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Full text of "The Ascent Of Everest"

TIGHT BINDING BOOK 



CD 

68230 



OUP 1700 8-1 1-777,000. 

OSMANIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 

Call No. ' '^,, A1 Accession No. 

Authot 
Title . 

This book should be returned on or before the date last marked below. 




THE 



ASCENT 



OF 



EVEREST 




BY 



JOHN HUNT 

(Brigadier Sir John Hunt, C.B.E., D.S.O.) 




HODDER & STOUGHTON 



All colour photographs in this volume and 

many of those reproduced in black and white 

were taken on Kodak colour films. 



FIRST PUBLISHED . . NOVEMBER 1953 

SECOND IMPRESSION . . DECEMBER 1953 

THIRD IMPRESSION . . JANUARY 1954 

FOURTH IMPRESSION . . . APRIL 1954 



PRINTED IN ORBAT BRITAIN FOR 

HODDER AND STOUOHTON LTD,, LONDON, BY 

HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY LTD., AYLESBURY AND LONDQN 



TO 
ALL 

WHO HELPED 
TO MAKE THIS POSSIBLE 



FOREWORD 

By His ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH, K.G. 

IN this book you will find the full and detailed account 
of the climbing of the highest mountain in the world. 
You will find more than that, you will find the reasons for 
trying to climb it and how much success depended on 
previous expeditions, careful planning, close-knit team- 
work and all the hundred and one details which had to 
be taken into account. 

In spite of, rather than because of all these details I am 
still left with a sense of profound admiration for the 
achievement of this expedition, both as a team and as 
individuals. In the human terms of physical effort and 
endurance alone it will live in history as a shining example 
to all mankind. 




PATRON, BRITISH EVEREST EXPEDITION 1 953. 



VII 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

ALTHOUGHI have written it, this is really the book of all 
\ members of the 1953 British Expedition to Mount Everest, 
who together lived and created the events which go to make up 
the story. My thanks are therefore due in the first place to my 
companions : to those who read the manuscript and offered help- 
ful advice and corrected the facts; to others who have contributed 
the appendices; to Gregory and Lowe, who sorted and helped me 
to select the photographs from among the thousands in our col- 
lection; to Evans, whose pen sketches bring to life some of my 
more inadequate descriptions. Especially am I indebted to Hillary 
for his stirring chapter on the final part of the climb. 

I owe much also to my wife, whose inspiration and encourage- 
ment has been a priceless help throughout the period covered by 
the story and who has guided me in the telling of it. B. R. Good- 
fellow has read the manuscript on behalf of the Joint Himalayan 
Committee and given me much sound advice in matters of fact 
and drafting. Others, too, have helped in this way: Joan Kemp- 
Welch, Dr. Harold Harley of Knighton, the Reverend Jack 
Williams of Stowe and Llanvair Waterdine. A. W. Bridge pre- 
pared a fine memorandum on the work of producing the oxygen 
equipment, which was a useful source of information and will be 
a memorial of the work involved. 

The Indian Air Force have been good enough to allow me to 
reproduce some of their magnificent photographs, taken during a 
flight over the mountain shortly after we had left it. It was 
especially gratifying that the design for the wrapper and the 
sketch of the Lhotse Face should have been done by my friend 
W. Heaton Cooper, who has captured so brilliantly the lines and 
character of the mountain. Mr. Holland of the Royal Geographi- 
cal Society has done a fine job in drawing the maps. 

I am grateful to the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research for 
the spelling of Sherpa names. These have been used throughout 
this book, with the exception of Tenzing; in the latter case I have 
naturally spelt his name as he himself desired. I have also taken 

ix 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

careful account of the Swiss estimates of the heights of their camps 
and certain other points reached by them on the mountain. In 
the light of the experience of those who reached the two summits, 
however, we of the British Expedition have found it advisable to 
modify these Swiss estimates in certain cases. 

The demand to tell the story quickly has been urgent and it 
was written within a month. This would never have been possible 
but for the quite splendid assistance given me by Miss Elsie 
Herron, so kindly made available by my publishers, Hodder and 
S tough ton; she typed the manuscript, read and corrected the 
proofs, managed all correspondence dealing with the book and 
helped in many other ways in the writing of it. 

I thank them all. 

JOHN HUNT 

KNIGHTON, RADNORSHIRE 
August 1953 



CONTENTS 

Page 

FOREWORD by His Royal Highness the 

Duke of Edinburgh, K.G. vii 



PART I 

BACKGROUND 

Chapter 

1 PERSPECTIVE 3 

2 THE PROBLEM 9 

PART II 

PLANNING 

3 PREPARATIONS: ONE 21 

4 PREPARATIONS: Two 36 

PART III 

APPROACH 

5 To NEPAL 57 

6 To KHUMBU 66 

7 REHEARSALS 76 

8 ICEFALL 90 

PART IV 

BUILD-UP 

9 STOCK-PILING 107 

10 LHOTSE FACE: ONE 121 

11 THE PLAN 132 

12 LHOTSE FACE: Two 143 

xi 



CONTENTS 

PART V 
Chapter ASSAULT Page 

13 SOUTH COL: ONE 161 

14 SOUTH COL: Two 170 

15 SOUTH PEAK 183 

16 THE SUMMIT by Edmund Hillary 197 

PART VI 

AFTERMATH 

17 RETURN 213 

18 REFLECTIONS 227 

APPENDICES: i Diary of the Expedition, September 
J 95 2 - J un e i953> compiled by 
Wilfrid Noyce 235 

ii Preparations for the Everest 

Expedition 1953: Organization 239 

m Basis for Planning 241 

iv Equipment, by Charles Wylie 251 

v Oxygen, by Tom Bourdillon 257 

vi Diet, by Griffith Pugh and 

George Band 263 
vii Physiology and Medicine, by 

Griffith Pugh and Michael Ward 270 

vm Everest, 1953: Assault Load Tables 280 

ix Acknowledgments of Assistance in 

Launching the Expedition 282 

GLOSSARY 289 

INDEX 



xn 



THE PICTURES IN COLOUR 

Tenzing on the Summit of Everest, 2gth May, 1953 Frontis 

Facing page 

Kangtega from Thyangboche Monastery. Chortens in 
the foreground 65 

Ama Dablam from the Imja river, seen on the 

approach to Base Camp 72 

Everest seen above the Lhotse-Nuptse wall from Pang- 
boche village 93 

From Base Camp on the Khumbu glacier, looking 
down the moraine trough between the ice pinnacles 
towards Taweche 108 

Telephoto of unnamed peak on the south side of 
Everest 157 

View from the South Col looking towards Nuptse. In 
the right foreground are remains of the Swiss 1952 
camp. This photograph was taken on 25th May on 
an exceptionally still day 172 

The Summit ridge of Everest from the South sum- 
mit. 204 



Xlll 



THE PHOTOGRAPHS 

Plate 

1 EVEREST FROM THE SOUTH-WEST 

The Khumbu Valley and glacier are seen in the 
lower right-hand corner; the foot of the Icefall is at 
the point where the Khumbu glacier bends sharply 
towards the right; the Western Cwm, partly hidden 
by cloud, runs up to the foot of the steep wall at its 
head. This is the Lhotse Face. Lhotse stands towards 
the right top corner; the gap between Lhotse and 
Everest is the South Col 

Indian Air Force pluoto 

2 THE PARTY 

i John Hunt 
ii Edmund Hillary 
iii Tenzing 
iv Charles Evans 

3 THE PARTY 

i George Lowe 

ii Wilfrid Noyce 

iii George Band 

iv Alfred Gregory 

4 THE PARTY 

i Tom Bourdillon 

ii Charles Wylie 

iii Michael Westmacott 

iv Michael Ward (Expedition Doctor) 

5 i Griffith Pugh (Physiologist) 
ii Tom Stobart (Camera-man) 

iii James Morris (The Times Correspondent) 

6 ALPINE EQUIPMENT TRIAL, DECEMBER 1952 

Camp on the Jungfraujoch with Monch in background 

xv 



THE PHOTOGRAPHS 

Plat* 

7 OXYGEN EQUIPMENT TRIAL IN NORTH WALES, 

JANUARY 1953 

i Westmacott, with oxygen equipment, and Rawlinson. 
The rock peak of Tryfan is seen in background 

ii Hunt, wearing Open-Circuit set, Bourdillon in back- 
ground 

8 OUR SHERPAS 

i Annullu 

ii Dawa Thondup 
iii Da Tensing 
iv Thondup 

v Da Namgyal 
vi Ang Nyirna 

Plates 1-8 are between pp. 44 and 45 

9 THE START 

Sorting baggage at Bhadgaon 

10 THE MARCH-OUT 

Camp at Chyaubas 

11 THE MARCH-OUT 

Crossing rivers 

12 THE MARCH-OUT 

In the Dudh Kosi 

13 AT THYANGBOCHE 

The Monastery 

14 AT THYANGBOCHE 

First Base Camp 

15 AT THYANGBOCHE 

The Everest group 

16 TAWECHE 

A view of one of the peaks 

Plates 9-16 are between pp. 76 and 77 

xvi 



THE PHOTOGRAPHS 

Plate 

17 ACCLIMATIZATION 

Training Camp on the Mcra Col, with Ama Dablam in 
background 

18 Two VIEWS OF THE SECOND BASE CAMP 

19 THE KHUMBU ICEFALL 

View near Base Camp, showing the lower part of the 
Icefall 

20 THE KHUMBU ICEFALL 

i Crevasse below Camp II 
ii Crevasse above Camp II 

21 THE KHUMBU ICEFALL 

"Mike's Horror'' 

22 THE KHUMBU ICEFALL 

Camp II, with Pumori 

23 i THE KHUMBU ICEFALL 

Approach to Camp III 

ii THE WESTERN CWM 

Entrance to the Cwm; crossing the 1 6-foot gap above 
Camp III 

24 THE WESTERN CWM 

The lower part of the Western Cwm, showing the "first 
step" and Lhotse. The foot of the Lhotse Face is about 
2| miles distant 

25 THE WESTERN CWM 

Party crossing the crevasse above Camp III. This more 
general view shows clearly the broken state of the ice at 
the point where the Western Cwm dips over into the 
Icefall 

A.E. 2 xvii 



THE PHOTOGRAPHS 

Plate 

26 THE WESTERN CWM 

Lower part of Western Cwm; Ferry party on its way to 
Camp IV 

27 THE WESTERN CWM 

Advance Base (21,200 feet) and the Lhotse Face. The 
foot of the Face is about one mile distant 



28 THE WESTERN CWM 

Camp V. Looking towards the West ridge of Everest 

Plates 17-28 are between pp. 140 and 141 

29 THE LHOTSE FACE FROM THE AIR 

The South Col is on the left with the Geneva Spur below 
it. Lhotse is on the right and the Nuptse ridge runs 
across the foreground. Note the Lhotse glacier descending 
steeply towards the head of the Western Cwm 

Indian Air Force photo 

30 THE LHOTSE FACE 

Party at the foot of the Face starting up towards Camp 
VI 

31 THE LHOTSE FACE 

i Camp VII (24,000 feet) seen from the Ice-cliff behind 

the Camp 

ii Camp VII. Looking across the Lhotse Face towards 
the Geneva Spur 

32 THE LHOTSE FACE 

Everest from the highest shelf of the Lhotse glacier 
(25,000 feet), showing the edge of the South Col and 
Geneva Spur on right 

33 THE LHOTSE FACE 

Hillary and Tenzing on the shelf at the top of the Lhotse 
glacier during the second Assault. The flags intended for 
the Summit can be seen wrapped round Tenzing's ice-axe 

xviii 



THE PHOTOGRAPHS 

Plate 

34 THE LHOTSE FACE 

Crossing a steep ice slope 

35 THE SOUTH COL 

The Col from the top of the Geneva Spur (26,000 feet) 
with Everest hidden in cloud 

36 THE SOUTH COL 

Camp VIII. Two Swiss oxygen sets may be seen on the 
far side of the Pyramid tent 

37 THE SOUTH COL 

Exhaustion Ang Temba on arrival at the Col 

38 THE SOUTH-EAST RIDGE 

The South Peak and the South-East ridge from Camp 
VIII. This is a very foreshortened view but serves to 
show the Snow Shoulder half-way down the ridge and 
the couloir by which the ridge was reached. This is just 
to the left of the dark rocks at the right of the picture. 
The height of this couloir is 1,300 feet 

39 THE SOUTH-EAST RIDGE 

Skeleton of the Swiss tent. The Nuptse ridge is seen in the 
background 

40 THE SOUTH-EAST RIDGE 

Lhotse and the South Col; photograph taken from the 
site of the Swiss tent at 27,200 feet 

Plates 23-40 are between pp. r88 and 189 

41 THE SOUTH-EAST RIDGE 

View south-west over Nuptse from the site of the Swiss 
tent 

42 THE SOUTH-EAST RIDGE 

Da Namgyal, with Makalu in background. This picture 
was taken at the dump of stores left by Hunt and Da 
Namgyal on 26th May at 27,350 feet 

xix 



THE PHOTOGRAPHS 

Plate 

43 THE SUMMIT 

View from the South summit, showing Makalu and 
Kangchenj unga 

44 THE FIRST ASSAULT 

Bourdillon and Evans returning to Camp VIII on the 
South Col on 26th May 

45 THE SUMMIT 

View down North Face, showing North Col, North Peak, 
Rongbuk glacier (left). East Rongbuk glacier (right) and 
Rongbuk Valley 

46 RETURN 

i Hillary and Tenzing arriving at Advance Base on 3oth 

May 
ii Hillary and Tenzing on return to Advance Base 

47 RETURN 

The Party and High Altitude Sherpa Team at Advance 
Base on 3ist May 

48 THE HIMALAYAN CHALLENGE 

Nuptse seen from above the Khumbu glacier 
Plates 41-48 are between pp. 220 and 221 



All the illustrations in this book are reproduced from copyright photo- 
graphs. Two are acknowledged individually. The remainder are 
reproduced by permission of the Joint Himalayan Committee of the 
Royal Geographical Society and the Alpine Club 



XX 



PART 



i 

BACKGROUND 



CHAPTER ONE 

PERSPECTIVE 

THIS is the story of how, on sgth May, 1953, two men, both 
endowed with outstanding stamina and skill, inspired by an 
unflinching resolve, reached the top of Everest and came back 
unscathed to rejoin their comrades. 

Yet this will not be the whole story, for the ascent of Everest 
was not the work of one day, nor even of those few anxious, un- 
forgettable weeks in which we prepared and climbed this summer. 
It is, in fact, a tale of sustained and tenacious endeavour by many, 
over a long period of time. To unfold the whole of this long- 
drawn-out drama within the compass of this book would either 
make it so broad a survey as to be dull reading, or else fail to do 
justice to some of those who took part. Moreover, these earlier 
feats have already been competently told of in detail and sum- 
marized by others. So I will do no more than sketch the past in 
barest outline. 

It is now well over thirty years since an expedition was first 
sent to explore the mountain with the serious intention of making 
a subsequent attempt to climb it. Since that date, 1921, no less 
than eleven major expeditions have followed one another, eight 
of them with the definite mission to get to the top. In the course of 
three of these expeditions, at least four British climbers, in 1924 
and 1933, and last year a Sherpa and a Swiss together, arrived 
within about i ,000 feet of the peak, only to be forced back at the 
limit of endurance or by climatic or snow conditions. In addition, 
there have been several minor expeditions to Everest by small 
parties, or even by individuals. It is also worth remembering 
that a number of lives have been lost in attempts to reach the 
summit. 

Before the last war, all attempts on the mountain had been 
made from the north, following a long and wearisome march 
from India through Tibet. At that time the frontiers of that re- 
mote land were open to us, and the Dalai Lama, its spiritual and 
temporal ruler, was kindly disposed towards our interest in their 
mountain group of Chomolungma, strange though this may 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

have appeared to him and his people. It became a ritual for those 
earlier expeditions to seek and receive the blessing of the abbot 
of a famous Buddhist monastery, Rongbuk, situated within sight 
and close range of the mountain on that side. Then the radical 
change in the political mastery of Tibet in 1951 dimmed for a 
time our hopes of renewing the attempts to climb Everest from 
that direction. 

At that time very little was known about the southern side of 
the mountain. As early as 1921, Mallory had looked down upon 
the Khumbu Icefall during the first reconnaissance of Everest 
from the northern side. Not being able to see the western and 
southern flanks of the mountain and impressed by the difficulties 
of the Icefall, he had entertained little hope of this approach. His 
impression was later confirmed by members of the 1935 recon- 
naissance party. 

The southern flanks of Everest lie in Nepal, and it was only as 
recently as 1949 that the rulers of that kingdom opened its fron- 
tiers to foreigners; thus it was that, apart from impressions gained 
by incomplete inspection, it had never been possible to make a 
survey of that side. It was therefore a momentous event in moun- 
taineering history when this approach could be made. Although 
previous conclusions had not been encouraging, climbers were 
not slow to seize this opportunity to inspect this view of Everest 
close at hand. In mountaineering perhaps more than most other 
activities, it is a golden rule to press on and on no account be dis- 
mayed by unfavourable impressions to rub your nose, as it 
were, against the obstacle. 

In 1950 a small Anglo-American party which included Charles 
Houston, the leader of the American expeditions to Ks (28,250 
feet) in 1938 and 1953, and Tilman, the leader of the last British 
expedition to Everest before the war, went to have a look. With 
little time at their disposal, they just failed to push their inspection 
far enough and came away understandably dubious, for Everest is 
cunning in concealing the chinks in its armour. Their report was 
sufficiently inconclusive, however, to encourage a second and 
more thorough visit. So it came about that another expedition, 
initiated by M. P. Ward, W. H. Murray and C. Secord, and led by 
that renowned veteran of pre-war Everest expeditions, Eric Ship- 
ton, was sent out with a small reconnaissance party in the summer 
of 1951, to examine and test the defences of the mountain from the 
south. They went with little expectation of success. Yet this, the 



PERSPECTIVE 

brilliant Reconnaissance of 1951, not only traced a hypothetical 
route to the top it proved to be the most practicable line in the 
light of later experience but forced a way up one of the most 
formidable sections of it. 

This discovery of an apparently feasible route created all the 
greater stir throughout the world of climbers. The Swiss were 
quick to exploit this welcome knowledge; in two remarkable 
attempts during last spring and winter, in which they endured 
exceptional hardships, two of their party, the guide Lambert and 
the Sherpa Tenzing, reached approximately the same height on 
the South-East ridge as had Norton twenty-eight years before on 
the north face of the mountain. 

Meanwhile, we were getting ready to follow the Swiss, should 
they fail. A training expedition, led by Eric Shipton and including 
prospective members of an eventual Everest team, went out to 
the Himalaya in the summer of 1952. Their aims were to prepare 
themselves for Everest, to test oxygen equipment and to study 
physiological problems at high altitude. In the course of doing 
this, they made an attempt to climb one of the major Himalayan 
peaks, Cho Oyu (26,860 feet), and carried out some exploration 
of a rugged and hitherto unvisited valley. The oxygen tests had 
an important influence on the development of our equipment this 
year and the knowledge gained by the physiological studies under- 
taken was valuable in drawing up our own programme of pre- 
paration. On Cho Oyu Shipton and his party made yet one more 
important contribution towards success on Everest. 

These, the Reconnaissance of 1951, the two Swiss attempts and 
the Cho Oyu experiments, were the immediate milestones behind 
the final journey to the top. The knowledge provided by all four 
expeditions, the difficulties revealed and indeed the sufferings 
endured were a sobering thought which governed my planning. 
But they also inspired us to carry the flag of adventure to its 
ultimate goal. 



These bare facts enable me to place our part in its right per- 
spective, for ours was no new venture; it was, after all, only the 
climax to a story which had already been lived and written in 
large part before we set out. When, last year, the Swiss entered 
the lists against Everest, they recognized that they owed much to 
earlier British experience; they were particularly indebted to the 

5 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

British party led by Shipton which, the previous year, had been 
the first to investigate the possibility of a way to the summit from 
the south. Immediately after their return they placed all their 
valuable experience and information of this southern route at our 
disposal. So it was that we who followed them were already, in 
knowledge, more than half way on our arduous journey towards 
the summit, for by their achievements on the mountain our pre- 
decessors had acquired a great deal of experience. 

We have a very proper sense of pride that no less than nine of 
the eleven expeditions to Everest have been British sponsored. 
But it must be remembered too that we then enjoyed a privileged 
position in India which gave us a certain advantage in obtaining 
permission to visit Everest between the wars, and we also have to 
thank climbers of other nations who, in that vast arena of the 
Himalaya, recognized in the continuing struggle our precious 
stake in that mountain. It was as if an agreement existed in those 
years, by which it was tacitly understood that certain of the big 
peaks were the special concern of climbers of a particular nation. 

The mission we undertook was not, in our eyes, in the nature 
of some competition on a giant scale in which we vied to outdo 
the efforts of previous expeditions, dramatic and popular as such 
a concept might be. Indeed, prolonged attempts to climb a diffi- 
cult mountain are, or should be, essentially different from those 
of a competitive sport. A possible analogy, however, might be 
that of a relay race, in which each member of a team of runners 
hands the baton to the next at the end of his allotted span, until 
the race is finally run. The Swiss last year received that baton of 
knowledge from the latest in the long chain of British climbers and 
they in turn, after running a brilliant lap, passed it on to us. We 
chanced to be the last runners in this particular race, but we might 
well not have succeeded in finishing, in which case we would 
have handed on our knowledge to our French comrades who were 
preparing to take up the challenge. 

But this tussle between men and a mountain reaches beyond 
the scope of mountain climbing in its physical aspect. It seems to 
me to symbolize man's struggle to come to terms with the forces 
of nature; it speaks eloquently of the continuity of this struggle 
and of the bond between all those who have taken part in it. The 
opponent was not other parties, but Everest itself. 



PERSPECTIVE 

And this will not be the story of those two men alone who reached 
the top. In this or any other mountain venture, sound and success- 
ful climbing is fundamentally a matter of teamwork. A particular 
route on our home crags or on a mountain of Alpine dimensions 
may safely be climbed by no more than two men, unsupported by 
any others. Yet even they comprise a team; they are linked by a 
rope which does more than provide mutual security it symbolizes 
their unity of purpose. Each man plays his own important part, 
whether he is in the lead, finding and preparing a passage, or 
acting as second man on the rope, carrying the gear, perhaps im- 
proving the track, safeguarding and advising his leader. The big- 
ger the scale or technical difficulty, or both, the more vital this 
teamwork and, probably, the larger the team required to accom- 
plish the task. To achieve success on Everest, the biggest moun- 
tain and in some respects the toughest problem of all, we needed 
to be imbued not only with that sense of unity with the past, but 
also among ourselves. 

There are exceptions to every rule, and Everest might well have 
been one such exception. We had agreed that in certain favour- 
able circumstances it might be justifiable and indeed necessary for 
one single climber to carry on alone over the last short distance 
to the top. This seems to have been the view held and the policy 
adopted by earlier expeditions. In 1924 Norton, and again in 
1933 Smythe, continued on their own above a certain point when 
their respective companions on the rope found themselves unable 
to go on. The opportunity first to reach the top of Everest is one 
so special, so unique, that it might have been right to break the 
golden rule I have described. But this does not in any way affect 
the teamwork essential to the enterprise as a whole. 



Shortly after we had returned from Everest, some of us were 
interviewed by a party of students. One of them turned to me and 
asked: "What was the point of climbing Everest? Had you any 
material objective, or was it just some kind of madness?" Some 
may wonder why it was that we, and those who were before us, 
went to try to climb Everest, and it may be as well that I should 
attempt to answer this question at the outset of the story. 

To those looking for a material objective, there is no satis- 
factory answer, for there was indeed no desire for, nor expectation 
of any material reward. The Himalaya is a rich field for explora- 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

tion and scientific research, but there are many regions equally 
profitable and less known than the close surroundings of Everest 
for those who want to break new ground or whose interests are 
scientific. In the course of the many efforts to climb that moun- 
tain, the area has become relatively well known; during most 
other expeditions many interests have been pursued aside from 
climbing. But these other interests have always been secondary to 
the basic aim of climbing the mountain. Moreover, one of the 
lessons learnt from the past is that science and mountaineering do 
not readily mix; I was always sure that we must concentrate 
single-mindedly on the main purpose of getting up. 

Nor is the question answered simply by a passion for climbing 
mountains. To those who do so the sport is, or should be, a source 
of happiness. We climb mountains because we like it. But I doubt 
whether any one of our party went to Everest this year expecting 
to enjoy the climbing as much as in the mountains nearer home. 
Mountain craft acquired on more accessible peaks tends to suffer 
in the Himalaya from lack of stern testing; most of us had been 
to the Himalaya before and we knew that, even on minor expe- 
ditions, the technical climbing problems are fewer and less severe, 
and the actual amount of climbing opportunities in a given time 
much less than, for example, in the Alps. 

Yet to solve a problem which has long resisted the skill and 
persistence of others is an irresistible magnet in every sphere of 
human activity. It was this urge to which Mallory alluded when 
he gave his apparently ingenuous reply to this same question 
"Because it's there". It was Mallory, who disappeared with his 
companion Irvine high on the North-East ridge of Everest in 
1924, during his third expedition to the mountain, and since his 
time many more seeking without success to reach the summit, who 
by their example spurred us to try where they had failed. The 
fact that Everest still remained unsealed despite so many on- 
slaughts was certainly sufficient to tame in us any foolish optimism, 
yet we were encouraged, as others must have been before us, by 
the possession of a great sum of experience. The possibility of 
entering the unknown; the simple fact that it was the highest 
point on the world's surface these things goaded us on. The 
problem aroused no invidious comparisons; it was intimate to us 
as a team and personal to each of u^ as individuals. There was the 
challenge, and we would lay aside all else to take it up. 

8 



CHAPTER TWO 

THE PROBLEM 

WHAT is the problem of Everest? What were the weapons 
with which the mountain had so long succeeded in holding 
at bay so many resolute men ? By last autumn, when we were pre- 
paring to tackle it, the nature of the undertaking had already 
been largely exposed ; indeed, in a sense it was almost solved, with 
only the last 1,000 feet unclimbed. It was romantic to suppose 
that some spell had been cast over the final keep, that a barrier 
had been reached at about 28,000 feet beyond which even such 
stout spirits as Norton, Smythe, Wyn Harris and Wager, Lam- 
bert and Tenzing could not pass. It might appear that the 
problem was confined to the breaking of this spell, the forcing 
of this invisible obstacle, a point in space comparable with the 
barrier of sound. Although perhaps true in a physiological sense, 
to follow this line of thought would be to give a totally false im- 
pression, just as it would be untrue to say that, with the climbing 
of the mountain this year, there is no further problem for future 
aspirants to reach the top. Others had gone before us to approxi- 
mately the same height on opposite sides of the final peak, but 
they had not been turned back by any physical obstacle beyond 
their technical skill to surmount. The terrain was passable; in 
descriptive mountaineering jargon, "it would go". Some among 
this select band maintain that they could have gone farther but 
for lack of time. I will return to this point later; it is enough to 
say for the moment that they had been defeated by the cumulative 
effects of altitude, effects which had been telling both on them and 
on their supporting comrades from a much earlier stage. 

