|The West Ridge of Everest with the climbers below - Photo Courtesy Everest, The West Ridge by Tom Horbein|
On 21st May 1963 at six o’clock in the evening two climbers reached 27,205 feet (8300 metres) to set up
on the west ridge of Everest. Tom Horbein a US anasthetologist then 32 years
old and Willi Unsoeld , a mountain guide then 36 years of age were poised for
the final push to the summit of Everest by a new route. Camp 5W
It had not been easy for these two men. The 1963 American Everest Expedition led by Norman Dyrenfurth had squarely set its sights on a first American ascent by the
South Col route. On
May 1st 1963, Jim Whittaker accompanied by Sherpa Nawang Gombu,
Tenzing’s nephew, made the first American ascent to become the fifth and six
men to stand of the summit after the British in 1953 and Swiss in 1954.
But Horbein and Unsoeld had other ideas. Working doggedly with the meager resources including limited oxygen the duo set up camps on the virgin west ridge route.
On the day of their summit climb, Barry Bishop, a National Geographic photographer, and Lute Jerstad were also attempting the summit by the South Col route. Bishop and Jerstad reached the summit around 4 pm but did not find any evidence of the west ridge team who were still two hours below the top.