Along with the sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, Sir Edmund Hillary became the first person to reach the summit of Everest on 29th May 1953. Fifteen previous expeditions had tried and failed to reach the summit. Hilary had feared that upon reaching the top he might ‘drop dead, or something of that nature’.
Hillary was first to get there, as Norgay admitted in his biography years later, but Hillary felt that they should share the feat and never claimed to be first – even after the King of Nepal announced that Tenzing had been on the summit before him.
Before reaching the top of Everest, Hillary had prepared by climbing 11 other peaks in the Himalayas of over 20,000 feet. Hillary later admitted in his autobiography that: ‘Having paid my respects to the highest mountain in the world, I had no choice but to urinate on it.’ Arriving back at base camp, he said to his old friend, George Lowe, ‘Well, George, we knocked the bastard off.’
Hillary always described himself as a ‘competent amateur’; he later was part of the first team since 1912 to reach the South Pole over land.
Before becoming a mountaineer, Hillary started his working life as a beekeeper; after his ascent - from the 1960s onwards - he was continually active in charity work to help the Nepalese people. He started the Himalayan Trust, which oversaw the building of 25 schools, two hospitals and a dozen medical clinics.
He felt slightly guilty that his work - and especially the airstrip at Lukla - had opened up Everest to the tourists, and was appalled when, in 1992, 32 people reached the summit of Everest in a single day. ‘Visiting Everest now is like taking a bus tour of South Wales,’ he complained.
Although the summit of Mount Everest at 29,029 ft reaches a higher elevation above sea level than Mount Chimborazo at 20,564 ft, the latter is widely reported to be the farthest point from the earth’s centre. This is because Mount Chimborazo is just one degree south of the equator where, on account of the planet’s equatorial bulge, the Earth’s diameter is greater than at Everest’s latitude. So, at 3,967 miles (6384.4 km) from the centre of the Earth, Mount Chimborazo is 1.3 miles (2.1 km) further away than the summit of Mount Everest.
The world’s second highest peak is also Everest. The south summit bump is almost 140 metres higher than K2.
The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.
It wasn't until 1975 that a Briton got to the summit of Everest; his name was Doug Scott. In 2000, the Slovene alpinist Davo Karnicar became the first person to ski non-stop down from the top of Mount Everest. In 2004, Italian climber Angelo D’Arrigo became the first man to hang-glide over the top of Everest. In 2006, New Zealander Mark Inglis, who lost his lower legs to frostbite 23 years earlier, became the first double-amputee to reach the summit. Reinhold Messner was the first person to climb Mount Everest without oxygen in 1978 and Apa Sherpa climbed Everest for the seventeenth time in May 2007, besting his own world record.
In May 2005, French pilot Didier Desalles landed his Ecureuil AStar AS350B3 helicopter on the 29,035 feet summit for two minutes, setting a new world altitude record for landing and takeoff. The flight from base camp to summit took less than ten minutes.
Controlling a helicopter at such altitudes is not easy. The thinness of the air makes the rotor lift harder to maintain, and the temperature and pressure of fluids in the engine is dramatically altered. Desalles himself described keeping the engine turbine temperature constant at such altitudes as ‘like trying to keep boiling milk inside a pan.’ Add to that the 190 mph winds and the powerful up and down drafts created by the shape of the mountains themselves, and Desalles claim that regular trips to the top of Everest weren’t very likely seems very sensible.
Current measurements using GPS give the height as 8,850 m (29,035.4 feet), which is seven feet higher than the height Hilary calculated in 1953.
One in ten attempts to scale Mount Everest results in death. Two of the main problems are high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE), both altitude-related illnesses which cause fluid build-up in the brain and lungs respectively.
A team of 20 sherpas is this year making a concerted effort to clear the rubbish and dead bodies that litter the ‘Dead Zone’ (above 26,046 feet/8,000m) on Everest. As well as several bodies they expect to clear 3,000 kg of old tents, ropes, oxygen cylinders, food packaging and camping stoves from the mountain.
Radhanath Sikdar, a mathematician and surveyor from Bengal, was the first to identify Everest as the world's highest peak in 1852, using trigonometric calculations based on measurements of ‘Peak XV’ (as it was then known) made with theodolites from 240km (150 miles) away in India.
He measured it to be exactly 29,000ft (8,839m) high, but it was publicly declared to be 29,002ft. The arbitrary addition of 2ft was to avoid the impression that an exact height of 29,000ft was nothing more than a rounded estimate.
In Nepal, Everest is known as Chomolungma - 'Mother of the Universe''.
In Tibet, Everest called Sagamartha - 'Forehead of the Sky'.
Tenzing Norgay adopted the day he scaled Everest, 29th of May, as his birthday.
Mount Everest grows about 4 mm a year.
There are no photos of Edmund Hillary at the top of Everest but the one he took of Tenzing Norgay is one of the most famous images of the twentieth century.
For every 25 people who have reached the summit of Mount Everest, 1 person has died trying to.
Everest should be pronounced EEV-uh-rest, not EV-uh-rest. This is how Sir George Everest (1799-1866), the Welsh-born Surveyor-General of India, pronounced his surname.