There are three factors of awe-inspiring magnitude facing those 
who seek adventure among the highest peaks. They are this 
matter of vertical scale, the climatic conditions and the climbing 
difficulties. Let us look at altitude first. 

The rarefied air surrounding the upper part of Everest, or any 
other of the big peaks, obviously makes movement, even over easy 
ground, much more difficult. Lack of oxygen also slows down and 
blurs the mental processes. Beyond a certain point life itself is no 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

longer possible. On the other hand, it is now sufficiently proved 
that the ill-effects of altitude on the climber may at least be re- 
tarded by a careful regimen of what we call acclimatization, a 
gradual getting used to increasing height over a certain period of 
time. Individual performances on a mountain naturally vary, but 
it may be said that those among us who are best adapted to climb 
high mountains, provided they follow this policy of gradualness, 
can reach an altitude of at least 21,000 feet and remain there with- 
out serious detriment at any rate long enough to make a supreme 
final effort to reach a higher point, provided it is not too far above. 

Trouble begins above that height, which is one main reason 
why the really high peaks those of 26,000 feet and over are in 
a different category of difficulty from any lesser ones. The policy 
of gradualness breaks down, for the muscle tissues begin to 
deteriorate fairly rapidly and the climber's resistance to cold, his 
fortitude in the face of wind and weather, are weakened. He tends 
to lose the promptings of appetite and thirst and he is denied the 
relaxation of normal sleep. In fact, from about 21,000 feet on- 
wards, he really needs greatly to speed up the rate of his progress 
and employ "rush" tactics. But this he cannot do. On the con- 
trary, he is increasingly handicapped by the height as he climbs 
and his progress becomes painfully slow; the mental effort, like 
the physical, is infinitely greater. If this is true of easy ground, 
it is the more so when difficulties arise, even minor ones which 
would not deter a moderate performer at a lower height. A slight 
change of gradient may be a straw which will break the camel's 
back. Considering that Everest is over 29,000 feet and that some 
8,000 feet have to be climbed above this established level of 
successful acclimatization, one aspect of our problem, which also 
played an important part in defeating former expeditions, be- 
comes clear. It would be very desirable, in order to minimize the 
factor of physical deterioration, to climb those 8,000 feet in a day, 
or at most two; but this is clearly quite out of the question. For so 
slowly does the climber move by his own unaided efforts, that four 
or five days would be required to get up, quite apart from the 
subsequent descent, and by about the fourth day at the latest, he 
would already be so weakened, mentally as well as physically, 
that he would be unlikely to have the strength or the determina- 
tion for the last lap just when he needs it most. This is what had 
happened before at about the 28,ooo-foot level. 

But the problem is much more complex than this. These days 

10 



THE PROBLEM 

above 21,000 feet involve the establishment of a number of high 
camps, and these in turn represent tents, sleeping-bags, mattresses, 
food, cooking equipment and fuel, as well as climbing gear. All 
this must be carried up, and because of the need to provide even 
a modicum of comfort and more important protection against 
the cold, some of this baggage is inevitably fairly heavy. The loads 
would be far beyond the capacity of those destined to climb to 
the top, who should be spared as much as possible for their mis- 
sion; they must be carried up by others in a supporting role. 
Moreover, in order to keep the size and stocks of these high camps 
to a minimum, the baggage parties must be staggered in time; 
the loads must be shifted upwards over a period of days. This 
period in turn is likely to be protracted because the amount any 
man can carry at high altitude is so small. So climbing Everest 
takes a long time, not only because of the need to acclimatize 
slowly up to a certain point, but also because of the slowing down 
of the final effort by lack of oxygen. 

And in the final stages particularly, the saving of time is vital, 
not only because of physical deterioration but also because of 
another factor, the most important of all weather. 



On all but the smallest mountains, or those on which no serious 
difficulties are met, the weather obviously plays a big part in 
mountaineering plans. It imposes a serious handicap on the 
climber's ability to negotiate difficult ground ; it slows his progress 
and exposes him to cold and wind. He may lose his way and stray 
on to even more difficult territory, and he may become be- 
nighted. The dangers of bad weather on a mountain need no 
further emphasis, and I mention them only to introduce their 
more deadly effect on the biggest mountains of all. The periods 
when weather conditions may be fair enough to permit a serious 
attempt on the summit of Everest are not only brief and few in 
any one year; they appear to be rare as assessed over a number of 
years. Throughout the winter, from November to March, a fierce 
gale blows fairly constantly from the north-west. It is strong 
wind speeds of at least seventy to eighty knots are probable and 
it is desperately cold. It scours the northern flanks of the range and 
deposits snow on the southern faces; and snow thus overlaid on the 
existing layer is usually unstable and dangerous, for it is apt to 
peel off in avalanches. During the winter this great westerly wind 

ii 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

rules supreme in these high and lonely places. It is scarcely pos- 
sible to climb a major Himalayan peak at this season, unless it be 
by some quite exceptionally protected and straightforward route. 
In the early summer it may be late May or the beginning of 
June, depending on the position of the mountain along the range 
a countering element comes up from the south-east in the form 
of the monsoon. This warm, damp wind from the Bay of Bengal 
deposits heavy snow on the higher flanks of the mountain barrier; 
it is particularly intense in the south-east part of the Himalaya, 
on which it unleashes its force soon after reaching the head of 
the Bay, and it is in this area that Everest is situated. Monsoon 
conditions normally continue to prevail in this region until to- 
wards the end of September. Some climbing may be done during 
this period, but the difficulty of climbing all high peaks, par- 
ticularly in the south-east Himalaya, is greatly increased by the 
handicaps and dangers of the deep new snow. The chance to get 
up Everest is probably limited to the gap, or lull, between the 
departure of the one Fury and the onset of the other; these lulls 
may occur in May and early October, that is, just before the 
monsoon sets in, and when it dies away. Nearly all attempts to 
climb Everest have been made in the pre-monsoon period, al- 
though the Swiss last year went back to the mountain in the 
autumn. While there is no conclusive evidence against it, this 
second period would seem to offer very small chance of success, 
for the heavy snow must first be swept off the mountain by the 
westerly wind, and this wind, when it reaches its full force, is be- 
yond human endurance. Whichever the period, it is short. In- 
deed, there is no assurance of any lull occurring at all between 
winter conditions and the oncome of the monsoon. This situation 
was encountered by each of the Everest expeditions in 1936 and 

1938. 

* 

These two factors, the altitude and the weather, tend separately 
and together to defeat the climber. The height weakens, slows 
him down; it forces him to spend days and nights in the course of 
his assault on the summit; the weather, besides adding to the 
demands on his energy and moral fortitude, conspires to deny 
him the time he needs to complete his mission. Whereas in lower 
mountains and on easy ground the weather may be no more 
than a handicap, in the high Himalaya it is decisive, regardless 
of terrain. 

12 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

The deduction to be drawn from these two factors was clear 
enough. We must either so fortify ourselves that we could con- 
tinue, without detriment, to live and have our being above the 
limit of natural acclimatization, or, better still, we must solve the 
problem of speed. It was desirable, in fact, that we should meet 
both these requirements and thus give to those chosen to attempt 
the summit and to their supporters some measure of insurance 
against the vagaries of the weather, for safety in mountain climb- 
ing is as much a matter of swiftness as of sureness of foot. Either or 
both could be achieved only by the administration of oxygen in 
sufficient quantities to make up for the deficiency in the air, and 
for the duration of the upward journey above the limit of successful 
acclimatization. In other words, oxygen may be looked upon as a 
height-reducer, producing conditions comparable with climbing 
on more familiar mountains. 

This need for oxygen on Everest was no new problem; it had 
been well known for many years past, although all climbers had 
not admitted it was essential; some even considered it undesirable 
on ethical grounds. It had been used on the first expedition ever 
to make a serious attempt on the summit, by Finch and Bruce in 
1922. But the equipment used hitherto had not brought climbers 
to within range of the summit in much better shape than others 
who had been climbing without it, owing to the small amount of 
oxygen provided for a given weight. This question of weight at 
great heights, unless more than compensated by the oxygen 
supply, is of capital importance. It would seem that all earlier 
equipment did comparatively little to reduce the effects of strain, 
fatigue and deterioration. Our problem was to produce apparatus 
markedly better in performance than this. The lighter the ap- 
paratus, provided always that it would enable the climber to 
continue for reasonably long periods without replenishing his 
oxygen supply, the faster we would be able to climb. 



I now come to the purely physical obstacles along our route to 
the top, difficulties requiring a degree of mountain skill and ex- 
perience to overcome. It is often said by those who do not know 
the mountain that Everest is, technically speaking, easy. While 
admitting that there are tougher climbing problems, I must stress 
that this is emphatically not the case. If I have reserved until last 
among the difficulties with which we were faced when preparing 

A.B, 3 13 



THE PROBLEM 

the expedition this matter of the physical make-up of our peak, 
it is partly to establish the topography freshly in mind, and partly 
also because, considerable as they were, the technical difficulties 
were enhanced and dominated by the two factors of altitude and 
weather. 

But now let us examine the south-facing structure of Everest, 
with the help of Plate I. This illustration alone would probably 
give an adequate idea but for the matter of scale; we are very apt 
to judge the size of mountains by the yardstick of our own ex- 
perience, and for those who are not familiar with the Himalaya, 
and at close range, it would be easy to fail to grasp their huge- 
ness from a picture, as indeed those do who first see them in 
actuality. 

Everest is one of a group of three great peaks standing astride 
the Nepal-Tibet frontier. Between them on the western side they 
embrace a hidden valley which is a wonder of mountain architec- 
ture a high-level glen whose floor slopes gently from about 
22,000 feet to 19,000 feet, in a westerly direction. When Mallory 
saw it during the first reconnaissance of Everest in 1921, he 
named it the "Western Cwm", doubtless from affection for his 
Welsh climbing haunts. At its head stands the centre-piece of the 
trinity, the great rock peak of Lhotse, nearly 28,000 feet, whose 
west face falls steeply to the head of this valley, effectively blocking 
the upper exit. Looking up the Western Cwm, Everest is on the 
left, its west ridge forming the north enclosing wall. On the opposite 
side is Nuptse, a ridge rather than a mountain, whose sharp and 
jagged crest, taking its origin from the southern battlements of 
Lhotsc, runs for over two miles at a constant elevation of over 
25,000 feet. Thus contained between Everest and Nuptse, barred 
by the face of Lhotse, this astonishing freak of nature leads the 
climber to the very foot of the mountain; it is the focal point of 
ascent from the south. 

But the Cwm has first to be entered, and its threshold is well 
guarded. Its floor is lined with a layer of ice, probably some 
hundreds of feet in thickness. This, the origin of the Khumbu 
glacier, after pursuing a fairly gentle course for at least three 
miles, spills abruptly down an immense step, over 2,000 feet in 
height. Then, having dropped to about 18,000 feet, the Khumbu 
glacier makes a left-handed swing through an angle of ninety 
degrees and, levelling out, flows gradually to its snout, some eight 
miles downstream. This step or icefall forms the exit to the West- 

14 



*"X ^No^v' \> >.a 
- '" 




THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

ern Cwm; it presents a formidable problem to the mountaineer 
bent on attaining the Cwm and beyond. ^An icefall is a frozen 
cascade of ice, often on a gigantic scale. The Khumbu Icefall is 
indeed a monster of the species. Moving over the steep under- 
lying bed of rock, the surface of the glacier becomes split and tor- 
tured into a maze of chasms, tottering and fallen blocks of ice. 
It is in a constant state of activity and change, for Himalayan ice 
movement is generally much more marked than, for example, in 
our European Alps. Crevasses appear on a hitherto smooth sur- 
face overnight. They widen or close with startling suddenness. 
Great masses of ice, many tons in weight, are at one moment of 
time poised precariously above the void; at the next they crash 
downwards, obliterating all in their path, bestrewing the slopes 
with huge boulders of ice. Despite the fact that it had been forced 
by Ship ton's party in 1951 and twice by the Swiss last year, here 
was clearly a most serious obstacle, whose character could be ex- 
pected to have changed beyond recognition by the time we 
reached it in 1953. 

Now let us advance in imagination to the head of the Western 
Cwm, to look briefly at the west face of Lhotse, for this is the barrier 
which must be surmounted to arrive at the foot of the final pyra- 
mid. Our immediate objective is the saddle or depression between 
Lhotse and Everest, which we have come to know as the South 
Col. To reach it we must climb the steep slopes of ice and snow 
falling from the Col and Lhotse over a vertical distance of some 
4,000 feet. It seemed to us that here lay the crux of the ascent of 
Everest. The South Col is at a height of 26,000 feet; no less than 
3,000 feet remain to be climbed even after attaining this quite 
exceptional altitude little below that of Annapurna, which until 
this year was the highest summit reached by man. Not only would 
it be a most strenuous and difficult undertaking to reach the Col; 
it would be necessary for considerable numbers of us to do so, 
carrying a large quantity of stores and equipment to enable the 
final assault to be launched with adequate support. It was on this 
section of the route that the Swiss, magnificent though their effort 
had been, foundered. Admitted that Tenzing tod Lambert went 
so high above the South Col, they had behind them inadequate 
backing for their wonderful effort. It was the problem of provid- 
ing this backing, in terms of equipment, stores and fit climbers in 
support on the South Col of Everest, which would be our particu- 
lar concern for the months ahead of us. 

16 



THE PROBLEM 

Let us pursue our flight of fancy still further and arrive at the 
South Col, possessed of the knowledge which was ours last autumn 
in the light of the Swiss spring expedition, and study the upper 
part of the mountain. To reach the top the climber must set foot 
on and follow the South-East ridge which runs down from the 
summit to, or towards the South Col, passing on its way over a 
minor eminence known as the South Summit, over 28,700 feet in 
height. As we then understood it, this ridge would present no 
mountaineering difficulty as far as the south Peak; the riddle on 
this final section was what lay beyond, between the two summits. 
It could not be seen from the Col, so the Swiss had been unable to 
throw light on the problem. From air photographs in our posses- 
sion we had the impression of a narrow crest of snow or ice, leaning 
ominously in heavy eaves of snow over the eastern precipice, 
these cornices being formed by the prevailing westerly wind. In- 
deed, the utmost point itself appeared, at the time these pictures 
were taken, to stand at the crest of one such monster cornice, over- 
hanging perhaps by as much as twenty-five feet. Even in those days 
last autumn, we realized that this was, to say the least of it, a 
worthy finish to the climb, and we may some of us have nursed 
an unspoken resentment that Everest should have reserved this 
last glacis for those who had dared thus far. It was obvious that to 
tread the 500 yards and 400 vertical feet dividing the South Peak 
from the peak of Everest would demand a clear and undistracted 
mind, as well as a reserve of strength, in particular because the 
return journey as far as the lower summit would tax the climber 
almost as much as the ascent. How could we ensure for our even- 
tual summit climbers these essential powers? This was indeed the 
supreme question to whose solution the whole of our planning was 
ultimately directed. 

Here then, in very general terms, were the three big factors 
comprising the problem of Everest, those of altitude, weather and 
terrain. It was in a careful study of these, and their effect on 
successive expeditions through the years, that our preparatory 
planning and eventually the operational plan itself, had their 
source. We were greatly inspired by the fact that many of the 
difficulties arising from these factors had already been mastered 
by others before us; but we were also aware that we should have 
to face up to them again in our turn, probably in altered circum- 
stances and possibly in more difficult conditions. Finally, we 
knew that in order to reach the top we must somehow avoid the 

'7 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

situation arrived at hitherto by even the most skilled and deter- 
mined of our predecessors, when two, or sometimes only one man, 
had struggled upwards to within 1,000 feet of the goal, with in- 
sufficient reserve to reach it or at any rate to arrive there and 
return to join their friends. 

To enter once more into the realm of romance, we had to pass 
beyond that enchanted barrier, dispersing beforehand any spell 
by which the mountain might hold the trespasser hostage for ever 
in its icy grip. 



18 



PART 

ii 

PLANNING 



CHAPTER THREE 

PREPARATIONS: ONE 

ORGANIZING a major expedition, whether it be to the 
Himalaya, the polar regions or darkest Africa, is a formidable 
business. I have experience only of the first of these undertakings, 
but I can now sympathize deeply with those who have the cares 
of planning and preparing missions in other realms of adventure 
or research. Imagine that you are charged with the task of ful- 
filling, in company with others, a long and exceptionally arduous 
task, in some remote and uninhabited corner of the earth's sur- 
face, where climatic conditions are extreme. The success of your 
mission depends primarily on the human factor, on the joint 
efforts of every man in your team, and failure moral or physical 
by even one or two of these would add immensely to its diffi- 
culties. You have the responsibility of seeking and selecting these 
men, in whom you are looking for a happy combination of quali- 
ties which are difficult to reconcile. You will not be able, in most 
cases at any rate, to test these qualities, at least in conditions com- 
parable with those which will confront you it is unlikely that 
you will even be acquainted with most of them beforehand. You 
have to ensure that the party is suitably clothed and equipped to 
carry out its job in the especially rigorous conditions, and that it 
takes with it all the tools it is likely to require for the job, bearing 
in mind that communications will be so extended, slow and diffi- 
cult that you must be entirely self-contained for the duration of 
your mission. Some of this equipment is highly specialized, and 
difficult questions of design and quantities have to be decided. 
Provisions have to be calculated for the whole period of your 
absence from civilization and they must be carefully chosen; a 
diet must be established suitable to the climate and the nature of 
the work. All these numerous items of equipment and food must 
be ordered, many of them only after thorough testing in con- 
ditions as nearly as possible approximating to those likely to be 
met. Arrangements must be made for packing, cataloguing and 
moving them, as well as the party, to the starting-point in a dis- 
tant land, and from that point onwards by more primitive trans- 

21 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

port to the area of operations. Last but by no means least of these 
manifold headaches, and governing the whole enterprise, is the 
problem of financing it; it is your job to calculate the costs. To 
complete this picture, suppose that you are given a bare minimum 
of time to launch the expedition and that you take it on with the 
ever-present possibility of its being cancelled when the prepara- 
tions are well under way. You also realize that it will be necessary 
for you to make provision for a second expedition to carry on in 
the event of failure. In such a predicament you would, I fancy, be 
inclined to think that you were faced with as tough an assign- 
ment as any you had ever undertaken or were ever likely to in 
the future. 

This, at any rate, was my impression when on nth September, 
1952, I received a telegram inviting me to take on the leadership 
of the British Expedition to Mount Everest in the spring of 1953. 
At that moment I was heavily involved with the final preparations 
for Allied manoeuvres in Germany and knew that I could not be 
made available for another month at the earliest. I experienced 
excitement and apprehension in more or less equal proportions. 
Let me hasten to reassure you, however, that the situation was not 
as bad as I feared. 

Ever since the first expedition to explore Everest was conceived 
in 1919, these enterprises have been sponsored, financed and 
encouraged by a Committee formed jointly by the Alpine Club 
the doyen of mountaineering societies and the Royal Geo- 
graphical Society, one of whose main functions is to foster explora- 
tion. This Committee had been helping to prepare for the forth- 
coming expedition since 1951. The 1951 Reconnaissance of 
Everest and the training expedition to Cho Oyu last year were 
designed to lead up to a full-scale attempt to climb the mountain 
in 1953, in the event of the Swiss failing to do so. There was, 
therefore, a degree of continuity in the matter of over-all direction. 
One of the principal tasks of the Joint Himalayan Committee, 
in addition to those of conceiving the idea of an Everest expedition, 
seeking political sanction, deciding matters of policy in prepara- 
tions, is to finance it. Only those who have had this care can fully 
appreciate the work and anxiety of raising very substantial funds 
for an enterprise of this nature, coloured as it inevitably is in the 
mind of the public by a succession of failures, with no financial 
security other than the pockets of the Committee members them- 
selves. I cannot adequately express my personal debt to its mem- 

22 



PREPARATIONS: ONE 

bers, especially to B. R. Goodfellow, its Honorary Secretary, and 
L. P. Kirwan, Director of the Royal Geographical Society, for 
their support. A number of organizations and individuals con- 
tributed to the finances of the expedition, and in particular The 
Times newspaper, which had given valuable backing to earlier 
expeditions also. The Medical Research Council had set up a 
High-Altitude Committee, as it had before earlier expeditions, to 
advise on equipment and diet; a physiologist from this body, Dr. 
L. G. C. Pugh, had accompanied Shipton to the Himalaya in 
1952 and had prepared a report from which a number of useful 
lessons could be learned. Eric Shipton himself had already started 
to lay down the foundations for planning and was available to 
give advice from his immense fund of Himalayan experience. An 
organizing secretary had been appointed and was busy with ten- 
tative contacts concerning equipment. In fact, on my return to 
London from Germany to start work on Everest, a good deal of 
preliminary work was in progress (see Appendix II, Preparations 
for the Everest Expedition, 19531 Organization). 

But it was evident that a very great deal more remained to be 
done in a very short time and that more willing and experienced 
helpers must be enlisted before a full and adequate machinery 
could be set in motion to launch us. These helpers should, as far 
as possible, be the eventual members of the expedition them- 
selves. They would have a very personal interest in the prepara- 
tions, since they would later be taking part in the venture. One 
of the most urgent needs, then, was to choose the party. Here 
again some groundwork had already been done. There were the 
members of the 1951 Reconnaissance and of the Cho Oyu Ex- 
pedition, with their special advantages of recent experience in the 
area of Everest : other private expeditions had visited the Hima- 
laya from this country since the war : the various mountaineering 
clubs had been invited to make recommendations from among 
their members and long lists of candidates were available ; many 
of these had Alpine experience and a few had made climbs of out- 
standing merit in the Alps in the past few years. In addition, 
numerous offers to join the expedition were coming in from all 
over the country, some of them with slender qualifications, but 
all fired by the pure spirit of adventure. Indeed, there was an 
embarrassingly large field from which to choose. 

With the need to spread the load very much m mind, I set 
ist November as the target date for submitting my proposals to the 

23 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Committee, whose responsibility it was to issue the formal invita- 
tions. In the three weeks after my arrival, I was much occupied 
with sorting the many names, preparing lists of increasing brevity, 
interviewing candidates and hearing personal recommendations 
from others who knew them. It was in many ways the hardest 
part of the whole affair, for so very much depended on the 
choosing of the best possible team; I was sure that would be the 
biggest factor of all for success. At the same time, it was very hard 
to turn down so many promising and ardent candidates. I remem- 
bered my own feelings sixteen years before, when I had been 
chosen for Everest and later rejected by a Medical Board. In 
whittling down the short list to its final proportions, I was looking 
for four qualifications. They were those of age: temperament: 
experience: physique; and I wanted a team every member of 
which would be a potential "summiter". 

As regards age, I was looking for men within a bracket of 
between twenty-five and forty. It had been my previous experi- 
ence, and that of others, that for those below twenty-five the bigger 
mountains of the Himalaya 25,000 feet or over tend to be too 
ambitious an undertaking, demanding as they do quite excep- 
tional powers of endurance and unusual patience. Patience, if it 
needs to be acquired at all, normally comes with increasing years. 
The upper bracket was less easy to arrive at there have been 
some remarkable exceptions but it seemed to me wiser to assume 
that I should be lucky to find mountaineers over forty who had 
maintained their stamina by constant climbing practice. 

Age was an easy yardstick; temperament was much harder to 
assess. It was all the more difficult because I was looking for two 
qualities which do not easily coincide in any one mortal. There 
was the need to be sure that each one of the party really wanted to 
get to the top. This desire must be individual as well as collective, 
for such are the exigencies of Everest that any one of us might be 
called upon to make this attempt; I was looking for the "Excelsior" 
spirit in every member of the team. In contrast with this, Everest 
also demands a quite unusual degree of selflessness and patience. 
The final climb to the top must, by common consent among us, 
be an entirely impersonal choice, and for those not chosen for it 
there might be thankless, even frustrating jobs during the most 
critical phase of the expedition. This was certainly asking a good 
deal of prospective members of the team; temperaments are put 
to great and prolonged strain during big expeditions. But one 

24 



PREPARATIONS: ONE 

man can endanger the unity and spirit of a whole party, and 
unity on Everest would be all-important. 

As regards experience, it was desirable that those who were to 
join us should have done a number of major climbs in the Alps, 
combining problems of snow, ice and rock what the French call 
"Grandes Courses" and the longer the period of this experience 
the better, for one is unlikely to learn all the conditions of weather 
and snow in one, or even two Alpine seasons. In this country, our 
opportunities for climbing are mainly restricted to rock/ It is true 
that good snow and ice climbing is to be had in some of our 
mountain districts in winter, particularly in the Highlands, but 
generally speaking there is a tendency for our young mountain- 
eers to carry to the Alps a native preference for rock climbing. 
Outstanding ability as a rock climber is not an essential attribute 
for the Himalaya, at any rate at the present stage of the game. Un- 
fortunately the opportunities to climb the big snow and ice peaks 
in the Alps do not fall to many of our home climbers, and this 
qualification considerably narrowed the field of candidates. An 
additional and most desirable label to those who remained eligible 
was that of Himalayan experience; and this because of the 
essentially different climbing conditions, as much as the testing 
it gave to their ability to climb at high altitudes. Those falling 
into this category were naturally few; it led me to wish then, as I 
hope now, that more of our young people might have the chance 
to share our experience in the bigger ranges. 

Physique was a subject on which Himalayan climbers hold 
strong and varying views. Some claimed that the potential climb- 
ers of Everest must be small and stocky; others pointed out that in 
practice many tall men have gone high on that and other moun- 
tains. As a generality, it is obvious that the larger the human frame 
the more energy required to propel it, and this may possibly be a 
disadvantage at high altitude. To me it seemed that, where actual 
proof was lacking, the important thing was the proportions of the 
climber his general physical make-up, regardless of his height. 
You can be disadvantageously heavily built even if you are short, 
and energy is presumably given in proportion to your frame. Be- 
yond taking note of the fact that the bigger men would probably 
consume more oxygen, therefore, I was influenced by the build of 
candidates rather than their height. As it turned out, a majority 
of us were about six feet, some of us taller. 

