Mount Everest, known as Sagarmatha (सगरमाथा) in Nepali and as Chomolungma (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ) in Tibetan, is Earth’s highest mountain above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. The international border between Nepal (Province No. 1) and China (Tibet Autonomous Region) runs across its summit point.
The current official elevation of 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) was established by a 1955 Indian survey and subsequently confirmed by a Chinese survey in 1975.
On May 29, 1953, Nepali Sherpa climber Tenzing Norgay and New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent of Everest, using the southeast ridge route. News of the expedition’s success reached London on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on June 2, 1953. A few days later, the Queen gave orders that John Hunt, a Briton and the leader of the expedition, and Hillary were to be knighted in the Order of the British Empire for the feat. Tenzing, a Nepali Sherpa who was a citizen of India, was granted the George Medal by the UK. Hillary and Tenzing are recognized in Nepal by annual ceremonies in schools and offices celebrating their accomplishment.
There was a political controversy among the Nepali and Indian press who wanted to be assured that it was Tanzing who had reach the summit first. It would be validation that the Nepali and Indian climbers were as good as the foreigners. The team assembled and agreed to keep it a secret who stepped on the summit first.
“To a mountaineer, it’s of no great consequence who actually sets foot first. Often the one who puts more into the climb steps back and lets his partner stand on top first.” – Sir Edmund Hillary
Tenzing years later revealed in his autobiography, Tiger of the Snows, that Hillary had in fact preceded him on the summit of Mt. Everest.
“Both Tenzing and I thought that once we’d climbed the mountain, it was unlikely anyone would ever make another attempt,” Sir Edmund admits today. “We couldn’t have been more wrong.”
As of this writing in 2019 alone, over 800 summits of Everest have been made. However, as many new outlets have recently reported just days ago there is a death count of 11 people who have lost their life attempting to climb and then descend the mountain. It is life-threatening endeavor that takes many months of practice and training before getting to base camp, and then months of adjusting to the altitude and conditioning up and down the mountain while attempting to reach the summit.
Today, we remember the two people to first reach the summit on this day 66 years ago.
Read my ode to “Everest,” here.
Sources used for the information above:
1. Everest 1953: First Footsteps–Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, National Geographic, Published March 3, 2013, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/features/everest/sir-edmund-hillary-tenzing-norgay-1953/, (Article accessed 5/29/19)
2. Mount Everest, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Everest, (Webpage accessed 5/29/19)