Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary:
View from the Summit

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

View from the Summit
(Published 2000)

Mt. Everest 1953 Route

Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay

View East from Mt. Everest Summit
View East from the summit of Everest
Malkalu is to the right foreground and Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain, can be seen on the horizon.

Sir Edmund Hillary, View from the Summit, Pocket Books, New York, 1999, pp.14-17

I looked up to the right and there was a rounded snowy dome. It must be the summit! We drew closer together as Tenzing brought in the slack on the rope. I continued cutting a line of steps upward. Next moment I had moved onto a flattish exposed area of snow with nothing but space in every direction. Tenzing quickly joined me and we looked around in wonder. To our immense satisfaction, we realized we had reached the top of the world!

It was 11:30 am on 29th May 1953. In typical AngloSaxon fashion, I stretched out my arm for a handshake, but this was not enough for Tenzing who threw his arms around my shoulders in a mighty hug and I hugged him back in return. With a feeling of mild surprise I realized that Tenzing was perhaps more excited at our success than I was.

But time was short! I turned off my oxygen and removed my mask. Immediately my face was prickled sharply with ice splinters carried in the brisk wind. I removed my camera from the protection of my down jacket, stepped a little down the slope and photographed Tenzing on the summit with his ice axe upraised and the flags flapping in the breeze-- the United Nations flag, the Indian flag, the Nepalese flag, and the Union Jack. Tenzing didn't have a camera and, to tell the truth, the thought didn't enter my mind to try to organize a picture of myself on top of the mountain. I felt a more urgent need to have photographic evidence that we had reached the summit, so quickly took shots down every major ridge. The view was most spectacular to the east, for here the giants Makalu and Kangchenjunga dominated the horizon and gave some idea of the vast scale of the Himalayas. Only a few miles away, Makalu, with its soaring rock ridges, was a remarkable sight. I could see all the northern slopes of the mountain and was immediately struck by the possibility of a reasonable route to its summit. With a growing feeling of excitement I took another photograph to study on returning to civilization-- I was under no delusions that reaching the top of Everest would destroy my enthusiasm for further adventures.

The view to the north was a complete contrast-- hundreds of miles of the arid Tibetan plateau. One scene was of particular interest. Almost under our feet it seemed, was the famous North Col and the East Rongbuk Glacier, where so many epic feats of courage and endurance were performed by the earlier British Everest expeditions. Part of the ridge up which they had established their high camps was visible, but the last thousand feet, which had proved such a formidable barrier, was concealed from our view as its rock slopes dropped away with frightening abruptness from the summit snow pyramid. It was a sobering thought to remember how often these men had reached 28,000 feet without the benefits of our modern equipment ad reasonable efficient oxygen sets. Inevitably, my thoughts turned to Mallory and Irvine who had lost their lives on the mountain thirty years before. With little hope I looked aound for some sign that they had reached the summit, but could see nothing.

I noticed Tenzing digging a little hole in the snow and watched him place in it some pieces of chocolate and other food, small gifts to the gods which he believed spent some time on the summit of Everest. This immediately brought to mind John Hunt's request that I had completely forgotten. Just before leaving the South Col, John had asked me into his tent and then with slight embarrassment had told me a brief story. When he was about to depart from his home at Henley, an old priest who lived nearby had come to him and offered him a small crucifix, asking him if he would mind leaving it on the summit of Everest. Now John's chance to go higher had evaporated, he wondered if I would take the crucifix up with me. I was happy to agree, as John seemed to take the request very seriously. So now, remembering my promise, I fumbled around in my pocket, located the cross, and pressed it into the snow on top of the mountain, feeling a sense of satisfaction at having kept my word.

We had been warned by expedition doctor Griffith Pugh that dehydration was one of the greatest risks faced by climbers going high. To compensate for this, Tenzing and I had spent a good part of the previous night quaffing copious quantities of hot lemon drink and, as a consequence, we arrived on top with full bladders. Having just paid our respects to the highest mountain in the world, I then had no choice but to urinate on it.

! 1953 Mt. Everest Expedition | On Top of the World | 1953 Technology Climbing Mt. Everest |

| Top of Page | Mountains: Contents | Cover | Preface | Art & Spirit |
| Poetry | Books | Numbers | Enlightenment | A-Z Portals | Home |

© Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (5-9-2018)