Seventy years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to stand on top of the world's highest peak, the Nepali community is renewing calls for Everest Day to be officially celebrated in New Zealand.
The pair reached the summit of Mount Everest at 11.30am on 29 May 1953, cementing a long-lasting friendship between the two climbers that blossomed into ongoing ties between the two countries.
Nepal begun commemorating the date as International Everest Day after Hillary's death in 2008, but New Zealand has not followed suit.
The day has been celebrated in Nepal and by the Nepali diaspora ever since, as an occasion to promote alpine tourism and mark the special bond that exists between Nepal and New Zealand.
"The seed of this wonderful relationship between our two countries were sowed when those two great mountaineers sat foot on Sagarmatha together," said Dinesh Khadka, honorary consul of Nepal in Auckland, while speaking at Auckland's Everest Day celebrations.
Sagarmatha is Mount Everest's local name.
"Since that day, the bond has grown even stronger," Khadka said.
"Considering this, I have been fighting with the New Zealand government for our two demands. First is the simple question: Two people climbed Everest, why only one was honoured with the title of 'sir'? And second is our long-standing demand of giving Everest Day an official status in the government's official calendar."
The Auckland event was organised by the Non-Resident Nepali Association New Zealand, the Himalayan Trust, the Embassy of Nepal in Canberra and the consul in Auckland.
"We will be running a signature campaign closer to this year's general elections with a call to make this day an official celebration," Khadka said.
Other celebrations took place in Hamilton over the weekend, organised by the Nepal New Zealand Waikato Friendship Society and Sagarmatha Wellbeing and Harmony Trust of New Zealand.
This year's celebrations will end with an event at parliament organised by the Nepalese Society of Wellington on Wednesday.
In Auckland, apart from the usual dose of Nepali cuisine, attendees were treated to traditional sherpa welcome songs and dances. One of the highlights of the event was the unveiling of a 3D model of Mount Everest that traces Hillary and Tenzing's 1953 route.
As has been the tradition, the organisers auctioned a $5 note signed by Hillary for the Himalayan Trust's ongoing work in Nepal. Last year, the bill went for $1300. This year, the highest bidder picked up the coveted note for $2100.
The organisers thanked the trust for its ongoing work to build schools, hospitals and health clinics across the Solukhumbu region in the foothills of Mount Everest.
Peter Hillary, Edmund's son and Himalayan Trust chairperson, called on the public to donate generously to support Nepal.
"By giving a 'Fiver for Ed' you can support education, health and environmental programmes in Nepal, to which Ed dedicated much of his life," Peter Hillary said by video.
"If we all give $5, we can make a huge difference to Nepal as they struggle to get through the pandemic and the impacts on their mountain economy."
Khadka said a statue of Hillary and Tenzing would be unveiled at Tenzing Hillary Airport in the Nepali town of Lukla to mark the anniversary. Official openings are also expected to be held for the Sir Edmund Hillary Visitors Centre, which has been built inside Hillary's original school building in Khumjung, as well as the Tenzing Norgay Museum at the Sagarmartha National Park headquarters in Namche.
Several attendees at the event in Auckland noted how past Everest Day celebrations in New Zealand had highlighted the shared bond between the two nations.
The loudest applause during the event was reserved for Sherpa Ang Kaji, who has scaled Everest six times - four times from the Nepal side and two times from the Tibetan side. His last climb was in 2012.
"In the last 10 years, mountaineering has really taken off, with thousands lining up to Everest's base camp every year," Kaji said. "My plea to everyone is to train well and get experience with less difficult terrain first, before going for the tallest one."
Non-Resident Nepali Association New Zealand president Uddhav Adhikary echoed Khadka's feelings on recognising Everest Day in New Zealand.
"The Nepalese community in New Zealand has been celebrating the day here since 2014," Adhikary said. "We have had promises from everyone, but yet to see any action."
Parliament has hosted Everest Day celebrations since 2019.
Last year, Government House in Auckland celebrated Everest Day and hosted a reception for the Himalayan Trust, with Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro acknowledging the work done by the organisation in Nepal.
"Nepal and Aotearoa may be 12,000km apart, but along with so many other nations on the planet, we are both experiencing the brutal impact of climate-related events," Kiro said.
"Sir Ed would be so gratified to know that [the trust is] continuing to work through these complex challenges."
New Zealand Nepal Society president Santosh Bhandari repeated the calls for Everest Day to be commemorated officially in New Zealand.
"Those two great men ... established a remote Himalayan kingdom and a small Pacific island country firmly on the world map," Bhandari said.
"Nepal started acknowledging the feat in 2008. It's time for New Zealand to do the same."