Bette Midler once said, “with the right footwear one can rule the world.” On May 29, 1953, Tenzing Norgay proved this saying quite literally, when he became the first person, along with mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, to climb Mount Everest. Norgay was wearing handcrafted boots made of reindeer skin and fur, custom-made by the Swiss footwear company Bally. Today, the double-stitched pair of boots that stood at the top of the world is on display in the museum of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling.
The museum has three sections: Mountaineering History, Mount Everest Expedition, and a Panorama of Himalayan Life. A relief of the entire Himalayan range displays its prominent peaks, glaciers, and river systems. The section also has artifacts related to the evolution of climbing techniques and equipment used in climbing. Flags, badges of honor, medals, and monograms of various Alpine clubs from all over the world are also on display in the mountaineering history section.
The chronology of mankind’s fascination with challenging the might of Mount Everest has been documented and displayed in the mount Everest section in great detail. Everest stands at an elevation of 8,849 meters above sea level. In 1852, Indian mathematician Shri Radha Nath Sikder of Survey of India calculated the height of Everest’s Peak XV, and came to the conclusion that it was the highest mountain on Earth. This peak was named in honor of the then-Surveyor General of India George Everest. The discovery is documented at the museum.
In the Himalayan life section, there are a large number of artifacts and models connected to art, culture, socio-economic life, flora, and fauna of the region. A VEB Carl Zeiss telescope presented by Adolf Hitler to General Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana, Commander-in-Chief of the Nepalese army in 1961 is also on display.
In 2013, the iconic Swiss shoe brand Bally introduced its Everest Collection. They called the boot line as Bally Himalaya Boot which was inspired by the summit. The brand wanted to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the ascent of Everest.
HMI also offers adventure, basic, and advanced levels of mountaineering courses. The institute, which is managed by the government of India, gets adventure enthusiasts as visitors throughout the year as it also hosts several mountain biking and mountaineering expeditions.
Know Before You Go
Photography inside the museum is not allowed. The museum entry fee is Rs 60 per person.
The museum is open six days a week (closed on Thursdays), from 9 a.m. to 5 pm.