29 May 2008

Guardian of the realm of the snows

Today is the anniversary of the first completed ascension of Mount Everest, which took place on 29 May 1953. To celebrate, I thought I would pull out a few stories of Everest, which of course mention its most infamous inhabitant, from several of my favorite sources. Along the way, I also thought we’d take a gander at some of my favorite aspects from Serka Zong and Expedition Everest.

To start out, let’s go back to the very beginning:
“Tibetans believed that man originally emerged from the highlands surrounded by the tallest mountains on earth. To them the holy mountain Kailas is the center of the world. A thought entered my mind: Did the yeti legend figure in the myth of man’s creation?”
-Reinhold Messner, My Quest for the Yeti p. 38

“Mount Everest, called Peak XV upon initial identification, was renamed in 1865 by the British after the then Surveyor-General of India, Sir George Everest. It is, to the residents of Nepal, Sagarmatha, the “Summit of Heaven.” Everest is the throne of Migyo Lang Zang, the tiger-riding goddess who warns against the overly developed self, the too-much me. Locally it is known as Jomo Lung Ma, “Goddess of the Wind,” or Chomolungma, “Mother Goddess of the World.” Records suggest that this was the name preferred by Sir George.”
-Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: The Journey Begins p. 6

Mount Everest, having secured its place in history, began to create stories amongst the indigenous people of the region. A fierce protector who cast a terrifying presence, but more often than not could not be found by mere mortal men, the yeti:
“In 1921, Colonel C. K. Howard-Bury was leading the first expedition to climb the north side of Mount Everest when he saw dark shadows flitting over the slopes at 19,500 feet. Later, at the precise spot where he had seen the strange creatures, he found gigantic footprints.”
-Reinhold Messner, My Quest for the Yeti p. 43

After many years had crept by, the idea came forward to bring Mount Everest to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Surprisingly, this concept did not come years after the park had already opened to the public, but actually several years before Disney’s Animal Kingdom was even announced:
“And Everest has these ancient roots, this actually, let’s see if I have this image here, this is painting from, I did this, 1991. And it is a view from, pretty much, where Flame Tree is now, looking out across the water to what Everest is now, only that’s Bhutan, instead of Nepal, and the safari village, that was Asia, moved on to the side of Asia, instead of on the side of the island.”
-Joe Rohde, Disney’s Animal Kingdom 10th Anniversary Presentation, 22 April 2008

Returning to our base camp, Serka Zong, one cannot help but feel that, even if they have never visited the true area surrounding Mount Everest, they are walking in the shadows of the great mountain itself. This is, in all respects, due to the hard work and dedication of the Imagineers and horticulturalist that molded the space where Serka Zong and Expedition Everest now reside:
“Landscape architects incorporated characteristics from Bhutan, Mustang, Sichuan, and Katmandu to capture the diversity of the botanically rich region. More than 900 bamboo plants, including 4 species of giant bamboo, 10 species of trees, and 110 species of shrubs were planted to evoke the lowlands surrounding Mount Everest.”
-Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: The Journey Begins p. 17


Unknown said...

Nice piece, Ryan!

All the best,

Greg said...

Would those quotes from "Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: The Journey Begins" be from your Joe Rohde autographed copy?

Thought so.

I have one of those too! Yea us!

Princess Fee said...

Expedition Everest is one of my favourite rides, probably because of the amount of detail that has gone into the overall theming. What a great angle to look at the attraction - yet another informative and interesting post - thanks Ryan!

Ryan P. Wilson said...

Everytime I do a piece on Everest, I think I've just about covered everything, and then I always find more interesting pieces to bring it all together even more. The research that Walt Disney Imagineering did on this attraction is mind-boggling, I only hope that these articles, in some way, do it justice.