On May 29, 1953 Edmund Percival Hillary and his sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest. He had been part of an unsuccessful expedition to Everest two years earlier.
The sherpa Tenzing Norgay had come as close as anyone to the peak the year before when he accompanied Raymond Lambert and his Swiss team. They climbed the Southeast Ridge and reached 28,210 feet (8,598 meters).
The successful 1953 expedition included 350 porters, 20 guides, and 10 climbers plus 10,000 pounds of baggage.
After setting up the final camp at 25,900 feet – anything high and they would be in the “death zone “where the oxygen is just to thin to breathe. He first pair of men, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, attempted to reach the summit but had to turn back when they were only within 300 feet of it. Unfortunately for them, that 300 feet was pretty much straight up and they were running low on oxygen so they turned back. Weather prevented anything from happening for the next couple of days.
Expedition leader, John Hunt, three days later, decided to send Hillary and Norgay to try to reach the summit. They spent about 15 minutes up there. They took some photos and left a little offering/memorial of chocolates and a cross at the top of the mountain. Later that year, Hillary became Sir Edmund Hillary and continued to win national and athletic awards.
Just because they made it to the top didn’t mean that it would be easier for those who followed them. An average of one out of every ten climbers dies in the attempt. Often the corpses are difficult to get to and any rescue attempt for a dead body would put many others at risk of dying too.
There’s an area known as “Rainbow Valley” on the Northeast Ridge route because of the colorful down jackets of people who didn’t survive the climb.