Everest Time Line: 80 Years of Triumph and Tragedy

Kalee Thompson
National Geographic Adventure magazine
April 2, 2003
1924: "Because It Is There"
On the morning of June 8, British climbers George Mallory (responsible for the famous quip) and Sandy Irvine set out from their camp at 26,700 feet (8,138 meters) on the Northeast Ridge. They are last seen hours later, "moving expeditiously" toward the summit.

1950: Switching Sides
The Chinese invade Tibet, and the northern approach, used by all previous expeditions, is shut off to Westerners. Today, each season sees attempts on both the Tibetan and Nepalese sides of the peak, though most commercial expeditions climb from Nepal.

1953: First on Top
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay become the first men to stand on the summit. They ascend via the South Col route, today the most popular path to the summit.

1960: North Side Mystery
A Chinese expedition claims a first ascent of the mountain's north side, but doubts plague their account. There is no summit shot and scant evidence of the team above the Second Step.

1963: Yankee Victory
Jim Whittaker becomes the first American to summit. Three weeks later, his teammates pioneer the West Ridge route.

1975: First Lady of Everest
Japanese climber Junko Tabei is the first woman to reach the summit. The same year, a British team led by Chris Bonington climbs the Southwest Face.

1978: No Air Apparent
Tyrolean superclimbers Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler become the first to summit the mountain without using supplementary oxygen.

1980: Back For An Encore
Messner returns to make the first solo ascent, again without supplementary oxygen. He climbs during the August monsoon season, improvising a partially new route.

1982: Vanished Legends
British mountaineers Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker disappear between the previously unclimbed First and Second Pinnacles on the Northeast Ridge. The two are ascending the knife-edge route without supplemental oxygen.

1983: Everybody Kangshung
Lou Reichardt and his American teammates claim the first ascent of the daunting Kangshung (East) Face. In all, six climbers reach the top.

1988: The Biggest Jump
Jean-Marc Boivin climbs the Southeast Ridge and straps on a portable paraglider for an 11-minute soar down to Camp II. The same year, Stephen Venables completes a new route, the Neverest Buttress, up the Kangshung Face.

1996: Death Zone Debacle
Eight climbers die in a single storm, among them top guides Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Frostbitten climber Beck Weathers survives the ordeal. Jon Krakauer's best-seller Into Thin Air prompts a public debate over what went wrong.

1999: High Exposure
Climber Conrad Anker, a member of an American research expedition, discovers the body of George Mallory at 26,700 feet (8,138 meters) on the North Face. He finds no evidence that the Brit reached the summit.

2000: Super Sherpa
Babu Chiri Sherpa climbs from Base Camp to the summit in under 17 hours, a south-side speed-ascent record that still stands. A year later, Babu Chiri is killed in a crevasse fall near Camp II.

2001: Mountain Boarder
Marco Siffredi claims the first snowboard descent of the peak. He vanishes the next year, as he attempts to descend the Hornbein Couloir.

2002: Altitude Addict
Apa Sherpa surpasses his own record for most Everest summits. His current tally: 12 times on top.

2003: "Reality" on Everest
In April the Outdoor Life Network's Global Extremes will bring its finalist to Everest. Their quest: to reach the top on live TV—without getting voted off the mountain.

© 1996-2008 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.