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Step by Step – The Determination of Tenzing Norgay


All great adventures, big or small, start with a single step.

(That’s probably on some poster on the ceiling of a dentist’s office somewhere).

But it’s true.

Whether scaling a mountain or going to the grocery store, you must put one foot in front of the other. You must follow your internal compass. You must say, “This is where I’m going.”

Over and over. Step by step. Until you reach your destination.

Tenzing Norgay – a Nepali-Indian Sherpa mountaineer – was not afraid to take that first step. And the next. And the next.

He kept going. All the way to the top of Mount Everest. One of the first to accomplish this feat.

Born in 1914, Tenzing’s feet and determination pushed him to search for the great unknown throughout his life. In 1953 when he was 39 years old, he scaled the jagged peaks of Mount Everest until there were no more steps to take, simultaneously walking him into the record books as one of the first two people known to reach this intimidating summit.

Together with Edmund Hillary – a New Zealand beekeeper – the duo touched the sky while standing at the top of the mountain. They achieved something that had never been done before – and became an inspiration to us all.

Though he passed away in 1986, Tenzing has left a legacy that keeps him in the conversation of the adventuring greats, aspiring climbing enthusiasts, and outdoor addicts like us. Time magazine even named Tenzing one of the most influential people of the 20th century.

The mountaineer was able to truly be alive during those years he spent on this planet. He didn’t allow boundaries or doubts or “this seems impossible” thoughts to get in his way.

In climbing a mountain, he raised the bar.

If life gave us an instruction manual on how to be alive, Tenzing is one human example in that book to keep daring to do: even if it has not been done before.

Especially if it’s not been done before.

As he scaled the mountain of life, Tenzing didn’t just leave a path – he left tracks for us to follow.

What’s in a Name?

We’re all on the search for answers. As wildlings, we believe the outdoors is the best place to find them – whether they are waving to us from the sea, buried in the sands, or hanging from a ceiling of stretched sky. 

Tenzing was no different. His past has some murkiness. But in fulfilling his future as a mountaineer, he quenched that thirst and filled the voids with adventurous aspirations. 

There are remaining mysteries to Tenzing’s early life story. Biographers aren’t quite sure if he was born in Nepal or Tibet. Tenzing himself wasn’t even sure when his exact birth date was – though he knew it was in May because of the climate and crops.

He wasn’t always Tenzing Norgay, either. He was originally born “Namgyal Wangdi.” But at the urging of Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, head lama and founder of Rongbuk Monastery in Tenzing’s homeland, he received the new name of “Tenzing Norgay.” The moniker translates to “wealthy-fortunate-follower of religion.”

A searching spirit burned bright within Tenzing’s chest. The pull of the unknown tugged at him throughout his life. When he was a teen, he ran away from home twice – and the second time, he landed in India: the place where he began exploring the east Himalayas. 

His adventurous spirit had found an outlet: mountaineering. 

Maybe your life has gaps or grey areas, too. 

But in lives dotted with holes and question marks, the uncertainties of the past don’t matter if your actions create an inspiring future for others.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Tenzing’s ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 wasn’t his first attempt. But if at first, you don’t succeed, try again. So he did. 

Tenzing was around 20 years old when he got the opportunity to join his first Everest expedition crew. It was his smile – and the fact that two people failed medical tests – that made the group’s leader Eric Shipton say yes to adding Tenzing to the British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition.

During three official attempts with the British group in the 1930s, Norgay participated in the expedition to climb Mount Everest as a high-altitude porter. The path they took to climb the mountain was closed off by the 13th Dalai Lama. The trips were unsuccessful.

In 1947, he participated in yet another attempt to scale the elusive Everest with mountaineers Earl Denman and Ange Dawa Sherpa. They illegally entered Tibet to climb, but a strong storm prevented the crew from successfully making the ascent. 

Tenzing kept the mountain at the top of his mind. In 1952, he participated in two Swiss expeditions to reach the summit. Approaching the peak from a new side, the passionate mountaineer set a new record of climbing 28,215 feet toward the sky of Everest. Yet again, a storm interrupted the path to success.

But in May of 1953, Tenzing accomplished his goal alongside his partner in crime, Edmund Hillary. The best adventures are shared, aren’t they? 

They reached Everest’s 29,028-foot summit, the highest point on Earth, at 11:30 a.m. They stood there for 15 minutes and took in the view. 15 minutes may seem short, but it’s long enough when you’re soaking in every second.

After successfully scaling Mount Everest on May 29, 1953, Tenzing decided to celebrate his birthday the day after – May 30 – from then on. He knew when his birthday was now.

You can always pick a new day to start anew and be alive.

Where the Wildlings Are

As wildlings, we have something in common with Tenzing – even if we haven’t scaled Mount Everest.

We share with him our love for the journey. Our desire to scale new heights. Our passion is to get out beyond the four walls and be alive by feeling alive, activating our senses with the wind and the world instead of breathing stale air. 

Our ingredients are the same: a cocktail of characteristics within us to go, find, search, explore, and discover. 

To be alive.

The thing is – you really don’t have to climb a mountain in order to find adventure. The world is at your fingertips. Whether it’s planning a camping trip with your friends, or identifying new hot spots within your home state, the outdoors is always changing, always giving, always offering new lessons and spaces and places for you to discover. 

Tenzing is also proof that age is no limitation to adventure. He was knocking on the door at age 40 when he made the ascent of Mount Everest. While 40 isn’t exactly old, he wasn’t a young, spry teenager, either. 

Whether you put your toes in the sand on an undiscovered beach or keep your feet up on the couch of your living room, the backdrops to your memories are based on the choices you make: where you want to go, yes, but more importantly, IF you’ll go – and if you’ll keep going.

So where’s your next adventure? 

Lace-up your boots. Put on your tennis shoes. Heck, go barefoot and wild and free. 

Step by step. Keep going.

About Giving Gratitude

We tell stories to help you discover what it is that makes you feel… alive. In our industry, there are plenty of people who inspire us to do just that. Whether they’re scaling mountains or moving them, these dream chasers – Pathfinders, as we call them – motivate us. So in celebration of them, we’re Giving Gratitude by sharing their stories with you. Hopefully, you’ll feel as alive as we do.

Find Your Moment