Among the borders of Nepal, Tibet and China, stands the highest peak in the world ‘Mt. Everest’. Standing tall at the height of 8,850m, this big beauty boasts its elegance along with the other peaks in the Himalayas. Once considered as ‘The Unclimbable Peak’, Mt. Everest lures many daredevils from every corner of the world.
The mountain has tested many brave hearts. It has seen many who tried to conquer it, many who fell on its knees, many who gave up, many who lost their lives and some that actually made it to the top.
Among all those who made history, the two names that the whole world associates with Mt. Everest are New Zealander Edmund Hillary and the brave Nepalese Tenzing Norgay.
Climbing the Everest was not an easy task. They both had their own stories of pain, hardships, tears, joy, happiness and finally- SUCCESS.
The Early Life of the Climbers
Tenzing Norgay (born Namgyal Wangdi) was born in Tengboche, Khumbu in the Northeastern region of Nepal. Born in the Sherpa family and popularly known as ‘Tenzing Sherpa’, he started his career as a porter for British Summiteers. Sherpas are the local people of the area and hardworking people that could adapt to extreme cold temperatures.
Tenzing was a part of many unsuccessful summit attempts of Everest, the famous one where a strong storm at 6,700 m pounded him along with the Canadian born Earl Denman and Ange Dawa Sherpa. They all had entered Tibet illegally just to attempt the mountain climb!
Many other unsuccessful attempts to the Everest were recorded during his career as a porter. Then one day came when Tenzing Norgay, who never knew his exact date of birth, declared to celebrate his birthday on May 29th. It was the day when he, along with Edmund Hillary, conquered Mt. Everest.
Sir Edmund Percival Hillary got interested in mountaineering when he was in his teens. Born on 20th July 1919, he made his first successful major climb in 1939 when he conquered the summit of Mt. Oliver. He also served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator (World War II).
We all know him as one of the first person to reach the top of Mt. Everest, but, he is also the first person to reach both the North Pole and the South Pole.
He too was a part of some unsuccessful attempts to reach the Everest and Mount Cho Oyu. Apart from being remembered as one of the two successful climbers of the Everest, he is very popular in Nepal, especially in the Khumbu region. He devoted most of his life helping the Sherpas. He also opened schools and hospitals for the local people.
The Journey To The Top
The year: 1953, The day: May 29th, The time: 4am.
After the unsuccessful climb on May 26th by the first team of Colonel John hunt, he sent his second team of Hillary and Norgay hoping they would make history. A filmmaker and a writer for The Times also followed them to record their progress. They all knew how the bad weather and problems with the oxygen tanks forced the first team to turn back.
On this cold freezing day, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary woke up to get ready for the climb. They put on their suits, packed their bags and loaded it with necessities, but still the start of the expedition was late by two hours!
It took two painful hours for Hillary to defrost his boots that had become iron hard because of the cold!
Finally, at 6:30 am they came outside of their camp (Camp 9). It was like any other day in the area but the chilly weather and the challenges that the expedition had to offer couldn’t stop them.
Along the way, they came across many challenges. The Everest really tested their spirits. One such test that the journey had to offer them was this particularly difficult rock face. Hillary quickly found out the way to climb it. Today this rock face is known as ‘Hillary’s Step’.
Many other obstacles came along the way but the journey continued. Then the history was made at 11:30 am on May 29th 1953, when the two summiteers stepped their foot on the top of the world. Hillary quickly reached out to Tenzing to shake his hand, but instead, Tenzing hugged him in return.
The record was made. They were officially the first two people to step foot on the top of the Everest.
Those 15 minutes were all the time they had in the world to click pictures and enjoy the view. The air was thin and the weather was bad. Quickly they descended before it was too much for them to handle.
The news quickly spread everywhere. The whole world knew of this successful climb. The climbers were now the heroes.
Mt. Everest Climbing- The Risks
Climbing Everest is extremely dangerous. It was dangerous before Hillary and Tenzing made it to the top and it still is today.
Mountain sickness is caused by extreme high altitude. The brain lacks enough supply of oxygen which results in Hypoxia. The higher the altitude, more severe the effect. Loss of appetite, headache, lack of sleep, fatigue and problem with decision making are some common symptoms in high altitude.
This is why it is suggested to climb slowly. ‘Acclimatization’ is the only option. Climbers stay for a day or two to adapt to the increasing altitude before they begin their expedition. If not acclimated correctly, the altitude could cause delusions, lack of judgment, lack of physical strength and coordination, dementia and in the worst case scenario – a coma.
The success that Hillary and Tenzing got was not out of something easy. The gears, oxygen tanks, suits and everything were not as advanced as they are today. The utilities were not as advanced as they are now. Medical supplies and emergency help were less or at some point non-existing.
The only emergency service they could get was from the Sherpas who went along with the climbers as potters. The Sherpas too did not always go higher and beyond the danger zone.
They made it to the top knowing the fact that they might never return home to their family and friends. No matter what, it was a success. A success worth saluting for. Mt. Everest was conquered.
- Edmund Hillary
- Tenzing Norgay
A video I found after their conquest of Mt. Everest.
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