Little Bits of History

The Top of the World

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2010

Edmund Hillary took this photograph of Tenzing Norgay

May 29, 1953: Sir Edmond Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reach the top of Mount Everest. Everest is 29,035 feet above sea level. The Sanskrit name for it is “Forehead of the Sky.” It was first noted as the highest mountain in the world in 1852 after the surveyor, Sir George Everest, measured it.

Edmond Hillary first became interested in mountain climbing in 1939, when at age twenty he reached the top of Mount Ollivier in New Zealand. Hillary was unsuccessful in his attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. He did manage to travel to both the South and North Poles. He formed the Himalayan Trust to help the Sherpa people of Nepal and through them built schools and hospitals in remote regions of the country. He died in 2008 at the age of 88. Norgay was born in Tibet, but raised as a Sherpa in Nepal. He had made attempts to climb Mount Everest prior to 1953 using the north or Tibetan side of the mountain. He became the director of field training for the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and founded Tenzing Norgay Adventures in 1978. He died in 1986 at the age of 71.

There is much controversy surrounding the climbing of Mt. Everest. Should oxygen be used or is that unsportsmanlike? Hillary’s team used it. What is the responsibility of one climber to another? In 2006, Mark Inglis and others, totaling 40 other climbers, passed a distressed David Sharp at 28,000 feet. Sharp was later found dead. In defense of their actions, Inglis stated that it is difficult enough to keep oneself alive at that height and helping in injured man would have jeopardized all.

Climbing tours are now offered, but safety is not assured. At least 186 people having died in the attempt to scale the mountain. Avalanches, oxygen deficiency, storms, and freezing temperatures all work against the mountaineers. Climbers range in age from 15 to 64. Mark Inglis, who had lost both legs to frostbite 23 years ago while climbing Mount Cook in New Zealand, summitted Mount Everest. The mountain has been climbed in under 17 hours. The first successful attempt took days to reach the top. With their first try on May 26, Hillary and Norgay were forced to retreat and finally made it to the peak on this day.

“You climb for the hell of it.” – Edmund Hillary

“There are only 3 real sports: bull-fighting, car racing and mountain climbing. All the others are mere games.” – Ernest Hemingway

“The mountains will always be there, the trick is to make sure you are too.” – Hervey Voge

“Pissing through 6 inches of clothes with a 3 inch penis.” – Anonymous Everest summiteer when asked what was the hardest thing about climbing Mt Everest.

Also on this day:
In 1954,  the first
Bilderberg Conference began.
In 1914, the
RMS Empress of Ireland sunk 14 minutes after being hit.