From turning the most difficult dreams into realities, creating things that were once unimaginable to conquering the most challenging feats; humans always have a knack for doing what the rest of the world deems impossible. Once of such feats that was considered a battle against nature, a risky tease with fate was conquering the highest point on earth, Mount Everest , standing proud and tall at the height of 8848m. What had been a difficult, risky and almost impossible target for many was one of the greatest achievements recorded in history for two lucky men - Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Numerous attempts had been made since 1921 when the British first formed the Mount Everest Committee to map and explore the natural wonder and figure out the route to the summit from the North side i.e. from Tibet. A number of relentless attempts were made by the British expedition party till 1950 as Nepal still had not opened its borders to tourists so the climb from the south hadn’t even be explored. When Nepal finally opened its borders to foreigners, a number of countries (UK, Canada, U.S.A, India, Nepal, Switzerland, etc) made numerous joint attempts to explore a route from the south and conquer the summit. The deaths of the Sherpas in the 1922 expedition were the first recorded deaths in the history of Mount Everest. After that, hundreds of enthusiasts and adventurers have lost their lives trying to reach where no man had reached before 1953.
But the tale of the first ascent is legendary in its own terms. With the northern side closed as China took over Tibet and Nepal allowed mountaineers to start expeditions from the southern side, the easier route (one that is still followed today) was discovered by the many expeditions that were carried out each year after 1950. As the number of opportunities grew, the sense of competition also started brewing between various countries like France, Switzerland and U.K who were vying to get the expedition permits and be the first country in the world to have its name written in the history books as the first conqueror of the mighty challenge that Everest had proven to be.
After many failed attempts, even after crossing different heights as much as 8500m and the glaciers and steep slopes, British Joint Himalayan Committee was facing a lot of criticism and pressure. As a result, it appointed John Hunt, a British army colonel, for his military leadership skills and mountaineering expertise. At this point, the mission was more a matter of national prestige by adding one more conquest to the country’s name than a mountaineering challenge. So , after all the foreign mountaineers assembled and recruited the best Sherpas as guides and porters, 2 parties of the Committee left Kathmandu on March 10 and 11 respectively to allow for acclimatization till April.
While Hillary was considered the best among the British, Tenzing Norgay was the best available world class Sherpa guide at that time. The teams reached the base camp on 12 April 1953 and set up camp to decide on the route and carry the supplies and equipments. Unlike the previous attempts, this approach was well planned and camps were set up at many points, progressing slowly up the daunting mountain. Camps II, III and IV were made by the various members of the parties on 15th April (Hillary, Band and Lowe), 22nd April, and 1st May (Hunt, Bourdillon and Evans) respectively. These teams were the first to explore the Lhotse face on 2nd may and establish the base camp V on 3rd May. Camp VI at 23000 Ft and camp VII at 24000 ft were established on 4Th May and 17th May respectively. Two members of the team, Sherpa Annullu and Noyce reached the South Col on 21st May at an altitude of 26000ft. The first party of the team started towards the summit with closed circuit oxygen and became the first pair to achieve a height of 29000ft or 8750m. Unfortunately, the two had to return back due to time constraints and lack of oxygen. As a final assault, another team comprising of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary left for the final quest to the summit on 27th May. With the experience and determination of the now famous legends, the summit was finally conquered at 11:30 A.M on 29th May 1953. The route through the South proved to be easier and lucky as the two men made history, taking photographs on the highest point on earth to mark their victorious achievement.
With the help of luck, suitable conditions, unfaltering bravery and co-ordination, the two legends exhibited another sample of successful human conquest to the world. The news of the ordeal was transmitted to the world by the correspondent for the Times Newspaper, James Morris, who heard about the successful summit in Namche Bazaar. This was telegrammed to the British Embassy in Kathmandu in a coded message which read “ Snow conditions bad stop advance base abandoned yesterday stop waiting improvement” where ‘snow conditions bad’ was code for summit had been reached and ‘Advance Base abandoned’ referred to Hillary’s team. The news was celebrated all over the world with the British mountaineers, Hillary and Hunt, being appointed Knight Commander of the Order of British Empire and Knight Bachelor for their immense contributions. Tenzing was gifted a purse of ten thousand rupees by the senior Queen of Nepal and also awarded a George medal by the Queen of England.
More than the gifts and the acknowledgements, the notable influence of the first ascent were the numerous other expeditions that were inspired after that. Not only were the legendary men able to record their names in the World history, but achieved a feat that would inspire and unite the world for generations to come, inspiring people with the pride and glory of reaching the top of the world. But all of us may not be able to reach the summit of the Everest but we can sure trek to its base camp with Everest base camp trekking.