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1953: Hillary and Tenzing conquer Everest

VIDEO : Interview with Sir Edmund Hillary

The New Zealander Edmund Hillary, and the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, have become the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest on the Nepal-Tibet border.

They reached the top of the world at 1130 local time after a gruelling climb up the southern face.


"A symmetrical, beautiful snow cone summit"

Edmund Hillary

The two men hugged each other with relief and joy but only stayed on the summit for 15 minutes because they were low on oxygen.

Mr Hillary took several photographs of the scenery and of Sherpa Tenzing waving flags representing Britain, Nepal, the United Nations and India.

Sherpa Tenzing buried some sweets and biscuits in the snow as a Buddhist offering to the gods.

They looked for signs of George Mallory and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine who had disappeared in 1924 in a similar attempt to conquer Everest, but found nothing.

Then they began the slow and tortuous descent to rejoin their team leader Colonel John Hunt further down the mountain at Camp VI.

When he saw the two men looking so exhausted Col Hunt assumed they had failed to reach the summit and started planning another attempt.

But then the two climbers pointed to the mountain and signalled they had reached the top, and there were celebrations all round.

Careful planning

Col Hunt attributed the successful climb to advice from other mountaineers who had attempted the feat over the years, careful planning, excellent open-circuit oxygen equipment and good weather.

Mr Hillary described the peak, which is 29,028 feet (8,847 m) above sea level, as "a symmetrical, beautiful snow cone summit".

He was one of the members of the expedition led by Eric Shipton in 1951 that discovered the southern route to the top of the mountain.

A year later, Tenzing reached the record height of 28,215 feet (8,599 m) during a Swiss expedition led by Raymond Lambert.

Mount Everest was named after Sir George Everest, the surveyor-general of India who was the first to produce detailed maps of the Indian subcontintent including the Himalayas.

In Context
News of the conquest of Mount Everest did not reach the outside world until 2 June, the eve of the Queen's coronation.

Colonel Hunt and Edmund Hillary were knighted on their return.

Sir Edmund took part in several expeditions after that including a trip across Antarctica to the South Pole in 1958. He set up a medical and educational trust for the Sherpa people in 1961 and was New Zealand High Commissioner to India in Delhi from 1984 to 1989.

He died aged 88 in January 2008.

Tenzing Norgay was awarded the George Medal for his achievement and later became director of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. He died in 1986.

The body of George Mallory who had attempted the ascent in 1924 was found on Mount Everest in 1999.

By the 50th anniversary of the ascent in May 2003 over 1,300 people had reached the summit of the roof of the world.


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