On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay achieved the seemingly impossible by reaching the summit of the world's highest peak, Mount Everest. Since then, more than 1,600 climbers have repeated this remarkable feat; but none will forget the early pioneers who put Nepal on the global tourist map. Preparations are underway to celebrate the golden jubilee of the event, with plenty of interest from international visitors and media. In a well-timed boost to the celebrations, and to Nepal's tourism industry, a ceasefire has been agreed between the Nepalese Government and Maoist rebels, and peace talks have begun in a bid to end the violent seven-year insurgency. Damador Rana, executive vice-chairman of the Golden Jubilee Organising Committee, says he has been surprised by the surge in local and international interest, particularly since the announcement of the ceasefire. 'In 1953, the achievement of reaching the summit of Everest opened Nepal up as an international tourist destination, and now, 50 years later with the end to the violence, the golden jubilee marks the rebirth of Nepal for tourism,' he says. Although celebrations began in June 2002 (below), most activities will occur in the weeks leading up to the anniversary. The events planned include a rock-climbing festival, trans-Himalayan mountain-bike rally and even bowling and golf tournaments. For the keen and fit, the world's highest marathon will be run over 42 kilometres from Everest Base Camp to Namche Bazaar. Less active commemorative events are also proposed, such as an attempt at the world's highest musical concert at the 5,430-metre high Base Camp. Musicians Ian Farrington from Australia and Paul Thompson from Britain will treat a small but enthusiastic audience of climbers to some high-altitude rock music. In Nepal's capital city Kathmandu, a film festival will be held featuring international movies with a largely mountaineering flavour. A photographic exhibition will chronicle 'Everest through the ages', and a spectacular Everest sound and light show will occur nightly in the tourist hub of Thamel from May 23 to 30. A gathering of Everest conquerors in the capital on May 28 and 29 will see almost 500 of the 900 surviving climbers in attendance, including Junko Tabei, the first woman to stand on top of the world. 'Obviously the star of the occasion will be Sir Edmund Hillary,' says Sherpa Ang Chhring, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association and organiser of the symposium. The Golden Jubilee celebrations will culminate in a black-tie dinner at the Royal Palace to be hosted by Hillary and Nepal's King Gyanendra, at which Everest medals will be presented to all those who have reached the top, and special awards given to other distinguished mountaineers. While Hillary will lead the celebrations in Kathmandu, his son Peter will be hosting a large dinner party for fellow climbers at Thyangboche Monastery near Base Camp. This season more than 600 climbers will attempt Everest, while Sherpa Appa will be aiming for a record 13th ascent. After hanging up his boots last season, Appa had to ask his wife's permission to climb one last time. 'I was facing a lot of family pressure not to go, but this one is perhaps the most important climb of all,' he says. 'I am celebrating the achievement of my heroes and it is fitting I remember them this way.' As the lengthy celebrations wind down in the early hours of May 30 (Nepalese time), a four-hour Royal Gala will begin in London, with Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in attendance.