2003 marks the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of the world's highest mountain. Celebrations will reach a climax on 29 May at Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier where a temporary village will sprout among the crevasses as 20 international expeditions try to repeat the ascent. This is twice the average annual number of expeditions to Mt Everest from the Nepal side.
Besides the unprecedented number of mountaineers eager to follow in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing, there are other celebrations planned. The Kiwis want to mint a commemorative gold coin. Sir Ed is already on the New Zealand five dollar note. Turning down invitations to attend ceremonies in London, Sir Ed and his wife June have decided to be in Nepal for the festivities. "I'm looking forward to seeing my mountaineering friends in Nepal, so it should be a very happy occasion," Hillary told us.
Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Nepal Tourism Board have been gearing up to run what they call a wide range of "inspirational events"-including paragliding, trans-Himalayan mountain biking and a Kathmandu-Lhasa auto rally. There is also going to be a mountain philatelic and photography exhibition, a mountain film festival. And, to top it all, there will be a summit of Everest summiteers in Kathmandu on 29 May. Start stocking up on the champagne.