|Mountain climbing just for the fun of it is a fairly modern
idea. Of course, mankind has lived amongst mountains for
thousands of years - lived high on the sides on mountains
and passed over mountains to get from one place to another.
But up until fairly recently humans have treated the very
high mountains with respect and awe.
The Inca people worshipped the high peaks of the Andes. The
mummies found in Peru bear testimony to that. It was
believed that the gods of the mountains protected their
crops and domesticated animals and also brought them closer
to Inti, the sun god. 115 sites at over 15000 feet on 30
different Andean mountains have been discovered so far
which further provide solid proof towards the same.
Another famous mountain people, the Sherpas of Nepal, lived
for generations at the foot of the world's highest mountain
range without ever climbing to the tops. They too sense the
sanctity of the mountains, and many early Sherpa guides were
unhappy about stepping on the roof of the world.
Mountain climbing became a rich person's pastime in England
during the Victorian age, and trips would sometimes involve
a full dinner service and table being carried up a mountain
by servants. The 'golden age between was between 1854 and
1884. This period was kicked off by Alfred Wills who climbed
the Wetterhorn and came to an end when Edward Whymper
conquered the Matterhorn. Both these peaks form part of the
The Swiss Alps or for that matter other ranged of the world
are nothing compared to the mighty ranges of Asia. These
ranges were not explored till as late as the twentieth
century when competition brewed amongst the powerful
nations of Europe to try to conquer these peaks. So efforts
increased to conquer the fourteen peaks in Asia that rose
to over eight thousand meters.
It was only after the Second World War that some modicum of
success was reached. France, Germany, Italy and Britain had
tried to scale the heights of Mount Everest but it was a
New Zealander Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa Tensing Norgay
who climbed it in 1953. They were the first men to set foot
on the peaks of Mount Everest!
After this feat, all the fourteen highest peaks were
successfully scaled one after the other. The Shishapangma
was the last to be climbed by a Chinese party in 1964. The
mountaineering genius, Rheinhold Messner has the sole
distinction of climbing all fourteen peaks successfully
without oxygen. Some experts call him the greatest climber
of all times for his feats.
The passion for the sport goes a little beyond these times
to 1924. George Mallory was one of the pioneers in the
efforts to succeed in scaling Mount Everest. He made an
attempt for the same in 1924 along with his partner Andrew
Irvine but died in the process. People did raise questions
as to why he was interested in climbing such an
inhospitable and dangerous peak to which he simply replied
that it was there to be scaled.
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