32 years later, Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay would succeed.
On 10 March 1953, the British Mount Everest Expedition led by Colonel John Hunt left Kathmandu with 350 Nepali porters, each carrying 30 kilos together with their own blanket, cooking pot and food. They set up camp near Thyangboche Monastery on a high ridge at 12,000 ft. While here, Gregory, Evans, Wylie and Tenzing made the first ascent of Island Peak at 20’000 ft.
After acclimatising to the altitude, the expedition set out for Everest employing the infamous Sherpa: A Tibetan people inhabiting the Khumbu region, adapted to survive at extreme altitude. Entire families carried equipment and supplies to a base camp established at 17,900 ft near the foot of the Khumbu Glacier Icefall.
Surrounded by enormous pinnacles of ice, the camp formed the base from where all teams started climbing, and although uncomfortable it was a welcome sight to parties returning from camps higher up, with Cook Thondup serving up local delicacies including fresh mutton.
By May 18th a safe route has been made to Camp Seven pitched high up on the Lhotse Face, but a long traverse to the South Col remains. The last portion of this route is completed by Wilfrid Noyce and Sherpa Annullu on May 21st. Two tiny figures lost in the immensity of the Face, slowly but surely making the climb as onlookers at Camp Four observe the historic moment they reach the South Col at 26,000 ft.
They successfully ascend the South Summit reaching 28,700 ft. However, time constraints and problems with the oxygen sets force them to turn back just 300 ft from the final summit, within sight of the ridge leading to the top. They return exhausted, having climbed 3,000 ft from the South Col. An outstanding feat at extreme altitude.
Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay reach the rooftop of the world
On May 28th Hillary and Tenzing and their support party wearily make their way up the mountain. Occasional gusts of wind striking the ridge above blow little flurries of snow in their faces as the support party prepares the route, cutting steps up the hard, frozen snow running remorselessly up towards to the South East Ridge.
They reach it by mid-day, making camp at an altitude of almost 28000 ft before George Lowe, Alfred Gregory and Ang Nima descend, leaving Hillary and Tenzing to a freezing and sleepless night, ready to attempt the final assault in the morning using open-circuit oxygen equipment.