There is a certain class of human who sees those things as challenges to be eagerly faced and mastered.
I am not that sort of human.
But New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary and Nepali-Indian Sherpa Tenzing Norgay are, and on this day they became the first known humans to climb to the summit of Mount Everest.
Anyone climbing Mount Everest has to deal with wild weather and strong winds, altitude sickness, and lack of oxygen.
Hillary and Norgay were experienced climbers, and for most of their climb they were following routes set by others who hadn't quite made it to the top. They were part of a British expedition led by John Hunt, and they succeeded in making the summit only on their second attempt, following an unsuccessful attempt by two other team members who came close to summiting—just 300 feet away!—and who no doubt contributed to Hillary's and Norgay's success because they blazed the trail and left caches of extra oxygen.
They were the first, but definitely not the last...
By 2008, about 2,700 people had climbed Mount Everest—some achieving the summit multiple times. However, more than two hundred people have died in the attempt. Most corpses have been left where they fell, and some can be seen from the most-used climbing routes!
Some of the Mount Everest climbing records include:
1978 – first ascent without oxygen tanks (Messner, from Italy, and Habeler, from Austria)
1980 – first solo ascent (Messner)
1980 – first winter ascent (Zawada, Cichy, and Wielicki, from Poland)
2005 – first helicopter landing (Delsalle, from France)
2008 – oldest person (Sherchan, from Nepal, age 76 and 11 months)
2010 – youngest person (Romero, from U.S.A., age 13)
Nepali Apa Sherpa has climbed the mountain more times than anyone else, 21 times!
Find out more...
Scholastic has a bio, photo essay, and other info about Hillary and Norgay's successful climb.
Read one modern mountaineer's story of an unsuccessful attempt to climb to the summit of Mount Everest—there are lots of cool photos, colorful insights into the people who live near this most famous mountain, and a sensible outlook about following one's dreams and knowing when to quit.