National Geographic News
Sardar Tenzing Norgay of Nepal and Edmund P. Hillary of New Zealand, left, show the kit they wore when conquering the world's highest peak, the Mount Everest, on May 29, at the British Embassy in Katmandu, capital of Nepal, in this June 26, 1953 file photo.

First to reach the top of the world, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were all smiles in Kathmandu, Nepal, where they posed in their climbing gear weeks after their famous ascent.


Peter Miller

for National Geographic

Published April 19, 2014

Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander, and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, were the strongest and most experienced snow and ice climbers on the 1953 British expedition.

After the first team was forced to turn back, Hillary and Tenzing, the back-up team, reached the top at 11:30 a.m. on May 29. To celebrate, Hillary offered a customary handshake, but Tenzing threw his arms around Hillary, and they thumped each other's backs in joy.

On Their Way

Climbers, 25,000 feet up, push on toward the summit of Mount Everest.

Still a long way from the snow-plumed South Summit, members of the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition cross the dizzyingly steep slope of neighboring Lhotse at 25,000 feet. Accompanied by Nawang Gombu Sherpa, Jim Whittaker became the first American to reach the true summit on May 1 by the now familiar South Col route. Three weeks later Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein ascended via the challenging West Ridge.

Military-Style Assault

Men carry supplies to Everest Base Camp for the 1963 American team.

In preparation for "a little war against a big mountain," as expedition leader Norman G. Dyhrenfurth put it, an army of more than 900 porters in February 1963 crosses a log bridge single file on their 185-mile trek to Mount Everest. Carrying 27 tons of supplies on their backs in support of the first American attempt on the peak, the porters stretched for four miles along the trail.

Among Giants

NEPAL, HIMALAYA. Trekkers below 6,812-meter (22,349') Ama Dablam

Trekkers on the main trail to Mount Everest in 1979 pass stunningly beautiful Ama Dablam, which tops out at 22,493 feet (6,865 meters). The next stop on the trail: Tengboche Monastery, where most Sherpas and many mountaineers stop for a blessing from the high lama.

A German Celebration

The German climber Hubert Hillmaier poses at the peak of the Mount Everest, Nepal, Asia, 14 October 1987.

Jubilant to reach the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) peak of Mount Everest, German climber Hubert Hillmaier waves a flag in the thin air on October 14, 1978. Part of a German-French expedition, Hillmaier ascended via the Southeast Ridge with fellow Germans Sepp Mack and Hans Engl. Engl made the climb without bottled oxygen, following the example of Italian Reinhold Messner and Austrian Peter Habeler, who were the first to do so, in May 1978.

In Mallory's Footsteps

Three climbers cross a snowfield on the way up to Everest.

Members of the Altitude Everest Expedition 2007 cross a snowfield en route to the north side of Mount Everest. Their goal was to retrace the path of British climber George Mallory, who disappeared high on the peak in 1924 with his partner Sandy Irvine. Conrad Anker, leader of the 2007 expedition, discovered Mallory's body at 27,000 feet on Everest in 1999. Irvine's body hasn't yet been found. The question of whether Mallory and Irvine reached the summit also remains a mystery.

Clear and Present Danger

Sam crossing ice bridge in upper ice fall.

A climber crosses a narrow ice bridge in the Khumbu Icefall in 2012. Often described as one of the most dangerous passages during a climb of the standard Southeast Ridge route, the icefall is a shifting jumble of house-size blocks of ice at the crumbling base of the Khumbu Glacier, not far from Everest base camp.

Hannah George
Hannah George

Amazing courage and determination of risk takers! 

Mike Sardana
Mike Sardana

Shall visit it again.Have read the Stories many a time.

Hasan Kabir
Hasan Kabir

Mountain climbing is a passion, don;t think of the danders, it is a love affair between the climber and the mountain, you want to hug it, and enjoy the trek to its peak. Have done some climbing in the Karakorrum. Unforgetable sights!

Karl Nygard
Karl Nygard

Always thought I would like to climb Sagarmatha one day.  I now hope to just make it to base camp one day.  There was sad news from today on the Mountain.  Death on the mountain always strikes a nerve when it happens.

robert wallace
robert wallace

Sad news about the Sherpas deaths. Everest would never have been climbed without them. They were there from the start in the 1920's and have been with almost every expedition since. Tenzing Norgay almost got to the top with the Swiss the year before Sir

John Hunts '53 expedition. His triumph with Ed' Hilary clearly an example of the tenacity and climbing skill of these fine people. The loss of so many is a massive blow to the world-wide climbing fraternity.

Hh H.
Hh H.

@Hasan Kabir  Dear Hasan Kabir, Thank you very much for making it clear for us that [Mountain climbing is a is a love affair between the climber and the mountain]. I became aware of the fact that mountains have their own weather system after using Coquihalla Pass.

Everything is handy and dandy at the foot of the mountain but going through Coquihalla Pass is a different ball game.,-121.05,11z


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