6 Sep 2013

Himalayan peaks set to be named after Hillary, Tenzing

9:59 pm on 6 September 2013

Nepal plans to name two Himalayan peaks after mountaineers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, in a move designed to attract more climbers and boost tourism.

Sir Edmund and his Nepali guide made it to the summit of Mt Everest, the world's highest mountain, on 29 May, 1953.

A government panel has recommended two currently unnamed mountains be called Hillary Peak and Tenzing Peak.

Tenzing Peak, at 7916m, is more than 200m taller than Hillary Peak, at 7681m.

Nepal Mountaineering Association former president Ang Tshering Sherpa says the move is to honour the pair's contribution to mountaineering in Nepal, Reuters reports.

The two peaks - which have never been climbed - are expected to open to tourists in the spring season, starting in March.

Officials hope the peaks will attract more climbers and help boost tourism in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains. Tourism accounts for about 4% of the country's economy and employs thousands of people.

Sir Edmund Hillary died in 2008 aged 88 and Tenzing Norgay in 1986 aged 72. Climbers in their time lacked the specialised equipment taken for granted today and the heavy oxygen tanks the two men carried made mountaineering more challenging than it is now.

About 4000 climbers have made it to the summit of Everest since 1953, among them an 80-year-old Japanese man, an American teenager and a blind person. Two Nepali sherpas have reached the top a record 21 times each.

But harsh weather, avalanches and treacherous terrain are constant dangers. More than 240 climbers have died on both sides of Everest, which can also be scaled from China.

A small airport Sir Edmund built in the 1960s at Lukla, the gateway to Everest, has already been named after him and Tenzing Norgay. The remote airstrip clings to a hillside, several days' walk from the base camp, and is described by mountaineers as a thrilling kick-off to an attempt on the mountain's south face, says Reuters.

Besides conservation work, Sir Edmund helped build schools, hospitals, water supply schemes and trails in the Everest region that is home to the ethnic sherpas without whose help climbers would find it difficult to make it to the top.

Two peaks in western Nepal could be named after famed French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal. In 1950, Herzog and Lachenal became the first to reach the summit of an 8000m peak - Mount Annapurna.

About 165 peaks of up to 7999m are likely to be opened to climbers from next year.

Just 326 of the more than 1300 peaks in Nepal are open to foreign climbers. The fees they pay are a major source of income for the cash-strapped government.