60 Years Since the Summit, A Look Back at the First Everest Ascent - Atlas Obscura
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60 Years Since the Summit, A Look Back at the First Everest Ascent

article-imagePhotograph by George Lowe from the 1953 expedition to the summit of Mount Everest (© The George Lowe Collection)

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to stand at the top of the world. Their expedition to the summit of Mount Everest came after a seven week climb, and against the doubts of some who thought scaling the 29,035 foot mountain was impossible due to its altitude. They stayed there for 15 minutes until air supplies required their ascent. On reaching their camp, the New Zealander Hillary declared to his expedition teammate George Lowe, “Well, George, we’ve knocked the bastard off!”

This month some of Lowe’s never-before-seen and rarely published photographs has been released in The Conquest of Everest published by Thames & Hudson with co-author historian Huw Lewis-Jones. Lowe was the last surviving team member of the 1953 Everest expedition until he passed away this March. With his Kodak, he documented the whole ascent, from its mundane moments of tea on the mountainside to the treacherous climbs over peaking icefalls. 

Below is a selection of some of these photographs that give a candid look back on this historic expedition, which even 60 years on with Everest now regularly busy with climbers, remains an incredible feat into the thin air.

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George Lowe photographing on Everest (© The George Lowe Collection)

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George Lowe (© The George Lowe Collection)

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Edmund Hillary (© The George Lowe Collection)

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Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay at 27,300 feet (© The George Lowe Collection)

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The expedition back down safely at Camp IV on May 30, 1953 (© The George Lowe Collection)

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Lazing in his pyjamas, Edmund Hillary enjoys a Sherlock Holmes adventure in the shade of his umbrella during the approach from the 1952 expedition. (© The George Lowe Collection)

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With a large magnolia in his hat and a cup of tea in hand, George Lowe rests for a moment on the approach to Everest (© The George Lowe Collection)

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George Lowe and Edmund Hillary with two Sherpa guides (© The George Lowe Collection)

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Edmund Hillary has a first wash and shave after a month in the hills, following the expedition to Garhwal Himalaya. (© The George Lowe Collection)

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Sherpa carrying a food box (© The George Lowe Collection)

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John Hunt returning to the South Col on May 26, 1953, after his support carry on the South-East Ridge (© The George Lowe Collection)

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Leaving Camp IV on May 25, 1953 (© The George Lowe Collection)

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From 1952, scaling the Cho Oyu (© The George Lowe Collection)

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Near Base Camp the beautiful, but unstable, pinnacles of the Khumbu Icefall presented a daunting obstacle to anyone wanting to make an attempt at Everest. (© The George Lowe Collection)

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On the first ascent and traverse of Elie de Beaumont, Edmund Hillary works his way up a steep snow-face, approaching the summit ridge, with the Whymper Glacier a great distance below. (© The George Lowe Collection)

article-imageOne of George Lowe’s favourite photographs of Ed Hillary on Everest – “just a typical day in the Icefall” (© The George Lowe Collection)

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This photograph taken at 11.30 a.m. on May, 29 1953, shows Tenzing Norgay standing on the summit of Everest and waving his ice-axe, on which are hung the flags Britain, Nepal, the United Nations, and India (© The George Lowe Collection)

article-imageSeptember 1953 supplement in The Times signed by members of the expedition (© The George Lowe Collection)

The Conquest of Everest by George Lowe and Huw Lewis-Jones is available from Thames & Hudson.