Finally, I was insistent on meeting candidates personally where 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

I did not know them beforehand. Because of this, some from over- 
seats who were not in this country and whose qualifications were 
outstandingly good had to be turned down. Other matters apart, 
it was so important to our enterprise that everyone should "fit 
in" and of this I could not be sure without forming my personal 
impressions. The only exceptions made to this principle were two 
New Zealand mountaineers who had been with Shipton in 1952 
and who were known to others whose place in the team was 
assured. One of them, Hillary, had also taken part in the 1951 
Reconnaissance. So strong were their claims that I accepted a 
reflected view of these candidates, given by those whose judgment 
I respected. 

One of the first questions to be decided was whether this ex- 
pedition should be international in composition, for there were 
candidates from other nations eligible for consideration. There 
were several requests from other countries to participate in the 
expedition, and these were all seriously considered by the Joint 
Committee. 

The principle had already been accepted that, if the party was 
to be selected from among British mountaineers, this should em- 
brace climbers from Commonwealth countries other than Britain 
in New Zealand and Kenya, in particular, there were very 
strong aspirants. There was much to be said in favour of an 
international party, especially as the competitive aspect of the 
struggle for Everest was being played upon outside climbing 
circles. But it was clear to me that we should not extend our selec- 
tion beyond the Commonwealth and this viewpoint was accepted 
by the Committee. On an expedition of this exceptional nature, 
the stresses and strains set up between individuals are bound to be 
considerable, and I could not afford to make even more difficult 
the achievement of our all-important unity by making it at the 
same time an experiment in international goodwill. Although it 
was never our view that Everest was the subject of invidious com- 
parison between climbers of different nations, we were aware that 
many people thought otherwise and this, despite ourselves, might 
have added to these stresses. In any case, here was an adventure 
in which British climbers had a long-standing and intimate inter- 
est; there was much to be said for the view that a British team 
should take up the challenge where it had last been laid down by 
Tilman and his men in 1938. 

Among the many letters of recommendation concerning the 

26 



PREPARATIONS: ONE 

composition of the party was one suggesting that the Himalayan 
Committee should negotiate with Czechoslovakia for the "trans- 
fer" and naturalization as a British subject of Zatopek, the 
famous Czech runner. In the view of the writer, this would make 
certain beyond any doubt that one of the party reached the top of 
the mountain. 

By ist November the party was decided and the names were 
submitted to the Himalayan Committee on the 7th. It consisted 
often climbers, an Expedition Doctor, and a number of reserves. 
The arguments for a fairly large party have already been given 
in the previous chapter, and the number of ten had been arrived 
at as a result of preliminary planning, some account of which will 
be given later in this chapter. 

This was the final choice : 

Charles Evans, F.R.C.S., aged 33, short and sturdy, sandy- 
haired, was at that time a surgeon in the Walton Hospital, Liver- 
pool. At intervals between his professional appointments he had 
found time to take part in three expeditions to the Himalaya in 
the preceding three years with Tilman on the Annapurna range 
in 1950, in the mountains of Kulu in 1951, and last year with 
Shipton on Cho Oyu. He had also good experience in the Alps 
and on the crags in this country. 

Tom Bourdillon, aged 28, had accompanied Shipton on both 
the Reconnaissance and the Cho Oyu Expeditions. During the 
latter he had experimented with the use of oxygen. An outstand- 
ing rock climber before he went to the Himalaya, he had under- 
taken climbs in the French Alps of a far higher order of difficulty 
than British climbers had been thought capable of at that time. 
His achievements have inspired our young mountaineers to follow 
his example, thus establishing the fact that their standard of per- 
formance is comparable with that of the best Continental alpin- 
ists. Bourdillon is a physicist working on the development of 
rocket motors in the Ministry of Supply. He is huge and hefty, 
built like a second-row rugby forward. 

Alfred Gregory, Director of a Travel Agency in Blackpool, 
also took part in the Cho Oyu Expedition. Apart from myself, 
he was, at the age of 39, the oldest member of the climbing party; 
also the smallest, thin, wiry and very tough. With a background 
of long and varied experience in the Alps and our own hills, he 
had done well on Cho Oyu, where he had proved his ability to 
acclimatize to altitude. 

27 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Edmund Hillary, aged 33, had, like Bourdillon, been a member 
of both the "curtain-opener" expeditions, joining the first of them 
after he had taken part in a very successful New Zealand expedition 
in the Central Himalaya. Although his climbing experience dates 
from immediately after the war, he had quickly risen to the foremost 
rank among mountaineers in his own country. His testing in the 
Himalaya had shown that he would be a very strong contender, 
not only for Everest, but for an eventual summit party. When I 
met Shipton last autumn I well remember his prophesying this 
and how right he was. Quite exceptionally strong and abounding 
in a restless energy, possessed of a thrusting mind which swept 
aside all unproved obstacles, Ed Hillary's personality had made 
its imprint on my mind, through his Cho Oyu and Reconnais- 
sance friends and through his letters to me, long before we met. 
He is lanky in build; by profession a bee-keeper near Auckland. 

His countryman, George Lowe, was yet another of Shipton's 
strong team on Cho Oyu. His New Zealand alpine experience 
dates from before that of Hillary, to whom he introduced some 
of the high-standard climbs on those mountains. His ice tech- 
nique, acquired like Hillary's from the exceptional opportunities 
offered by New Zealand mountains, is of a very high standard. 
He is tall, well-built. Aged 28, he was teaching in a Primary 
school in Hastings, N.Z. 

Charles Wylie's services had already been obtained from the 
War Office early in September. He was working as organizing 
secretary during the interim period before my arrival and he was 
to continue in that capacity, as my invaluable assistant, through- 
out the preparatory period. Charles is a serving officer of the 
Brigade of Gurkhas; he had spent most of the war in a Japanese 
prison camp. That he had weathered this so well was doubtless 
due to his selflessness and sympathy for others, his faith and his 
cheerful disposition. We have to be grateful to him that the ex- 
pedition's equipment was so meticulously prepared and docu- 
mented, that every minor detail was thought of and provided for. 
He, like Gregory, had good Alpine and home experience of climb- 
ing, and he had climbed in Garhwal shortly after the war. His 
age was 32. 

Michael Westmacott was 27. He had no previous Himalayan 
experience, although he had served in the East at the end of the 
war as a Sapper officer. An ex-President of the Oxford University 
Mountaineering Club, he is a mountaineer of the first rank and 

28 



PREPARATIONS: ONE 

had recently done some particularly fine routes in the Alps. He is 
employed on statistical investigation at Rothamsted Experi- 
mental Station. 

George Band, tall, bespectacled and studious, was the youngest 
of us; in fact, his age of 23 at the time of his selection was below 
what I had always considered the minimum age for an Everest 
climber. His record of Alpine achievement was, however, so ex- 
ceptionally good, and he possessed other qualities which I should 
have expected to find only in an older man. He had just taken his 
degree at Cambridge and was the ex-President of the Mountain- 
eering Club of that University. 

Wilfrid Noyce is a schoolmaster and author, built on the same 
model as Lowe. Aged 34, he was, at the outbreak of war in 1939, 
one of our foremost young mountaineers, with a very fine record 
of difficult routes in the Alps and on our own crags to his credit. 
During a part of the war he was employed in training air crews in 
mountain craft in Kashmir. For a brief period he assisted me in 
running a similar course for soldiers. He had climbed in Garhwal, 
and had made the ascent of one high peak in Sikkim, Pauhunri, 
23,400 feet. 

Lastly, there was myself. I had been climbing intermittently 
since 1925, when I climbed my first high Alpine peak at the age of 
15. 1 had fitted in ten Alpine summer seasons, as well as a great 
deal of ski-ing. I had also done much rock climbing in this 
country. Owing to the fortune of being stationed in India between 
the wars, I had taken part in three Himalayan expeditions. Like 
Noyce, I had trained troops in mountain and snow warfare, and 
there had been a good deal of incidental climbing in other parts 
of the world, made possible by military postings. I was 42. 

Michael Ward, aged 27, was our Doctor. He is a very fine 
climber too; he it was who had suggested the Reconnaissance of 
the south side of Everest two years before, in which he had taken 
part. Subject to the paramount responsibility of caring for the 
health of our large caravan, he would be a most useful climbing 
reserve in case of need. 

This party was admittedly a large one. Its size followed logic- 
ally from our planning, which I will outline shortly. This climbing 
party was further enlarged by the attachment to the expedition 
of two others, sponsored respectively by the Medical Research 
Council and Countryman Films Ltd. These were Griffith Pugh, 
a physiologist employed in the Division of Human Physiology 
A.E. 4 29 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

of the M.R.C., who had a long experience of what may be termed 
mountain physiology. He had worked in this capacity at the 
Middle East School of Mountain and Snow Warfare in Lebanon 
during the war; more recently he had done some valuable work 
during the Cho Oyu Expedition. He had some mountaineering 
experience prior to Cho Oyu, and is a fine skier. Tom Stobart 
came with us to take a film of the expedition. Highly qualified for 
work of this nature, he had been to the Himalaya and had accom- 
panied other expeditions to the Antarctic, Africa and North 
Queensland. 

There was considerable discussion in the Joint Committee re- 
garding the two latter additions; the matter was one of policy and 
quite independent of individual selections. It was obvious that the 
larger the party the more difficult the task of the leader in creating 
and conserving its all-important unity of purpose. Moreover, this 
difficulty is apt to be increased by adding members whose objec- 
tives are different from those of the rest of the team. But there was 
no denying the contribution made by a study of physiology to the 
problem of Everest in the past, and there remained much still to 
be brought to light in this sphere. At the very least it could be said 
that the inclusion of a physiologist was justified as an insurance 
against failure; there might well have been a need to make 
further attempts. As regards Stobart, there was already evidence 
to show that our return to Everest was now attracting a wider 
public interest than ever before, and the Committee felt that the 
taking of a film would perhaps be the best way of telling the story 
to the greatest number of people on our return. There was also, 
of course, the vital need to make the expedition pay for itself; a 
film contract would help considerably in this way. In the event, 
both Pugh and Stobart fitted admirably into the party and helped 
in more ways than one towards success. 

This made a total of thirteen. Reference to this unlucky figure 
was carefully avoided and I was relieved when, a few months 
later, I was able to invite Tenzing to join the climbing party. 
In this and other ways he was to bring us good fortune. His 
entrance on the stage of Everest comes later. 

In addition to the names of those to be included in the expedi- 
tion, I proposed to the Committee that we should invite a few 
others who figured in the final short list to consider themselves as 
reserves. So keen were these and many other mountaineers to 
assist the expedition that I would be able to call on them to help 

30 



PREPARATIONS: ONE 

in our preparations. Moreover, should any member of the party 
not be able to accompany the expedition when the time came, his 
replacement would be at hand and already well in the picture. 
These reserves were J. H. Emlyn Jones, John Jackson, Anthony 
Rawlinson, Hamish Nicol and, at a later stage, Jack Tucker. It 
was inspiring to see how these men, whose most cherished dream, 
far from being realized, was thus held tantalizingly just beyond 
their grasp, threw themselves into the tasks of preparation which 
they were invited to undertake. 

Before submitting my recommendations, I was very fortunate 
in being able to avail myself of the generous offer of Lord Horder 
to examine all the candidates for general fitness. Some earlier 
expeditions had required the party to pass a rigorous test designed 
to show whether each man would be able to climb successfully at 
high altitudes. From personal experience in this test, I was con- 
vinced that it was apt to be misleading. The only real proof of 
adaptability to altitude is on a mountain. Lord Border's advice 
on the physique and also on the psychology of those whom he 
examined was of the greatest value. 



While the selection of the party was going on, it was equally 
urgent to give a start to the planning and subsequent prepara- 
tions. 

I hope that the problem with which we should be confronted 
will be familiar after reading the preceding chapter. From a study 
of it, we had arrived at certain conclusions regarding our own 
plans for the following year, which may be summarized as 
follows : 

Firstly, the need to allow time for a period of training before we 
started work on Everest itself. During this period we would be 
able to become increasingly accustomed to the altitude attainable 
early in the year, we would get used to our equipment, and it 
would be an admirable way to work together and get to know one 
another "on the rope". 

Secondly, since we must expect any period of good weather 
before the monsoon to be short, it was important to be in position 
and ready in every respect to make an attempt on the summit 
from the moment when, from experience in previous years, the 
weather seemed most likely to offer an opportunity. This ap- 
peared liable to occur from the middle of May onwards. 

3' 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Thirdly, it was important to avoid spending more time on the 
mountain than was necessary to climb it. Earlier parties had suf- 
fered not only from the increasing lethargy or deterioration which 
takes effect high on the mountain, but from the strain and tedium 
of the task lower down, combined with the cramped and rigorous 
conditions in which it had to be carried on. We must, in other 
words, avoid starting operations on Everest unnecessarily soon, 
consistent with the absolute need to be ready and in position. It 
would clearly call for a careful calculation of the time problem, 
judgment and good luck. 

Fourthly, we must be able to make the most of the chances 
offered us by good conditions of snow, wind and weather. We 
must have enough climbers, equipment and provisions available 
in the right place and at the right time, and be able to make two 
or if necessary three attempts, each attempt backed by material 
and men. From this it followed that the party must be large and 
r that we must take with us all our predictable needs for thgee full- 
scale assaults. As a rider to this, our study of the problem had 
underlined the importance of being so prepared and equipped 
as to enable us to make the assaults relatively quickly. For this, 
thorough training and light equipment were important. 

Fifthly, we would rely on oxygen to the extent of our ability 
to carry supplies of it. We would use it for climbing and, in order 
to prevent or retard deterioration while at the highest camps, we 
would also use it at night during the Assault, sleeping in oxygen 
masks. 

Lastly, we took into account the limits likely to be placed on 
the "lift" into the Western Cwm and above of large quantities of 
stores, drawbacks which made it difficult to provide the desired 
support. These limits appeared to be set by the dangers of the 
Icefall, which made it desirable to reduce the journeys through it 
as far as possible; by the weight of loads which our porters, the 
Sherpas, could be expected to carry at various altitudes; by the 
numbers of them sufficiently skilled, as well as willing to make the 
vital "carry" to the South Col; and finally by the time granted us 
by the weather to complete the "lift" of the baggage. 

Important conclusions had also been reached regarding diet, 
both as a result of the training expedition of 1 952 and the Swiss 
experiences on Everest in the same year. I have not dealt with 
these in this chapter as they are the subject of Appendix VI. 

From these conclusions or principles emerged a theoretical plan 

32 



PREPARATIONS: ONE 

of assault. It may well seem absurd to have drawn up plans in 
London against the distant moment when a final attempt could 
be made on the top of Everest. Yet only by making some such plan 
and entering into considerable detail, only by making certain 
assumptions based on an unfavourable combination of circum- 
stances, could we work back to the size of the party, the quantities 
of food, equipment and, in particular, oxygen required to achieve 
success. We must, in fact, even in October 1952, endeavour to 
foresee the maximum needs, tempered by the many limiting cir- 
cumstances and obstacles, in order to climb Everest in May /June 
1953. The "plan" was entirely tentative and theoretical; it in no 
way committed us to any rigid tactics to be employed on the 
mountain. These could and would be decided only much later, on 
the scene of operations. Rather than a plan, a basis was laid down 
from which more detailed planning could take its source, e.g. 
finally deciding on the climbing party; planning and developing 
the oxygen supplies and apparatus ; ordering the rations, the tents, 
the mountaineering gear and a multitude of other items. A first 
edition of this document, "Basis for Planning", was issued to 
those immediately concerned with our preparations about mid- 
October; a revised and improved version was distributed early in 
November, by which time the members of the party had been 
chosen and could begin to undertake their allotted tasks with its 
guidance. This paper is of interest in order to compare our fore- 
cast of needs and events with those which actually occurred. It is 
included as Appendix III to this book. 

From it I was able to decide, firstly, on the number of climbers 
and porters required. On the basis of an eventual three assaults, 
each consisting of two climbers, with others in supporting roles 
lower on the mountain, a total of ten seemed the best number. 
After a detailed calculation of the weight of stores to be carried 
into the Western Cwm, and of those to be lifted subsequently up 
the face of Lhotse to the South Col, we arrived at a figure of 
thirty-four Sherpas. Of these, fourteen would work in the Icefall 
carrying loads to the lip of the Cwm; another fourteen would 
shift the loads up the Cwm to a camp we named Advance Base, 
from which, according to the Swiss experience, it seemed appro- 
priate to initiate the assault programme. The remaining six were, 
at that stage of our thinking, intended to accompany each assault, 
in pairs, from Advance Base to the Col and onwards up the final 
ridge. 

33 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

The history of Himalayan expeditions is also one of the weaken- 
ing of attempts on the summit by sickness. With so large a party 
whose combined strength would be required to achieve our aim, 
I was determined that there should be no ambiguity in responsi- 
bilities of a doctor who might also be a climber. In asking Michael 
Ward to join us, therefore, I made it quite clear that his heavy 
responsibility would be our health and care, although it was 
obvious that he would be a most useful reserve for the climbing 
party should the need arise. Michael unhesitatingly accepted this 
position. 

The ascent was seen as falling into two phases : the period when 
we would be shifting our stores from a Base Camp, to be located 
probably near the foot of the Khumbu Icefall, upwards to the 
head of the Cwm and later to the South Col ; and the period 
of the Assault. The first phase, which we referred to as the 
"Build-up", was calculated to require up to three weeks. The 
problem of getting the essential loads into position on the Col 
presented so many difficulties and imponderable situations that 
we did not attempt a serious guess at the time required. The 
Assault period, supposing that only the third party would be 
successful, assuming certain unfavourable circumstances of for- 
tune and weather, but taking an optimistic forecast of the speed 
of movement of one of the three parties taking part, was estimated 
to last over a total period of seven days from Advance Base, until 
all parties had returned there safely. 

In this planning document there was also an estimate of the 
number of camps to be established, their fluctuating population 
during the periods of Build-up and Assault and consequently the 
numbers and types of tents required at each during each period. 
Most important of all, in view of the amount of preparatory work 
to be done, were the assumptions made and decisions taken re- 
garding the employment of oxygen. The tactical use of oxygen is 
dealt with in some detail in Appendix V. I will only mention 
here that, so urgent to those concerned with its development 
were firm decisions on this subject, that I was required to outline 
the theoretical plan at a meeting of the High-Altitude Committee 
on 1 4th October, only six days after arriving from Germany. 

The need for allowing adequate time for training and acclima- 
tization has already been stressed. Bearing in mind that the best 
chance of climbing the mountain would probably occur only 
after the middle of May, and the time required before that period 

34 



PREPARATIONS: ONE 

to get our stores into position, it appeared that we should have 
available for training most of the month of April. The expedition 
timetable was drawn up so that all our preparations in this 
country would be completed by mid-February. Travelling to 
India mainly by sea, we should eventually arrive in the vicinity 
of Everest towards the end of March ; we should then have at our 
disposal a period of at least three weeks to train before we started 
work on Everest. For the sake of interest and variety, and because 
it would be too early in the year to get beyond at most 20,000 
feet, this period would be spent in valleys south of the Everest 
group, where lower peaks and passes abound. 

During this period of planning I was seeking advice from several 
of our earlier Everest climbers, and before finally producing the 
"Basis for Planning", I sent it to some of them for their criticisms. 
Among much good advice, I was to remember particularly Nor- 
ton's words: "The whole history of Himalayan climbing seems to 
me to emphasize [the fact] that attempts have always been made 
from too low an assault camp . . . the finalists [have been] de- 
feated by attempting too long a climb on the last day . . . put your 
assault camp on, or very close under the Southern Summit. 
Assuming that considerable step cutting will be necessary beyond 
the Southern Summit I shall never have any great hope of success 
unless a final camp is so placed." These words, reinforced by 
Longstaff J s recommendation to me to make this final camp my 
very personal responsibility, remained very much in my thoughts 
until the day when it had been achieved. 

Once this planning basis had been laid down, and with the 
party selected, the machinery of mounting the expedition, which 
was already well run-in, could be turned on to full speed ahead. 
Of these preparations I shall have to tell in the next chapter. 



35 



CHAPTER FOUR 

PREPARATIONS: TWO 

WE now entered upon a period of intense and exciting 
activity. A carefully co-ordinated timetable had been 
drawn up, designed to ensure that no item of preparatory work 
should be overlooked and that each event should be dovetailed 
into its neighbours; everything led up to the great moment when 
our baggage would be stowed aboard a ship at the beginning of 
our journey to India. I was able to gather the party for the first 
time on i Jih November and from then onwards we met together 
at intervals of about one month until the date of departure. It 
was at once obvious that here was a variety of talent to take care 
of all the impedimenta which it was proposed to employ in our 
struggle with the mountain; responsibility for obtaining and 
finally for assembling the multifarious items of equipment and 
stores was smoothly decentralized among the party and our 
reserves. With the burden thus distributed on so many enthusiastic 
and capable shoulders, I experienced an immense feeling of 
relief; the tempo of our preparations would now gather momen- 
tum. 

Charles Wylie, who had handled all the detailed work regard- 
ing equipment, now became responsible for over-all co-ordination 
of the various branches. Anthony Rawlinson, assisted by Wilfrid 
Noyce, took over mountaineering equipment; the latter would 
be in charge of this item on the mountain. Emlyn Jones, assisted 
by Ralph Jones, a promising young climber who had volunteered 
his services for this work of preparation, undertook the responsi- 
bility for clothing, later to hand this over to Charles Evans at the 
time we left this country. To Michael Westmacott, whose experi- 
ence as a Sapper was useful, was handed over the work already 
started on structural equipment ; he also agreed to look after the 
problem of tents. George Band, who had recently completed his 
National Service in the Royal Corps of Signals, was an obvious 
choice for the wireless equipment. He was also persuaded into 
nursing, with Griffith Pugh, a most unpopular "baby" food. 
George was to look after weather forecasts to be supplied to us 

36 



PREPARATIONS: TWO 

from the Indian Meteorological Service at Alipore. We were in 
touch with All-India Radio and the B.B.C. in order that these 
forecasts might be broadcast to us daily, starting on ist May. 
Tom Bourdillon already had his hands more than full with the 
oxygen equipment, which included an experimental Closed- Circuit 
apparatus that was being developed by the Electro-Medical 
Research Unit at Stoke Mandeville. I cabled Ed Hillary to ask his 
help, even at that great distance, with the ordering of sleeping- 
bags, and at the same time invited him to take on the cooking 
equipment when the expedition started out on its journey. Mean- 
while, this latter and most important item was to be looked after 
by a Himalayan mountaineer of renown, C. R. Cooke, while 
my wife undertook to furnish all the kitchen materials. Travel 
arrangements and the ordering of photographic equipment were 
Alfred Gregory's task. Charles Wylie, in addition to his secretarial 
and co-ordinating role, was to make all arrangements regarding 
our Sherpa porters ; he would be our Transport Officer during the 
expedition. Michael Ward was naturally left to obtain the medical 
stores and equipment. A long and involved list of miscellaneous 
items fell to the thankless lot of Emlyn Jones, Ralph Jones and my 
wife. But if you should have the impression that, after unloading 
all these responsibilities on to others, I was now without a job, 
I must firmly disillusion you; there was, indeed, an enormous 
amount to do. 

In thus outlining the distribution of our preparatory work, I 
must explain that a good deal had already been done, before 
mid-November, under most of these headings. Rations and oxy- 
gen were already well in hand. Since my return to London 
Griffith Pugh had been busy with the problems of diet. 

As regards oxygen, the situation at the beginning of October 
was far from satisfactory. So especially important to our success 
was this item considered to be that the Joint Himalayan Com- 
mittee, at a meeting held on gth October, had agreed with my 
plea that they should be responsible for its sufficient and timely 
provision. Peter Lloyd, a member of the Committee, who had 
taken part in the Everest Expedition of 1938, had undertaken to 
control the work of development and provision of the Open- 
Circuit apparatus on which it had been decided to rely for the 
main part, and to be answerable to the Committee for this task. 
He was well qualified to do so, both professionally and because 
' he had been in charge of oxygen equipment on Tilman's expe- 

37 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

dition, when he had used oxygen successfully up to the highest 
point reached that year. By mid-October Lloyd had the oxygen 
problem in hand, co-ordinating the activities of the firms contri- 
buting particular items of equipment for the oxygen sets and for 
charging the cylinders, and acting as liaison with the advisory 
High- Altitude Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Sir 
Bryan Matthews, the eminent Cambridge physiologist. As Lloyd's 
executive in this all-important work, I had secured the part-time 
services of Alfred Bridge, an old climbing companion of myself 
and some other members of the party. To those of us who knew 
this fine old-stager, the addition of Bridge to our helpers was a 
great event in the history of the expedition. His enthusiasm, his 
immense energy and fixity of purpose even more, his power of 
inspiring others to join in any enterprise in which he is engaged 
are quite exceptional. I knew that Alf Bridge would never rest 
until our oxygen consignment was on its way. From the time he 
joined the active ranks of our supporters, we had no need to 
worry about the oxygen. Under the wise and able direction of 
Peter Lloyd; with the help of Mr. Mensforth of Normalair; of 
Sir Robert Davis of Siebe Gorman; of Dr. John Cotes of the 
Pneumoconiosis Research Unit, Cardiff, who was responsible for 
the production of our oxygen masks ; with the sound and experi- 
enced advice of Bryan Matthews and his Committee, we were to 
be well equipped with this essential commodity. 

Apart from the more familiar gear thousands of feet of rope 
and line, pitons, snap links, ice-hammers and axes, the mountain- 
eering equipment included certain unusual items which it seemed 
wise to add after studying the difficulties encountered by the Swiss 
in the Icefall and on the Lhotse Face. We knew that, apart from 
crevasses of alpine dimensions, there were likely to be a few 
vast chasms and that these were apt to occur at the sudden change 
of gradient where the surface ice of the Western Cwm dips over 
into the Khumbu Icefall. The Swiss had bridged one immense 
gap at this point with ropes, for no logs long enough could be 
obtained from the valley. They had used one set of ropes for the 
climbers and porters to cross by what is known as the "tyrolean" 
technique, and another to hoist the loads. To deal with similar 
obstacles, we took a light metal 3O-foot sectional ladder, com- 
posed of five 6-foot lengths. It would be simple to carry and fit 
together and could be moved, if need be, from one crevasse to 
another. By doing so we would be employing methods used in the 

38 



PREPARATIONS: TWO 

earliest days of Alpine mountaineering. We were also presented 
by the Yorkshire Ramblers with a 30-foot rope ladder to deal with 
any vertical ice pitches.,/ 

When discussing the problem of gaps with friends in London, 
it was suggested that we might contrive some sort of catapult, 
carrying a rope and armed with a grapnel which would become 
firmly embedded in the ice on the far bank of the obstacle. This 
proposal formed the subject of an interesting demonstration in 
the somewhat confined space of the garden at the Royal Geo- 
graphical Society. The gadget produced was extremely simple 
two toggles for use as hand grips, at either end of a length of 
rubber rope, consisting of multiple strands of elastic. The grapnel 
was a wicked-looking affair, a kind of large wooden bullet armed 
with a number of hooked barbs. To this was attached a long nylon 
line. While watching the expert laying out yard upon yard of this 
line, I expressed concern regarding the range of this weapon, for 
he had paid out some 150 yards, in contrast to the 80 yards' length 
of the garden. Reassured on this point, Charles Wylie and I took 
station at about a 6-foot interval, each holding a grip, while the 
demonstrator stretched the elastic behind us and attached to it 
the war head. Just when Charles and I were about to be pulled 
backwards off our feet, the missile was released. It shot high into 
the air with the nylon cord in its wake and was going very strongly 
over the wall into Exhibition Road, where it would most prob- 
ably have speared a taxi or some unsuspecting pedestrian. Most 
fortunately, we were spared such a calamity by a tree, which 
intervened to arrest its flight some fifty feet up. On the whole, we 
thought, it was unlikely that the famous Icefall or the Cwm 
would reserve for us any surprises meriting this kind of treatment. 

