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Transcript: Jamling Tenzing Norgay


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CNN's Lorraine Hahn interviews Jamling Tenzing Norgay

Lorraine: Welcome to TalkAsia. I'm Lorraine Hahn. This week, a man who has literally followed his father's footsteps to the top of the world.

Jamling Tenzing Norgay is the son of Tenzing Norgay. Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first men known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. A sherpa by blood, Tenzing Norgay once told his son, ''I climbed Mount Everest so that you wouldn't have to''.

But despite that, Jamling realized that climbing was in his blood as well. So when the IMAX film company approached him to do a movie about Everest, Jamling agreed. In 1996, Jamling stood where his father did more than 40 years earlier.

The historic moment came just two weeks after nine other climbers died from a freak storm-the worst ever recorded on Mount Everest. Jamling's book ''Touching My Father's Soul'' not only recaptures the ordeals he faced, but shares how he connected with a father he had heard so much of but never really knew.

Well, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary's historic climb. And Jamling is right here with me in the studio to talk about that, and much more. Jamling, welcome to TalkAsia. Fifty years it has been, hasn't it? 1953 when your father made it to the top. How does that make you feel?

Jamling: Well, 50 years is a long time. I wasn't born when my father climbed the mountain. I still like to celebrate the 50 years anniversary and I think there are a lot of things planned for this year just to commemorate the 50 years anniversary. I know there are a lot of celebrations in England and US. The National Geographic also has a documentary that will be released to commemorate the 50 years.

Lorraine: You weren't even born when your father climbed Mount Everest. When did you first hear of his achievement?

Jamling: I think it was when I was about 6 years old when I started to realize who my father was. And it was around that time I followed him up on the tracks into the mountain. I realized that he was the person who climbed Everest with Hillary. I wanted to become just like him.

Lorraine: So your father encouraged you when you were young to climb?

Jamling: Not quite. You know, I asked my father on several occasions so that I can join some of the expedition and he said 'No, you don't see the whole world from the top'. And he asked us to continue our education. He wanted us to have the best education and continue our lives in some other careers other than climbing.

Lorraine: Or being a porter for example?

Jamling: Yes, like a sherpa.

Lorraine: So climbing, would you say is your destiny?

Jamling: Yes, I believe it was my karma that I am fortunate to be the son of Tenzing. Maybe some thing I did in my previous life. It is my karma that I would be able to follow my father's footsteps.

Lorraine: Jamling, did your father ever tell you a story that touched his heart while climbing?

Jamling: You know, I didn't get much time to spend with my father as well as I wanted to. I didn't get to know him as much as I wanted to because he was out on lectures and I was in boarding school most of the time when I was growing up. But what I have learnt from him is he always said climbing is not about your-self, it's about teamwork, climbing with the right motivation, with respect, respect the environment, the people, the culture. Those are the more important aspects of climbing and sort of what I have learnt from my father.

Lorraine: Genetically though, tell me are sherpas more inclined to take in more oxygen, handle high altitude, just genetically?

Jamling: Yes, I think having...The sherpas you know... we've lived in these high altitudes for so many generations that our body is able to adapt better than most. And people say we have bigger lungs than most of the human. When my father climbed in the 30s 40s and 50s, he performed so well that people said he had 3 lungs and he was extraordinary!

Lorraine: Explain to me a sherpa's approach to mountain climbing compare to how we see it from the west?

Jamling: The mountains have been there the whole time. Sherpa's see the mountain all the time but we never have interest to climb these mountains. It was only when the British and the foreign expeditions started to climb these mountains that the sherpa started to become involved in climbing because it is a way of living for them. And for most of the sherpas, climbing is the bread and butter, lots of them have lost their lives. We don't climb for pleasure at all. We believe most of the mountain is sacred to us. For example, Mount Everest, we called it ''Chomolungma'' which is mother god-ness of the world. And ''Miyolangsangma''is the deity that resides on Everest so we pray to her all the time. We pray to many of the other mountains surrounding, you know in the Himalayas...

