Friday, May 29, 2015

Everest: 29th May 1953

Tenzing and Hillary at Advance Base after the successful climb
Today is sixty two years since the historic first ascent of Everest.

On 29th May 1953 at 11.30 am, a sherpa and a New Zealander became the first men to stand on top of the highest peak on this planet.  However the intervening years has seen a sea change as far as Everest is concerned. The mountain, enshrined in controversy, has now become a playground for guided expeditions, with rich clients paying upto sixty thousand dollars or more to stand on the highest point on earth. The South Col route climbed in 1953 is now disdainfully referred to as the “yak trail”. The dangerous icefall below the Western Cwm is maintained by a team of sherpas right through the season led by a senior “Icefall Doctor.” In order to make it possible for inexperienced clients to summit Everest, the entire mountain has fixed rope from bottom to top. Climbers assisted by their sherpas clip onto the fixed rope and move up the mountain. There have been stories of sherpas dragging clients up difficult pitches in order to get them to the summit!

And human traffic jams are the order of the day. In May 2012, a German climber Ralf Dujmovits published a photograph which went viral on the internet showing a long line of climbers stuck on the Lhotse face all bunched one behind the other - human jams on the Hillary Step has also become a great bottleneck on the mountain.

 This  year 2015  has been a "lost season" for Everest due to the great Nepal earthquake which caused an enormous avalanche at Everest Base Camp on 25th April 2015. Last year the loss of sixteen sherpas in the Everest icefall effectively ended the Everest season from the south side.

However, this post recounts through photographs,  the 1953 climb, the historic ascent of the first two men to summit Everest and the team of climbers and sherpas who supported them through this endeavour.

From left: John Hunt, Hillary, Tenzing and Ang Nyima. Standing : Alfred Gregory and George Lowe at Advanced Base after the return of Tenzing and Hillary from the summit

Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon at the South Col after coming back from the South Summit on 26th May 1953, a decision which Bourdillon regretted for the rest of his life

Returning from the South Col: Evans, Hillay, Tenzing, Bourdillon and George Band

Nawang Gombu crosses a ladder over the Everest ice fall- Gombu later climbed Everest in 1963 and again in 1965

Tenzing and Hillary at Tengboche monastery after the successful climb 
The team of climbers and sherpas at Base  Camp after the successful climb
The coded telegram which meant " Hillary and Tenzing reached the summit on 29th May 1953"

Tenzing on the summit of Everest 29th May 1953 at 11.30 am

The entrance of Tenzing's home in Darjeeling

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