The story behind Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's reaching the giant's summit 50 years ago.
Before May 29, 1953, nobody had reached Mount Everest's summit. The north and south poles had been conquered, but Everest had defied all attempts. Fifteen expeditions had failed and many lives lost. It took a beekeeper from New Zealand named Edmund Hillary, with the help of Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese sherpa, to achieve what many people thought wasn't humanly possible.
Sir Edmund believes every member of the team had the ambition that maybe they would be the one who set foot on top. He and his team worked extremely closely and overcame problems as they arose. They faced the hazards of hypothermia, snow blindness, avalanches, hurricane-force winds and altitude sickness, all after having already trekked 270km to make the rear camp at Tangboche.
Being part of a British expedition, the New Zealander was relegated to the "B" team. But the British climbers who made up the "A" team were forced back a couple of hundred metres from the top, leaving Hillary and Tenzing as the last hopes.
Sir Edmund recalls that after seven weeks of climbing from base camp, his main feeling was one of considerable satisfaction. He said Tenzing in many ways was more excited than he. They threw their arms around each other and although they hadn't cured cancer or made any scientific breakthroughs, the achievement struck a chord with the world. It captured the spirit of the time and made the Hillary-Tenzing party instant heroes.
However, it wasn't until the walk out of Kathmandu that they realised what an impact their conquest of Everest had had on the world. Every day, mail runners arrived with telegrams and letters of congratulations from the world over.
Sir Edmund has used his success to raise money for the Nepalese people and has spent a lifetime committed to humanitarian work in the area. He believes his most worthwhile achievements have been building schools, hospitals, bridges and providing freshwater pipelines for his good friends, the sherpas. This is what he would choose to be remembered for rather than as the man who first reached the peak of Everest.
Kathmandu in Nepal
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