We did, however, allow ourselves to be carried away by the 
prospect of dangerous snow, notably on the Face of Lhotse, into 
taking with us a 2 -inch mortar, borrowed from the Army in the 
guise of an avalanche gun. This little weapon is great fun to fire 
and produces a bang out of all proportion to its size; the explosion 
would be sufficient, we considered, to dislodge any lurking ava- 
lanche for miles around. It is possible that Charles Wylie and I 
were biased in this matter by our own professional allegiance, 
but we knew that a similar technique is used in the Alps for the 
purpose. However it may be, the stir which our proposal caused 
in political circles when permission was sought almost decided us 
to leave the mortar out of the inventory. When, at a later stage, 

39 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

two ,22 rifles were added in order to provide fresh game for our 
larder, we were under grave suspicion as to our real motives in 
visiting Nepal. 

Other aids to getting up the mountain were carefully con- 
sidered and eventually rejected. Realizing the critical nature of 
the Lhotse Face and the difficulty of carrying to the South Col 
the quantities of stores which we estimated at that time would be 
required, we were much attracted by the idea of taking with us a 
light sledge and winch, by which loads could be hoisted at least 
some way up the great slope. The difficulties of feeding and oper- 
ating a suitable engine to work the winch, the alternative labour 
of winching by hand and the uncertainty of finding suitable 
terrain up which to run the sledge, caused us to drop this idea. 
Another original but less practical suggestion was turned down 
with some regret. This would-be inventor envisaged the con- 
struction of a spring-loaded harpoon, which would combine this 
primary function with that of an ice-axe; it would fire a grapnel 
from the South Col of Everest to the summit, over 3,000 feet up, 
invisible and perhaps a mile distant. Not only would we thus have 
a stout handline by which we could easily haul ourselves to the 
top, but the cord was to be painted with luminous paint so that 
we could continue on our way if overtaken by darkness. Carrying 
this fertile line of thought still further, our correspondent pointed 
out that we should have ample warning of the dangerous gusts of 
wind, which would cause the cord to vibrate, thus giving us time 
to brace ourselves against the risk of being swept off the summit 
ridge. 

Clothing, tents and bedding were the objects of our very par- 
ticular concern. The effects of cold, enhanced as they are by wind 
and altitude, are not confined to the physical injury of frostbite, 
serious as this is. Cold and wind exhaust the climber and make 
inroads on his morale; as such they are dangerous and subtle 
enemies. The design of clothing to combat this danger had made 
great strides since those early days when our Everest climbers 
even succeeded in climbing on the upper reaches of the North 
Face clad in tweeds, felt hats and ordinary Alpine boots, but there 
was plenty of evidence to show that subsequent parties, even in 
recent times, have been unduly handicapped as well as injured by 
insufficiently specialized clothing. The problem is the more diffi- 
cult of solution because it is imperative to reduce weights to 
a minimum. We paid a visit to the Polar Research Institute at 

40 



PREPARATIONS: TWO 

Cambridge, where we received many ideas and much good ad- 
vice ; we enlisted the services of many British and foreign firms. 

In the end, our garments conformed to a familiar pattern; 
the real improvements were in design and material. Our outer 
suits were of cotton-nylon windproof material, and both smock 
and trousers were lined with nylon. The combined weight of an 
average-sized suit of this type was little over 3! Ib. The smock had 
a hood with a visor to provide protection against wind and snow. 
To wear inside the windproofs at high altitude, the climbers 
would have a two-piece suit of down, the jacket with a hood, like 
the outer blouse. This down clothing reduces the number of 
woollen garments needed, but each of us was provided with two 
featherweight jerseys and one heavy pullover. 

One of the main clothing difficulties in the Himalaya had been 
that of footwear. The conventionally constructed mountaineering 
boot is apt to allow the cold to strike through both soles and 
uppers, and because of the tendency of snow to melt, even at great 
heights, moisture is absorbed either from the feet, or the snow 
or both, and then freezes the boot to the hardness of rock. With 
the graphic story of Annapurna fresh in our minds, I decided 
that we must be equipped with two types of boot, both specially 
constructed to give exceptional protection against cold. The one 
must be sufficiently light and close-fitting to enable difficult 
climbing to be done lower on the mountain, including the Icefall, 
and it must be durable; the other must give real insulation 
against extreme cold during the Assault, but would be required 
only for the upper part of the mountain. 

The first type of boot, weighing on an average about 3 Ib. 12 oz., 
was essentially similar in design to the normal mountaineering 
boot but had a double leather upper with a fur lining between the 
layers. The leather was specially treated to prevent freezing. The 
more specialized boot for high-altitude climbing had uppers 
insulated with almost one inch of "Tropal" (an unwoven web of 
kapok fibres) contained between a very thin layer of glace kid 
and an inner waterproof lining. The sole, instead of being made 
of the normal heavy treaded rubber, was made from a micro- 
cellular rubber, much lighter in addition to having better insu- 
lating properties. The weight of an average pair of these boots 
was about 4 Ib. 4 oz. 

There was no less need to protect the hands. Here the problem 
was increased by the need to do intricate manual jobs, such as 

4 1 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

loading and operating a camera, fixing crampons and, to a less 
extent, wielding an ice-axe. After careful thought, an outer gaunt- 
let of windproof cotton was chosen, enclosing either a down or a 
woollen mitt; both were provided. Next to the skin would be a 
loose-fitting silk glove; apart from its value in providing addi- 
tional warmth to the hands inside the mitts, it had been found 
that, provided the silk glove is retained, these outer layers can be 
safely discarded for brief spells when it is necessary to perform 
some intricate task with the hands. 

Apart from finding a material which would be truly wind- 
resistant, and if possible warm as well as light, we considered care- 
fully the design of our tents. In general, it would be convenient to 
camp on a two-man basis at high altitude, each tent unit being 
thus light and mobile, as well as capable of being pitched on a 
restricted space. There would be occasions, however, when a 
larger tent would be more economical as well as being warmer and 
more congenial ; we knew, too, that our Sherpas were gregarious 
and found no discomfort in sleeping on the sardine-tin principle. 

Our standard tents were the conventional two-man ridge de- 
sign with a sleeve entrance at both ends, enabling each one to be 
joined to its neighbour so as to provide internal communication 
between tents. Apart from minor improvements in the matter of 
fittings, the only novelty about these tents was the cloth used. 
This, a cotton-nylon weave, proofed with Mystolen, had been 
shown both by laboratory and field tests to be exceptionally 
tough and wind-resistant, as well as light. These standard 
"Meade" tents weighed about 15 Ib. 

In addition, it was decided to take two large dome-shaped 
tents, each capable of holding twelve men, to ensure extra com- 
fort at the main camps. Although they were comparatively heavy 
one weighed no Ib. and the other 85 Ib. we hoped to erect 
one of them at our Advance Base. At the opposite end of the 
scale, and bearing in mind the critical matter of weight of the 
equipment to be lifted from the Western Cwm upwards, we de- 
cided on three small Assault tents, one of which was intended for 
a final camp high up on the South-East ridge. One of the three 
was a smaller version of the conventional "Meade"; the second, 
of a new design, was ordered from the United States; the third, 
designed by Mr. Campbell Secord, was lozenge or blister- 
shaped. The weights of these miniature tents averaged 8 Ib. 
Unless we were to increase very materially the cost and weight of 

42 



PREPARATIONS: TWO 

our baggage, tents would always be in short supply on the moun- 
tain, and a complicated scheme for their movement at each phase 
was worked out in London as a part of our planning. 

Our sleeping-bags were manufactured variously in Canada, 
New Zealand and in this country to designs decided on as a result 
of trials carried out in the Alps. Each climber would have an inner 
and an outer bag of down, the fabric of which was nylon. The 
total weight was about 9 Ib. Our air mattresses were expected to 
be an improvement on earlier models. In order to solve the prob- 
lem of preventing the cold striking up between the air-filled inner 
tubes, and also to ensure greater comfort, two layers of tubes were 
superimposed one above the other, the upper tubes lying in the 
grooves between the lower ones. By inflating the lower tubes fully, 
but leaving the upper layer only partly air-filled, a very comfort- 
able surface resulted. 

Wireless sets were taken for two purposes ; inter-communication 
between camps on the mountain and reception of weather bulle- 
tins. A number of very small and light equipments were presented 
to the expedition to fill the former need. 

Cooking-stoves were another item to which we attached special 
importance. One most significant physiological need at high alti- 
tude is to drink considerable quantities of liquid. For a number of 
reasons, this is very difficult to achieve in a high camp. The snow 
has first to be melted; the process is a very long one, partly be- 
cause the heat generated by the average cooker is reduced and 
so much of it is wasted. A special aluminium shield invented by 
my friend C. R. Cooke was attached to our Primus and Butane 
gas stoves, with the object of retaining the heat in a jacket around 
the cooking vessels. 

The question of diet was a most controversial one. Since there 
is an Appendix dealing fully with the subject, I will only mention 
briefly here that we were guided in our provisioning by Service 
experience. We accepted as our basic diet two types of composite 
ration, one of them in current use by the Army the so-called 
"Compo" ration, made up in fourteen-man-day packs, for use at 
periods other than the Assault. Its contents were adapted speci- 
ally to meet the diet scale recommended by Pugh, The Assault 
ration, a small 3-lb. one-man-day pack, was made up to suit our 
particular needs at high altitude, for use at and above Advance 
Base. 

Oxygen equipment is the subject of Appendix V. The two 

43 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

essential requirements were that it should be light and that it 
should have a good endurance; that is, the need to reload with 
fresh supplies of oxygen should, ideally, be obviated, or, at least, 
reduced to a minimum. Basically, as I have said, we were relying 
on a fully proven system based on the "Open-Circuit" principle; 
that is, an apparatus by which oxygen is administered to the 
climber from a bottle carried on the back through the medium of 
a mask which also allows air to enter. It is then breathed out into 
the surrounding air. Under this system, there is thus no conserva- 
tion of the oxygen. Once breathed, it is lost. The fact that we 
had decided to rely to so great an extent on oxygen and to develop 
an apparatus on the Open-Circuit principle for this purpose was 
partly a recognition of the advocacy of Professor George Finch, 
who had been insistent on the need and the system ever since he 
had himself used it on the mountain in 1922. 

The experimental equipment constructed by Dr. R. B. Bour- 
dillon and his son Tom, which we also intended to take, was 
based on the "Closed-Circuit" principle. Under this system, the 
climber receives one hundred per cent, oxygen from the bottle; 
no air enters, or should be allowed to enter, the mask. A proportion 
of the oxygen breathed is conserved and re-breathed, thus in- 
creasing considerably the "life" of the storage bottles and re- 
ducing the problem of their stock-piling. If this system, still in an 
experimental stage in regard to work at high altitudes, should 
prove successful, it might greatly simplify our task. 

Despite all efforts to limit it, the weight of our oxygen equip- 
ment was a matter of the greatest concern. Although we realized 
that the improvement in performance for a given weight of our 
apparatus over any previous equipment used on Everest was 
considerable, the fact remained that it was both bulky and heavy. 
This was in no way the fault of our advisers, or the producing 
and assembling firms. The simple truth is that the task was taken 
in hand far too late to enable any radically modified design to be 
studied and constructed. Nothing could have been more splendid 
than the devotion with which all concerned worked against time 
to meet our requirements. Our worries about this were evidently 
understood by others, less directly concerned but no less anxious 
to find a solution. A number of suggestions poured in, unfor- 
tunately many of them long after we had perforce decided on the 
oxygen policy and details of design. 

A most attractive, if impracticable idea was put forward to arm 

44 




EVEREST FROM THE SOUTH-WEST 

The Khumbu Valley and glacier are seen in the lower right-hand 
corner- the foot of the Icefall is at the point where the Khumbu 
glacier bends sharply towards the right; the Western Cwm, partly 
hidden by cloud, runs up to the foot of the steep wall at its head. 
This is the Lhotse Face. Lhotse stands towards the right top corner; 
the zap between Lhotse and Everest is the South Col 

5 r PLATE i 




John Hunt 



Edmund Hillary 




Ten/ing 



Charles Evans 



THE PARTY 



PLATE 2 




(ieorge Lowe 



Wilfrid \ov<'< 




Oorge Band Alfred Gregory 

THE PARTY 



PLATE 




Tom Bourdillon 



Charles VVvlie 




Michael Westmacott Michael Ward (Expedition Doctor) 

THE PARTY 



PLATE 4 




Griffith Fugfi (Physiologist) 




Tom Stobart (Camera-man) James Morris ( The Times Correspondent) 

THE PARTY 

PLATE 5 




An null u 



Dawa Thondup 




Da Namgyal 



OUR SHERPAS 



PLATE 8 







PREPARATIONS: TWO 

ourselves with a big- 
ger and better mortar, 
and with it to fire 
our oxygen bottles 
like bombs, from the 
Western Cwm up to 
the South Col. As we 
were to discover later, 
the surface of the Col 
makes hard landing 
and it seems likely 
that, however con- 
structed, the bottles would not merely have bounced but burst, 
quite aside from the fun of indulging in a high-level game of 
hunt-the-bottle over a wide area. We were also alarmed by the 
unhappy prospect of seeing our early efforts falling short and 
rolling, with gathering momentum, down thousands of feet back 
to the firing-point. It was also tempting to follow up another 
suggestion, that of laying a pipeline all the way up the Lhotse 
Face and onwards along the South-East ridge, through which a 
supply of oxygen would be passed from our supplies in the Cwm. 
The pipe would be furnished with taps at which the weary 
climbers could pause and "take a swig 55 at intervals on their 
journey. On consideration, we decided that it would be preferable 
to carry the bottles, ungainly and heavy though they were Again, 




A.E. 5 



45 




THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

we were adjured to 
lessen the burden of our 
apparatus by attaching 
to ourselves a hydrogen 
balloon, nicely charged 
so as just not to lay us 
open to the accusation 
of cheating by making 
an aerial ascent of the 
mountain. This vision 
of the summit pair tip- 
toeing upwards, their 
feet barely brushing the 
snow, was only dispell- 
ed when we learnt the 
monstrous dimensions 
of the balloon required 
to provide the "lift". 

If yet another notion had been adopted, we might have put 
ourselves into pressurized suits and, operating the pressurizing 
machinery by an attachment to the foot or allowing the wind to 
turn a small propeller worn elegantly on our fronts, have tackled 
the manifest climbing difficulties of the Lhotse Face looking very 
like advertisements for "Michelin" tyres. This again had to be 
turned down. In more serious 
vein was the project for dropping 
the bulk of our gear, including 
oxygen, into the Western Cwm 
by air; the question of an air lift 
to the South Col was even mooted. 
A study of this suggestion was 
made by the Air Ministry and it 
was shown that the technical 
problems would be very great. So 
uncertain, in fact, would a suc- 
cessful drop be that it would, in 
any case, be necessary to dupli- 
cate all the stores with which this 
experiment was to be made, un- 
less we were either to accept the 
risks of having them landed in 




PREPARATIONS: TWO 



Tibet or of diverting our energies to rescue and salvage work on 
the wreckage of the aircraft. 



Party Meetings; Meetings of Committees and sub- Committees; 
discussions with numerous experts; visits to the Continent to 
consult fellow Himalayan comrades and to inspect equipment; 
broadcasts; articles for The Times; a bulky daily mail bag; tests 
of equipment and, not least, social obligations these things kept 
us continually active between November and February. During 
the first part of this period we were working in an atmosphere 
of increasing suspense and anxiety regarding the outcome of the 
gallant attempt then being made by the Swiss, who were trying 
to crown with success their magnificent earlier effort in the spring. 
Our worry was not so much lest they should climb the mountain, 
although it was natural to hope that, now we were so far ahead 
in our preparations, the prospect would not be removed from 
before our eyes. Our real concern was the deadline for ordering 
the equipment and stores; a date had been fixed when we must 
do so, in order to leave a bare minimum of time for the various 
items to be produced and to reach the packers; these latter in 
turn would have an enormous amount to do before the sailing 
date. loth December was the deadline. This situation involved 
a considerable financial risk to the Committee, causing under- 
standable anxiety to R. W. Lloyd, its conscientious Treasurer. 

At the beginning of December, I took a party consisting of 
Wylie, Gregory and Pugh to test certain items of our equipment 
and diet in Switzerland. At the time of leaving there was still no 
definite news of the Swiss result, although a number of uncon- 
firmed reports credited them variously with triumph and near 
success. We would be returning to this country on 8th December, 
and we left well knowing that all our effort thus far might be in 
vain. But this in no way lessened the enjoyment of this rehearsal 
for Everest. We spent a day in Paris in order to discuss and order 
equipment from Gaston Rebuffat, a friend and climbing com- 
panion of mine and one of our most enthusiastic Continental 
helpers. Gaston is one of the foremost guides in the Alps and was 
a member of the Annapurna Expedition. 

We chose as our testing-ground the Jungfraujoch, an 11,500- 
foot saddle at the head of the Aletsch glacier in the Bernese 
Oberland. Situated between two of that well-known trinity of 

47 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

peaks, the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, we reckoned that in mid- 
winter this Col might bear comparison with that other Col, 
similarly related to three yet greater giants, on the real stage of 
our mission. And so it proved to be. We found just the conditions 
needed to try out our equipment. 

It was blowing a blizzard when, after the long, enclosed train 
journey in the very bowels of the Eiger, we emerged on to the 
terrace above the station, which in summer is crowded with 
tourists. We had to fight our way in the teeth of the gale, for- 
tunately over a distance of only a few yards, to the crest of the 
Joch in order to set up our little camp of experimental tents; 
the conditions were so bad that it was no easy job to erect them. 
A scene of wild confusion reigned around us, with snow being torn 
off the surrounding slopes and the enclosing peaks. Monch and 
Jungfrau were shrouded in ominous cloud. That first night the 
temperature dropped to 20 C., which we expected would prob- 
ably be as low as any we should have to endure on Everest. We 
were testing a variety of clothing, boots, tents, bedding, food and 
cooking-stoves ; some of these items in embarrassing quantities 
for the short time at our disposal. For instance, we each had no 
fewer than eight different designs of high-altitude boot. We had 
first to discard a few of these out of hand, and then to wear one 
type of boot on each foot during each day. As for clothing, while 
the models and materials were also varied, we had fewer suits 
available; we had, therefore, to exchange windproofs each day 
and compare notes at the end of the period. In the same way we 
changed from one tent and sleeping-bag into another. 

Of the four days spent on the Jungfraujoch, two were bril- 
liantly fine and two were stormy. On one glorious day, two of us 
were able to climb the Monch, from the summit of which we had 
all the Alps spread before us, unobscured by a single cloud. On the 
other, a larger party made an excursion on skis across the Ewig- 
schneefeld to a point on the ridge below the Gross Fiescherhorn. 
We had mutually agreed from the start that we were not putting 
our own fortitude to the test; there would be plenty of enforced 
opportunities for that later on. When the conditions became un- 
bearable, therefore, we retreated from our bleak little camp into 
the shelter of the Jungfraujoch Hotel, comforting ourselves over 
beer or coffee with the reflection that only thus could we draw 
sound conclusions on how our gear was standing up to the rigor- 
ous conditions outside. The experience of this winter journey to 



PREPARATIONS: TWO 

Switzerland enabled us to order on the spot down clothing and 
to arrange for special crampons to be made in Grindelwald to fit 
the high-altitude boots which we had finally decided on. 

The evening before we left the Jungfraujoch I received a tele- 
gram bearing the news that the Swiss Expedition had at last 
abandoned its attempt, after holding out in the face of appalling 
conditions for several weeks. While we were glad to know at last 
that we should now be going to Everest and thankful that the 
prolonged uncertainty, which was about to cause a crisis in our 
own preparations, was ended, we could not but feel admiration 
and sympathy for the fine Swiss mountaineers, and especially for 
those who had had the determination and courage to go twice to 
Everest in one year. When, much later on Everest, I had to face 
up to the ever-present possibility of our having to continue our 
effort in the autumn of this year, I had to admit that it was a 
most unwelcome prospect. I was then able fully to appreciate the 
spirit of Chevalley, Lambert and Tenzing for what they had done. 

On return to London, then, our first action was to give the 
"all clear" on the equipment orders. Letters and telegrams had 
been prepared before we left England so as to simplify this pro- 
cedure. In addition, a most important meeting was called of 
representatives from those firms whose equipment we had been 
testing and on which we were now in a position to comment. 
Allowing for the Christmas holidays, this left about one month for 
all our orders to reach the packers, the final date for this being 
1 5th January, 1953. 

About mid-January, too, we held a Meet of the party and 
reserves at the Climbers' Club Hut, Helyg, in North Wales. This 
was an excellent opportunity to get to know one another better, 
and the weather smiled upon the occasion. Tom Bourdillon also 
wanted us to try various types of carrying frame for the Open- 
Circuit oxygen apparatus. He himself had already carried out a 
number of field trials with his Closed- Circuit apparatus and on 
this occasion he and George Band toiled up the Nant Gwynant 
side of Snowdon wearing it on a warm day. According to George, 
this demanded considerable strength of mind, so I tried it myself 
during a short distance uphill near the hut. I nearly exploded 
with heat and discomfort, but Tom was at pains to explain that 
his pet engine thrives only in extreme cold. It was admittedly an 
exceptionally sunny day for January. 

Altogether, the occasion was a very happy one. I felt then, as 

49 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

indeed I was to find later, that we should have little difficulty in 
settling down as a really effective team when we came to grips 
with Everest. I also knew that we had in our reserves men who 
would most worthily fill any gaps which might occur. 

Meanwhile, the centre of activity was gradually shifting to the 
warehouses of Messrs. Andrew Lusk at Wapping Wall, where 
packing for the expedition was in the capable hands of Stuart 
Bain. Equipment was steadily coming in from the beginning of 
the New Year, and by the date it was all due to have arrived very 
few items were outstanding. In all these cases the reasons had 
been fully explained, and I cannot praise too highly the wonderful 
co-operation which we received from every supplying firm. The 
assistance given by those who helped us on our way almost 
amounted to fervour. 

I had invited Charles Evans, Ralph Jones and Wilfiid Noyce 
to become for a time a working party to deal with the problem of 
packing, and before all the stores were gathered in, they had a 
carefully prepared plan ready, designed to avoid any premature ( 
unpacking or re-sorting of our gear. The packing cases were made 
up in coolie loads of about 60 Ib. and marked according to the 
point on our journey to the mountain at which they should be 
opened. It proved of the utmost value, both to have this excellent 
arrangement and because at least two members of the party had 
an intimate knowledge of the whereabouts of every item among 
our small mountain of cases. Among many jobs which were done* 
well to contribute to our success, the packing of the equipment 
stands very high; it was of a quite exceptional standard. Nor 
must I forget the wonderful work done by my wife, Mrs. Good- 
fellow and Mrs. Mowbray-Green in sewing many hundreds of 
name tapes on to our garments, thus avoiding a possible cause of 
contention among us on the mountain. 

Shortly after returning from the oxygen frame tests in Wales, 
we went to Farnborough to experience an oxygen test in the 
decompression chamber at the Royal Aircraft Establishment* I 
was at that time suffering from a severe cold and was considered 
unfit to take part, but I had an interesting time as a. spectator, 
peering through a porthole and Watching the very odd behcuviour 
of some of my companions when, at an atmt>sphfiric pressure in 
the chamber equivalent to about 29,000 feet, their oxygen masks 
were removed one after another. Griff Pugh was a horrifying 
sight; so short of oxygen that his tongue was hanging out, he stub- 

50 



PREPARATIONS: TWO 

bornly insisted to Dr. John Cotes, the designer of our masks, who 
was in charge of the test, that he did not require to have the mask 
replaced on his face. Altogether it was a revealing experience 
showing, as it was intended to, how insidious is the onset of 
anoxia, or the ill-effects of oxygen lack. 

The oxygen was to travel separately, after our departure. 
Despite all efforts to get it ready in time, so late had this equip- 
ment been taken in hand that only a part of our needs, that 
urgently required for the training period, could be ready by about 
20th February. We have to thank the Royal Air Force for agreeing 
to lift this to India in a replacement aircraft and the Indian Air 
Force for taking it on from Delhi to Kathmandu. The weight of 
this first consignment was 2>ooo Ib. A second consignment, weigh- 
ing 3,000 Ib. and consisting of the supplies calculated to be neces- 
sary to meet the theoretical Assault plan, would be sent a month 
later by the same method. I had asked Major Jimmy Roberts, an 
officer of the Gurkhas and a Himalayan climber of great experi- 
ence, to meet this consignment at Kathmandu and escort it to 
Thyangboche. It would be essential for him to arrive there by 
1 5th April in order to conform with the over-all plan. The dis- 
patching arrangements were left in the safe hands of Alf Bridge. 

I was naturally anxious to meet the Swiss team as soon as pos- 
sible after their return from Nepal. A meeting was arranged in 
Zurich on 25th January, and Charles Evans came with me on a 
twenty-four-hour visit to that city. We were most kindly received by 
Dr. Feuz of the Foundation for Alpine Research and there met Dr. 
Chevalley, leader of their autumn expedition, Raymond Lambert, 
who had climbed so high with Tenzing in the spring of the pre- 
vious year, and other members of their expedition. We were 
shown all their equipment and received a very frank and gener- 
ous "hand over" of their knowledge and experience. There was 
one point which might be of great importance to us and required 
instant action. Lambert was able to point out on photographs the 
approximate positions where charged oxygen cylinders had been 
left high on the mountain. Should we be lucky enough to find 
these, and provided we could tap them, this would be a very use- 
ful bonus over and above our own supplies. With the help of the 
Swiss, contact was quickly established between the German firm 
of Drager of Liibeck, which supplied their sets, and our own 
assembly firm of Normalair. Eric Mensforth, the head of that 
firm, who had taken throughout a close and practical interest in 

5 1 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

the assembly of our Assault oxygen equipment, intervened 
directly, and following a visit by Peter Fitt to Liibeck, adaptors 
were produced with remarkable speed and efficiency. Some 
months later, we were to be very grateful to all concerned in this 
fine job of work. 

