KATMANDU, Nepal — Sir Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa from his 1953 expedition to Mt. Everest led hundreds of climbers and fans in a joyous procession through the streets here Tuesday as Nepal began celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the conquest of the world's tallest mountain.
Gyalzen Sherpa, 85, one of three surviving Sherpas from the first Everest expedition, climbed into a horse-drawn carriage with Hillary, 83, and his wife, June, and placed yellow scarves around their necks.
They then set off at the head of a parade of carriages bearing other famous Everest mountaineers as a Gurkha army band played bagpipes and drums, and local children waved flags.
"It's a historic moment for Nepal. And I feel it's being done in the right way," said Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the late Tenzing Norgay, who with Hillary was the first to reach the 29,035-foot summit on May 29, 1953. "It's an honor bestowed on my father and Hillary."
Jamling Tenzing Norgay reached the summit in 1996. He rode in the second carriage, with Junko Tabei of Japan, the first woman to climb Everest. Close behind them on foot were hundreds of other climbers and fans.
The procession paused in central Durbar Square, where the Nepal Mountaineering Assn. and city officials handed scarves, books, wooden carvings and photographs to the famous climbers, including Italian Reinhold Messner, first to climb Everest without bottled oxygen.
"Today has been a fantastic celebration of the warmth of the people of Nepal," Hillary told a cheering crowd.
The climbers also are scheduled to be honored by Nepal's King Gyanendra on the 50th anniversary Thursday.
A record number of people are climbing Everest this month. The Nepalese Tourism Ministry says more than 110 climbers and their guides have scaled the peak in the last few days.