May 29, 2013

On Top of the World Sixty Years Ago

Tenzing Norgay, May 29, 1953, 11:30 AM

"I continued on, cutting steadily and surmounting bump after bump and cornice after cornice looking eagerly for the summit. It seemed impossible to pick it and time was running out. Finally I cut around the back of an extra large lump and then on a tight rope from Tenzing I climbed up a gentle snow ridge to its top. Immediately it was obvious that we had reached our objective. It was 11.30 a.m. and we were on top of Everest!" -- Sir Edmund Hillary

In 1953, a ninth British expedition, led by John Hunt, returned to Nepal. Hunt selected two climbing pairs to attempt to reach the summit. The first pair turned back after becoming exhausted high on the mountain. The next day, the expedition made its second and final assault on the summit with its fittest and most determined climbing pair. The summit was eventually reached at 11:30 am local time on May 29, 1953 by the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay climbing the South Col Route.

Hillary: “I had carried my camera, loaded with colour film, inside my shirt to keep it warm, so I now produced it and got Tenzing to pose for me on the top, waving his ice-axe on which was a string of flags—British, Nepalese, United Nations, and Indian. Then I turned my attention to the great stretch of country lying below us.” Everest First Ascent


James Morris, the correspondent on the spot of The Times newspaper, heard the news at Base Camp on 30 May and sent a coded message by runner to Namche Bazaar, where a wireless transmitter was used to forward it as a telegram to the British Embassy in Kathmandu. The conquest of Everest was probably the last major news item to be delivered to the world by runner. Morris's encrypted message to his paper read: "Snow conditions bad stop advanced base abandoned yesterday stop awaiting improvement".[18] By happy coincidence this was received and understood in London in time for the news to be released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation on 2 June. La Wik

"I'm Ed Hillary and in New Zealand I'm a beekeeper:"Sir Edmund Hillary on Omnibus in 1954

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"Cliimbing mountains comes and goes:" Sir Edmund Hillary in 2003 at age 84. He passed away in 2008.

Everest, The North Face:


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 29, 2013 11:30 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I appreciate men.

Posted by: Leslie at May 29, 2013 12:39 PM

A remarkable achievement, and even with the cheapening and commercialization of the Everest experience since then, it will always remain so.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at May 29, 2013 1:03 PM

It would seem almost as though there were a cordon drawn round the upper part of these great peaks beyond which no man may go. The truth of course lies in the fact that, at altitudes of 25,000 feet and beyond, the affects of low atmospheric pressure on the human body are so severe that really difficult mountaineering is impossible and the consequences even of a mild storm may be deadly, that nothing but the most perfect combinations of weather and snow offers the slightest chance of success, and that on the last lap of the climb no party is in position to choose its day...

No, it is not remarkable that Everest did not yield to the first few attempts; indeed it would have been very surprising and not a little sad if it had, for that is not the way of great mountains. Perhaps we had become a little arrogant with our fine new technique of ice-claw and rubber slipper, our age of easy mechanical conquest. We had forgotten that the mountain still holds the master card, that it will grant success only in its own good time. Why else does mountaineering retain its deep fascination?

Eric Shipton
Upon that Mountain - 1938

Interestingly, last month (April 2013) was the 50th anniversary of the 1963 American expedition which put 5 Americans and one Sherpa on the summit, and included the legendary West Ridge first ascent/first traverse by Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld. The PI's Joel Connelly wrote a nice article about the 50th anniversary re-release of Hornbein's classic eponymous Everest book by The Mountaineers. According to there have only been 5 successful summits against 9 fatalities on that route, the worst record of all the Everest routes.

Posted by: Soviet of Washington at May 29, 2013 8:27 PM

And to think that Hillary Clinton was named after him in order to show her "farsightedness". But I think her hyphenated feminist middle name is Ben-gahzi.

Posted by: indyjonesouthere at May 30, 2013 9:00 AM