At 11:30 am on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal became the first human beings to conquer Mount Everest. At 29,028 ft., it is the highest place on earth. They were part of the ninth British Everest Expedition, led by Col. John Hunt.
“By any rational standards, this was no big deal. Aircraft had long before flown over the summit, and within a few decades literally hundreds of other people from many nations would climb Everest too,” wrote Time Magazine, “Geography was not furthered by the achievement, scientific progress was scarcely hastened, and nothing new was discovered.” However, it was the ultimate challenge: between 1920 and 1952 the mountain claimed seven major expeditions had failed and several lives, including that of famed mountaineer George Leigh-Mallory.
As they descended, they became public heroes. As Hillary got closer to his team, he uttered that famous phrase. ‘Well George, we knocked the bastard off!’. Instantly nationalism came into play. They were asked who stepped upon the summit first. In fact, Hillary was the first to reach the summit, but he maintains that this is irrelevant, and that they reached it together. Of the above Kodachrome photos, he added: “I had carried my camera, loaded with colour film, inside my shirt to keep it warm, so I now produced it and got Tenzing to pose for me on the top, waving his ice-axe on which was a string of flags—British, Nepalese, United Nations, and Indian. Then I turned my attention to the great stretch of country lying below us.”