Everest Anniversary Expedition Wrap-Up

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
June 12, 2002

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The National Geographic 50th Anniversary Everest Expedition commemorates the first ascent of the world's highest mountain, by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in May 1953. It also honors the first Americans to stand on the top of the world, including Barry Bishop, in 1963.

The sons of Everest pioneers Hillary, Norgay, and Bishop—Peter Hillary, Jamling Norgay, and Brent Bishop—are helping make a documentary that will air on the National Geographic Channel in the United States and internationally in 2003.

The National Geographic 50th Anniversary Everest Expedition is made possible in part by the generous support of American International Group, Inc.

"It was a tough trip, with a great finale," said Peter Hillary, now relaxing at home in New Zealand after reaching the summit of Mount Everest last month.

The successful climb by Hillary and seven companions was organized to mark the historic first ascent of the mountain in May 1953 by his father, Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing Norgay. Another member of last month's expedition was Brent Bishop, whose father, Barry Bishop, was among the first Americans to stand on the top of the world, in 1963.

National Geographic sponsored the anniversary climb and is making a related documentary film to mark those achievements. The film, which will air next year on the National Geographic Channel, also highlights the culture and legendary climbing prowess of the Sherpa people who have played a critical role in the achievements of climbers who have reached the summit of Everest, the world's highest peak.

Tenzing Norgay's son Jamling, who reached the summit of Everest in the past, was involved in the project but remained at Base Camp to coordinate the team's communications. At times, he admitted, he felt the pull of the mountain beckoning him to the high slopes. "Once they started heading up the mountain, I felt tempted to go back up," he said. "But looking at my role, I felt it was more important to be at Base Camp."

The team had planned to head for the summit in two groups—one following Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's original route along the South Col, the other climbing the West Ridge, as two members of Barry Bishop's expedition did. But threatening weather and other factors led the climbers to combine forces and abandon the West Ridge route in favor of the South Col route.

"It was just very clear that unless everything cooperated—the weather, our health, and other factors—the West Ridge would not be possible," Brent Bishop explained from Seattle. "You can't climb a route like the West Ridge without cooperation from the weather."

Delayed by Setbacks

The National Geographic expedition team reached the summit on Saturday morning, May 25, culminating what they expected would be their last chance to attempt the ascent before escalating winds would make the effort too risky.

Continued on Next Page >>


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