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.
On April 24th the expedition began to journey through the Khumbu Icefall. It took several days to establish a route up to the Western Cwm, moving slowly through treacherous terrain to avoid avalanches of ice from above.
With the route established, 34 Sherpa porters navigated a labyrinth of moving ice blocks to fix ropes and ladders and transport around three tons of stores up the icefall to Base Camp 3 at the entrance to the vast wilderness of the Western Cwm.
It was the end of the first stage of their ascent and a welcome respite. However, ahead lay an epic crevasse where the icefall had begun to break away from the glacier.
Bolting together a sectional alloy ladder they formed a precarious bridge. As they crawled across, the blue green walls of the crevasse descended with a great jumble of ice into an abyss hundreds of metres below.
The next week was spent establishing safe passage through the vast desert of the Western Cwm and a labyrinth of further crevasses, establishing Advance Base Camp near the foot of the Lhotse Face. The steep glacier descending from the summit forms a formidable obstacle, presenting the expedition with a 4000 ft wall of ice before they can reach the pristine wilderness of the South Col.
By May 15th over three tonnes of supplies including food, oxygen and climbing equipment had been carried across the glacier to Advanced Base Camp in preparation for an attempt on the summit towering above.
As the team cuts steps into the Lhotse Face, George Lowe endures 10 days working at extreme altitude to create a secure path up the icefall, and Sherpas carrying supplies to the South Col are fitted with crampons for the first time, adapting well. They are also equipped with specially made high altitude boots, and goggles to shield against snow blindness.
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.
On May 26th, after weeks of poor weather conditions, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans attempt the first assault on the summit using experimental closed circuit oxygen equipment.
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.
Moving one at a time they follow the summit ridge, cutting steps all the way and hugging the mountain to avoid enormous cornices of snow that overhang the Kangshung Face, dropping all the way into Tibet thousands of feet below. Higher up, a steep step forms one last formidable obstacle, inching their way gradually tup a narrow 55 ft chimney between rock and ice to reach the crest above, and a small dome of white snow glistening against a backdrop of blue.
At 11.30 on the morning of May 29th, Hillary and Tenzing set foot on the summit of Everest, rooftop of the world; the high peaks of the Himalayas stretching out below them. Hillary turned to Tenzing, shaking hands "in good Anglo-Saxon fashion" before Tenzing embraced him and pounded him on the back. Hillary left a crucifix given to him by Hunt while Tenzing made an offering of food for the mountain in Buddhist tradition. They then searched unsuccessfully for signs that Mallory and Irvine had reached the summit on their earlier fateful attempt, spending about 15 minutes on the top of the world before beginning the descent.