40th anniversary of Slovenian conquest of Everest honoured
Ljubljana, 13 May - It is 40 years to the day since Andrej Štremfelj and Nejc Zaplotnik made history as the first Slovenians who reached the summit of the highest mountain in the world. On this occasion, the Slovenian Alpine Museum in Mojstrana (NW) honoured the anniversary with a ceremony and an exhibition about their conquest of Mount Everest.
Štremfelj and Zaplotnik were part of a Yugoslav expedition which featured 25 members, with 21 of them being Slovenians, and was led by Slovenian mountaineer Tone Škarja.
The two mountaineers achieved their goal after 45 days of climbing the mountain's western ridge in extreme weather conditions and struggling with oxygen deprivation.
The museum located under Triglav, Slovenia's highest mountain, started the ceremony exactly at 01:51pm, when, according to local time, Zaplotnik announced the exciting news to the base camp.
"Tone, we're at the top. We're sitting at the Chinese pyramid and don't know what to do," he famously said.
Two days later the peak was also reached by Slovenian mountaineer Stane Belak - Šrauf and Stipe Božić, the first Croatian to summit Mount Everest, as well as Nepalese mountaineer Ang Phu.
A majority of the Slovenian members of the 1979 expedition and representatives of the Mountaineering Association were received today by President Borut Pahor, who congratulated them on the anniversary.
They also attended the ceremony in Mojstrana, with Škarja pointing out that a number of factors contributed to the accomplishment, including successful preparation, courage, experience, cooperation and pursuit of the common goal.
Štremfelj reminisced about the feat, saying that he and Zaplotnik congratulated themselves at the top and shed a few tears of joy.
"Resounding cheers from all camps told us everything we needed to know about the collective spirit. We reached the top on behalf of all of us and saved the exhibition from fears of failure so that all our efforts would not have been in vain," said Štremfelj, adding that their joy could not last since one of the members had a fatal accident.
The realisation of what they had achieved sank in later, when they were already back and celebrating in Slovenia. Nowadays, their route is considered the most difficult among eleven established routes. Only the 1984 Bulgarian expedition has succeeded in conquering it as well.
To mark the feat, the museum is also hosting an exhibition featuring items and archives about the expedition and Mount Everest in general, including a journal entry by US chronicler of Himalayan mountaineering expeditions Elizabeth Hawley, describing the 1979 expedition.
The 8,848-metre Mount Everest has been summited by 18 Slovenians, who climbed to the top using three different routes.
Slovenian mountaineers have made a name for themselves among the Himalayas' world records, succeeding in climbing a route that had never been attempted before, women's ascent and ascent without the use of supplemental oxygen as well as the first ski descent from the top of the mountain.