Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Everest May 29th 1953 | Sixty Five Years since the 1st Ascent

Hillary and Tenzing arriving at Advance Base Camp 30th May 1953 after the successful summit.  On the left is Charles Evans and to the left of Tenzing is Tom Bourdillon and George Band. 
Today is sixty five 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   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 the clients to summit Everest, the entire mountain has fixed rope from bottom to top. This year 2018 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. 

 The summer of 2018 has been a record year on Everest. There has been 700+ summits till date from both the south and north side and for the first time there were eleven straight summit days when the weather was favourable for the climb.  Kami Rita Sherpa made his 22nd ascent of Everest - the highest number of Everest ascents till date. Lhakpa Sherpa climbed Everest from the north for the ninth time - the most Everest climbs by a woman. 

A Chinese double amputee Xiya Boyu made a successful ascent of Everest while astronaut Maurizio Cheli also successfully made the summit becoming the first man to have flown in space and climbed the highest mountain in the world.

There was also a major problem this year  with faulty oxygen bottle regulators on the Tibet north  route and some teams had to cancel  their summit attempts. 

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 - Bourdillon had wanted to make a push for the summit

Nawang Gombu crossing the icefall ladders - Gombu later became the first man to climb Everest twice in 1963 and 1965
The five men who helped  Hillary and Tenzing to carry to Camp 9  27,800 feet - John Hunt, Da Namgyal, Alf Gregory, Any Nyima and George Lowe - Photo George Lowe Collection

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 Tengboche monastery after the climb
Tenzing and Hillary at Tengboche monastery after the successful climb
Sketch map drawn by Tenzing for his biographer James Ramsay Ullman 

The signed colour supplement of The Times

All photographs in this post are copyright the ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY and the respective owners.

1 comment:

  1. We look up. For weeks, for months, that is all we have done. Look up. And there it is-the top of Everest. Only it is different now: so near, so close, only a little more than a thousand feet above us. It is no longer just a dream, a high dream in the sky, but a real and solid thing, a thing of rock and snow, that men can climb. We make ready. We will climb it. This time, with God's help, we will climb on to the end. Tenzing Norgay



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