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Monday, 27 May 2013

60th anniversary of first ascent of Mount Everest to be held on May 29th 2013

Photo: Tenzing Norgay on summit of Everest on May 29th 1953 
This week on May 29th 2013 is the 60th anniversary of first ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. In 1953 a British expedition led by John Hunt was launched to the Nepalese side of Everest following the South Col Route. Hillary, a New Zealander, and Norgay, a Nepali Sherpa living in Darjeeling, reached the summit at 11.30am local time on 29th May 1953. As it turned out this was wonderful timing as news of the expedition's success reached London on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation on 2nd June.

Photo: Hillary and Norgay after their Everest summit
There are a number of events planned for May 29th to celebrate the first ascent of Mount Everest. At the Royal Geographical Society (“RGS”) in London there is a special evening called “Crowning Achievement, Lasting Legacy” with lectures and slideshows by the great and good of the Everest world including Sir Chris Bonington, Doug Scott, Rebecca Stephens, Peter Hillary and Jamling Tenzing (sons of the two who reached the top), Jan Morris (Times correspondent in 1953) and Stephen Venables. I am very lucky as I have a ticket for this event and I am very much looking forward to the evening.

If you are based in UK I would highly recommend you visit RGS’s photographic exhibition of 1951 and 1953 Everest expeditions. The prints shown within the exhibition represent some of the most historic and stunning moments of the team’s journey up the highest mountain in the world. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see some of the images taken on Everest by team members including John Hunt, Edmund Hillary, Alfred Gregory, George Lowe and George Band. The exhibition is being held at Oxo Gallery on South Bank in London from 23rd May 2013 to 9th June 2013, for more information please see RGS website

Photo: summit of Mount Everest
A frequently asked question is how many people in total have climbed to the summit of Mount Everest? Per Everest Chronicler, Alan Arnette, in 2011 the total number of people who have summited Mount Everest is around 5,652 by 3,425 different climbers meaning that 2,220 climbers have multiple summits. And sadly so far 223 people have died on Everest and during Spring 2013 season there were nine deaths plus one more on Lhotse.

Of course much has changed on Mount Everest over the last 60 years with the majority of these recent summits made by commercial expeditions rather than the national or private expeditions as seen in the early years. Stephen Venables recently wrote an article in the Telegraph explaining why in his view Everest has lost its allure now that climbing to the summit is part of the global adventure tourism circuit. Venables explains "real adventure is all about risk, uncertainty and self-determination – not buying a predictable, packaged commodity: you pay me £40,000 and I’ll make your dream come true." A possible solution he puts forward to reduce numbers on Everest each year is to ban the use of supplementary oxygen.....this is certainly an interesting idea although of course is unlikely to happen in practice [click here to read Stephen Venables' article on Telegraph website]

Photo: The Mountain Company's group at Everest Base Camp
The Everest climbing season in Spring 2013 was marked by a controversy widely reported in the media with the fight between European climbers and Nepalese mountain guides. Of course not being there it is tricky to lay blame for this fracas however it seems both sides were partially responsible although of course resorting to violence is inexcusable. For an in depth article discussing the changing nature of the Sherpa-climber social contract and more about the culture of Sherpas that helps put this fight into perspective take a look at Broughton Coburn's article published by National Geographic

On a brighter note there were lots of "firsts" this Spring season on Everest including the oldest person to reach the summit by Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura at 80 years old! Phurba Tashi from Himex summited for the 21st time equalling the current world record holder Apa Sherpa. Samina Baig became the first Pakistani woman, Raha Moharrak the first Saudi woman, Tashi and Nancy Malik from India the first twins and Rafiq Malik became the first Kashmiri to summit the Big E. British climber Kenton Cool made a record by summitting all three mountains along the Everest horseshoe (Nuptse, Lhotse and Everest) during a 10 day climb and also making his eleventh summit of Mount Everest.

The Mountain Company organises a wide range of treks in the Everest region including Everest Luxury Lodges and Everest Base Camp. We are promoting a special Everest 60th anniversary trek to Everest Base Camp in November 2013 led by one of our most experienced leaders Jill Lawson. For those of you who would like to trek to Everest Base Camp while staying in a higher standard lodges then you could consider our Luxury Everest Base Camp trek.

Roland Hunter

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