On this day in 1953, Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay scaled Mt Everest for the first time
- Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hilary both were part of British army officer John Hunt’s expedition and reached the summit, the highest point on Earth, at 11:30am on May 29.
Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hilary became the first climbers to reach the peak of Mt Everest more than six decades ago for the first time on May 29, 1953, creating history. May 29 thus became known as Mt Everest Day in Nepal to mark their achievement, a day celebrated with pomp and much celebration.
Norgay and Hilary both were part of British army officer John Hunt’s expedition and reached the summit, the highest point on Earth, at 11:30am on May 29. They spent only 15 minutes atop Everest and Hilary clicked the most famous photo of Norgay, one where he is seen posing with his ice axe.
Before setting off with the 1953 expedition team Norgay had attempted to reach the summit with a Swiss team and had successfully scaled 200 metres of Mt Everest. Experts say this made Norgay one of the most experienced climbers in Hunt’s team.
The news of Norgay and Hilary’s achievement reached the United Kingdom on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, and three days after their actual climb. Hillary and John Hunt were both knighted and Norgay was awarded the George Medal, a civilian medal of bravery. Years after Norgay’s death his grandson Tashi Tenzing pointed out that his grandfather, like the other two gentlemen, should also have also been knighted. A point which brought into focus the unfair treatment of Nepali Sherpas who have assisted climbers in their endeavours.
Sir Edmund Hilary hailed from New Zealand and his ascent formed a bond between Nepal and his homeland. During the Nepalese government’s attempts to measure the height of Mt Everest, following the 2015 Nepal earthquake, the New Zealand government came to Nepal’s Survey Department (Napi Bibhag) aid with a Global Navigation Satellite, and trained technicians. Hilary is fondly remembered by the mountainous Khumbu community, where a memorial has been erected in his honour above the village of Khumjung.
The revised height of Mt Everest has been pegged at 29,031 ft, 8,848.86 metres above sea level, by authorities of China and Nepal.
Both Norgay and Hilary inspired a generation of mountaineers who make countless attempts every year to climb Mt Everest, traffic to which has not been dampened by the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic.