander and therefore a citizen of the Commonwealth, British subjects celebrated his achievement as their own.
On the day the Queen was crowned, one newspaper headline crowed “All this – and Everest too!”
Sir Edmund was knighted for his efforts, and Tenzing given a medal.
The pair initially reported the ascent as one made in unison. Only after the Sherpa’s death in 1986, did Sir Edmund reveal that he had been about 10 feet ahead at the final ridge.