This week’s Travel Photo of the Week takes us to the top of the world, Sagarmāthā or as it is known by most westerners, Mount Everest. Called Sagarmāthā in Nepal and Chomolungma in Tibet, both words translate to Holy Mother and is considered a sacred place to both cultures. As both Nepal and Tibet were closed to foreigners, the mountain was first noticed by westerners in 1865, from the distant British India. While the mountain was named for Sir George Everest, a famous British surveyor, ironically Sir Everest protested the naming. Throughout his career as a surveyor, he insisted on naming peaks and other geographic features after their local name not an English name. Additionally, he pronounced his name with an I as in Iverest.
At an awe-inspiring 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) above sea level she is the highest peak in the world. Everest is the crowning jewel in the Himalayan mountain range, home to fourteen other peaks that reach above 26,000 feet (8,000 meters). In comparison, the highest peak outside of Asia is Aconcagua in the Andes of South America which tops out at 22,841 feet (7,200 meters) above sea level.
This mountain, considered sacred to Tibetans and Nepali was first summited in 1953 by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay a Nepali Sherpa (an ethnic nomadic group of Nepali and Tibetan people that live at high altitudes). Then, as today, a blessing ceremony called a puja is performed before any climb up the sacred mountains. Performed by a Buddhist Lama, the Sherpas, climbers and even their gear is blessed. Offerings of rice and sweets as well as beer are made to the mountain gods, while prayer flags are hung. The Lamas pray for permission and safe passage while on the mountain. Several of the other peaks in the range are considered to sacred to climb and are therefore untouched by humans.
One could spend tens of thousands of dollars, weeks acclimatizing at altitude, and risk life and limb to participate in one of the most physically and mentally exhausting feats of endurance to see this view. The other option is to do what we did and hop on a flight provided by the aptly named Yeti Airlines for a bird’s eye view. While the mountain flight will not bring quite the same bar room bragging rights it is quite a bit more comfortable and provides a spectacular view without the risk of frostbite.
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