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Hillary basks in appreciation

By Associated Press,
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 30, 2003

KATMANDU, Nepal - From modest Sherpas to the royal family, Nepal celebrated the 50th anniversary of the conquest of Mount Everest on Thursday, honoring Sir Edmund Hillary who, with his late Sherpa partner, Tenzing Norgay, made the climb that inspired a generation to push the limits of human endurance.

Nepal granted Hillary honorary citizenship for his five decades of service to the Sherpa community. He has helped build schools, hospitals and an airfield that has opened the once pristine mountain to hundreds of climbers each year and brought wealth to Sherpa communities.

Norgay died 17 years ago. His son, Jamling Norgay, told 225 others who have scaled Everest they were celebrating "a day in history where my father and Sir Edmund Hillary made the climb of this formidable mountain, taking us humans a step further into the spirit of adventure."

About 1,300 people have climbed the world's highest peak, and all those living were invited to the weeklong party that Nepal's government hopes will spur tourism.

Hillary, an 83-year-old former beekeeper from New Zealand, said he declined a chance to celebrate the anniversary in London with Queen Elizabeth II even though the British government organized the 1953 expedition. Instead, he shared a celebratory dinner with his Sherpa friends after a tea party hosted by Nepal's King Gyanendra and Queen Komal.

Teodor Tulpan, who led Romania's first expedition to the summit on May 20, patted his heart and said it was emotional being in the same room as Hillary, but said he was saddened at the sight of frozen corpses of mountaineers who died trying to reach the 29,035-foot summit. The risk of trying to bring bodies down is too great and there is no soil in which to bury them. About 175 people have died trying to reach the summit.

Prime Minister Lokander Bahadur Chand recalled "those brave climbers who lost their lives" as he honored a parade of cheering, smiling mountaineers.

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