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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 May, 2003, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK
Queen meets Everest heroes
The Queen and George Band
The Queen met Everest veterans including George Band
Most of the surviving members of the 1953 Everest expedition team have met the Queen at a show to mark the 50th anniversary of the mountain's conquest.

The show, entitled Endeavour on Everest, celebrates the first ascent to the world's highest peak by John Hunt's British expedition team.

The event took place as Sir Edmund Hillary, 83, who was one of the first men to reach the summit, attended a celebration in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu with hundreds of others who have since climbed the 29,035ft mountain.

Sir Edmund completed the ascent of Everest with Tenzing Norgay, who died in 1986, and news of their success reached London in time to be on every newspaper front page on 2 June, 1953 - the day of the Queen's Coronation.

'Great moment'

George Lowe, 79, who was one of the 1953 team, attended the London event at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square.

It was Lowe who first greeted the two climbers on their descent from the summit and who was the recipient of Sir Edmund's famous line: "We knocked the bastard off."

Lowe, who lives in Upper Holloway, near Matlock, Derbyshire, said: "The term was used affectionately. Ed wasn't being disrespectful of the mountain."

He added: "When Tenzing came back down, that was a great moment. I met them on the way down and we spent the night together.

"The other people didn't know that it had been climbed until the next day when we came down."

We knew mountaineers would be glad we had climbed Everest, but we had no idea there would be such world interest.
Charles Wylie
Expedition member George Band, 74, from Hartley Wintney, near Hook in Hampshire, said it was an "enormous privilege" to have been part of the team.

"I was the youngest person in the team, I'd never been to the Himalayas before and going there for one's first trip is honestly by far the best expedition ever to have been on," he said.

Michael Westmacott, 78, from Staveley, near Kendal, Cumbria, said his memories of that day 50 years ago were clearer than events that happened a couple of weeks ago.

He said: "I was at Camp IV anxiously waiting for news when we saw Hillary, Tenzing and Lowe coming down.

"It was only when George Lowe started dancing around that we realised they had made it to the top. It was a feeling of great joy."

The Queen arrives at the show
The Queen met Sherpa Tenzing's daughter Pem Pem

Grandfather-of-eight Charles Wylie, 83, from Passfield, near Liphook, Hampshire, said: "John Hunt (who died in 1998) was a charming man and a wonderful leader.

"We knew mountaineers would be glad we had climbed Everest, but we had no idea there would be such world interest."

The show is being staged by the Alpine Club and the Royal Geographical Society's exploration charity the Mount Everest Foundation, which was set up after the Hunt expedition.

Sherpa Tenzing's daughter Pem Pem also attended the show and the Queen was presented with flowers by George Band's grandsons, Oliver and Matthew Nicol.



1953 file photo of Edmund Hillary Hillary lament
The mountain's first conqueror criticises those who buy their way to the summit

Everest collection
A history in pictures





Everest half-century celebrated
29 May 03  |  South Asia

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