70 years ago today, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa reached the summit of the tallest mountain in the world, Mt Everest on 29th May 1953. The duo ascended along the southeast ridge to the top of the world at 8,848 meters at 11:30 am.
Tenzing and Hillary were part of the ninth British expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest led by Sir John Hunt in a military style. Sir Edmund Hillary before the successful conquest of the tallest snow peaked wonder in the world was also part of the British reconnaissance expedition in 1951. Eric Shipton, an English mountaineer was leading the expedition in 1951, however, they were not able to reach the top.
Similarly, Tenzing Norgay Sherpa was also part of a Swiss expedition in the conquest of the tallest mountain in the world. However, the Swiss expedition team along with Tenzing were forced back due to bad weather, and the expedition team also had problems with their oxygen sets.
The expedition team had to withdraw from just 240 meters below the top of the world.
It was only when the duo, Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary worked together, the first-ever scaling of Mt. Everest was possible in 1953.
Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary
Tenzing Norgray Sherpa was a famous Sherpa mountaineer who was known by different names such as ‘Tiger of the snow mountain’, and ‘the three lung talented man’. Born in Solukhumbu on 29th May 1914, a village at the foothills of the tallest mountain in the world, Tenzing always wondered about view from the top of the world.
Living his childhood aspirations, the Tiger of the snow mountain commenced working with different mountain teams on the expedition to the highest snow peaked mountains from the age of 18. His repetitive new climbing records earned him the name ‘three lung talented man’.
The mountaineer after collecting over 20 years of expertise in the field, was finally chosen as the guide of the British expedition team led by Sir John Hunt along with New Zealand’s best mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary Clinton.
Check out the Video created by The Guardian:
Hillary born in Auckland in 1919, New Zealand was one of the most famous and prominent mountaineers. The New Zealander mountaineer had a passion for mountaineering and setting out on exploration from childhood.
Besides conquering the tallest mountain in the world Mt. Everest (8,848.9 m), Sir Edmund Hillary Clinton has also scaled 11 mountain peaks above 6,000 meters. Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008) stated that Hillary is a legend in mountaineering and expeditions, and the most famous New Zealander.
After his death in 2008 from a heart attack at the age of 88, New Zealand’s government held a state funeral for the legendary mountaineer in Auckland. In honor of Sir Edmund Hillary Clinton, the 5-dollar currency of New Zealand also uses the portrait of the mountaineering legend.
Recruitment of the Best for Mt. Everest Expedition
At the commencement of the ‘Age of Exploration’, in the 15th century, the expedition teams from Europe scattered all over the world. Britain, however from the mid-19th century started participating in the international conquest and even participated in the contest to be the first to reach the North and South Poles.
However, after losing on both ends, they set their sight on the conquest of the third pole, Mt. Everest. But, before 1950, it was not possible to scale the mountain from Nepal’s side. Thus, the climbers had to take the Tibet route with special permission from Dalai Lama. But the British team had no luck from the Tibet side and their attempts were met with failures.
After 1950, when Mt. Everest was opened for climbing, it became a fest for passionate mountaineers to scale the tallest mountain in the world. The British expedition team was also well prepared for their conquest of the top in 1953.
The British preparation included 350 porters, 20 Sherpa guides, and tons of supplies just to support the 10 climbers on their ascent. For the expedition in 1953, Colonel John Hunt handpicked the best-experienced mountaineers from the whole of Britain.
Sir Edmund Hillary Clinton from New Zealand was chosen along with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa was recruited from India where he used to live. Among all the climbers who took part in the expedition, only four could get their luck to reach the top.
Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary: Double Team Summit
Colonel and team leader, Hunt, selected two members from each team, Tom Bourdilon and Charles Evans from the first, and, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay from the second team. The first team consisting of Bourdilon and Evans made it almost all the way to the top, but due to faults in their oxygen tanks and bad weather conditions, they withdrew their ascending on 26th May 1953.
And, the Hillary-Norgay team that started their ascend on 29th May from their camp at 6:30 am in the morning reached the top of the world at 11:30 am. Hillary and Norgay were so excited to reach the top of the world, that no man ever could before them, that they stayed at the top for 15 minutes before making descent to the base camp.
Upon hearing the success of the scaling of Third-pole, Mt Everest, Queen Elizabeth II coronated both Hillary and Hunt to knighthood. Norgay was also granted the George Medal for his accomplishment.
George Mallory and Andrew Irvine- Were They First to Reach the Top of Mt. Everest?
Although Sir Edmund Hillary Clinton and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first climbers to successfully scale Mt. Everest. There have been theories that the legendary duo might have been beaten to the top by the expeditioners, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine 30 years before them.
Born in a middle-class family, George Mallory had a love for climbing. The excursion from his school to the Alps at the age of 18, grew his passion even more for climbing. After completing his degree from Cambridge University, Mallory joined the Everest expedition team in 1921. The first expedition team mapped the North Col trail of Everest, and the second expedition team in 1922 was able to reach 8,225 meters.
After two failed attempts in the previous years, with the third time being a charm mentality, the British expedition team prepared the scaling all the way to the top after learning from earlier failures. But, the team lost sight of Mallory and Irvine around lunchtime on 8th June 1924 after a squall hit the expedition team.
The mountaineering duo was not sighted by the British expedition team and they began their descending by 11th June.
Rescue Team to Recover Bodies of Mallory and Irvine
75 years after the British mountaineers were lost on the treacherous trails of Mt. Everest, a dedicated team set out on an expedition to recover the bodies of Mallory and Irvine in 1999. Within a few hours of the search, the team was able to locate the body of George Mallory on the north face of the mountain, but, the team wasn’t able to find the body of Andrew Irvine.
There were several factors about their expedition that swirled many theories regarding them being to the top of Mt. Everest. Mallory whose body was collected from the mountain was well-preserved with his personal belongings intact (an altimeter, unbroken pair of snow goggles, and a letter).
But, he didn’t have a photograph of his wife that he was carrying. Mallory had promised to put the photograph of his wife at the summit when he reached it. His unbroken snow goggles also suggested that the duo was probably ascending after the sunset.
These two factors fueled the speculation that the Mallory and Irvine duo might have been the first to ascend to the top of Mt. Everest. However, many have argued that the route the duo was taking was extremely difficult and there is no way they could have made it to the top from that route (especially the Second Step on North Ridge).
If the search team was able to find the camera Irvine was carrying, it might have been a different story.