Because it's there: that’s the reason George Mallory gave for climbing Everest, before his last, fatal attempt in 1924. But 60 years ago this month a British team finally conquered the giant mountain, explains Cathy Adams
At 11.30am on 29 May 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay stood on top of the world. More than three decades after Englishman George Mallory’s first attempt in 1922 – and following many more tragic, unsuccessful efforts – the pair celebrated becoming the first explorers to conquer the mighty Everest.
Despite being 4,610 miles away in London, the British Royal Geographical Society (RGS) was at the forefront of Everest exploration and helped propel Kiwi Hillary and Sherpa Norgay 29,002 feet up the colossal mountain that fateful day, 60 years ago this month.
The achievement has been preserved on celluloid, thankfully. However, in early ascents up the mountain – named in 1865 by the RGS after the British Surveyor General of India, Andrew Waugh, volunteered his predecessor Sir George Everest – some climbers thought the camera “vulgar” and unnecessary.
But their life-threatening feats were captured. Without those snaps we would never have seen the striking black-and- white images of craggy mountain faces, perilous drops, or Hillary and Norgay dressed in anoraks and snow goggles, basking in their post-climb glory.
The duo had snuck in their tilt at the top just days before Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, making the whole history of climbing Everest a very British affair indeed. Why? Just because it’s there.