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Q: Was Edmund Hillary the First Man to Climb Mount Everest?

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A: Technically, yes. Edmund Hillary was the first man to touch down on the summit of Mount Everest. But he certainly didn’t go it alone; he was paired with Tenzing Norgay, the “second man” to set foot on the summit of Everest.

Norgay was a Sherpa, one of the hardy mountain folk of Nepal. Like many Sherpa, he discovered that he could make a nice living guiding Europeans up the mountains of his homeland. In 1952, he led Sir John Hunt’s expedition to the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth.

But few remember Norgay’s name, because a New Zealander, Edmund Hillary, insisted on being the first person to stand on the summit. It took Hillary and company seven weeks to climb to the summit and three days to descend, though one suspects Norgay could’ve done better without the Europeans. In 2004, Pemba Dorji, another Sherpa, reached the peak in just 8 hours, 10 minutes!

About Mental_Floss

  • MAOZ

    Seven weeks to go up and 3 days to get back down? “Watch that last step; it’s a doozy!”

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    New Zealanders are pussies… :-/

  • chow

    “Edmund Hillary, insisted on being the first person to stand on the summit.” !??! Don’t know where you got that from. I believe both men refused to ever say who did it first

  • S.T.M

    Sorry to burst the bubble mate, but when I was growing up – and that was a while ago, and I’m not sure the process worked but that’s another story altogether – I was taught that Sir Edmund AND Sherpa Tensing were the first men to climb Everest.

    Men, not man. Always the two, never just Hillary. His quote after reaching base camp: “Well George, we finally knocked the bastard off.”

    Note the we, rather than the I. Hillary’s life became one of service to the Nepalese.

    My understanding, too, is that Hillary has never claimed that he was the first man on the summit, and nor had Tensing.

  • http://www.mountainworldproductions.com Jake Norton

    STM, correct, Hillary and Tenzin never really let on who was technically “first” to reach the top, nor does it really matter which man made it first. The endeavor was inherently a team effort, and that final step or two is of little consequence in the grand scheme of an Everest expedition.

    It is interesting to note and remember Tenzin’s history with Everest and climbing as well: In 1933, Tenzin traveled from his home in the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal to Darjeeling, India, then the start-off point for the early Everest expeditions. He was not chosen to go on the ’33 expedition, but Eric Shipton picked him out as a member of the team in 1935. Thus began a long story with Tenzin and the mountain. He went to Everest from the South (Nepal) with Shipton and the Brits in 1951, and again with the Swiss in 1952. In that year, Tenzin and Raymond Lambert reached the South Summit – some 100m below the top – without oxygen! It is obvious, then, why Tenzin was chosen to accompany Hillary on that last few hundred feet the following year!

    And, on another note, it is important to remember that the Sherpa are an ethnic group in Nepal, not an occupation, and that there are many other ethnic groups in Nepal (and some Tibetans) who also work in the same capacity in the mountains. I just wrote about this on my blog if you’re interested.

  • SASKIA

    K KWL!!!!!!!

  • http://idk! Elizabeth Sparkman

    i think, this will be in my hw!!
    idk!! wht do u think?
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    Tuddles

    -K

  • Dinesh

    Discovery channel are making a tribute to Edmund Hillary and many news channels refer to him as the first man to climb everest. Not a hint about Tenzing Norgay. Why do I get the feeling that European news channels feel they must insist it was a white male who was the hero of the day… I think it is more to do with race rather that respect for the climbers.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I, like STM, was also taught that Hillary andTenzing were the first to reach the summit.

    However, even together they may not have been the first. There’s a good case for Mallory and Irvine having been the first, way back in 1924 – although they never made it back down again to tell anyone about it.

  • phyzzle

    offically hillary was the first
    but i suspect hillary sent his sherpa up and norgay offered his hand to his employer to help him up the last bump

  • sj

    I am reading a book called “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. Because of this, I got so interested about Everest. Well, I’ve always liked Sir Edmund Hillary although I really didn’t know much about him. So, I came across this page.

    So both men reached the summit at the same time? What’s important is courage and determination. That’s why it is so praised around the world ’cause some one who scaled Everest first when equipments were not as modern as today’s must be really really brave. Sir Edmund Hillary really wanted to go there (voluntarily)on his own decision while the Sherpa was paid to come along. I understand why most of the credits go to Sir Edmund. But still both men deserve the honor. Teamwork is very important in climbing the Everest according to Jon Krakauer.

  • felicia

    hey i got a bigg reprt whats some facts on mt.everest

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    It’s a very big mountain and it’s rather cold there…

  • nick

    Mallory was the first person in the 1920′s sadly there was never any proff that he actually made it. he died on the descent.

  • chimps

    Edmon hillary has admitted that he has claim all the credid.But before his death he whispered that Norgay was the first man to land his feet on the top.

  • STM

    Felicia asks: “hey i got a bigg reprt whats some facts on mt.everest?”

    Here’s one … The famous and infamous BC commentator STM once flew over the peak of Everest, and looking down, it honestly didn’t seem that far away. The pilot said, and I quote, “If you look out the left side of the aeroplane, you will see the summit of Mt Everest”.

  • Nick

    RJ Elliott – I dont think any ‘brave’ man would sit behind their annonymus computer screen making insults at other countries. [personal attack deleted]

  • MUSKAN GARG

    HOW MANY WORDCHAMPIONS IN INDIA

  • Lauren

    OTALLY AMAZING NOT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BAAAAHHHH

  • Jay*

    I think you’ll find that George Leigh Mallory was the first to reach the top with his co climber Andrew Irvine in June 1924!

  • 224jyu

    wow,icannot bilive it that he took only 8 horters and tem mins

  • smartalek

    A serious question (ie, not snark — tho I realize it cld sound as if it were):
    How do we know that no human in previous eras ever climbed Everest?
    We’ve been around a long time, and it must have been an attractive challenge. And tho modern gear is very helpful, it’s been proven possible to make the ascent without any.
    Since it’s difficult (and often impossible) to prove a negative, how can we be so confident that it had never been done before the last century?
    Is there any basis at all other than [frankly, arrogant] presumption?

  • Sam

    Oh, please Hillary was not the first person to climb Everest…the Sherpas have a historical tradition in mountain climbing and the locals would tell you that Norgay reached before Hillary BUT Norgay himself was not the first person to climb Everest. Everest has been climb by many before Norgay and Hillary but none of them had been publicized. Another example of Westerners taking credit of being the First to do something….more childish than ignorant really

  • Matt

    Bullocks. Hillary and Norgay both refused until the day they died to reveal to anyone who was first. Norway could not have done it alone – it took mountain experience in the 50′s to climb that high. Nowadays the Sherpas are very experienced. Back in the 50′s they were not. The comments above make Hillary sound like an arrogant western climber taking advantage of the ‘locals’. Anyone who knew him would take offense.