Lorraine: So, is it's a form of respect and love for Everest?

Jamling: Yes definitely. Because we believe the mountain gives us a lot, it 's the goodness of ...it is always giving us something. We have nice water for farming and in the recent years, it has provided...the sherpas have benefited greatly from the mountains and the tourism industries.

Lorraine: So, it's their livelihood, it's their blood, is everything?

Jamling: Yes.

Lorraine: Jamling, we are going to take a short break. We will be right back with mountaineer Jamling Tenzing Norgay.

Lorraine: Jamling, let me ask you about your climb and you conquering Mount Everest in 1996. What was that like?

Jamling: Climbing Everest for me in 96 is more for of a homage. It was more...I felt it was paying homage to my late parents and of course it was my desire to climb this mountain for many many years. It felt great to be up there. Again '96 was the year of the big disaster in Mount Everest where lots of people lost their lives and few of our friends lost their lives. So it was a very difficult time to be on the mountain. But I think the whole disaster that took place on Everest and our successful expedition with the I-Max Film. I think it was great experience for me because I learnt a lot.

Lorraine: You were also involved in the rescue operation, correct?

Jamling: Yes yes. We were... After the day that people die, we went up the mountains to bring back survivors as many as we could, brought them all the way to base-camp and sent them off. And we rested at the base-camp about a week before we decided to go back to this mountain again.

Lorraine: You know....must be very very touching to be up there? What went through your mind when you finally stood up there and look down on the world?

Jamling: You know when I reached the summit I literally cried out of happiness. And I hugged David. I thanked him to give me this opportunity to fulfill my wish. I felt my father's presence a lot during my climb especially the last day, thinking about what was going through his head and how these people climb 50 years ago with the equipment they had. It was around that time that I actually learnt to really respect my father, Hillary and all these climbers...the pioneers of mountaineering before our time.

Lorraine: So it was also very spiritually sort of experience for you when you are on top?

Jamling: Yes, definitely. It was definitely very spiritual. I prayed to the mother goddess "Chomolungma'' and I pray to her, thank her from bringing us up there and asked her to bring us down safely because getting to the top half of the way.

Lorraine: That's right. People tend to forget, don't they? You have to climb down.

Jamling: Yes yes.

Lorraine: Is Everest everything you dream of?

Jamling: I am happy that I finally accomplish my goal, my dream. And I don't have any reasons to go back. Every time when I think of Everest, I think of my father. When I think of my father, I think of Everest. And Everest does mean a lot to our family.

Lorraine: So did I hear that you would not climb Everest again?

Jamling: No, I don't have any plans to go back. Before I went on my climb, I had to promise my wife and my family that I would not go back ever again on that mountain. But after I climbed this mountain, I found that I don't want to go back because I wanted to this thing once in my life and finally achieved my dream so I don't see any reason to go back.

Lorraine: Interesting. Let's talk about the I-Max that you filmed while you were climbing. What got you involved in that project?

Jamling: David Breshear, the Director, who was the cameraman of this team- he was the one who approach me. He felt that having me on that team could bring out the sherpa's perspective and the connection with my father, the 50 years...it was ...it was with his help that I could be able to be in this team. I-max...it was a tough job for us because we had a 42-pound camera. The cameras and equipment were all carried by sherpas and we had about 20 sherpas. And on the final summit day, we had about 5 Sherpas to help us to carry the cameras and equipments. And carrying 40 pounds at above 26 thousands feet is almost about 300 pounds at sea level. It was very difficult because climbing is difficult as it is and when you have to stop to do some filming... And at this point, at the 26 thousands 500 feet we have to do 2 takes. We have to go back down to the mountain, and climb up again just for one shot. It was quite frustrating sometimes but the bottom line, we all set the goal to film and to climb and work together as a team. We succeed our mission.

Lorraine: Is it true that Sherpas believe...I am coming back to the bravery issue ..That you have to help those who are helpless and to respect those to who may not have the blessing that other people do?