With the approach of the sailing date for the main party, the 
period of intensive preparatory work by ourselves and many 
selfless helpers at last drew to a close. There is no better testi- 
monial to this work than the Inventory and Packing Lists, both of 
them monumental documents which sum up these labours, not 
the least of them secretarial. It is appropriate here to mention the 
splendid assistance given us by our Secretaries, Ann Debenham 
and Elizabeth Johnson, also to the voluntary help of Bill Packard 
and Norman Hardie. Jack Tucker, too, one of the reserves, re- 
placed Charles Wylie for a short period. 

But there remained one more thing to be done. When the Swiss 
Expedition just failed in the spring, they had decided to send out 
another expedition with the least possible delay, to make another 
attempt in the autumn. This decision was made only in June, and 
the second party arrived at the foot of the mountain too late. By 
the time they had established themselves at the upper end of the 
Western Cwm, the winter winds were already buffeting the 
mountain; from that moment there was little hope of success. 
They held out in terrible conditions of discomfort and mental 
strain, but never succeeded in getting within striking distance of 
the summit. We, like the Swiss, had received the sanction of the 
Nepalese Government to visit the area of Everest during the 
whole year. Should we fail in the spring the Joint Himalayan 
Committee decided that the attempt should be continued after 
the monsoon. It was realized that, in order to be ready to take 
advantage of any post-monsoon lull, an autumn attempt must be 
prepared during the absence of the expedition in Nepal, and re- 
gardless of its fortunes. Moreover, funds had to be set aside for 
this. 

Just before leaving for India, therefore, I indulged in some 
more crystal-gazing, looking this time into our eventual needs in 
men and material to reinforce our present expedition which, after 
a period of rest, would return to the attack. Assumptions were 
made regarding the numbers of fresh climbers and amounts of 
the main items of equipment as well as food, which must be sent 
out, and the dates to which we would work in such an event. All 

52 



PREPARATIONS: TWO 

the preparatory labour to bring this about was taken on by 
Emlyn Jones, who thus replaced Charles Wylie as Organizing 
Secretary and would himself be a member of the reinforcement 
party. Emlyn had not spared himself in our interest since the day 
when I had to tell him that he would not be in the team, but that 
he was at the top of the list of reserves. His generosity and 
selflessness in thus continuing to work for Everest, wishing us 
success yet ensuring against a temporary setback, are beyond 
praise. 

One of the last and most thrilling events just before leaving was 
a visit to Buckingham Palace by myself in company with R. W. 
Lloyd of the Joint Committee. We were commanded to give an 
account of the expedition's plans and prospects to H.R.H. The 
Duke of Edinburgh, who had graciously consented to become our 
Patron. It was vastly encouraging that we should be watched with 
interest by one who places such value on the spirit of enterprise 
and high endeavour. 



53 



PART 



in 

APPROACH 



CHAPTER FIVE 

TO NEPAL 

ARRANGEMENTS were made for the party to travel to 
/"Ylndia in the S.S. Stratheden on isth February, less two 
members who were to leave later by air but arrive well in advance, 
making preliminary arrangements for our passage through India, 
entry into Nepal and carrying out other initial tasks. 

We did not send the bulk of the party by sea merely to save 
money, although the resources of our treasury at that time were 
meagre enough. Some of us were very tired after the intensive 
preparations for Everest and other work during the previous 
months ; we were in need of mental and physical rest. There is no 
better way of ensuring this than by the enforced relaxation of a 
sea voyage. An air journey, invaluable as it is in many ways, 
would give us virtually no rest between leaving our desks or other 
labours in England and becoming involved in the many new 
problems awaiting us in India and Nepal. Most important of all, 
to my mind, was the further chance which life in a ship would 
provide for us to settle down as a team in ideal conditions, accom- 
panied by no discomfort, urgency or stress. 

Excluded from the main party were Tom Bourdillon, whose 
work on the Closed-Circuit oxygen would not be completed in 
time, and Griffith Pugh, for whom separate arrangements had 
been made by the Medical Research Council. A few days before 
sailing I succumbed to an antrum infection and had to go to hos- 
pital for an operation. I had regretfully to agree to cancel my sea 
passage and travel at the end of the month by air, happily in 
company with Tom Bourdillon. The fact that I was able to 
accompany the expedition despite this last-minute hitch and to 
take an active part on the mountain was due to the skill of Mr. 
Hargrove, M.B.B., F.R.C.S., and the care I received from the 
staff of the Quarry Hill Nursing Home at Shrewsbury. 

As the time approached for our departure, we became aware 
that there was a growing public interest in the expedition. Some 
of us appeared in Sound Broadcast and Television programmes ; 
there were lectures, Press interviews and articles to write for The 

57 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Times. This interest reached a peak at Tilbury, where the six 
members travelling by sea were under fire by the B.B.C. and 
Press correspondents for one and a half hours. I was not sorry to 
escape this ordeal. The brunt of it was borne, in my absence, by 
Charles Wylie, who acquitted himself very well. 

With the main party safely launched, Charles Evans and Alfred 
Gregory (Greg for short) departed by air on 2Oth February as 
Advance Party; Tom Bourdillon and I took flight eight days later, 
and Griffith Pugh was the last to leave, on ist March. The expe- 
dition was on its way. Meanwhile, Hillary and Lowe were also 
approaching the rendezvous in Nepal from the opposite end of 
the world. Lowe, travelling by sea, was due to arrive in Bombay in 
time to prepare for and receive the main party from this country; 
Hillary, whose bees were in a busy state at that time of year, 
flew via Calcutta to Kathmandu at the beginning of March. Our 
various journeys by air, sea, rail and, ultimately, on foot, con- 
verged on Kathmandu, the capital city of the Kingdom of Nepal. 
Throughout, we were most kindly cared for and our travel prob- 
lems were smoothed by the P. & O. Steam Navigation Company 
and the British Overseas Airways Corporation. In India we were 
looked after largely at the initiative of the Himalayan Club. 
Being a member of this Club, I had presumed on their kindness so 
far as virtually to place all problems connected with our passage 
through India and our arrival in Nepal in their capable hands. 
At each stage of our Indian journey, members of the Club, the 
United Kingdom High Commission in India and officials of 
Burma Shell went out of their way to steer us through and offer 
us hospitality; we are very grateful to them all. 

On 3rd March, Tom Bourdillon and I flew over the Terai the 
densely wooded foothills of Nepal into the open Valley beyond. 
As we skimmed low over the final ridge, the high Himalaya could 
be seen spread out over a great distance, mile upon mile of remote 
mountains making a crenellated backcloth of dazzling whiteness 
behind the browns and greens of the intervening ridges. We could 
see countless peaks between the bastions of Annapurna, the 
highest mountain yet climbed, and Everest, so soon to be assailed 
by ourselves. 

During the following few days, those of us who travelled by air 
gathered in this fascinating city of Kathmandu, to be joined at the 
end of the first week of March by the main party. They were met 
and most kindly entertained by Professor George Finch of the 

58 



TO NEPAL 

National Chemical Laboratory of India, one of the outstanding 
mountaineers at the time when British climbers were making a 
first acquaintance with Everest. The latter part of their journey 
had been more tedious than ours, for it involved long, dusty 
stages from Bombay in a succession of trains, degenerating into a 
ride on a lorry perched on top of our mountainous baggage, and 
finally an eighteen-mile march over the ridges which bar entry 
into the Valley of Nepal. The temperature in India was exception- 
ally hot for that season little below 100 F. in the shade and in 
the heat and dust they had the anxiety of watching over the trans- 
ference of 473 packages, weighing seven-and-a-half tons, from 
ship to train, from large trains to smaller trains, from the minia- 
ture Nepal railway to lorries and, finally, from road head in 
southern Nepal to the conveyor trays of an overhead ropeway 
on the last stage, over the high ridges to Kathmandu. 

Despite all efforts to speed it up, our luggage reached the far 
terminal of the ropeway only on 8th March, one day before we had 
planned to start our march. Even after agreeing to a twenty-four- 
hour postponement, it remained doubtful whether we should be 
able to get away on time. Great assistance was given us by a con- 
tingent of Indian Sappers engaged in constructing a new road over 
the ridges into the Valley; the Nepalese Army most kindly made 
space for us to install a baggage depot in their lines at the town of 
Bhadgaon, eight miles east of Kathmandu, whither we arranged 
to ferry the loads as they descended from the ropeway. This 
would save us a whole day's march from the city and help to 
compensate for the inevitable loss of time on the programme. 

Meanwhile, our party was being looked after in delightfully 
informal comfort by our Ambassador to Nepal, Christopher 
Summerhayes, and his staff. For the third year in succession, Mr. 
Summerhayes was thus helping British climbers on their long 
journey which was to end at the top of Everest. By negotiating 
diplomatic approval for these missions, by housing us and caring 
for our needs in transit; by forwarding our mail in both direc- 
tions; by these and many other services he, his First Secretary, 
Colonel Proud, and all others at the British Embassy in Kath- 
mandu, have played a very valuable part in the final triumph. 
At the start of a big expedition the conditions and circumstances 
of the final send-off leave their stamp on the memory, just as the 
prospect of a warm, friendly and comforting welcome on return 
provides a happy train of thought at more cheerless moments on 

59 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

a high mountain. We could not have had a better send-off. 

Charles Wylie had flown from the ship at Bombay with Tom 
Stobart, to take up his arduous duties as Transport Officer. They 
had had the good fortune to travel as far as Calcutta with B. R. 
Goodfellow, who had done so much for the expedition in London. 
On his way through Calcutta, where he was very kindly looked 
after by Mr. Charles Crawford, President of the Himalayan Club, 
Charles Wylie met Dr. Mull of Alipore Observatory on behalf of 
George Band, to discuss our requirements for weather forecasts. 

We had requested the Himalayan Club to select for us twenty 
of the best Sherpas for work at high altitude and to arrange for 
their arrival at Kathmandu early in March. The Sherpas are hill- 
men whose home is in the district of Sola Khumbu in Eastern 
Nepal. Originally of Tibetan stock, to whose language theirs is 
closely akin, they are small, sturdy men with all the sterling quali- 
ties of born mountaineers. Many of them have migrated to Dar- 
jeeling in the Indian State of Bengal where, with the encourage- 
ment of the Himalayan Club, they have made porterage for 
foreign expeditions to the Himalaya a livelihood. Believed to have 
been first employed by a British mountaineer, A. M. Kellas, even 
before the first British expedition to Everest in 1921, they have 
taken part in every subsequent expedition to that mountain. 
Cheerful, loyal and courageous, possessed of exceptional hardi- 
hood, a few of them have now reached a good standard of 
proficiency as snow and ice climbers, and this has been recognized 
by the award of a "Tiger" badge by the Himalayan Club. They 
are wonderful companions on a mountain. 

These were to be the men intended for carrying our loads to the 
head of the Western Cwm, thence to the South Col; a select band 
of six from this number were to be earmarked for the Assault 
parties. They duly arrived on 4th March, and with them was our 
Sirdar, the already renowned Tenzing. His Himalayan climbing 
experience, and particularly his association with Everest, were 
quite exceptional. As a young porter he had first taken part in 
the Reconnaissance expedition to Everest in 1935, and since then 
he had joined the ranks of nearly every expedition to Everest. 
When he became one of our climbing party, he was thirty-nine, 
and it was his sixth visit to the mountain. In addition, he had par- 
ticipated in several other major Himalayan ventures, notably the 
French expedition to Nanda Devi in 1951, when he climbed the 
East Peak of that great mountain. By virtue of his wonderful 

60 



TO NEPAL 

exploit in 1952 with the Swiss guide Lambert, reaching a point 
on the South-East ridge of Everest only about 1,000 feet from 
the top, Tenzing established himself not only as the foremost 
climber of his race but as a mountaineer of world standing. 

It was a meeting we had looked forward to with keen anticipa- 
tion. After his gruelling experiences in 1952, especially his journey 
with Lambert in the late autumn to the South Col, Tenzing's 
health had been affected and there had been considerable doubt as 
to whether he would be fit enough to join us. Such is Tenzing's 
enthusiasm and spirit, however, that he had written to me while 
still convalescing to offer his services, if only as far as the top of the 
Icefall. By the time we met in the Embassy garden, he appeared 
to be fully restored, if still a little fine-drawn; at any rate, it was 
obvious that there was no doubt at all in his mind as to his own 
fitness and the part he hoped to play. We were soon firm friends. 
Tenzing's simplicity and gaiety quite charmed us, and we were 
quickly impressed by his authority in the role of Sirdar. 

The Sherpas from Darjceling included some well-bespoken and 
likely-looking characters. Although gregarious in their habits, the 
Sherpas are decidedly individualistic in appearance, particularly 
in their choice of dress. They made a colourful sight that morning 
as they paraded for our inspection. Most of them wore an assort- 
ment of garments which they had obtained on previous expedi- 
tions green berets, blue ski-ing caps, balaclavas, bright-coloured 
sweaters and outsize boots. 

Some of these Sherpas were already known to us and had been 
specially asked for. Thondup, the cook, had been with the 1951 
New Zealand Expedition, and last year on Cho Oyu. Older than 
the others and not an experienced climber, he was nevertheless a 
key man from the viewpoint of health and morale. Kirken, his 
assistant, was also known to some members of the expedition. 
He was a tough-looking customer with the face of a boxer and a 
huge smile. There were the two brothers, Da Tensing and Annullu. 
They had both made a very favourable impression on the Cho 
Oyu party. Da Tensing, nine years the senior, must be about 
forty years old; wizened and pig-tailed, his figure upright and 
slim, he has the dignity, courtesy and charm of the elders of his 
attractive race. He had brought with him his son Mingma, in the 
hope that a job could be found which would enable him to do an 
apprenticeship in expedition work. Annullu, jaunty, cheerful and 
robust, had recently dispensed with the characteristic Sherpa pig- 
A.E. 6 6 1 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

tail and surprised his friends in last year's expedition by his 
metamorphosis from a "jungly type" to a spruce and "European- 
ized" character. Neither had long climbing experience; but both 
were reputed to be promising performers. Then there was the 
solemn, enigmatic Ang Namgyal, whose record book showed him 
to be a "Tiger" of great merit; and his near namesake. Da Nam- 
gyal, who had done illustrious service with the Swiss, in their 
historic and exhausting journey to the South Col in the spring of 
1952. Taking part again in the autumn expedition, he had been 
injured in an accident on the Lhotse Face, when another Sherpa 
of the first rank, Mingma Dorji, had been killed by falling ice. 
Pasang Phutar II was a big, jocular fellow with obvious spirit and 
liking for the job. Little Gompu was smiling and cherubic, like an 
overgrown schoolboy he was in fact only seventeen. A nephew of 
our Sirdar Tenzing, his parents were a monk and a nun and he 
had but recently left his studies in the Monastery of Rongbuk, on 
the northern side of Everest. With his plump figure, he looked a 
most improbable starter for high work on the mountain, but Ten- 
zing was understandably enthusiastic about his protege. These 
and several others came forward, grinning shyly, to be introduced 
to us in the Embassy garden. We should have to add others when 
we reached Sola Khumbu, for we were still several men short of 
the required total, even for the High Altitude team. Annullu had, 
meanwhile, been sent out to Namche Bazar by the Darjeeling 
Secretary of the Himalayan Club, Mrs. Jill Henderson, who had 
so ably made the arrangements for the Sherpa team. He was only 
just back after choosing fourteen local men who were, according 
to the London plan, needed to lift our loads up the Icefall. 

It is of great importance to the success of any Himalayan expe- 
dition that a very close understanding should be built up between 
the climbers and their Sherpas. Here the question of language is 
difficult, for the Sherpa tongue is scarcely spoken outside Sola 
Khumbu. Most of the Sherpas, however, have some knowledge of 
Nepali, which is more widely known, particularly by those who 
have been associated with the Gurkhas. Those Sherpas living in 
Darjeeling have a smattering of Hindi, the official language of 
India. We were fortunate in this respect, for Charles Wylie speaks 
Nepali fluently; Charles Evans, Michael Westmacott, Wilfrid 
Noyce and myself knew Hindi from our previous association with 
India. Several of the others had made great efforts to learn some 
Nepali from Charles Wylie, who held classes on the Stratheden. 

62 



TO NEPAL 

Accompanying the Sherpas were a number of Sherpanis : their 
wives and sweethearts, who hoped to be engaged as coolies on our 
journey to their native land of Khumbu. I was delighted to agree 
with this arrangement, for not only would they add colour and 
gaiety to our company, but they carry loads as stoutly as their 
menfolk. 

gth March was a day of tremendous activity at Bhadgaon, with 
the baggage party, consisting of Charles Evans and Wilfrid Noyce, 
sorting and arranging the packages, opening those containing our 
requirements in clothing and equipment for the march and 
directing the work of others who had come to help. 

Charles Wylie was now faced with the difficult task of engaging 
a small army of coolies to carry the baggage on the seventeen-day 
journey to Thyangboche, a monastery which we had chosen from 
a study of the map as our first Base Camp, and from which we could 
carry out our initial programme of training. Coincident with the 
dumping of the loads on the parade ground at Bhadgaon, tlharles 
mustered some three hundred and fifty local men to shoulder 
their burdens. All had to be recorded in a pay book, receive their 
tallies and an advance of pay. 

The loads proved to be so numerous considerably in excess of the 
estimate that I decided to move off in two caravans at an interval 
of twenty- four hours. The track along which we should be moving 
allows only for single-line foot traffic as it enters more rugged 
country, and only by shortening our "tail" could we avoid a 
very protracted departure from one stage and arrival at the next. 
This was a pity, for I was no less anxious now than I had been 
when leaving England, that we should remain together as a 
team during this part of the journey, when there would be much 
to discuss, and while there might yet be a need to rub off the 
awkward corners. Moreover, the later programme would fre- 
quently require us to divide into small groups, from the time we 
started our training programme, and we were now for the first 
time assembled as a complete party. In order to minimize the 
handicap to our unity of moving out in two parts, therefore, it was 
arranged that all except three should travel in the first caravan. 

We had followed an earlier Everest precedent in obtaining from 
the Brigade of Gurkhas the voluntary services of five N.C.O.s to 
assist Charles Wylie in his task of organizing the large force of 
coolies during the march-out. These men had joined us at 
Kathmandu and accompanied the second caravan. 

63 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Finance loomed large among our preoccupations. With so vast 
a baggage train, and foreseeing numerous other expenses while 
away from civilization, I, as treasurer to the expedition, had to 
draw very considerable funds to take with us on our journey. We 
were given to understand that the local people decline to accept 
the flimsy local paper currency, except in the Valley of Nepal 
itself, so we had to take half our treasure in Nepali coin. We had 
considerable trouble in finding suitable boxes in which to pack 
so heavy and bulky a load, which needed no fewer than twelve 
coolies to carry it. 

In addition to these hectic activities, there were also social 
occasions. We were most kindly entertained by the King of Nepal 
and by the Indian Ambassador; a charming reception was 
organized at the British Embassy in our honour. I paid a number 
of courtesy visits to leading Nepali officials, among them General 
Kaiser, at that time Chief Counsellor in the King's Advisory 
Council. As we left his residence, His Excellency handed me three 
small Nepali flags and requested me to carry one of them to the 
summit. It was a delicate gesture of confidence on his part and 
I am most happy to say that we were able to fulfil his wish. 

Busy as we were, we could not but be conscious of our enchant- 
ing surroundings. The Valley of Nepal is a broad, fertile plateau 
at over 4,000 feet, encompassed by high wooded hills, beyond 
whose northern fringe the snow mountains peep tantalizingly. 
We managed to spare one day for a walk up a neighbouring view- 
point, Sheopuri, in the hope of having an extensive view towards 

















Kangtega from Thyangboche Monastery 
Chortens in the foreground 



[65 



TO NEPAL 

the bigger mountains. It was cloudy, but the rhododendrons, 
glorious in scarlet blossom with a few of paler hues, were an ample 
recompense for our journey. We were attracted by the neat Newar 
houses with their thatched roofs and mud-plastered walls, tidily 
washed in ochre and white. Below us in the plain, peasants were 
labouring in their fields in preparation for the grain crop. We 
realized then that we were going to enjoy our long march to 
Thyangboche through these broad and friendly hills. 

loth March was the date for the departure of the first caravan. 
I intended to stay in order to ensure that the second party got 
away without any last-minute hitches, after which I would 
go forward covering two stages in one day and catch up the 
leaders. All of us went out to Bhadgaon to see them off; it was a 
memorable occasion, and there was an upsurge of excitement in 
the air, as many hundreds of men hurried hither and thither, 
chattering as they tied and adjusted their burdens. Moving among 
them were Charles Wylie and Tenzing, the latter attended by a 
few of our Sherpas. There was an atmosphere of complete order 
despite the large-scale movement which was about to begin; 
Charles and Tenzing had done a magnificent job in getting us 
away to this encouragingly well-organized start. Everyone was in 
high spirits and the weather, after a spell of gloom, now reflected 
the general mood. 

Pressmen and other onlookers had come to see us off and there 
was much clicking of cameras as the long stream of coolies started 
off into the town on their way eastwards. Some of them carried 
loads which, although they conformed to the standard weight of 
60 lb., had a forbidding appearance. One of these was our metal 
ladder, each length of which measured six feet. An even more 
formidable monster was a shining aluminium trunk of coffin-like 
dimensions, in which Griffith Pugh's modest needs were housed. 
This object was treated with respect by the coolies and caused the 
rest of us some merriment. It is greatly to Griff's credit that he 
insisted, despite protests and jests on all sides, on having it trans- 
ported all the way to our Base Camp at the foot of the Icefall. 

Later that morning, I returned to the Embassy with Colonel 
Proud, the First Secretary, and three members of the party who 
were to travel with the second caravan. I heaved yet another of 
many sighs of relief; at last we were on the final stage of our 
approach to the mountain planning and preparation had given 
place to action. 

65 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 



CHAPTER SIX 

TO KHUMBU 

IT is tempting to linger over our journey through the lovely land 
of Nepal, to allow my pen to dawdle even as we sauntered lazily 
along in those clear and beautiful days last spring. If I take you 
at a brisker pace through this enchanted land, it is only because 
I must tell the story of Everest within a limited span of time and 
words. In London I had fretted mentally at the prospect of having 
to spend nearly three weeks before we should be able to get to 
grips with the more serious part of the programme. Now, with 
seventeen days' journey ahead of us, the feeling of urgency was 
dispelled by the simple beauty of the countryside, by the removal, 
for a time, of worry and the exasperation of paperwork; it was the 
most restful period I had known for many months. Our pro- 
gramme was carefully timed and we knew that there was no 
advantage in forcing the pace, even had this been practicable 
with so long a train of coolies ; we could appreciate the scenery 
to the full, indulge in our particular interests, be it birds, flowers 
or insects, and enjoy the company of one another. I think we 
were the more conscious of the happy present, in view of the 
more rugged prospect ahead of us ; at least, this was so in my 
case. 

Our track led us eastwards, thus cutting across the natural lines 
of drainage from the Himalayan watershed. We were moving 
athwart the grain of the land down into deep valleys, across 
foaming torrents or broader, swift-flowing rivers and up the far 
hillsides. This was big country, with long views across broad 
expanses of mountainside, vast, fertile and dotted with friendly 
cottages; the land had a warm and hospitable look. Along the 
track we passed plenty of local folk, the girls colourful with their 
big ear-rings, glass bangles and red bead neckjaces, the men close- 
cropped, drably and very scantily attired to suit the climate. On 
the dividing ridges we entered the lovely rhododendron belt, 
gnarled trees whose blossoms graduated with increasing height 
from scarlet to pink and, above 10,000 feet, to white and yellow. 
The forests were besprinkled with white magnolia flowers, heavily 

66 




TO KHUMBU 

scented, fallen from the trees. Mauve primulas bedecked the path 
and Himalayan bird life was a constant source of wonder. How 
can I describe such gems of feathered beauty as the sunbirds, the 
verditer flycatchers, redheaded and greenbacked tits and scarlet 
minivets? But the very names conjure up exotic and fanciful 
colour. Stobart and Gregory were always busy capturing these 
scenes. Daily they would be 
seen at vantage-points along 
the track, recording some 
striking view or taking an 
action picture of the caravan 
on the move. 

We found the people and 
their simple livelihoods a 
daily interest: the laborious 
hand-tilling of the soil along narrow strips of terrace carved into 
the hillsides; potatoes growing on ridges at 9,000 feet, hill re- 
clamation work such as is being done in my own country on the 
Welsh border. It was odd to see hayricks planted in the branches 
of trees. As we passed from one district to the next, the nature 
of the dwellings changed in one region were roofs with wooden 
slats weighted by boulders, as is done in many parts of the Alps, 
in other places we found them to be thatched or tiled with large 
flat stones. We would bathe and wash our clothes in the torrents, 
clear and, in that early season, without taint from glacial silt. 

On one of these occasions we nearly lost Charles Evans. He, 
Ed Hillary and I had gone to bathe in the Likhu Khola one 
morning, and Charles had stripped and plunged boldly into the 
current of a big pool. To our horror, Ed and I saw him disappear, 
sucked under by the drag of the torrent. He soon bobbed up but, 
worse still, was thrown violently against a submerged rock and 
again pulled beneath the seething waters. It all happened in a 
flash, but just as we were reacting sufficiently to move to his 
rescue, his sandy head reappeared and he, apparently unhurt, 
managed to strike out towards the far bank and safety. It was 
a near thing and an anxious moment for us all. 

