National Geographic 50th Anniversary Everest Expedition Reaches Summit

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Sir Edmund said Peter "sounded very good. He struggled a bit up the Hillary Step (a difficult stretch of the climb named after Sir Edmund). When he told me he wanted to go home, I said I thought it was a very good idea."

The expedition set out to climb Everest a month ago. It faced illness, crowds, and high winds that delayed its climb.

The team had originally planned to ascend in two groups, one following Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's original route along the South Col, and the other climbing the West Ridge in Barry Bishop's footsteps.

During the brief window in May when weather conditions are favorable for climbing, around 80 other climbers wanted to make the ascent.The National Geographic team decided to delay its ascent, as climbing on a crowded mountain can be dangerous. On Monday, the team reached as high as the South Col before turning back because of high winds.

Saturday was the team's last chance to make the climb, as winds were expected to pick up over the weekend and make climbing impossible. It was decided to consolidate the team into one climbing group on the less windy South Col route.

The entire film crew sent to document the climb for the National Geographic Channel was forced to abandon the ascent. Sound recordist Dave Ruddick lost a tooth and returned to base camp with an infected jaw and sinus. Cameraman Michael Graber and assistant Jimmy Surrette are still weak from an earlier climbing attempt and a gastrointestinal infection.

Athans and Kami Sherpa took charge of the filming, with Liesl Clark (head of the National Geographic film unit on the mountain) helping them from Camp III.

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