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.

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