May 29 is the memorable day of the most inspiring event in history that happened in our lifetime - the conquest of the Mount Everest by man.
11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa of Nepal, become the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which at 29,035 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth. The two, part of a British expedition, made their final assault on the summit after spending a fitful night at 27,900 feet.
Mount Everest sits on the crest of the Great Himalayas in Asia, lying on the border between Nepal and Tibet. Called Chomo-Lungma, or “Mother Goddess of the Land,” by the Tibetans, the English named the mountain after Sir George Everest, a 19th-century British surveyor of South Asia.
Setting up a series of camps, the expedition pushed its way up the mountain in April and May 1953. On May 28, Tenzing and Hillary set out, setting up high camp at 27,900 feet. After a freezing, sleepless night, the pair plodded on, reaching the South Summit by 9 a.m. and a steep rocky step, some 40 feet high, about an hour later. Wedging himself in a crack in the face, Hillary inched himself up what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. Hillary threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At about 11:30 a.m., the climbers arrived at the top of the world.
News of the success was rushed by runner from the expedition’s base camp to the radio post at Namche Bazar, and then sent by coded message to London, where Queen Elizabeth II learned of the achievement on June 1, the eve of her coronation. The next day, the news broke around the world. Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.
The most inspiring event it was, because many mountaineers from around the world thereafter tried to climb up to the summit of whom some have, indeed, succeeded and brought glory to their respective countries. From India’s perspective, team of nine Indian mountaineers conquered Mount Everest 50 years ago and created many records. Here’s a look at the amazing team. It was on May 20, 1965 that Late Lt Col Avatar. S. Cheema stood atop Mount Everest, thus becoming the first Indian to achieve this feat. During that expedition, which was led by Captain M S Kohli, 8 other team members, Major HPS Ahluwalia, Ang Kami, Phu Dorji, Harish Rawat, Sonam Wangyal, Nawang Gombu, C P Vohra, & Sonam Gyatso, too summited Mount Everest, thus eclipsing the record of 6 members atop Mount Everest that was set earlier by an American expedition. This record by the Indian Expedition came to be known as “9 Atop Everest”. The Successful Indian Expedition of 1965 Indian Expedition had many “Firsts”:
First Indian team to successfully climb the Everest.
First time three climbers stood on the summit together.
First time nine climbers reached the summit, setting a world record which India held for 17 years.
First Man in the World to climb Everest twice – Nawang Gombu.
First time that the Oldest (Sonam Gyatso at 42) and the Youngest (Sonam Wangyal at 23) climbed Everest together.
First Nepalese to climb Everest – Phu Dorji.
First time the story of Everest climb in cartoons, written by Mala Singh, daughter of Khushwant Singh, was serialized in the Illustrated Weekly of India.
First time a full-length 90-minute film on the Expedition, with music by Shankar-Jaikishan and commentary by Zul Vellani, was released in cinema halls throughout India.
To honor this historical event, the Government of India conferred Arjuna Awards to the entire team. Additionally, eleven members of the team were also conferred with the Padma Bhushan or Padma Shri awards.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Indian Postal Service brought out a special Stamp and First Day Cover.
“Life's a bit like mountaineering - never look down.”
- Edmund Hillary
“It has been a long road. From a mountain coolie, a bearer of loads, to a wearer of a coat with rows of medals who is carried about in planes and worries about income tax.”