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At 11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa from Nepal, became the first explorers to summit Mount Everest. which at 29,035 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth.
The two were part of a British expedition and made their final summit assault after spending a fitful night at 27,900 feet.
News of his achievement went around the world on June 2, the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, and the British hailed it as a good omen for the future of their country.
Mount Everest is located at the top of the Great Himalayas in Asia, on the border between Nepal and Tibet. Called Chomo-Lungma, or “Mother Goddess of the Earth,” by the Tibetans, the English named the mountain after Sir George Everest, a 19th-century British surveyor of South Asia.
The summit of Everest reaches two-thirds of the way through the air of Earth’s atmosphere, at about the cruising altitude of jet aircraft, and oxygen levels there are very low, temperatures are extremely cold and the weather is unpredictable and dangerous.
The first recorded attempt to climb Everest was made in 1921 by a British expedition that traveled 400 difficult miles across the Tibetan Plateau to the foot of the great mountain.
A severe storm forced them to abort their ascent, but mountaineers, including George Leigh Mallory, had seen what appeared to be a feasible route to the top. It was Mallory who joked when later asked by a reporter why he wanted to climb Everest: “Because it’s there.”
A second British expedition, with Mallory, returned in 1922 and climbers George Finch and Geoffrey Bruce reached an impressive height of over 27,000 feet.. In another attempt executed by Mallory that year, seven Sherpa porters were killed in an avalanche.
In 1924, the British launched a third Everest expedition and climber Edward Norton reached a height of 28,128 feet, 900 vertical feet below the summit, without using artificial oxygen. Four days later, Mallory and Andrew Irvine launched an assault on the summit and were never seen alive again.
In 1999, Mallory’s largely preserved body was found atop Everest; he had suffered numerous broken bones in a fall. Whether or not he or Irvine made it to the top remains a mystery.
Several unsuccessful summit attempts were made via Tibet’s Northeast Ridge route, and after World War II, Tibet was closed to foreigners.
In 1949, Nepal opened its doors to the outside world.
On May 26, Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon launched the first summit assault, reaching within 300 feet of Everest’s summit before having to turn back because one of their oxygen equipment was malfunctioning.
On May 28, Tenzing and Hillary set out and set up camp high at 27,900 feet, At approximately 11:30 am, the climbers reached the top of the world.
Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.
More than 300 climbers have died trying to reach the top of the mountain.