As we went farther east, the views of the bigger peaks became 
more magnificent, less unreal. I remember how, on the fifth day's 
march, we had climbed steadily up to a pass at about 8,000 feet, 
there to be confronted with a stupendous view to the north. The 
great group of Gauri Sankar peaks, the highest among them, 

6? 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Menlungtse, over 23,500 feet, were startlingly close and fascina- 
ting in their abruptness. We spent a happy half-hour speculating 
on the most improbable routes, unburdened by any prospect of 
attempting them. Again, a few days farther on, standing upon yet 
another ridge, we sighted Everest, distant but unmistakable in the 
north-east, standing above a high intervening range of snow 
peaks, its summit picked out by a banner of cloud. The thrill was 
personal to each of us, but our joint excitement enhanced it; 
several of us climbed a tree to get a better view. 
We followed a leisurely routine. We would rise at 5.30 a.m. with 

the aid of a cup of tea. The whole 
caravan would be on the move soon 
after 6 a.m. Our kitchen staff would 
go ahead, with Thondup in the lead, 
to select a suitable place for breakfast. 
Thondup had the great attribute of 
knowing how to choose his staff. It 
included one or two of our best 
Sherpanis, in particular one stout, 
strong and cheerful girl whom we 
nicknamed " Auntie". Arriving at 
some delectable stream after two to 
three hours, we would make a pro- 
longed halt, and while the cook 
made his fire and prepared porridge, 
,eggs and bacon, we would swim and 
rest, some reading or writing, others 
watching birds, catching butterflies 
and insects. Camp would be reached 

in the early afternoon, allowing plenty of time to settle in, write 
diaries and dispatches and discuss future plans. 

These walks between stages and our leisure hours in camp 
worked wonders in our mutual relationship. Favourable first 
impressions warmed into firm friendships ; we quickly learned to 
appreciate one another, comparing our very varied backgrounds 
and interests, discussing common or contrasting experiences 
usually in the sphere of climbing mountains. I began to be pre- 
occupied again with plans and spent hours with Ed Hillary and 
Charles Evans our particular job among the allocation of tasks 
being planning talking over alternative methods of Assault and 
calculating their implications in terms of loads. At other times I 

68 




THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

was able to relax and observe my companions as we lay in our 
big Dome tent. 

There was usually a small group it might be Michael West- 
macott, George Band and Tom Bourdillon, exchanging views on 
some ultra-severe rock climb, usually it would be in North Wales. 
Tom Stobart would be recounting some thrilling if slightly im- 
probable experience with wild game in Africa, or giving a vivid 
description of the Far South. George Lowe might be speaking in 
serious mood about one of his many experiences and interests, not 
least among them the apparently unequal struggle between the 
unfortunate teachers in his country and their unruly and enter- 
prising pupils; or he might equally be competing with the spark- 
ling wit of the other George, to make us ache with laughter in his 
guise of expedition clown. In contrast to the remainder, Greg would 
be quietly reading, or talking abstruse photographic technicalities 
with Stobart; Wilf Noyce, no less unobtrusive, would undoubtedly 
be scribbling page upon page of closely written manuscript in one 
of his several large notebooks. Some day I hope that we shall be 
able to read the product of all he wrote in that tent, or behind 
some bush while breakfast was brewing. Then there were the 
incidents of the day to compare between us ; the butterflies which 
Mike Westmacott and I had caught or missed ; the grasshoppers 
which we had seen but for whose corpses there was no longer room 
in George Band's collecting-box, and the birds we had observed. 
Of course, at frequent intervals, there arose the ever-fascinating, 
if controversial, topic of food. This would arouse even Greg from 
his corner and provide Ed Hillary with his favourite topic it 
was all "tucker" to him. And into any of these groups we might 
hear a quiet intervention from Charles Evans, rounding off a jest, 
adding information to some discussion from his wide range of 
knowledge, always sound and sensible. They were a grand crowd. 

At the same time as getting to know each other, we also made 
friends with our Sherpas. An arrangement which seems to give 
mutual pleasure in Himalayan travel is that each man is cared 
for by a faithful follower, who brings him his tea in the morning, 
lays out his sleeping-bag at night, helps to carry his personal 
belongings and generally spoils his Sahib. (This Hindi word, 
denoting superior status, was used between us on the expedition, 
when necessary, simply to distinguish between members of the 
party and the Sherpas.) My own retainer was Pemba^a quiet and 
hefty lad with more than usually pronounced Mongolian features, 

70 



TO KHUMBU 

his thick tresses wound in a massive "bun" and worn on the side 
of his head. Pemba was by repute one of the stoutest-hearted of 
our Sherpa team and was a most likeable chap; we very soon 
understood each other well enough although he had no Hindi and 
I no Sherpa "Bat" his only language. 

One of the matters which had been impressed on me by our 
advisers at home was the importance of getting used to the wear- 
ing of oxygen masks; John Cotes, their designer, in particular, had 
insisted that only by constant practice over long periods would 
we gain enough confidence to use them successfully at high alti- 
tude. Others doubted if we would ever tolerate them. Accord- 
ingly we observed a daily routine of putting on our masks for 
some part of the route. Two of us slept in them one night. Those 
of us who had not worn the masks before were pleasantly sur- 
prised to find how little they affected our breathing, and how 
little discomfort they caused. There is no doubt that their subse- 
quent acceptability to everyone during operational use on the 
mountain was due to this and to the practice we put in from this 
early stage. 

About half-way along the route, Ed Hillary, Tenzing and I 
remained behind for a day to see the second party. It was good 
to find them, like ourselves, in fine form and to discuss future 
intentions. They had had a few excitements: the visit of a panther 
to their camp one night; a fight with "kukris" local knives 
between a Sherpa and a coolie, which provided Mike Ward with 
the first of many calls on his professional assistance. This latter 
instance was only one of the many problems with which Charles 
Wylie, aided by his Gurkha N.C.O.s, had to deal, for this second 
batch of coolies was less reliable than the first. And there had been 
sacrifices to science which I was glad to have avoided. Griff Pugh 
had subjected the party to a fearful ordeal known as a "maximum 
work test", consisting of rushing uphill at best possible speed until 
the lungs were bursting and then expiring air into an enormous 
bag until it swelled out like a balloon. It was satisfactory to learn 
that Griff, an interesting figure wearing pyjamas and sun glasses, 
his vivid shock of red hair topped by a deer-stalker's hat, had not 
spared himself the tortures which he inflicted on his guinea-pigs. 
We hurried forward to catch up the others lest we should be tested 
in our turn. 

On the ninth day of our march we crossed a pass at 9,000 feet 
and entered the district of Sola Khumbu. This country is the 

71 




THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

home of our Sherpas and we were at once aware of the changing 
character both of the landscape and of the inhabitants. The 
mountainsides became more precipitous and rugged, cultivation 
was patchy and cottages more scattered ; the scenery became first 
more Alpine and then more truly Himalayan. Equally marked 
was the changed appearance of the people. We recognized the 
pronounced Mongolian features, broad and 
bland, the heavier, more decorative clothing. 
This was Sherpaland. 

So far we had been moving steadily eastwards ; 
now, shortly after crossing a last ridge, the high- 
est of all nearly 1 2,000 feet we found our track 
leading us down, down to the deep gorge of the 
Dudh Kosi, its turbulent waters still a transparent 
blue-green, draining the area of Everest itself. 
This was the turning-point of our journey, for after crossing the 
river by an unstable temporary structure of bamboos, boulders and 
turf, we swung northwards up the east flank of the gorge, heading 
straight towards our final destination. We still had many thousands 
of feet to gain in height, for we had descended to about 5,000 feet, 
and the route, winding in and out of deep ravines and avoiding 
numerous impassable bluffs, was still a series of big ups and 
downs. 

We crossed and finally recrossed the torrent, too swift to permit 
safe bathing, and alternately climbed and descended the steep 
and forest-clad mountainside. Always we were walking through 
a colourful foreground of rhododendron and magnolia trees, 
interspersed with giant firs; early spring flowers and fragrant 
flowering shrubs bordered the path. The views, whether down the 
plunging slopes to the distant river, barely audible as it pursued 
its rocky way thousands of feet below, or skywards to the jagged 
crest of the enclosing ridges above which peeped the icy pinnacles 
of Everest's near neighbours, were alike breathtaking. In such 
stark grandeur it was sometimes a relief to reach some small ter- 
race on which stood a few Sherpa dwellings, low buildings of stone 
and stout timber, roofed with wooden slats, surrounded by 
patches of intensive and skilful cultivation. The fields were still 
bare, but they would soon be sprouting with potatoes, barley and 
maize. 

As we advanced up the valley, we could see the huge buttress 
of open, grassy hillsides at which the Dudh Kosi is joined by a 

72 



Ama Dablam from the Imja river, seen 
on the approach to Base Camp 



[73 



TO KHUMBU 

notable tributary, the Bhote Kosi. The Dudh Kosi, carrying the 
waters of melted ice from a wide arena of mountain country to the 
west of Everest, was the one we were to follow, but first we must 
climb the buttress dividing the two rivers to reach Namche 
Bazar, the chief village of Khumbu. Behind Namche rises a huge 
column of grey granite, over 19,000 feet. This is Khumbila; 
we eyed it with our minds on the rock peaks of Savoy and 
Bergell. 

We went up the broad path to Namche on 25th March. Many 
people were on the move, gay and bright-coloured folk, some of 
them carrying large bundles of thin parchment manufactured 
from the wood of indigenous shrubs. It was a grand, clear morn- 
ing, and we climbed for a time aside from the track in order to 
see the view up the Imja Khola. Suddenly, there was what we 
had been waiting to see Everest, now real in its nearness, its 
solid pyramid soaring above the long snow-fringed arete joining 
Lhotse and Nuptse. The first thing we noticed was that the upper 
rocks of our peak were black, almost denuded of snow. In our 
early mood of optimism, we drew over-hasty conclusions about the 
state of the mountain as it might be several weeks later. On 
calmer reflection, however, it could only be that the fierce winter 
wind was still in command high on the mountain, and was 
shielding it from the power of any human onslaught. However 
this might be, it was a cheering sight to find ourselves, almost un- 
expectedly, so close to the great peak. 

Just before entering the village, we were 
greeted by a small deputation, relatives of 
our men, waiting by the path with a barrel 
of milky-coloured chang, a beer brewed from 
rice, and a large teapot of Tibetan tea, its 
spout and handle decorated with coloured 
paper. This delightful welcome, mainly for 
the Sherpas but also for ourselves, is typical 
of these friendly people. 

At Namche we were surprised to find a small wireless station 
manned by Indian Government officials. Characteristic of the 
kindness of the Indian Ambassador in Kathmandu were his in- 
structions to Mr. Tiwari, who was in charge of this post, that he 
should assist us by handling urgent messages. We had reason to 
be most grateful for this concession on several occasions during 
our stay. 

73 




THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

The final day of the march was also the climax to the mounting 
pleasure indeed, the thrills which we had been experiencing 
since the day we left the Valley of Nepal. Again, a little party of 
friends and relations awaited us, this time from the neighbouring 
village of Khumjung. Moreover, a pony, dejected-looking but 
nonetheless an acceptable conveyance, had been sent from the 
Monastery to carry me up the final slopes. I am no horseman, but 
this ride up the well-worn track was sheer joy in the clear, spark- 
ling air. My senses were intoxicated by the fantastic surroundings ; 




Thyangboche must be one of the most beautiful places in the 
world. The height is well over 12,000 feet. The Monastery build- 
ings stand upon a knoll at the end of a big spur, which is flung out 
across the direct axis of the Imja river. Surrounded by satellite 
dwellings, all quaintly constructed and oddly mediaeval in ap- 
pearance, it provides a grandstand beyond comparison for the 
finest mountain scenery that I have ever seen, whether in the 
Himalaya or elsewhere. Beyond a foreground 'of dark firs, lichen- 
draped birch and rhododendrons, now dwarfed by altitude to 
bush size, tower immense ice peaks in every quarter. The Everest 
group bars the head of the valley, the 25,ooo-foot wall of Nuptse 
falling in sheer precipice some 7,000 feet from the summit ridge 
to the glaciers flowing at its base. 

74 



TO KHUMBU 

Stupendous as this scene is, the eye is even more drawn to a 
giant fang which stands half-right, in the middle distance, lean- 
ing awkwardly towards the valley. This mountain, Ama Dablam, 
rises to 22,300 feet and appears utterly inaccessible, outrivalling 
the most sensational aspects of the Matterhorn and bearing com- 
parison with the Mustagh Tower in the far Karakoram. 

Directly above the Monastery spur, to the south-east, are twin 
peaks of delicately fluted ice, some of their spires sharp as needles 
and almost transparent against the blue sky. These are Kangtega 
and Thamserku, another pair of 22,000 footers. To the north- 
west, a mountain of perfect, arrow-like symmetry rose at the head 
of the Dudh Kosi, while south-westwards was another barrier of 
ice and rock, stretching for several miles at over 20,000 feet: 
Kwangde. 

We stood, spellbound by this wonderful scene, upon an open 
grassy alp on which yaks were grazing peacefully an ideal spot 
for our first Base Camp. Life was very good. 



75 



CHAPTER SEVEN 

REHEARSALS 

OU R Base Camp at Thyangboche was a colourful and active 
scene during the three days following our arrival there. 
The period between the end of the march out and the beginning 
of "acclimatization" was intended to be restful, but we had very 
little leisure; there was so much to arrange and plan, and it 
was important on no account to encroach on the many other 
activities leading up to the target date of readiness to climb 
the mountain I5th May. The programme was in fact a 
very full one. Let me give you a glimpse of this scene from the 
diary for s8th March. 

Sandwiched between the arrival yesterday of the second 
caravan and the departure tomorrow of the first of our three 
training parties, it is a particularly busy day. The coolies have 
been paid off and are now on their way back to their villages. 
Their loads are neatly stacked, some according to commodities, 
others depending on the colour stripe which denotes at what stage 
they are to be opened. Two very prominent piles are the food 
boxes stacked in a long rectangular wall, and those containing the 
oxygen which have been roped off in a separate enclosure. Tenz- 
ing has encircled the whole area of the camp with climbing rope so 
as to leave us undisturbed by the many curious onlookers, some 
of them local folk from the Monastery buildings, others travellers 
with loads, passing along the near-by track. 

For the first time, we have pitched all our tents, about twenty 
of them of various shapes, sizes and colours: three miniature 
ones intended for a final camp; orange ones for Advance Base 
and above ; yellow ones of similar pattern to be used as far as the 
entrance to the Western Cwm; a distinctive Swiss tent which is 
Tenzing's temporary home, and two bigger dome-shaped tents, 
one used by the Sherpas and the other by ourselves. Beside some 
of them, pink, brown and olive sleeping-bags are spread out to 
air. In one far corner of the compound, Thondup has set up his 
cookhouse, its walls made of packing-cases and roofed over with 
a tarpaulin. Among his many minions are the Shcrpanis, who are 




THE MARCH-OUT 
In the Dudh Kosi 




AT THYANGBOCHE 

The Monastery 




AT 1 H V AX (i HO CHi 

The Everest group 




TAWEGHE 

A view of one of the peaks 



PT.ATF 16 



REHEARSALS 

busy, some cleaning cooking-pots or mending garments, others 
combing and plaiting each other's long black tresses. 

We ourselves have finished a leisurely breakfast as the sun was 
melting the frost off the grass (for we are at nearly 13,000 feet, 
and it is still cold at night), seated on packing-cases around a table 
improvised from Tom Bourdillon's oxygen boxes. Surprisingly, 
most of us are still more or less clean shaven. This is due to Tom 
Bourdillon's foresight in providing some clipper-type razors, for 
too much hair on the face would cause leakages in our oxygen 
masks. 

Now the day's work is in progress in earnest and there are a 
number of little groups engaged on different jobs. To some, Tom 
Bourdillon, with Mike Ward to help him, is giving a lesson in the 
Open-Circuit oxygen, and his pupils are assembling their sets 
prior to doing their first trial a few hundred feet up the hillside 
behind the camp. Ed Hillary is the centre of another party, 
mostly composed of Sherpas, as he demonstrates Cooke's specially 
adapted Primus stoves, aided by Tenzing as interpreter. George 
Band is unpacking the portable wireless sets; he is to teach us 
their use in the afternoon. 

At the opposite end of the camp from the cookhouse, our 
sectional ladder has been put together by Michael Westmacott, 
who has suspended it between two large boulders. There is an 
alarming sag in the middle, but it seems to be bearing the weight 
of his Sherpa assistants as they crawl along it, gingerly at first, 
then with increasing confidence. In another place there are neat 
piles of mountain kit, laid out by Charles Evans and Wilfrid^ 
Noyce clothing and equipment which we are to receive at the 
appropriate time. Some seem already to have received their issue, 
for here is one dressed in a pale green eiderdown jacket, another 
in a plum-coloured sweater; a few arc even walking on the turf 
with crampons strapped experimentally to their new mountain 
boots. Moving from one group to the next is Tom Stobart with 
his cine camera, followed by Sherap, a comic and toothless old 
man who is a lama or priest. He is now also an expert in setting up 
Tom's tripod and has even some ambition to shoot film himself. 

All this, and more, is going on and much else remains to be 
done. I have the cares of making up the accounts and checking 
the cash; I have a dispatch to write for The Times and plans to 
consider for some later phase. Charles Wylie and Tenzing have 
numerous problems on their hands: the allotment of Sherpas to 
A.E. 7 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

each training party and the engagement of others, to complete our 
High Altitude team and to work in the Icefall; mail runners to 
organize in conjunction with Greg, who is in charge of our postal 
arrangements, as well as co-ordination of photography. George 
Band has to distribute rations to the acclimatization parties. A 
sheep has been purchased and the Sherpas, as good Buddhists, 
will not kill it, so George Lowe has offered his experience as a 
butcher. 

The arrival of an expedition invariably attracts the halt and 
the maimed, and Mike Ward has many "cases" to examine. There 
are teeth to be pulled, sore eyes, ulcers, fevers and obscure 
stomach pains to be cured. Nor must I overlook Griff Pugh, who 
is setting up shop in his physiological tent and is anxious to weigh 
us on the big scales used for assessing our loads, puncture us with 
needles and drive us down the hill to a starting-point for his 
Maximum Work test. 

That afternoon we paid our first official visit to the Monastery 
at the invitation of the monks. There was a simple ceremony to 
perform on arrival, the laying of scarves on the thrones of the 
present Abbot he, a young boy, was away in Tibet and of his 
deceased predecessor. Coached in this formality by Tenzing, I 
also presented to the acting Abbot our expedition flag. We were 
briefly shown round the sanctuary, after which a meal was served 
in an upper room. Seated with Charles Wylie and Tenzing beside 
our host, a rotund figure robed in faded red, I questioned him 
about the Yeti better known to us as die "Abominable Snow- 
man". The old dignitary at once warmed to this subject. Peering 
out of the window on to the meadow where our tents were pitched, 
he gave a most graphic description of how a Yeti had appeared 
from the surrounding thickets a few years back in winter, when 
the snow lay on the ground. This beast, loping along sometimes 
on his hind legs and sometimes on all fours, stood about five feet 
high and was covered with grey hair, a description which we have 
heard from other eyewitnesses. Oblivious of his guests, the Abbot 
was reliving a sight imprinted on his memory as he stared across 
at the scene of this event. The Yeti had stopped to scratch the 
old monk gave a good imitation, but went on longer than he need 
have done to make his point had picked up snow, played with 
it and made a few grunts again he gave us a convincing render- 
ing. The inhabitants of the Monastery had meanwhile worked 
themselves into a great state of excitement, and instructions were 



REHEARSALS 

given to drive off the unwelcome visitor. Conch shells were blown 
and the long traditional horns sounded. The Yeti had ambled 
away into the bush. 

We listened, fascinated by this tale, and continued to be inter- 
ested, if slightly less convinced, when we heard other and more 
circumstantial stories of how, for instance, a whole tribe of 
Yetis, after making themselves unpopular in Tibet by mimicking 
the habits of their human cousins, had been massacred by them ; 
this resulted in a decree by the then Government of that country 
that Yetis would in future be protected by law. This story is 
curious in view of the Buddhist scruples against taking life. In 
truth this slaughter of the Yetis was a dastardly deed; the 
creatures must have allowed their well-known sense of humour 
to run away with them and have carried their practical joking a 
little too far. 

It is interesting to note here that, under the beneficent influ- 
ence of the monks, the whole valley of the Imja is a sanctuary for 
wild life. We were able to observe the results of this around our 
camp, where kasturi or musk deer, monal pheasants and ram 
chikor giant Himalayan partridges wandered unconcernedly 
not far from the tents. 

Before leaving, I was requested to contribute some thousands 
of rupees towards the repair of the Monastery roof. As I had sat 
up most of the previous night vainly trying to square the remain- 
ing contents of our cash box with my latest budget, I had to 
temporize, but it seemed an opportunity to counter this with a 
request from our side. We had been intrigued by the painted devil 
masks in the sanctuary, and I asked that on our return we might 
be allowed to witness a ceremonial Lama dance. This was agreed 
to and the Abbot announced his intention of blessing our party 
before we left for Everest. 

We now had a period of about three weeks until soth April 
in which to train and otherwise prepare ourselves for Everest. 
It will be remembered that the main purpose of this period was 
to get used gradually to increasing height to acclimatize and 
that we also planned to practise with both types of oxygen 
apparatus and get accustomed to other equipment. The pro- 
gramme was to be carried out in two halves, each of about eight 
days, with a break in which we would reassemble at Thyangboche, 
rest and reorganize before going out again. We divided ourselves 
into three parties, which would be looked after respectively by 

79 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Ed Hillary, Charles Evans and myself; the composition would, for 
obvious reasons, be changed in the second half. Different areas 
were chosen for each party. Everyone was looking forward keenly 
to this "running-in" process, for we expected to fit in some 
serious climbing on the lower peaks and passes in the vicinity: 
moreover, small parties tend to be more intimate and friendly 
than large ones. 

Charles's group was the first to leave, on sgth March. It was 
made up of himself, Tom Bourdillon, George Band and Michael 
Westmacott. They were to use both the Closed- and Open- 
Circuit apparatus and had, therefore, a particularly full pro- 
gramme. The rest of us were to start off on the following day, and 
all were to return to Base by 6th April. 

Just before the departure of the first party, Tom Bourdillon 
made a most unwelcome discovery in the oxygen department. 
No less than fifteen of our forty-eight training bottles were "flat", 
having leaked at some stage in transport. It was all too evident 
that here was a crisis which would inevitably affect, and might 
well prejudice our plans. The training oxygen bottles standard 
wire-bound R.A.F. cylinders were to be used during the forth- 
coming rehearsal period and also in the Assault; we must either 
curtail the oxygen training or modify our Assault planning. There 
was an even more sinister possibility, namely that other bottles of 
a similar pattern, included in the second consignment, had suf- 
fered from the same defect. I had just received a wireless message 
that Jimmy Roberts was in Kathmandu and that the consign- 
ment of Assault sets had been flown up from India according to 
plan; he was due to start for Thyangbochc almost immediately. 
Tom drafted an urgent message designed to find out about the 
state of Robcrts's cargo, and this was dispatched by runner with 
all haste to the wireless station at Namchc Bazar. 

It was only a week later, when I was on my way back from the 
first acclimatization period, that our anxiety was removed. 
Roberts had already left Kathmandu and was, in fact, about to 
start on the second stage of his journey when the message arrived 
at the British Embassy. Colonel Proud had dashed out to stop 
him. A halt was made for a whole day while the sixty-odd crates 
were laboriously opened and their contents examined. The result 
of this frantic emergency action was reassuring; it was just as well, 
for there could scarcely have been any hope of getting replace- 
ments from England by I5th May. 

80 



REHEARSALS 

The weather was perfect at the time we left Base Camp and 
everyone was in high spirits at the thought that we were moving 
off at last, approaching and equipped for the high mountains. 
Our respective areas were widely separated, for there was no lack 
of suitable terrain. Charles Evans had already gone up to explore 
a suspected hidden valley beneath the southern precipice of Ama 
Dablam; Ed intended to take his men up the unknown glen of 
Chola Khola in the north-west and, if he could discover nego- 
tiable passes, to make a complete girdle of the elegant Taweche 
peaks. He had with him Wilfrid Noyce, Michael Ward and 
Charles Wylie. As luck would have it, Ed himself developed a 
temperature and sore throat at the last moment and had to re- 
main in camp for two more days, handing over his responsibilities 
to Wilfrid. 

My party, consisting of Gregory, Lowe and Tenzing, was 
bound for the Imja basin, straight up the valley in the direc- 
tion of the Nuptse-Lhotse wall. Our original hope was to find a 
suitable training-ground on the northern side of Ama Dablam, 
but later we changed direction and instead turned left at the head 
of the valley to follow the near bank of a glacier flowing beneath 
the tremendous barrier of Nuptse. That evening we camped in 
the little walled meadow of a farmstead in the village of Ding- 
boche, at a height of well over 14,000 feet. We were now directly 
under the north-west face of Ama Dablam, so sheer that only ice 
adhered to the smooth rock precipice; we noticed that the ice 
slopes on the upper part of the face were inclined at an angle 
unimaginable in the Alps. The rock on this, and other peaks 
around us, was composed largely of a beautiful white granite, so 
pale indeed that it was not easy to distinguish between ice and 
rock. Equally awe-inspiring was the peak of Taweche across the 
way, which is built in the same fantastic style as Ama Dablam; 
from Thyangboche we had only been able to see a part of its 
South-West ridge, bulging with outsize cornices. 

Dingboche is inhabited only in summer, when peasants come 
up the valley to cultivate these rich alluvial fields, growing excel- 
lent potatoes and barley the latter to be roasted and ground 
into a fine flour known as tsampa, which is the staple food of the 
Sherpas. A regular event each year is the blessing given by some 
guest Lama to the fortune of the harvest, and a special house is 
maintained for him, situated high up on the mountainside. This 
ceremony was due on the day following our stay there. 

81 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

There followed five very happy and full days, during which, 
from our camp at 17,000 feet beside the Nuptse glacier, Greg, 
George, Tenzing and I, with five High Altitude porters, carried 
through our appointed programme of oxygen practice, acclimati- 
zation to altitude, trials of the High Altitude rations and inci- 
dental exploration. Apart from one evening of snowfall, the 
weather was fine and clear. An unforgettable memory is that 
great facade of Nuptse which frowned upon us in dominating 
nearness during every moment of our stay. As I write, I can see 
every detail of that precipice, the astonishing whiteness of its 
granite rock with the occasional overlay of ice, topped by the 
broad band of darker sedimentary rock above which was the 
narrow crest of snow, like a massive section of Christmas cake 
half-eaten. 

We chose a suitable peak up which we picked out an "oxygen 
run" and made individual ascents which were carefully timed. 
This was most enlightening and encouraging. It must be remem- 
bered that we had come straight up to an unaccustomed height 
and that a comparatively small climb in any direction would 
take us into the neighbourhood of 19,000 feet; at this early stage, 
therefore, the motive power or altitude-reducing properties of 
oxygen could be expected to show their value. We reckoned our 
"run" was about 1,700 feet in height, and we found that our 
average time for the course was fifty minutes, or little less than 
2,000 feet an hour. This timing is good at a lower level, but with- 
out oxygen would have been far beyond our capacity at that 
height and at that stage of our acclimatization. A pleasing dis- 
covery about the use of oxygen was that it gave a feeling of well- 
being. Even encumbered by a mask, it was possible to take an 
interest in the climbing and enjoy the scenery. 

