Nepal Trekking History - How It All Started

  • Sunil Gurung
  • Last Updated on Jan 14, 2024

Nepal Trekking History and How It All Started has a very enchanting story. The fascination with mountains among the people and the human quest into the wilderness started a long time ago. It is believed that in the course of human evolution and civilization, all these majestic mountains and hills were basically considered a hindrance to human progress. People despised all these royal hills and mountains that created enough limitations to their notions and concepts of development.

However, the coming of romanticism had such a profound impact on people that it literally renewed human thoughts. As a result, people began to appreciate the beauty of nature. This was the time when beauty was redefined, and people were more interested in being with nature.  Gradually people started cherishing these lofty mountains, deep valleys, and high hills. However, If we drift back into human history the quest and survival in the wilderness was indeed a basic instinct of humans that died out to some extent in the course of evolution.

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Nepal Trekking History and How It All Started:

Nepal trekking history dates back to the 1920s with the legendary tale of George Mallory and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine. These legendary English mountaineers were the first people who attempted to make their first human ascent to the world’s highest mountain, Everest which stands at 8,848.86 meters. They actually started their Everest venture in 1921 from Tibet, the North Face of Everest. If truth be told in 1922 they were in fact the first humans ever to reach the height of (8,230 m / 27,300 feet).

Unfortunately, these legends vanished into thin air, leaving the entire globe to reflect on their achievements. Their disappearance on Mt. Everest in 1924 has certainly left an unanswered topic of debate as to whether they actually made it to the summit or not. However, When climbers discovered Mallory's body in 1999 at the height of 8155m / 26,760 feet after 75 years their legends re-materialized. Andrew "Sandy" Irvine's body was never found. However, there is still a strong possibility that someday their camera will be discovered which would ultimately unlock the whole mystery of their Everest Expedition achievements. 

Mallory Expedition 1920s

Subsequently, the real quest for the Nepal Himalayas started with the instigation of the legend, Bill Tilman, the English mountaineer. He is indeed the very first genuine trekking tourist in Nepal. Bill Tilman in 1949 got exceptional permission from the Nepal king to survey Nepal and explore almost every corner of this country. Along with Bill Tilman, a great partner in Himalayan exploration was Eric Shipton.

Eric was a distinguished British mountaineer who is equally responsible for their substantial contribution to the trekking and climbing history of Nepal. It was Eric Shipton who led two illustrious Everest expeditions in 1951 and 1952, both of which ended in failure but paved the ground for the triumphant 1953 Everest Expedition. During this period of attempts, Eric Shipton studied every corner of Everest extensively and climbed one 6000m peak which he later named 'Island Peak', which is now one of the most renowned trekking peaks of Nepal. He even ventured further east of Everest, towards Makalu, and traversed the most difficult mountain pass, today known as 'Shipton Pass'. It was through his relentless efforts and consistency in his research on climbing Everest, that the 1953 expedition team managed to scale the world’s highest peak successfully. 

The Ascent of Annapurna:

However, the first-ever successful human ascent of the 8000 m peak was in 1950. It was the ascent of the world's 10th highest mountain, The Annapurna I (8,091 m / 26,545 ft) by the French Expedition led by Maurice Herzog in 1950 which made a breakthrough. When the French Alpine Club got special authorization from Nepal to climb either Dhaulagiri or Annapurna in 1949, the French expedition embarked on their quest for a mission impossible. The expedition then in the 1950s was unquestionably very challenging with a faulty 1920s map and minimal climbing equipment and gears. Actually, it's even hard to conceive the fact of how they must have managed to get to the summit of the most technical mountain in the world.

Initially, their several attempts to climb Dhaulagiri, the 7th highest mountain in the world didn’t show much sign of improvement, and later was realized that it was unclimbable. So they sought yet another difficult route to climb Annapurna I. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal successfully reached the summit of Annapurna I on the 3rd of June 1950. This further provoked the mountain enthusiast in their quest for hidden valleys and the high Himalayas.

Mr. Herzog - Exhausted and frostbitten after the successful ascent of Annapurna I - 1950
Mr. Herzog - Exhausted and frostbitten after the successful ascent of Annapurna I - 1950

The Ascent of Everest: The Breakthrough: 

Gradually Nepal's trekking history was being crafted encouraging the evolution to explore more of the unknown. Furthermore, the ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 was made by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa 29 years after Mallory’s attempt. This breakthrough further shaped a platform for the human quest for the high Himalayas. They became pioneer mountaineers leaving behind their footprints in the mountains that triggered inspiration and motivation. Their accomplishment incited every single mountain lover to realize their potential for this quest.

First Ascent of Everest 1952
First Ascent of Everest 1952

The Evolution of Adventure Tourism in Nepal: 

However, Colonel Jimmy Roberts, a former British Gurkha Officer and the Military expert at the British Embassy in Kathmandu in 1958 was the first person to realize the opportunity of trekking in Nepal. We are very gratified to the late Jimmy Roberts for his initiation and his passion. It was his vision that got Nepal’s tourism industry to where it is now. After his years of study, understanding, and exploring every facet of Nepal founded ‘Mountain Travel’ in 1964.

In the history of Nepal trekking, It was unquestionably the first-ever government-registered trekking company. This establishment further paved the way for future speculations in the realm of the Nepal Tourism industry. Furthermore, it was a great accomplishment that primed a distinguished hallmark in the history of the Nepal Tourism industry.

Now the late Jimmy Roberts is also very deservedly known as the “Father of Trekking” in Nepal. He is unquestionably the pioneer and the inspiration of Nepal's prosperous adventure travel industry. His vision has definitely supported and extensively assisted in Nepal’s economic growth. Now trekking and climbing in Nepal have reached such an extent that Nepal has become a ‘trekking paradise’ for mountain lovers. Nepal has never failed to lure travelers and mountaineers with its exquisiteness and ample opportunity to do awe-inspiring activities.

Trekking History.

Sunil Gurung

Sunil Gurung

An Adventurer who founded Nepal Pyramids to showcase the enchanting wonders of Nepal. A writer moved to share the wonders, wisdom, and warmth discovered in the mountain communities of this magical country.

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