60 Years ago Today: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Summited Everest

Posted: May 29, 2013 by tallbloke in weather

It was a remarkable feat of organisation, courage and endurance. These two adventurers captured the imaginations of a generation.

everest-53-1In 1953, a ninth British expedition, led by John Hunt, returned to Nepal. Hunt selected two climbing pairs to attempt to reach the summit. The first pair (Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans) came within 100 m (330 ft) of the summit on 26 May 1953, but turned back after running into oxygen problems. As planned, their work in route finding and breaking trail and their caches of extra oxygen were of great aid to the following pair. Two days later, the expedition made its second and final assault on the summit with its second climbing pair, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali sherpa climber from Darjeeling, India. They reached the summit at 11:30 am local time on 29 May 1953 via the South Col Route. At the time, both acknowledged it as a team effort by the whole expedition, but Tenzing revealed a few years later that Hillary had put his foot on the summit first.[26] They paused at the summit to take photographs and buried a few sweets and a small cross in the snow before descending.

News of the expedition’s success reached London on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, 2 June. Returning to Kathmandu a few days later, Hunt (a Briton) and Hillary (a New Zealander) discovered that they had been promptly knighted in the Order of the British Empire, a KBE, for the ascent. Tenzing, a Nepali sherpa who was a citizen of India, was granted the George Medal by the UK. Hunt was ultimately made a life peer in Britain, while Hillary became a founding member of the Order of New Zealand. Hillary and Tenzing are also nationally recognized in Nepal, where annual ceremonies in schools and offices celebrate their accomplishment.[27]


Life magazine has a superb gallery up with their original page layouts too.

Also a great BBC magazine feature with video.

The weather during the expedition was generally favourable.


So sad that George Lowe didn’t live to see this anniversary:

George Lowe, 89, died in Ripley on Wednesday 22nd March 2013 after a long-term illness, with his wife Mary by his side.

New Zealand-born Mr Lowe was part of the team that helped Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to the summit in 1953.

Family friend and historian Dr Huw Lewis-Jones paid tribute to a “gentle soul and fine climber” who shunned the limelight.

Continue reading the main story

George Lowe

  • Born in Hastings, New Zealand, Mr Lowe became a school teacher and spent his holidays climbing
  • In 1951 he and Sir Edmund Hillary were members of the first New Zealand expedition to the Himalayas
  • In 1953 they conquered the 29,028 feet mountain , just days before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
  • A keen photographer, Mr Lowe made a documentary about the climb, which was nominated for an Academy Award
  • He later made a film called Antarctic Crossing after the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1957-58

Mr Lowe also took part in the trans-Antarctic expedition of 1957-58, which made the first successful overland crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole.

He later made expeditions to Greenland, Greece and Ethiopia.

  1. It seems, to me, mere carelessness (perhaps even wanton carelessness) to say that 60 years ago they “summited” Mt. Everest. On the contrary, 60 years ago, and for all the rest of my life until now, it has been common knowledge that they “conquered” Mt. Everest. And does it actually need to be said–yes, apparently: “Summit” is not a verb.

  2. tallbloke says:

    Hi Harry, well excuse me, I’m just an ignorant mountaineer I guess.

    Online dictionary to the rescue:
    sum·mit (smt)
    1. The highest point or part; the top.
    2. The highest level or degree that can be attained.
    a. The highest level, as of government officials.
    b. A conference or meeting of high-level leaders, usually called to shape a program of action.
    v. sum·mit·ed, sum·mit·ing, sum·mits
    To climb to the summit of (a mountain).
    To climb to the summit.

    See also this article

    For further info try http://www.everestsummiteersassociation.org/

    Can we get on with celebrating their achievement now? Thanks so much.

  3. michael hart says:

    When I used to rock-climb, to “top-out” was common parlance. Olympic athletes talk about having “podiumed”. Whatever.

    Tenzing got some valuable early experience with Eric Shipton. I recall a climbing friend once telling me that he read a book with a photo of Shipton, some decades earlier in the 20th century, wearing plus-4s and smoking a pipe well above 26,000 on K2. I don’t know if it is true, but it deserves to be. 🙂

  4. tchannon says:

    They boldly go to summit up.