We also climbed an attractive little peak of about 19,400 feet, 
which stood on the opposite side of the glacier from our camp site. 
At Tenzing's suggestion we named it Chukhung Peak, after the 
pasturage of that name in the valley below. Dwarfed by the tre- 
mendous precipices of Nuptse, it was none the less a fine ice climb 
on its northern side. We camped at the head of a little glacier, at 
slightly under 19,000 feet, and made two attempts on a rickety 
ridge of rotten ice before eventually climbing it up its steep north 
face a lot of step cutting was involved, which provided a good 
test of our fitness. It was on this occasion that I had my first 
chance of climbing with Tenzing; it showed me not only what a 

82 



REHEARSALS 

capable mountaineer he is, but also that he was, even at that time, 
fitter than any of us. It augured well for the future. 

The best indications of our state of health were the maintenance 
of body weight in spite of the fairly strenuous programme which 
we had just completed I had actually put on five pounds and 
our gargantuan appetites. Reading through diaries before writing 
this chapter, I have been struck by the gloating references to 
menus, especially one eaten on return to Base Camp for the rest 
period: "a lovely and terrific cake with raisins in it" ... "a magni- 
ficent curry followed by rice pudding and tinned fruit out of the 
luxury box." By contrast with these, but indirectly making the 
same point, another writer is plaintive about our necessarily 
meagre High Altitude diet: "It was hardly a fair test, as we 
are all as hungry as hunters at 18,000 feet, whereas the rations 
were designed for over 23,000 feet, when one doesn't feel like 
eating at all. Breakfast at present is porridge and grapenuts and 
milk and tea, and supper is pemmican and soup and cocoa or 
coffee." Nor had we found any difficulty in following Griff 
Pugh's advice to drink an average of six or seven pints of liquid 
each day. 

Although we were eating and drinking well during this first 
period of fitness training, sleeping came less easily, a sure sign that 
we were unaccustomed to height. Our laboured, uneven breathing 
caused us to wake suddenly, gasping and with a choking sensation 
it is known as "Cheyne Stokes" breathing. We had been sup- 
plied with a variety of sleeping pills by Michael Ward. They were 
distinguished by their different colouring, red, green and yellow. 
In most cases, these certainly sent us to sleep, but it was some time 
before we settled on our own particular preference. I remember 
one of my companions tripping badly over his words at breakfast 
one morning, as though he had been at the bottle even at that 
early hour. 

Our party went back by the way it had come and returned to 
our First Base Camp on the afternoon of 5th April. It was inter- 
esting in the following break to compare the experiences of other 
parties with our own. Charles Evans's party had dispelled the 
belief in a hidden valley, but they had made up for this by reach- 
ing three passes one of them, which they named Mera Col, about 
19,600 feet in height. Tom Bourdillon had made a lone ascent of 
a ig,ooo-foot rock peak. Charles's party was now partly trained in 
both types of oxygen apparatus, and he himself had been collect- 

83 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

ing photographic and theodolite data for an eventual map of this 
fascinating country. I had the impression then, which was 
strengthened later, that the two newcomers to the Himalaya, 
George Band and Michael Wcstmacott, had found the altitude 
telling on them more than the rest of us. However this may be, 
they were then, and remained throughout, ready to shoulder 
every task and enjoy each opportunity which came their way. 

Ed Hillary, recovered from his indisposition, had hurried on to 
join his party soon after they had set themselves up in the Chola 
Khola. In some respects they had enjoyed the most completely 
successful period of all, for not only had they completed a circular 
tour around the Taweches, crossing a high pass in doing so, but 
they had made no less than two first ascents, one of their peaks 
being an elegant mountain which proved to be a welcome test of 
their skill and experience of ice work. Known locally as KangCho, 
its height is over 20,000 feet. All had enjoyed experiences in the 
use of oxygen similar to ours. 

Sitting round a huge camp fire that evening, I experienced a 
great feeling of contentment about our progress thus far. Our 
objectives had been achieved exactly as we had planned them, for 
we had all succeeded in climbing to the maximum height attain- 
able in that early season and had done so without distress. It is in 
fact unlikely that peaks of 20,000 feet have ever been climbed at 
this time of year. There was unmistakable confidence in the oxy- 
gen equipment, both in its design and its effects. Moreover, it was 
no less obvious that everybody was enjoying himself in the same 
way as if it were an Alpine climbing holiday; this was important, 
for there would be plenty of tedium later on. Morale was evi- 
dently high. Most satisfactory of all was to observe how our 
friendship and confidence in each other had increased. We had 
been together on the rope and had had reason to respect each 
other's prowess. We had lived for a few days in the conditions of 
a high camp and found the company not only tolerable but 
pleasant. Around the blazing logs that night, with the stars wink- 
ing and the air frosty, there was an atmosphere of relaxation and 
simple happiness which gave me assurance of our combined 
strength when the testing time should come. 



Although it gave us a welcome physical respite, our second stay 
at Thyangboche seemed to be even busier than the first. For the 



86'so' 



Milts 

2 



Routes 



Hunts party, first n 

a n , second 
Evans' , first 
'imii 



28 



2 l 

50 




28 



2 7, 

S 



R.ojal (geographical Society 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

majority, this would be the last time we should be returning to 
this place until our main task was over. About a fortnight would 
elapse before the whole party would gather together again. This 
meeting would be at the new Base Camp, to be sited as high as 
practicable up the Khumbu glacier. So we had to take a longer 
view of detailed plans, both for each group on its next journey 
and for the expedition as a whole. 

Problems of rationing and equipment loomed larger than be- 
fore. I had reshuffled our names so as to bring about completely 
new combinations as far as possible; the new parties were also 
constituted with a view to the particular tasks next to be per- 
formed. Earlier planning had given too little importance to the 
Khumbu Icefall. Our discussions left me in no doubt that more 
time must be given to a thorough reconnaissance of this and to the 
preparation of a route up it, if we were not to lose precious days 
later and risk being late to seize a possible weather opportunity 
in mid-May. One party was therefore composed for this task in 
the second acclimatization period. It consisted of Ed Hillary, 
whose previous knowledge of the Icefall would be invaluable; 
George Lowe, by virtue of his outstanding icecraft; George Band 
and Michael Westmacott, the latter especially because of his 
responsibility for the structural equipment, which was expected 
to be required on this section of the route. He would be able to 
send messages back to Thyangboche for any local materials, such 
as tree trunks, which might be needed for bridging, and which 
must be procured before we left the tree level. 

Then there was the need to instruct an elite band of Sherpas 
in the use of oxygen. This had not been attempted before, but it 
formed an important part of the plan that six or more of these men 
should be able to climb above the South Col with the summit 
parties. Oxygen would immeasurably increase the chances of 
their doing so, and Charles Wylie, after hearing reports on those 
who had been with each party in the first period, was able to 
select the seven best Sherpas. In order to combine this task of 
instruction with that of closing our present Base, linking up with 
the oxygen convoy now approaching under Jimmy Roberts, 
"signing on" our Low Altitude Sherpas and bringing all our re- 
maining gear up to the new site, I requested the two Charleses, 
Greg and Tenzing to cut short their training period and return 
to Thyangboche in time to fulfil this last task. 

My own party, this time consisting of Michael Ward, Tom 

86 



REHEARSALS 

Bourdillon and Wilfrid Noyce, was to join the Icefall team at the 
end of this period, which was due to be completed by 1 7th April. 
After three days' rest we would continue the work in the Icefall 
from the point reached by the others. 

One of our Sherpas added to our worries at this time by foment- 
ing trouble among the others. Complaints were made about food, 
clothing and tents. This man had proved so unsatisfactory from 
the beginning that we had already reached the point of deciding 
to get rid of him. This affair clinched his fate as far as Tenzing 
and I were concerned, and he left promptly the next morning. 
His behaviour throughout was in marked contrast with that of 
the rest, and the grievances which he aired, where they were not 
deliberate fabrications, were in each case easy to rectify, but he 
had threatened to upset the happy relationship which existed 
within the whole party. With his departure, our men were quickly 
their smiling selves once more. 

On gth April we again found ourselves at Dingboche, this time 
in company with Charles Evans's party. There was now a com- 
plete break in the blissful continuity of clear days; we awoke 
next morning to find about four inches of snow on the ground, 
with clouds threatening that more would follow. In these con- 
ditions, Charles decided to stay at the village and carry out his 
indoctrination of the Sherpas in the mysteries of oxygen from that 
place. I watched the beginning of this ; Tenzing and Wylie were 
the teachers. There had been some doubts about the prospects of 
giving the Sherpas confidence in this strange auxiliary to uphill 
movement, if indeed we could teach them to understand the 
mechanism. But it proved a great success in both respects. Climb- 
ing in pairs at intervals throughout that day, all were delighted, 
Ang Temba even going so far as to voice the view that using oxy- 
gen made it like going downhill. 

My party decided to carry on up the valley despite the weather 
conditions; our destination was some point still to be selected on 
the bank of the Imja glacier, behind and on the north-east side 
of Ama Dablam. We had a trying time ploughing up in the wet, 
new snow, and eventually camped at about 16,500 feet, beneath 
the north ridge of this astonishing mountain. It was cold and 
bleak, and snow soon began to fall again. After a poor second 
day, the weather improved and we were able to climb a fine- 
looking rock needle which, although overshadowed by its huge 
neighbour Ama Dablam, dominates in its turn the pasturage of 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Chukhung, where it is known locally as Ambu Gyabjen. Its height 
must be about 19,500 feet. 

I was particularly keen to have further experience of the Closed- 
Circuit apparatus, which was still experimental in the sense that 
I wanted further trials to be continued before deciding on our 
tactical use of oxygen in the Assault. I found it easy to wear and 
control, and there was no questioning the amount of boost it 
gave. But its weight normally about 35 Ib. effectively kept 
down the speed, and in these comparatively warm conditions, the 
heat it generated made it uncomfortable and detracted from the 
pleasure and case of climbing. While Tom and I were thus en- 
gaged, Mike and Wilfrid were trying out the Open-Circuit equip- 
ment over a longer period than had been attempted hitherto; 
keeping on their sets for over five hours, they reported that they 
had found the test by no means unpleasant. 

After three days, during which we also trained the Sherpas in 
ice work among the seracs of a wide arena of glaciers flowing 
from a fine ridge on the opposite side of the combe in which we 
were camping, the party descended to the valley. Crossing it, we 
climbed the hillsides to the north-west, making for a col which was 
known to be used in the summer by yak-herds travelling between 
the Imja and the Khumbu pastures. By this we reached the left 
bank of the Khumbu glacier on I4th April. From the Pass, whose 
height is about 18,000 feet, Bourdillon, Noyce and Ward went on 
to climb a 2O,ooo-foot snow peak whose name we discovered later 
to be Pokalde. I was having great difficulty with breathing that 
day and for that reason had not accompanied them. This trouble 
was later diagnosed by Ward to be incipient pleurisy. Thanks to 
his prompt and skilful care, I had fully recovered from this a few 
days later. 

Next day we followed the east bank of the glacier upwards 
until we could cross the ice-stream to the far side so as to reach a 
track leading to the head of the valley. 

It was a glorious walk and an exciting prospect lay before us. 
At long last we had turned the corner and were heading directly 
towards Everest. The exacting months of planning and prepara- 
tion, the long approach journeys from England and -New Zealand, 
and now the training period these were all behind us. The big 
adventure was about to begin. Moreover, we could see before us 
mountains closely associated in our minds with the great moun- 
tain ; there was Pumori, a sharp, graceful cone of ice and snow, 

88 



REHEARSALS 

and beyond it the two Lingtren peaks, both climbed during an 
earlier reconnaissance of Everest in 1935. As we dodged amid the 
wilderness of colossal granite boulders bestrewing the glacier, we 
sighted another peak made famous by pre-war expeditions: 
Changtse, or the North Peak of Everest, standing above the North 
Col, where on no less than seven occasions British parties had 
established a camp in their reconnaissances or attempts to climb 
Everest from that side. We saw it through a saddle, the Lho La, 
which we knew to be the point at which the Khumbu glacier 
makes its sensational swing after plunging out of the Western 
Cwm; the foot of this gap must therefore be about the place 
intended for our Base Camp. 

An air of expectancy remained with us all that day. By the 
early afternoon, we had reached a shallow glacial lake between 
the moraine and the mountainside beneath the southern rampart 
of Pumori, where the Swiss had made their Base Camp last 
spring; stone circles forming low walls or "sangars" had evidently 
served as windbreaks for their tents. This, Lake Camp, was to be 
our resting-place until we moved up to join Ed's party for work 
in the Iccfall. 




CHAPTER EIGHT 

ICEFALL 

HILL ARY' S party for the second acclimatization period was 
much larger than Charles Evans's or mine. He had with him 
Pugh and Stobart with their considerable specialized baggage, in 
addition to the equipment metal and rope ladders; hoisting 
gear; quantities of rope required to prepare a route up the Ice- 
fall as far as the Western Cwm. Moreover, he would have to be 
self-contained in rations until the last party came up from 
Thyangboche on 22nd April. He must also have food for my party 
when we joined him. To carry his loads he had thirty-nine coolies 
in addition to five Sherpas, making his party fifty in all. 

Soon after leaving us, he ran into the spell of bad weather 
which had overtaken us at Dingboche; for him, this was serious 
in view of his numbers and the urgency to get started on work in 
the Icefall. What was more, snow had not been expected before 
he reached his destination, and we had not thought it necessary 
to provide his coolies with special equipment, such as boots and 
goggles. Ploughing on in their felt boots through the heavy snow, 
his caravan arrived in a very wretched condition at the end of the 
second day; cold, wet and with many cases of snow-blindness. 
There was nothing for it but to make the best of the conditions 
that night. They were short of tents and though a surprising 
number of the party, which included a good many women, 
squeezed into the available shelters, others had to sleep out in the 
snow in the shelter of boulders. But these Khumbu folk are tough 
and proud of it. All but a few, and those the worst affected by 
snow-blindness, were cheerfully ready to start next morning. 
After sending down the bad cases, Ed Hillary and his party impro- 
vised protection for the eyes from cardboard, black tape and small 
pieces of coloured celluloid. Thus provided, this gallant band of 
laden carriers pressed on to their destination, none the worse for 
their appalling hardships and making no complaints. 

Passing the Lake Camp they continued up-glacier, following a 
line of cairns built by the Swiss last year, along a broad stony 
avenue in the centre of the ice, hemmed in by a strange forest of 

90 



ICEFALL 

miniature ice peaks on either hand. These pinnacles, some of 
them rising nearly 100 feet in height, result from intense solar 
heat, which also produces other curious effects. Boulders great and 
small would be seen raised high in the air, perched delicately 
on the very point of an ice needle, marking an earlier level of 
the glacial surface. It was an odd, unreal scene, not without a 
certain beauty. But we were now launched into an unfriendly, 
dead world, its attractions those of a lunar landscape, for after 
leaving the moraine above the Lake Gamp no grass grows, 
nothing lives. Its structure is also strange. No one making his way 
up the Khumbu glacier could divine the presence of the Icefall. 
He would even be inclined to doubt the evidence of a map. The 
ice-stream seems to spring from a valley head, enclosed by 
Lingtren and Nuptse, between which is a promising looking pass, 
the Lho La. Thus contained by an apparently unbroken high 
ridge, it would seem that the only way to the foot of Everest must 
be over the outlet of the Lho La and on towards the North Col, 
in Tibet. The North Peak, framed by this col, beckoned us there. 
Many times we were to make this journey between these glacier 
camps and our Base, and always I would try in vain to pick out 
the shoulder of Nuptse's west ridge, beyond which lay the hidden 
breach. It was simply invisible from below, a freak of mountain 
architecture. 




Close under the Lho La, but at a safe distance from the tell- 
tale fan of pulverized ice and rock avalanche debris at its foot, 
they found the remnants of the Swiss Camp I. There they dis- 
covered a welcome stock of juniper scrub for firewood, sufficient 
at least to avoid burning paraffin for cooking during their stay. 
The site was not an ideal one, but it had the important advantage 
of being close to the foot of the great Icefall; they had only to 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

climb a minor ice-hill behind the tents in order to enjoy a full 
view of their problem. Camp was established on I2th April. he 
Icefall reconnaissance party were ready to set about their impor- 
tant task. 

In an earlier chapter, I described this staircase leading to the 
first floor of the great mansion that is Everest from a glaciological 
angle, that of an ice-stream falling steeply over an underlying 
glacis of rock. Now I want to show it from another viewpoint 
the scene as we saw it. After its long, level journey from the ram- 
parts of Lhotse, invisible from here, the summit ridge of Nuptse 
descends in a sudden swoop towards the upper Khumbu glen; in 
fact, towards the point where we are standing, just above the Base 
Camp. But it never reaches the valley floor, for it has been sliced 
away by some cataclysm at over 2,000 feet above. Nothing re- 
mains but sheer precipice, overhung with thick slices of blue ice 
more than 100 feet in depth, which peel off in massive slabs at 
intervals during each day. The flank of this buttress forms, as we 
are viewing it, the right-hand containing wall of the Icefall. The 
other is the west ridge of Everest, no less imposing, which descends 
in broad, smooth slabs to the Lho La, now seen over our left 
shoulder. Squeezed between the shoulders of Everest and Nuptse, 
the ice resembles a gigantic cascade, pouring in leaping waves and 
eddies over submerged boulders towards us. Almost, you might 
expect to hear the roar of that immense volume of foaming water 
which, after flowing peacefully to the brink of the cliff above, is 
now plunging down with terrifying power. But it has been 
gripped by the intense cold, frozen into immobility, a silent thing, 
its force restrained. But not quite. For this labyrinth of broken ice 
is moving, its surface changing, if not at the pace of water, at 
least at a speed which makes it a perilous problem to surmount. 

Viewed with the more accustomed eye of the climber, the 
problem falls naturally into two parts. There is a steep lower 
section, on which there has obviously been some fairly recent and 
major change in the ice, for over a considerable area it has been 
shattered into a maze of monstrous ice boulders. At the top of 
this huge step, at least i ,000 feet high, there is a shelf where the 
general angle lies back briefly before rising again to the lip of the 
Western Cwm. This upper section is very foreshortened and 
partly hidden by the lower step, but it gives, even from here, the 
impression of being less broken up, the lines of cleavage more 
clear-cut and on a bigger scale. At both sides of the Icefall are 

92 




Everest seen above the Lhotse-Nuptse wall from Pangboche village 

[93 



ICEFALL 

troughs, which in themselves might give passable routes, but so 
menaced are both by the ice avalanches from the enclosing 
ridges that to use them would be suicidal; a way must be found 
roughly up the middle, .through the area where the ice is most 
disfigured and chaotic. 

The Icefall party set to work under considerable difficulties. 
Immediately on arrival, George Lowe fell sick ; their strength was 
further weakened a few days later, when Michael Westmacott was 
stricken by the same affliction, a sudden bout of diarrhoea, with 
which most of us were to become acquainted during the following 
weeks. Although never reduced below an effective strength of 
three at any one time, this threw an additional strain on the party, 
and their already arduous work was made more difficult by the 
weather. 

We were now in the season of daily afternoon snowfall; each 
morning it was necessary to remake the track prepared so labori- 
ously the day before. For the first four days they were engaged 
in a struggle to reach that half-way terrace on which the Swiss 
Camp II had stood. Casting to right and left, making numerous 
false starts and spending many hours each day in the exhausting 
labour of hacking away masses of ice, cutting staircases of steps 
safe for the laden Sherpas, they eventually won through on i6th 
April and set up two tents at 19,400 feet. This marked the first 
important step in our progress up the mountain. Camp II, so 
hardly won, possessed in those early days a glamour which it was 
quickly to lose, owing to familiarity, the dirt from many parties 
in transit and the increasing heat. 

Ed Hillary and the two Georges spent the night there and 
next day went on to reconnoitre a route up to the edge of the 
Western Cwm. On that day, i7th April, I left our resting-place 
at Lake Camp to learn their news and, finding at Base Camp that 
they were up the Icefall, asked Ang Namgyal to join me in a 
journey to Camp II. I did not jealize at that time that this silent, 
poker-faced little man had been going up and down this rickety 
and dangerous route for the past three days; he got ready without 
a word. Tom Stobart came along with us for some part of the 
way and pointed out several of the landmarks. 

I propose to describe this first trip in some detail. It should 
be remembered that the route, at that time, was not yet ready for 
use as a highway by laden men. For over half an hour we threaded 
our way along a series of twisting, narrow ice channels between 

A.E 8 93 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

pinnacles, heading generally towards the foot of the Icefall, but 
making many detours to avoid obstacles. We had brought flags, 
red, yellow and black, from England to mark the route in the 
Icefall and the Cwm, and the Reconnaissance party had already 
planted them as far as Camp II. At last the ice steepened and it 
became necessary to put on crampons and rope up. This place 
was named "the Island". Some distance above us, a staircase had 
been cut up the steep edge of a large crevasse, down which a fixed 
rope was hanging. Nicknamed "Mike's Horror" after Wcstmacott, 
who had led and prepared it, this pitch, now straightforward, 
told of a fine feat of icemanship. There followed a number of 
strides over crevasses, two of them too wide to step or jump 
across. They had been temporarily bridged by sections of our 
metal ladder. The crossing of one gap, spanned by two 6-foot 
sections, demanded a crawling technique, for it was awkward 
to step upright on the narrow rungs with our spiked boots. Then 
a steep rise we were nearing the area of greatest ruin led to the 
biggest chasm we had yet encountered. A huge block of ice lay 
wedged across it, apparently solid, but only so long as the jaws 
of the dragon did not open wider. At its far end it abutted against 
a short wall of ice: the upper lip of the crevasse. Here a diagonal 
line of steps had been cut later, we were to fix a handline. We 
stepped gingerly up it, using hand-holds chipped in the ice, con- 
scious of the aching void below us on our right. This was "Hil- 
lary's Horror". Some way above this, we entered the shattered 
section of steepest ice known as "Hell-fire Alley". One or two 
Swiss flags had remained standing since they had been planted 
seven or eight months earlier. One stood upright, perched high 
on an isolated block of ice, surrounded by unbridgeable gaps, 
another was horizontal beneath a massive wall which leaned in- 
exorably over; they marked a route which had changed out of all 
recognition and was utterly impracticable now. 

Our track now dodged in and out, up some hundreds of feet, 
between, behind, over and even under colossal ice boulders. It is 
difficult to give an adequate idea of this section. The ice masses 
had fallen recently and had not yet settled down to form a solid 
slope; they were, to say the least of it, loose 'and precariously 
poised one on top of another, some in imminent danger of 
toppling over. Frequent journeys up and down the Khumbu 
Icefall have blunted these first impressions of "Hell-fire Alley", 
but I always regarded it as a dangerous place. On that first trip 

94 



IGEFALL 

it was a relief to move to the right at its top, towards more open 
ground. We were now in territory which, though carved in 
larger blocks, was in more active movement; this was the "Atom 
Bomb" area. We approached a shallow gully dominated by 
wobbly-looking seracs and split from side to side by gaping 
crevasses. Each, at this early stage, could be crossed by a leap 
or a long stride, but later, as they changed shape and multiplied, 
two bridges were required in this section. The "Atom Bomb" 
area was in constant and audible movement. No day passed 
without some striking change occurring, calling for a fresh recon- 
naissance of the route up to the plateau where our tents of Camp II 
were pitched. In general, the shelves of ice between cracks were 
subsiding, making big steps, but in time the movement became 
more violent, the changes more significant. Their sound could be 
heard from Camp II a dull, ominous "wumph" fortunately 
they seemed usually to occur at night. Marker flags in this area 
seldom remained visible for many days after they had been 
placed ; they might be seen, fixed and upright, deep in some new 
cavity, or they might have disappeared for ever. 

It was about 12.30 p.m. when Ang Namgyal and I reached 
Camp II. The tents were empty, but we needed to rest and 
shelter, for a violent wind was blowing in gusts down from the 
Western Cwm. We crawled in and lay there, perhaps for half an 
hour, before starting to follow the tracks leading upwards. About 
three hundred feet above the tents we met a jubilant trio descend- 
ing. Ed and the Georges had reached the edge of the Cwm. They 
were eloquent about the many objective dangers ahead and the 
technical problems which they had faced. Although it could not 
yet be certain that we should, even now, find an entrance into the 
Western Cwm, this was indeed great news. Our first big problem 
was solved and we could begin to exploit our opportunity, im- 
proving the route and sending up loads to the top of the Icefall on 
the date planned for this operation to begin 24th April. 

Although I was tired after coming all the way from Lake Camp, 
I was very keen to go on and have a view of this upper part of 
the route. Despite his great efforts, not only on that day but 
during four successive days, Ed Hillary insisted on joining my 
rope and returning some distance upwards, to point out the 
features of the route. The weather was bad and we could only see 
a certain distance, but I could appreciate that the track was 
menaced for hundreds of yards by ice cliffs higher up on the right. 

95 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

The big shelf on the edge of the Cwm which they had reached 
was just visible and apparently not very far above us. We returned 
to Camp II where a hot drink was being prepared by George 
Lowe. Later, the whole party went down to Base Camp. 

To complete our happiness that day, we found a large mailbag 
awaiting us. Roberts had arrived at Thyangboche only two days 
earlier, and Greg had sent on the trusty Ang Norbu in all haste to 
give us this treat. Except for a small batch which had come up 
during the early part of the march, these were the first letters we 
had received since leaving Kathmandu. 

I continued on my weary way to Lake Camp that evening and 
heaved yet another sigh of relief. One more milestone had been 
passed on the road to the summit. 



We must now return to follow the activities of Charles Evans 
and his party, whom we left at Dingboche, busy teaching the use 
of oxygen to our Sherpas. They had gone up into the wide basin 
at the head of the Imja, in the centre of which stands an attractive 
peak of over 20,000 feet, its base surrounded by some of the several 
glaciers which converge here. It had been observed the previous 
year by Shipton's party on their way to explore the Barun gorge 
and they had given it the descriptive name of Island Peak. 

One of the summits of this they proceeded to climb, increasing 
to no less than six our "bag" of peaks of about 19,000 or 20,000 
feet. It was now time for this party to return to Base Camp at 
Thyangboche, for there was much to do. A large number of 
coolies was required to move our camp and all our gear to its 
new location up the Khumbu glacier: Roberts was about to 
arrive with sixty loads of oxygen; fourteen Low Altitude Sherpas 
were due to join the party. They went back. In three very full days 
they were ready to start off again for the new Base Camp, moving 
once more in two convoys, on i8th and igth April respectively. 

