Monday, May 29, 2017

Everest | The First Ascent May 29th 1953

Tenzing and Hillary at Tengboche monastery after the ascent 
Today is sixty four years since the 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 clients paying between twenty five to 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. This year 2017 the first ascent of the mountain was made by a team of  sherpas from different expeditions who fixed  the rope right to the summit and they were followed by the guided clients. A tragic death on the mountain this year was Ueli Steck who fell off the Nuptse wall while on an acclimatisation climb.

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.

Bourdillon and Evans on their return from the South Summit on May 26th 1953

Nawang Gombu crossing the icefall ladders - Gombu later became the first man to climb Everest twice

The map of the Khumbu icefall and the route followed by the 1953 expedition

From left: John Hunt, Ed Hillary, Tenzing, Ang Nyima,  Alfred Gregory and George Lowe after the ascent

The code which was later used in the telegram to send the news before the Queen's coronation

The telegram sent by John Hunt after the ascent

Hunt, Hillary and Tenzing in London

The full expedition team with the sherpas
Tenzing and his mother at Thyanboche monastery after the climb

The signed colour supplement of The Times
All photographs in this post are copyright the ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY and the respective owners.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Everest 2017 | Hillary Step Destroyed by Nepal Earthquake

Many of you must have read the news on social media and press reports that the ionic Hillary Step just below the summit of Everest on the south side is no more. Tim Mosedale while climbing Everest a few days ago reported this on his Facebook page and mentioned that this would probably be the result of the 2015 earthquake which rocked Nepal including the Everest region.

Jamie McGuinness of Project Himalaya posted a photograph of the step taken by him in 2008 and a comparison of the two photographs below clearly indicates the changes to the topography of the  Step.

The question remains that will be changes to the Step make it easier or more difficult to climb the last bit to Everest?

But let us go back to the climb of 1953 when Ed Hillary free climbed the Step for the first time and it was only then he was sure that the two of  them (Hillary and Tenzing) would make it to the top.

In the video interview below given by Hillary many years after the successful climb he recounts the climb of the Step on that memorable day May 29th 1953.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mussoorie Mountain Festival | May 18-20 2017

The Mussoorie Mountain Festival will be held from May 18th to 20th 2017. The theme of the festival is conservation as it relates to the Himalayas and other mountain ranges in the world.

 I will be presenting an exhibition of photographs on Nepal Himalaya - A Journey Through Time from our Nepal book at the Festival. I will also be speaking on 20th May at 2.30 pm on Mustang - The Lost Tibetan Kingdom - Tradition and Change. I hope to meet some of my friends at the festival.The festival details and program is given below:

Friday, May 5, 2017

Machhapuchhare | The Fishtail Mountain

Last light from Poon Hill - winter sunset
The Fishtail Mountain of Nepal Machhapuchhare has not been climbed. Attempted in 1962 by a British team led by Jimmy Roberts,  the climbers failed to make the summit. Soon after the Nepal Government put the mountain "out of bounds" and no further expeditions were permitted.

I first saw the mountains of the Nepal Himalaya from the lawns of the Crystal Hotel in Pokhara. It was December 1978 and in the grey light of a chilly dawn with my first and new SLR camera, I attempted to take some photographs. The garden was full of red poinsettia blossoms but in the pre-dawn light they looked dark crimson, almost black. And then behind them in that half light, there was the Fishtail mountain, Machhapuchhare, her razor sharp ridges slicing the inky blue sky.  Next  to her impossibly high were the Annapurnas and to the west peeking over the lower hills was Dhaulagiri. I have seen variations of this Himalayan vision in different incarnations all through the years, and it never fails to arouse a feeling of awe and amazement each and every time.

This essay shows the some of the moods of this iconic mountain:

From the flight between Pokhara and Jomsom - Annapurna II and IV on the right

Before dawn from Annapurna Base Camp

Dawn Tadapani

From the forests between Sinuwa and Bamboo on the Annapurna Base Camp trail

Dusk Annapurna Base Camp

Rising moon after sunset - Machhapuchhare Base Camp

From the swimming pool of Tiger Mountain Lodge Pokhara

To find out more about are treks in this region do visit


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