BOULDER, Colo.—When Chuck Demarest was 10 years old in 1953, he had mixed feelings when he read a newspaper account of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay becoming the first to reach the top of Mount Everest.
“I wanted to be the first person,” Demarest said with a smile 62 years later. Despite that initial disappointment, he was thrilled and inspired by the achievement of the two famous climbers.
He had read a book on the Himalayas when he was 8 and developed a strong fascination with Everest, the world's highest peak at 29,028 feet above sea level. It was then he decided he wanted to climb the mountain, which sits on the crest of the Great Himalayas in Asia on the border between Nepal and Tibet.
Growing up in Glen Ridge, N.J., far from the mountains, his goal thereafter was to follow in the footsteps of Hillary, from New Zealand, and Norgay, a Sherpa from Nepal, and conquer Everest. Sherpas are native to the region and long have played key support roles in Himalayan climbs because of their strength, climbing skills, knowledge of the mountain, endurance and genetic natural aptitude for the altitude.
In most cases, wild dreams of youth give way to reality when adulthood arrives.
That was not the case with Demarest. He had goals and ambitions, including Everest, and he stuck with his plan. While attending Princeton in the early 1960s, he worked in Colorado during summer breaks and began honing his mountaineering skills in the Rockies.