Human history is very much about documenting challenges to the limits of the human body, mind and spirit. Few adventures are more grueling and gripping to the imagination that scaling Mount Everest, our planets highest peak. On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and a Nepalese Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, reached the summit of the 29,028-foot (8,848-metre) Mount Everest. The treacherous legacy and stories of those who tried, failed or perished attempting to reach the summit remains a poignant example of mankind’s continuous quest to tame and control nature. Hillary and Norgay achieved what had never been completed before, and inspired many explorers since to tackle the worlds natural wonders – on earth and beyond.
Edmund Hillary joined a British expedition to climb Everest in 1953, led by British mountaineer John Hunt and a team of 400 others. Hunt wanted the expedition to begin in May of 1953, in time to stay ahead of the monsoon snows which doomed many previous expeditions. Hillary and Norgay were not however the first among the expeditions team to attempt the climb. An earlier pair were forced to abort their climb only 300 feet short of the summit. That is when Hillary and a Norgay were chosen to try the ascent. Leaving the last camp at South Col in the freezing chill morning of May 29th 1953, Hillary and Norgay took only five hours (by 11:30am) to make their historic step onto the summit. Their lives changed forever. Hillary was only 33 years of age the year he reached the summit, while his Sherpa guide Norgay was only 38. Their achievement remains an incredible testament to human endurance and skill.
It is important to remember that Everest has claimed more that 250 lives. Hillary and Norgay’s story is one of genuine guts and glory in reaching our planet’s highest peak. The Everest of today is a very different place, and a very different adventure. Reaching the summit of Mount Everest now goes to the highest bidder, and the thrill of taking nature head-on is somewhat subdued by state of the art equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars ushering just about anyone to the top. While great adventures still lie ahead for humans as we venture to reach further and further into space and beyond, it is still the epic tale of human bravery and perseverance against all odds that inspire and fuel our dreams. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, among the many others who made the first attempts at reaching the top of Mount Everest, remain a part of a legacy of true explorers.
For those interested, BBC has a wonderful video about the technology used in 1953 to reach the summit with some extraordinary footage: