…By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.
Eighth Time’s the Charm: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s Historic Everest Ascent
The death of George Mallory in 1924 had added a poignant dimension to British attempts to conquer Mount Everest.
After seven failed attempts, Colonel John Hunt’s team achieved the remarkable feat on this day 70 years ago.
The news of the successful climb reached the UK on June 2, 1953, coinciding with the Queen’s Coronation.
The Conquering Heroes:
New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese climber Tenzing Norgay, both members of Colonel Hunt’s team, were the men who planted the Union Jack on the 29,000-ft peak.
Their achievement instantly propelled them to household-name status when the news reached Britain.
A Momentous Coronation Day:
The Daily Mail, at the time, celebrated the triumph, stating that “Everest is conquered.”
The Union Jack had been flown on the peak, carried there by a New Zealand beekeeper.
The timing of this achievement added to the significance, as it coincided with the Queen’s Coronation.
Challenges and Triumph:
Hillary and Tenzing got their opportunity to climb the summit when fellow climbers Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans had to turn back due to a malfunctioning oxygen supply.
The British team felt a sense of urgency due to impending expeditions from France and Switzerland.
The 1953 expedition, comprising 12 climbers, a film cameraman, a doctor, and a reporter, was the last until 1956 or later.
The Journey to the Summit:
The team faced treacherous obstacles, including the perilous Khumbu Icefall, which they successfully navigated.
Higher camps were established as they made their way up the mountain.
Wilfrid Noyce and Sherpa Annullu reached the South Col on May 21.
Bourdillon and Evans came within 300 feet of the summit but had to turn back.
Finally, on May 29, Hillary and Norgay reached the summit via the South Col route.
Hillary’s achievement held significant personal significance as he had overcome severe burns suffered during World War II and pursued mountaineering alongside beekeeping.
Tenzing, an experienced climber, was chosen as Hillary’s partner due to his skills and speed.
They shared a special bond and reached the summit together.
Hillary described the elation of reaching the summit, capturing photographs of Tenzing holding flags of the United Nations, Britain, Nepal, and India.
They spent approximately 20 minutes at the summit, relishing the extraordinary view and the feeling of accomplishment.
Hillary emphasized the team effort and credited Colonel Hunt for the success.
The men returned to the UK as heroes, with both Hunt and Hillary receiving knighthoods for their roles in the expedition.
Despite enduring a tragic loss in 1975 when his wife and daughter died in a plane crash, Hillary continued his philanthropic work, contributing to the development of hospitals, bridges, and clinics in the Himalayas.
He remarried in 1989 to the widow of his late Antarctic partner.
Legacy and Honors:
The successful Everest ascent marked a significant milestone in mountaineering history.
Nepal’s government recently honored record-breaking climbers, including Sherpa guides Kami Rita and Sanu Sherpa, who have achieved remarkable feats on Everest.
The 70th anniversary celebration serves as a reminder of the courage and determination exhibited by Hillary, Tenzing, and subsequent climbers who have conquered the world’s tallest peak.
Mount Everest faces increasing challenges due to deteriorating conditions caused by climate change.
Warmer temperatures have resulted in bare rock replacing snow and ice, affecting the safety and livelihoods of mountaineers and local communities.
Glaciers on Everest have lost an alarming amount of ice in recent decades.
The historic ascent of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay remains a testament to human ambition, perseverance, and the enduring spirit of exploration.
Their achievement on June 2, 1953, marked a turning point in mountaineering history and solidified their place as icons of adventure.
As we celebrate this remarkable milestone, it is vital to address the environmental challenges facing Everest and ensure its preservation for future generations of climbers and nature enthusiasts.