The Truth About The First People To Ever Climb Mt. Everest

When you put aside the machismo and bragging rights, it's difficult to say exactly why human beings have always felt a need to reach the summits of mountains. Mountaintops have never yielded precious gems. There isn't usually oil inside of them. When Walter Harper first reached the peak of Mount Denali, he didn't find a briefcase of cash or a hot tub full of Cristal waiting for him. He was mostly just cold and couldn't breathe very well.

Even still, man's ego insists that he climb, standing atop the crest of the highest summit and saying, one assumes, something along the lines of "Brr," and to the minds of mountain climbing enthusiasts, there may be no greater accomplishment than being the first person to say "brr" on a given spot. And for decades, Mount Everest was sort of the Mount Everest of places to say "brr" on top of before anyone else.

As the odds mounted against them...

The honor ended up going to a two man team consisting of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who became the first people in recorded history to make it to the top of Mount Everest on May 29th, 1953. Hillary, a New Zealander, and Norgay, a Nepalese sherpa, hit the top of Everest hard at around 11:30 that morning. It was, by their accounts, less than balmy — Hillary was reportedly forced to spend two hours thawing his frozen boots that morning before the expedition could continue.

In all, the two reportedly spent only fifteen minutes enjoying their view from the top due to the temperature and marked lack of precious, life-giving oxygen which led to so many would-be geological conquerors meeting their respective ends on the side of Mount Everest. Perhaps most famously at that point, George Leigh Mallory, one of the first to attempt the climb, went missing during an attempt in 1924, with his body only being recovered in 1999. Mallory was the man credited with responding to the question "Why are you trying to climb Everest?" with the famous quip "Because it's there," an answer which works great when you're talking about the world's tallest mountain, but less well when you're explaining to mall security why you're sitting on top of the Cinnabon oven.

Their persistence paid off. Hillary was knighted later in the year by Queen Elizabeth II, who was still rocking that new-coronation-smell. Tenzing, according to History, had to settle for a British Empire Medal, since he wasn't a citizen of the Commonwealth.