Wednesday, May 29, 2013

29 May 2013 “ Well, George, we’ve knocked the bastard off!”

 Edmund Hillary, on first climbing Mount Everest

Perhaps the bravest thing to be said in reference to Everest:
"Pissing through 6 inches of clothes with a 3 inch penis", Anonymous Everest summiteer when asked what was the hardest thing about climbing Mt Everest

Everest topography l to r  West ridge, Summit, Hillary step, summit ridge, south summit, southeast ridge, south col, Lhotse ridge.

Cassi Creek:  60 years ago today, 29 May 1953, two men first reached the summit of Mt. Everest.  They used the routes pioneered by previous assaults upon the mountain then forced the final part of the route beyond the South Summit, up the Hillary Step, to the actual summit,  They spent about 15 minutes at the summit and descended safely.  The news of the summit being reached by a British expedition was relayed from the mountain by runner to a more modern communication network in time to be announced before the Coronation of Elizabeth II. 
          Since then, hundreds of people have officially reached the summit of Everest by various routes, by means of fixed ropes, by being essentially dragged up the mountain, and without supplemental oxygen.  Ca. 500 or so people are reportedly dead on the mountain. 
          Everest does not care who climbs it or by what route and manner.  However, altitude, local, and regional weather, cold, wind, snow, and hypoxia have a lot to say about who climbs and who fails on the mountain.  Professional guiding companies will take payment to push and drag someone up the mountain.  They cannot guarantee that their clients will make it to the summit or descend alive.  Even successful summiteers may suffer severe frostbite, loss of body parts, pulmonary edema, HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) with subsequent brain damage and other consequences.
          I first read of the early British expeditions and the Hillary-Norgay success about the age of 10.  Since then mountaineering and climbing have fascinated me.  There was a large period of my life when I would have chucked everything for the chance to climb with the likes of Hillary, Whittaker, and Haston, to at least reach the Western Cwm through the Khumbu Icefall.  I never became nearly good enough a mountaineer to be considered for inclusion in a Himalayan expedition.  I’d like to tell myself that I could have made the climb.  Truthfully, I’d probably have committed some grievous technical error and bought myself a glacial farm, assuming that I even made it into the icefall. 
          The men mentioned above lived to climb and found ways to finance their habits so that they could essentially turn from one expedition to another.  Not a bad way to live.  Hillary built many schools and clinics in Nepal.  Whittaker wound up in the JFK/RFK outer circles and worked for REI.  Haston became director of the International School of Mountaineering at Leysin in Switzerland, a position he maintained until his death in 1977, in an avalanche.
Some of the quotes found by following the 1st link below are worth reading.  The 2nd link leads to a very exacting timeline of Everest expeditions and other climbs.  Interesting if you are a mountaineering junkie.

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