Hillary and Tenzing summit
Even the most casual armchair mountaineer will recognise the names of Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa from Nepal and Edmund Hillary, the beekeeper from New Zealand, who became the first humans to set foot on Everest’s summit, around noon on May 29, 1953. Norgay was given the George Medal, England’s second-highest decoration for civilian bravery. Hillary and expedition leader John Hunt were knighted before they even left the mountain.
But history is capricious, and luck a career-maker. Two days earlier, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, a pair of British climbers who were part of Hillary’s team, made it to within 300 feet of the summit — millimetres by Everest standards — staring at their objective from a perch on the ridge but too low on oxygen to make it. Many, including Hillary himself, acknowledged that, had the two men not broken trail and stashed spare cylinders of oxygen along the way, the summit might have eluded them all. In the end, one pair became internationally and instantaneously famous; the other faded to a footnote.
Apa conquers the Everest
Apa is often referred to as Nepal’s Michael Jordan. Not only is he a superstar mountain athlete recognised all over his home country, he continues to break his own records. Last year, in May, the 51-year-old reached Everest’s summit for a record 21st time. Apa has climbed the mountain every year except 1996 and 2001, summiting twice in ’92.
Skiing from the top
The Japanese alpine racer and mountain poet Yuichiro Miura, only managed to ski part of Everest, starting at 27,000 feet, during a daredevil, parachute-equipped attempt in 1970. The full achievement wouldn’t be conferred for another 30 years, when, on October 7, 2000, 38-year-old Slovenian Davorin ‘Davo’ Karnicar clicked into skis at the summit, then schussed and side-slipped for five hours and 12,000 vertical feet back to the south-side Base Camp. He even skied through the Khumbu Icefall.
The feat was repeated in 2006, when 36-year-old American Kit Deslauriers skied from the top. Though conditions on the descent forced Deslauriers, her husband Rob, and photographer Jimmy Chin to down climb to the South Col, they pressed on and skied the 50-degree blue-ice Lhotse Face the next day. The descent made her the first person to ski all of the Seven Summits.
Messner summits solo
“I am nothing more than a single, narrow gasping lung, floating over the mists and summits,” Italian alpinist Reinhold Messner wrote of his seminal solo ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen in 1980. Messner had already completed a gas-free ascent, with Peter Haebeler, two years earlier, but this climb symbolised everything that “pure” mountaineering strove for in the modern era: A fully self-supported, alpine-style ascent to the highest point on earth. Few believed it could be done, and it completely altered what high-altitude physiologists understood about human limitations.
Kropp’s Herculean feat
In May 1996, as one of the worst disasters in the Everest history was unfolding high on the mountain, a Swedish mountaineer named Goran Kropp was resting in Base Camp. The previous October, Kropp had departed his hometown of Jonkoping, headed for Everest on a bicycle carrying all 240 pounds of his gear. He rode 8,000 miles, arriving at the foot of the mountain in April. On May 3, Kropp climbed solo through thigh-deep snow to within 300 feet of the summit. He returned to base, recovered, and made it to the summit on May 23 (bringing medicine up to the injured climbers along the way). Then he rode back home to Sweden. After Kropp died tragically, from a fall at an innocuous rock crag in Washington state, a friend started urging fans of the late Swede to start using Kropp as a verb. The hope was to henceforth signify a particularly impressive accomplishment by invoking the name of the inspiring adventurer who was snatched away in his prime.
In May 2002, Erik Weihenmayer, a strapping mountaineer, runner, cyclist and acrobatic skydiver from Denver, Colorado, reached the top of Everest. Weihenmayer likely would have joined a long list of uncelebrated summiteers were it not for the fact that he is completely blind. Rather than fading into obscurity, his feat was trumpeted around the world, garnering him a cover photo on Time magazine. In 2010, he finished the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. In 2011, Weheinmayer returned to the Himalayas with a team of wounded veterans, helping lead them to the top of Lobuche, a 20,075-foot peak, a few miles from Everest.
In 2003, Luanne Freer, a volunteer physician from Bozeman, Montana, created an independent all-purpose emergency clinic during Everest’s increasingly popular spring climbing season. The clinic provides care for anyone who needs it, particularly the Sherpas who often have little, if any, access to medical help. Freer and her volunteer staff, who depend almost entirely on climber donations to support the operation, have arguably saved dozens of lives.
Min Bahadur Sherchan from Nepal scaling the 29,035-foot peak of the Mt Everest in May 2008 at the age of 76 years and 340 days became the oldest person to reach the peak of the mountain. His main objective for climbing Everest was for world peace. Sherchan was determined to either climb the peak or die trying. A former soldier, he was little known in the climbing community and it was his first attempt at conquering the mountain.
A 73-year-old Japanese woman Tamae Watanabe climbed to Mount Everest’s peak on May 19, 2012 smashing her own record to again become the oldest woman to scale the world’s highest mountain. She reached the summit from the northern side of the mountain in Tibet with four other team members. Watanabe had climbed Everest in 2002 at the age of 63 to become the oldest woman to scale the mountain. She had retained the title until she topped herself a decade later.
A 13-year old schoolboy Jordan Romero from California successfully reached the top of the world in 2010 becoming the youngest person to climb Mount Everest. The mountaineering prodigy climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro when he was 10.
The Everest climb — his first above 26,240 feet — was controversial, sparking a debate about child climbers and parental responsibility. Nepal insists that Everest climbers have to be 16, but Team Jordan went to base camp on the Chinese side where there are no age
Meanwhile, seven-year-old Aaryan Balaji from India has recorded his name in Mount Everest history by trekking all the way to the mountain’s Southern Base Camp, situated at an altitude of 5,364 metres. He became the youngest ever in the world to have trekked all the way from Lukla to the Everest Base Camp on May 13, 2012. He is also the youngest to climb Mt Kalapattar (5,554 metres) on May 15.