The First Flags Flown Atop the World

The First Flags Flown Atop the World

John Hartvigsen

Edmund Hillary

Something about historic artifacts thrills us.  Just seeing and being near them can create an emotional attachment to history.  Brent and Charlene Ashworth have undoubtedly experienced this as they have collected books, pictures, objects and ephemera that have historic impact.  However, they understand that artifacts have greater meaning in that they help us understand lessons of history that we can apply today.

In a Real Story video presentation Brent Ashworth displays a simple mountain climber’s pickax, which opens windows of understanding about the first men who reached the summit of Mount Everest.  Holding the pickax, Joe Kerry obviously feels the emotional impact, but discusses deeper meaning with Brent about what we can learn that has application today.

Sir Edmund Hillary’s Sherpa teammate, Tenzing Norgay, flying flags from his mountaineering pickax on Everest’s Summit

The pickax signed by Sir Edmund Hillary coupled with a serial number mark this mountaineering tool as likely the one he used to scale Mount Everest in 1953.  Hillary’s climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay carried a similar pickax on which he attached three flags shown in the photograph Sir Edmond snapped after the two men reached the summit.  The flags of the United Nations, the United Kingdom and Nepal flew to celebrate the achievement.

What can we learn by seeing the pickax that played a part in the Mt. Everest Expedition that thrilled the entire world almost 67 years ago?

Edmund Hillary, hailed from New Zealander, but the British Union Jack and not the flag of New Zealand first flew in the thin atmosphere atop the world.  Hillary with some fellow New Zealanders joined the 500 strong British Mount Everest Expedition, scheduled to make the attempt in May of 1953.  Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit supported by a larger team.  Even today, great achievements happen through united effort.

The successful attempt could not have been made without Nepalese Sherpas.  Twenty Nepalese Sherpas transported the Expedition with both men and equipment to high altitude base camps from which attempts could be made.

Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary formed a strong bond as equal members of a team.  Their preparation identified them as a climbing team capable of making the final assault.  While training on the ice, Hillary jumped to ice block that gave way hurling Hillary down into a deep crevice.  Norgay tighten the rope that stopped the ascent and allowed Hillary to climb out saving his life.

When they reached the summit, Hillary had the camera and took landscape picture to prove their success, and then photographed Norgay with flags flying.  He declined to have his own picture taken, and the pair only remained on the summit for 15 minutes before making their ascent.  They remained close friends for life.

The story of two partners supported in their success by others holds many lessons that come to life by examining a mountaineer’s pickax.

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