Title: Sherpa, Portrait of Tenzing Norgay
Material: Oil on canvas
I have never regarded myself as a hero, but Tenzing undoubtedly was. — Sir Edmund Hillary
Could you repeat that, Ed, only a little louder this time?
Once upon a time, climbing mountains in the Himalayas was a challenge, so climbers would hire local Sherpas to help. These Sherpas were experienced climbers themselves, with low pulse rates and noives of steel. Every Nepalese boy wanted to be a Sherpa for the prestige, the money and the surplus equipment. A Sherpa jocking around with his ropes, goggles and thick climbing boots was the envy of everyone. It was a ticket out of the dull, unpromising life they faced as small-time herders.
There is no evidence, photographic or otherwise, that Sir Edmund Hillary, reputedly the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest (in 1953), ever did so. But there are pictures he took of his Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, standing on the summit, waving and planting a flag. Just sayin’.
Neither man knew they’d be the ones selected to make the final assault, since an expedition would send up the climber and Sherpa most likely to finish the job. The best horses on the track. So, it could have been anyone other than Hillary and Tenzing, who were in the right place in the right shape at the right time. Tenzing would have been okay with it either way, I aver, because he had already been to the summit of Mount Everest many times. That’s my theory, which is as thin as air at 26 thousand feet.
I celebrate Tenzing Norgay in this painting, the Tiger of the Himalayas, sitting higher than McGuinn and McGuire, atop the highest mountain on earth, Mount Everest. You know where that’s at.