Jamling: Well, we...when we pray for something, when we pray to the god asking for some wishes. If we do get the wishes then, most of the sherpas will make a promise to give back to the community. And after I climbed Everest, I think about giving back to the community, to help them, and without climbing Everest anymore, I even have...I get the joy of working with the sherpas, working with fund-raising and to help with ...one of the companies that I'm involve with is the American Himalayas' foundation based in San Francisco. And we work a lot with people in the Himalayas, the Nepalese, Indians and everybody.

Lorraine: Jamling, 1953 when your father made it to the top he gained international fame and recognition, but how well did you know him?

Jamling: I didn't get to know my father as much as I wanted to because he was always traveling. But I know him as a very humble man. My father was a very simple person, he was very simple, very humble. From all the documentaries that I have seen, he even said that he wished that he has never climb Everest because after climbing Everest there was so much ...political pressure on him. Also being the first to get to the top...you know all these things started to come up and he did not like any of it. After my father passed away, my desire to climb Everest grew even more and you know...now today I realized that... I spend more time with my children because of what happened on me and my father's relationship. We didn't have much time. And I made sure...I made it a point to spend more time with my children and to experience life.

Lorraine: Indeed you didn't spend much time with your father but was there any lessons that he taught you while you were growing up that really meant something to you?

Jamling: He's sort of model of living a simple life. And you do anything in life because you have a passion to do it. Don't do anything because of ego or to prove something to somebody else because that only get you into trouble. That is sort of the path that I took while climbing this mountain. That's the path that's leading me these days.

Lorraine: The adventure travel company that your father started. You've taken over. Is that what brought you back?

Jamling: Yes, definitely. These days I enjoy my work because I am in the adventure travel business and I get to take people from different parts of the world to my part of the world and to share with them our experiences and to share with them first-hand about our culture. And is so nice to see you know...these people...teaching them a lot. They learnt a lot about the mountains and the culture especially they are with somebody who are in part of the culture. You know...I enjoy that a lot.

Lorraine: You also have a climbing school that you started? Tell me where this idea came from. I understand you try to help kids off the streets.

Jamling: Well...the climbing club is a small club that I started 4 years ago. The whole idea was to keep children off the streets...you know children can get spoilt very easily these days. Climbing is a great way to keep them busy and give them idea of teamwork, and a sense of accomplishment. They travel to all parts of India to compete in all these artificial climbing. I have about 35 students now they are training. I see the change in the way they live today. It makes me feel nice.

Lorraine: How did the adventure travel company develop through the years, considering now the interest, the growing interest of eco- tourism for example?

Jamling: Well, adventure travel has grown a lot, especially in Nepal and the Himalayas because of its popularity, because of Mount Everest. And...it has affected the environment quite a bit. Lots of deforestation, lots of garbage has been collected up in the mountains. These days the government of Nepal, the people, the climbers themselves, the trackers, they are more aware of this problem and trying to help to make a change. And...try to...you know...do some more program such as planting more trees, cleaning up garbage...

Lorraine: That is something very deep in your heart, right?

Jamling: Yes, definitely. Because it is our neighborhood, this is my backyard. I want to see it clean. As much as possible, I tried to raise fund so that I can go back and clean. I work with students a lot to clean these areas and to educate the locals about environment because if they don't know much about it, they are the ones who will lose what we have.

Lorraine: Jamling, would you ever consider stopping mountain climbing, getting a regular job somewhere?

Jamling: I don't think so, I mean I don't see myself sitting in office 9 to 5 at all. And I just enjoy being in the outdoors, climbing mountains. I have stopped climbing Everest but smaller mountains I still continue to climb. Just like being in mountains... it makes me feel so nice, it makes me feel really alive and it makes you feel how small we are in this world, how fresh we humans are. It's great feeling just being up in the mountains.

Lorraine: Jamling, what is your next calling?

Jamling: To take care of my family at this point. I just want to spend more time now to clean up the environment and to help, to support the sherpas and people in the Himalayas as much as possible.

Lorraine: Jamling, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Jamling: Thank you.


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