Like Hillary's party before them, they ran into bad weather 
and suffered much the same discomforts. Charles Wylie reported 
some interesting records for tent capacities sixty Sherpas in a 
twelve-man Dome, eight in a two-man Meade.' I went down to 
meet the first of these convoys as they arrived, laden with firewood 
on top of their other burdens, at Lobuje, one stage below our Lake 
Camp. It was some time since Charles Evans and I had met and 
there was much to hear and tell. With him were Greg and a new- 

96 



ICEFALL 

comer to the party, James Morris of The Times, who had been 
sent to provide a first-hand account of our doings ; he was to re- 
main with us until the end of the expedition. He would thus 
relieve me to some extent of the burden of writing dispatches, for 
which I was to be most thankful during the period of the Assault. 
While these rear parties approached Base Camp under Evans 
and Wylie, my party moved up to join Hillary, having had our 
allotted rest period beside the glacier lake. Wilfrid Noyce and 
Mike Ward went on ahead to re-site Base some hundreds of yards 
down the stony avenue in the centre of the glacier, for we were 
not happy either about the space available on the Swiss site or its 




state of sanitation. I hasten to add that this is no reflection on the 
Swiss, for we were to find the same trouble in our own camp later; 
despite the most stringent rules laid down by the doctors and in- 
sisted on by the rest of us, it is well-nigh impossible to enforce the 
principles of hygiene in these conditions of cold and discomfort. 
By the time I returned from Lobuje I found a number of plat- 
forms for the tents had been skilfully built upon the ice, from the 
stones which littered the surface ; a general lay-out of the various 
departments had been prepared by Michael Ward. 

We at once started our task of improving the route up the Ice- 
fall, continuing the splendid work of the Reconnaissance party, 
which was now having a well-earned rest at the Lake Camp. 
Reinforced by Mike Westmacott, now partly recovered from his 
sickness, Wilfrid Noyce and Mike Ward, later joined by myself, 
spent two days between Base and Camp II, cutting many new 

97 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

steps, chopping down dangerous ice impending over the tra^k, 
preparing a safer deviation across and up the big crevasse to avoid 
"Hillary's Horror", fixing new ropes at this and other places. 

On the afternoon of the second day, 2ist April, Mike West- 
macott and I remained at Camp II for the night before moving 
up to the top of the Icefall, in order to choose a site and set up 
the first tents of Camp III. I had with me five Sherpas carrying 
equipment for this camp, and later that evening was joined by 
Hillary and Band. Hillary and Westmacott were to remain at 
Camp III to improve the track between the two Icefall camps. 
George Lowe had started with them from Base, but he was still 
not recovered from his illness and had to turn back; it would be 
some time before he was fit enough to take a full part in the work. 

On 22nd April we set out, Ed Hillary and George Band going 
ahead to remake and flag the track while Mike Westmacott and I 
escorted the Sherpas at a slower pace. There had been a good deal 
of fresh snow nine to twelve inches since we had last gone over 
this ground, and no signs remained of their earlier route, which 
had not been flagged during the preliminary reconnaissance on 
1 7th April. For the two leaders it was a gruelling task, wading 
knee-deep in new snow. Even for my party, more heavily laden 
and endeavouring to clear off more snow and stamp out a firm 
track, it was exhausting enough. 

Except for the lower part, which I had climbed with Ed, this 
was new ground to me and I was intrigued to see this upper sec- 
tion of the Icefall for the first time. As had appeared from below, 
the nature of the ice was very different from that of the lower part. 
Whereas below Camp II the glacier was shattered into crumbling 
ruin, here we were moving through ice blocks of bigger dimen- 
sions ; there was a general impression of subsidence rather than of 
a vast dynamited quarry. From the tents of Camp II, the line 
taken led us for some distance through another gully at the head 
of the small plateau, then swung steeply up to the right to reach 
the first of many characteristic obstacles, a serac some 250 feet 
above the tents. We had to get on to a square-topped section of 
ice cliff which leaned out from the mountainside, half-detached 
from the parent block. Climbing this with the aid of large ice 
steps and a handline, we dodged round to its far side in order to 
bestride the gap and reach the terrace behind it. 

A little farther on there was a huge trough. It must have 
measured at least sixty feet wide, partly filled with chunks of bare 

98 



ICEFALL 

ice, and with a narrow platform some twenty feet down, which had 
sunk from the level of the terrace on which we stood. Here again 
a staircase had been cut, and we added a fixed rope to make the 
descent more easy. The exit was perhaps the most dangerous part 
of the whole journey between Base Camp and the Cwm, for the 
steep slope on the far side of this trough was covered by blocks of 
ice of all sizes, piled in indescribable confusion on a wide front- 
age and extending over some 200 feet up the slope. The collapse 
of any one of these would have spelt disaster to a party below. This 
avalanche must have come to rest not long before Ed's party had 
first negotiated it, for the debris was completely unstable, even 
more so than in the "Hell-fire Alley" area. And there was no avoid- 
ing it. First we had to cross a gaping fissure to reach the lower edge 
of these menacing boulders at the only feasible point, where a thin 
tongue of ice, unsupported from below and attached only to the 
lower lip of the crevasse, had to be relied upon for three anxious 
steps before it was possible to set foot on the upper edge. Three days 
later I noticed that this fragile bracket had disappeared into the 
blue depths below; I learned that it had disintegrated when Bour- 
dillon gave it a light prod with his axe. The crevasse had widened 
by at least a foot. By then we had available the logs asked for by 
Westmacott, and we improvised a single-log "bridge" and hand- 
line, later to be replaced by two sections of the metal ladder. As an 
indication of the state of movement of the Icefall, I should add 
that, a week after this, the 1 2-foot ladder was in danger of falling 
into the chasm in its turn. Before we went down to Base for the 
last time at the end of May, Noyce had found it necessary to lash 
two wooden poles under the ladder to lengthen it. 

After climbing directly upwards through the dangerous band 
of wobbly ice blocks we were able to turn left in the direction of 
the Cwm. We were now on the crest of the debris from the col- 
lapse of the cliffs above us, which marked the foot of the west 
ridge of Nuptse. The obvious line was to continue along this shelf, 
threatened though it was by the flanking cliffs, which would 
sooner or later disgorge more ice on to the mounting pile ; indeed 
there was no other way. It led upwards in a slanting line, across 
the tops of countless loose ice boulders, until at last it was possible 
to pass through a gap to reach the foot of the first really solid line 
of cliffs at the very brink of the Western Cwm. 

Here the risks were only too obvious, for this is just where the 
Cwm spills into the Icefall, and freshly fallen masses bore witness 

99 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

to the sudden change in gradient. The cliff is too high an^ steep 
to climb direct at this point it rises forty feet sheer so we con- 
toured round its base to the right, passing between the main 
"berg" and a large block, about twenty feet high, which had re- 
cently split off without disintegrating. This passage, which we 
named "the Nutcracker", was particularly unpleasant both on 




account of the peculiarly shaky condition of all the ground at the 
top of the Icefall and the ever-present possibility of another slice 
peeling off the cliff and crushing a party in the act of passing 
through it. There was evidently a hollow space of unknown depth 
beneath the cliff, perhaps because the shelf of ice was jutting far 
out over the underlying rock base. In carving a climbable route 
through it, the ice fragments would not merely fall into the dark 
abyss but would set up a prolonged rumbling noise, accompanied 
by tremors of the surface, as if an underground train were passing 
beneath our feet. It was an eerie and frightening sensation. 

100 



ICEFALL 

The view round the corner was no more encouraging, for the 
cliff line continued unrelenting, as though to force the intruder 
right under the fire of avalanches from Nuptse. But there was one 
weakness in the ice : a narrow, sloping shelf leading to a vertical 
crack. This crack, which showed where a huge mass would later 
become detached from the Cwm ice, had been brilliantly led by 
Hillary on the day I had first met them above Camp II. Already 
it was noticeably wider, but aided by the steps he had cut we 
found much less trouble than he in wriggling up the fifteen feet 
until our heads appeared suddenly and dramatically on to the 
level shelf above. This was the highest point reached so far, but 
it was too near the unreliable edge to make a safe site for Camp III. 
Rather than bring our Sherpas farther, we hauled the loads up 
the cliff at a lower point and went on ourselves, together with Da 
Namgyal, to find a good spot. The plateau which we had reached 
was itself slowly toppling over the edge, a wide crack dividing it 
from another and higher level of ice; but this was still spanned at 
two points by snow bridges, apparently solid. We crossed the 
more durable of the two and found a shallow scoop in a wider 
area, not immediately overlooked by other cliffs. It would do 
admirably for the camp. The height was about 20,200 feet. 

Impatient to find the answer to the question uppermost in our 
minds, Ed, George Band and I went straight on for some distance 
beyond the camp site, to prospect the route into the Cwm. 
Would we be confronted by a gap too wide to bridge, and, if so, 
could we climb down and out at the other side? These were 
burning questions whose answer could brook no delay. After 
steering a route around and over a number of big crevasses, we 
were soon stopped by one which could only be avoided if we 
would accept the risk of climbing right under the hanging ice 
adhering to the flanks of Everest's west ridge. By remarkable luck 
we reached it at its narrowest point; the gap was only about 
sixteen feet. Beyond, the Cwm began to level out. As far as this, 
the prospect was encouraging, and the next need was to bring 
up the ladder so as to reconnoitre even farther. It must be sent 
up without delay. 



If I have dwelt at some length on the Icefall, it is because it 
loomed so large in our activities on Everest and for so long a 
period. However well prepared the track, the frequent movement 

101 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

of men and stores up and down it would always be a source of 
anxiety, and we must count ourselves most fortunate that no 
accident occurred during the six weeks our traffic was upon it. 

The first ascent of the Icefall by Shipton's party in 1951 had 
been a very fine piece of route-finding and ice work. According to 
Hillary, the condition of this obstacle this year was incomparably 
worse than it had been two years ago, and the Swiss made no 
secret about the serious and dangerous nature of the problem as 
they had found it last spring. Each year, indeed, each month, it 
becomes transformed. Fresh surprises occur within the space of 
a few days. In a certain sense, every ascent will always be a new 
one, a "premiere". Our Icefall reconnaissance party had done a 
wonderful job in forcing and finding this particular route. 

Leaving Hillary, Westmacott and Da Namgyal to improve the 
upper part of it and, if possible, find a means of by-passing the 
worst places, I returned to Base on 22nd April with George Band. 
In the two days since I had left it, Base had come to present a 
very different picture. Both the rear parties had now arrived 
and the place was a hive of activity, with a tent perched on each 
available level space. Tom Bourdillon, who had left my party 
over a week before on the bank of the Khumbu glacier in order 
to meet Roberts and take charge of the oxygen consignment, 
had erected for himself a workmanlike shelter as an equipment 
store, using the boxes as pigeon-holes. One of the several tree 
trunks ordered by Mike Westmacott had been set up as a flagpole 
for our large Union Jack. As usual, Thondup was efficiently 
established in a large stone-built kitchen, paved with cardboard 
from empty ration boxes. A novel feature was a capacious ice 
cave tunnelled into one of the big pinnacles just behind the tents. 
It was Tom Stobart's idea for alternative living quarters, and a 
good one. Base seemed to be a well-organized and thorough-going 
concern. Roberts had come up to wish us luck. He had done an 
inestimable service to the expedition by delivering to us the 
oxygen by the date required, though it had meant sacrificing a 
part of his leave. 

One of the first people who came forward as we approached 
the tents was a small, slightly-built figure with a wizened face 
and stubbly grey hair. He looked old, but his grin was youthful. 
It was Dawa Thondup. He had taken part in Himalayan expe- 
ditions since 1933, when he was a member of the porter team on 
Everest. He was decorated by Hitler in 1934 for his gallantry 

1 02 



ICEFALL 

during a storm on Nanga Parbat, when six Sherpas and three 
members of a German expedition lost their lives. Among numer- 
ous other battle honours figure Annapurna in 1950 and the South 
Col of Everest in 1952. 

Dawa and I were very old friends. We had been together in an 
attempt to climb Saltoro Kangri in the Karakoram many years 
ago, since when we had taken part in two expeditions in the 
Sikkim Himalaya, as well as several treks in that area. I had last 
seen him in 1940 and had specially asked the Himalayan Club to 
persuade him to join us this year. Now in his late forties, Dawa 
was unfit when Tenzing had left Darjeeling with the others, but 
arrangements were made for him to come with Roberts a month 
later, together with another "Tiger", Ang Nyima. Thus enlisted, 
partly for reasons of friendship and sentiment, we could not guess 
what splendid service this little man was to perform on Everest. 




103 



PART 

IV 



BUILD-UP 



CHAPTER NINE 

STOCK-PILING 

IN London we had calculated that a period of about three weeks 
would be necessary for lifting our stores into the Western Cwm 
before making a bid for the summit. At intervals during the 
march-out and training periods, Charles Evans, Ed Hillary and 
I had been busy with more exact estimates, based on a number of 
alternative plans for the Assault and taking into account other 
related problems. I was most concerned to reduce to a minimum 
the amount of time actually spent on the mountain and to ensure 
that everybody should enjoy a rest at lower altitude at least once 
before the Assault started. We could not know at this stage when 
to expect the monsoon the weather forecasts were to be given 
only from ist May but it was wise to assume an early onset of 
bad weather conditions; there was no reason to postpone the 
target date for readiness, which was i5th May. The weather was 
as yet unpredictable. It might well force us to wait for some 
time after that date before giving us our opportunity. In recog- 
nizing this, I had to consider the ill-effects of physical deteriora- 
tion at high altitude, combined with the strain on morale of 
tedium and tension resulting from protracted waiting in a high 
camp. And there was another point. Although the plan of assault 
could not yet be determined, it was obvious that we should not 
be able to make more than two successive attempts and must 
then pause, rest and reorganize if these should not succeed. 

With all these factors in mind, I now explained to those concerned 
with the various items of equipment and rations the main points re- 
garding the stock-piling of supplies at the head of the Western Cwm 
to last us until the end of May. Should we be delayed after that 
date, we would have to send down Sherpas for replenishments 
later. The sum of these weight calculations showed that, provided 
there were no hitches: bad weather, unforeseen changes in the 
route, or sickness in the carrying parties, not only should the lift 
of baggage have been completed as far as our proposed Advance 
Base by mid-May, but it should be possible to fit in a rest period 
as well. 

107 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

On the evening of 22nd April, therefore, I was able to outline 
the "Build-up" plan to all members of the expedition, as we ate 
supper in our Mess tent. Everyone was there except Mike West- 
macott and Ed Hillary, whom I had left that morning at Camp 
III. The period was to be divided into two halves. During the 
first of these, we should mainly be occupied with shifting loads 
from Base Camp to Camp III at the top of the Icefall; during the 
second, the centre of activity would be in the Western Cwm. 
Between the two periods there would be a break for the majority 
of the party, with the possibility of getting well down the glacier, 
either to Lake Camp or Lobuje, to enjoy the pleasures and 
obvious benefits of lower height and a change of surroundings. 

To lift the loads, twenty-eight out of our total of thirty-nine 
Sherpas would be required. They were to be divided into four 
parties, each of seven men; three of these parties were to be en- 
gaged during the first period in the Icefall and only one in the 
Cwm. This period would last from 24th April until 2nd May. 
To each party were assigned two members of the climbing party, 
who would take turns in escorting their team up and down 
during their journeys, and deal with the recurring need to renew 
the track and find a way round fresh obstacles as they occurred. 
The Low Level carrying parties, "Ferries", as they came to be 
called, would be in charge of Bourdillon and Wylie, Ward and 
Westmacott, Band and Tenzing. George Lowe was still sick, but 
later he was able to take a full part. I was most anxious that, in 
negotiating the known dangers of the Icefall and the expected 
hidden crevasses in the Cwm, the Sherpas should not be exposed 
to risks which were not shared by ourselves. 

In the second period after the break, which was to take place 
between 3rd and 5th May, three out of the four teams would be 
operating up the Cwm, in the first place from Camp III, but 
later partly from Camp IV upwards to the foot of the Lhotse 
Face, while only one would be moving up and down the Icefall. 
These "Ferries" should enable us to move the whole climbing 
party up to the Advance Base (i.e. Camp IV) by I4th May, and 
to establish a depot of stores at a Camp V at the foot of the 
Lhotse Face, ready for carrying to the South Coll In this we were 
departing in only one important particular from the "Basis for 
Planning" drawn up in England, for there remained the second 
and final stage of the Build-up, the "carry" to the South Col. 
But there was as yet no firm plan from which we could decide 

1 08 



From Base Clamp on the Khumbu glacier, 
looking down the moraine trough between 
the ice pinnacles towards Taweche 



STOCK-PILING 

the exact quantities of stores required at the South Col; the 
Lhotse Face which leads to it had still not been seen, much less 
reconnoitred, and the amounts which could be lifted up this 
section of the climb would be strictly limited, for this was expected 
to be the crux of the whole ascent. In these circumstances, it 
would have been foolish to make assumptions so far ahead, and 
I now preferred to consider the whole of our eventual operations 
up the Face of Lhotse as falling within the Assault period. After 
speaking to the members of the expedition, I spoke, at Tenzing's 
suggestion, to each group of Sherpas chosen for the various ferry- 
ing tasks. All were cheerful and willing. 

At this stage in our progress, with important and urgent events 
ahead, I invited Charles Evans to be prepared to take over as 
leader in case of sickness or mishap affecting myself: all members 
of the party were asked to accept this position should it arise. The 
need or otherwise of ajleguty leader had already been discussed 
in London before we left; there was a precedent in pre-war 
Everest expeditions. It had seemed to me then that it was un- 
desirable to set up a hierarchy of command and that there was 
always a danger of over-organizing. In any case, we always 
looked upon the leader's job as merely one among the many 
responsibilities which we shared out between us. 



Before entering upon this very full and important period, two 
things remained to be done. A number of crevasses in the Icefall 
had still to be bridged, and we did not know yet how many others 
might bar our way up the Cwm; the Cwm had not yet been 
entered, and a route up it must be made, a site for Advance Base 
chosen. These things must be done at once. 

Next morning Charles Wylie set out with a party of Sherpas 
carrying an awkward load of 1 2-foot poles, cut from the forests 
around Thyangboche. His task was to bridge all the big gaps as 
far as Camp II and release the ladder sections which had been 
laid temporarily over some of these, so that they should be avail- 
able for the major crevasse above Camp III, discovered by Hil- 
lary, Band and myself on the 22nd. He had an adventurous day. 
Having spanned with big logs the chasm over which two sections 
of the ladder had previously been placed, he went across this 
narrow and much less convenient bridge only two poles lashed 
together with rope. Following him was one Pasang Dorji, a shy, 

A - E - 9 109 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

almost furtive lad whose normal job was assisting Thondup in the 
cookhouse ; he had begged to try his hand at more exciting work. 
Halfway across, the void beneath him doubtless began to prey 
too heavily on Pasang's mind. The inevitable happened. He 
lurched sideways and dropped like a stone into the abyss. Charles 
had perhaps some premonition of this, for he had just bidden 
Pasang leave behind his load. Both he and the Sherpa whose 
turn it would be to cross next had, of course, taken the normal 
climbing precaution of belaying the rope over their ice-axes, 
buried deeply in the snow. Despite all, Charles had an exhausting 
time hauling with all his strength on the rope before Pasang 
arrived, utterly breathless and very frightened, at the far edge of 
the crevasse. He finally landed, flopping on the snow, in Charles's 
words, "like a dead seal". Both he and his rescuer remained in 
this position for some minutes to recover; it had been a remark- 
able feat of strength on the part of the leader. After this incident, 
Pasang returned to his chores in the cookhouse. 

Only a short distance above, Charles was startled to see 
another "rope" of three Sherpas, led by Annullu, an experienced 
man, hurtling down a steep slope above him. Very fortunately 
they came to rest without being swallowed up by one of the many 
waiting crevasses. Annullu had broken a crampon, but had 
decided with jaunty confidence that not only could he climb up 
these ice slopes with one crampon, but could safely continue to 
lead his rope. These two incidents, among many which occurred 
almost daily in the following weeks, demonstrated the need for 
members of the climbing party to accompany Sherpa carrying 
teams and share the hazards with them. 

Accidents were not confined to the Sherpas, nor were they 
necessarily due to inexperience. On his way down to Base Camp 
on 26th April, Ed Hillary had a narrow escape in company with 
Tenzing. While descending the "Atom Bomb" area, he jumped 
down one of the several big "steps" dividing crevasses in that zone 
of constant movement. The whole mass of ice on which he landed 
collapsed beneath him and he fell towards a crevasse below. That 
no harm came of it was due to the foresight and skill of Tenzing, 
who was strongly placed against a slip on the part of his com- 
panion and held him brilliantly on the rope. 

The other task, that of entering and finding a route up to the 
head of the Western Cwm, was undertaken by Charles Evans, 
Tenzing, Ed Hillary and myself. Ed was already at Camp III, so 

no 



STOCK-PILING 

the remaining three of us went up there on the morning of 24th 
April, ahead of the "High Level" or Cwm Ferry party of seven 
Sherpas, led by Wilfrid Noyce and Greg, who were on their way 
up to start work from Camp III. Snow had fallen heavily during 
the night, and because of this I spoke to Ed Hillary at Camp III 
during the 8 a.m. wireless call we now had our wireless sets 
distributed one to each of the Icefall camps, working to a control 
set at Base. "Hullo, Ed at Camp III this is John speaking from 
Base Tenzing, Charles Evans and I are coming up to join you 
today for Cwm reconnaissance owing to yesterday's heavy 
snowfall we'll be very grateful if you and Mike will work down- 
wards towards Camp II and remake the track Over." 

Hillary, in acknowledging this, gave an interesting summary 
of his work the day before at the top of the Icefall. "Hullo, John 
this is Ed at Camp III Mike and I had a pretty tough day 
casting round for an alternative approach to Camp III and also 
for another way into the Cwm Line of cliffs to right towards 
Nuptse quite hopeless and much more dangerous than direct 
route We'll have to stick to this one Mike and I have done 
quite a lot of work on the Nutcracker bloody dangerous place 
fixed pitons for handline on the lower wall Also put rope ladder 
down the cliff for the boys to bring loads up here avoiding the ice 
crack Looking forward to seeing you, John Whack-o Over." 

The track as far as Camp II was a most fatiguing struggle. For 
myself the difficulties were increased, for I was suffering from a 
sudden bout of diarrhoea which had left me very weak. It was 
snowing as we plodded on our way and this continued for the 
rest of that day. We reached the camp very tired and decided to 
rest there until the following day, unable to take advantage of 
the track so laboriously renewed for us. Camp II was full that 
night, for besides ourselves there was the High Level Ferry and 
also a Low Level team making a normal stage here for the night 
on their way to Camp III. 

In spite of Ed's efforts in stamping out the track through deep 
new snow on 24th April, our party had another hard struggle up 
to Camp III next day. It was far worse for the High Level Ferry 
party who had to carry two sections of the ladder the whole way 
to Camp III from Camp II, where they had been left by Charles 
Wylie on the 23rd. Since they had not the necessary spanner, they 
had had to continue up the Icefall carrying these sections as a 
12-foot length. It was easy to imagine the nightmare which this 

in 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 




proved to be, in the labyrinth of ice boulders above that crevasse 
and at many other points of the way. Indeed it called for all the 
great reserves of Wilfrid's patience to finish the journey. 

It was good to spend that first night at the threshold of the 
Western Cwm. Already we had a first consignment of stores out- 
side the tents, carried there by the first Low Level Ferry; the 
High Level team was in position and, provided we could force the 
way into the Cwm, they would follow our reconnaissance party 
up to Advance Base on the morrow. So anxious was I to put an 
end to our remaining uncertainty on this point that Ed, Charles 
Evans and I started upwards at four o'clock that afternoon, fol- 
lowed by Tenzing and Wilfrid, to have a preview of the prospects. 
We took with us three ladder sections, which we had estimated 
would be sufficient for bridging the big crevasse. Putting them 
together at the 1 6-foot gap, with the assistance of Tenzing and 
Wilfrid, we lowered the ladder carefully across and crawled over 
one at a time. There still remained many obstacles, yet unseen, to 



STOCK-PILING 

getting up the Cwm, let alone the mountain, but somehow this 
moment when we stood together on the far side of that crevasse 
made a special impression on me. It symbolized our entry into 
the Western Cwm. The unpleasant fears of operations with com- 
plicated ropeways, to which the Swiss had been compelled to 
resort, vanished. We felt sure we were through. 

In this elated mood we went on, late into the evening. There 
was some difficult route-finding to do, for the crevasses in this 
lowest part of the Western Cwm were numerous and large; a 
short section of the route lay unavoidably exposed to bombard- 
ments from the tottering ice cliffs above the north edge of the 
glacier. One interesting passage, later known as "Hunt's Gully", 
consisted of a very steep descent into the shallow depths of a 
crevasse, crossing the crack in the ice by a snow bridge and 
climbing out along a narrow terrace on the far side. We fixed a 
rope to assist us in getting in and out on the lower edge. Gradu- 
ally we were able to work away towards the centre of the glacier. 
Its wrinkled surface smoothed out. As we went on we could see 
more and more up the Cwm until the whole of Lhotse was re- 
vealed, its rocks, heavily powdered with snow, bathed in the 
evening light. We continued, drawn as though by some irresistible 
force, until at last we could look upon that scene which had 
been the object of so much study and conjecture during our 
London planning the South Col of Everest and the great slope 
below it. There it was, still distant but dramatic, familiar as 
though we had known it for a long time. We turned back as the 
sun was setting behind Pumori across the Khumbu glen, and 
went down excitedly to our tents to tell the others. 

Aided by sleeping-pills, I slept well that first night at over 
20,000 feet, untroubled by the rumbling avalanches which peeled 
off the cliffs below the Lho La. 26th April was a brilliant morning. 
From the edge of our balcony on the ice cliff we looked down some 
800 feet on to the little group of tents halfway up the Icefall and 
could watch minute figures moving about; they were the two Low 
Level teams, fourteen Sherpas and two Sahibs getting ready to do 
their scheduled run for the day from Camp II up to Camp III and 
down to Base. Across the valley stood the ring of peaks enclosing 
the Khumbu glacier at its bend : Pumori, tall, tapering like a pen- 
cil point, Lingtren One, square and steep-ridged, Lingtren Two, 
thin as a wafer at its top, looking incredibly fragile. We were all 
in great spirits as we made our way that morning into the Cwm, 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

the reconnaissance party with Evans and myself leading on one 
rope, followed by Hillary and Tenzing, now starting to form a 
team which was to strengthen in the coming weeks into a match- 
winning partnership. After them came Gregory and Noyce with 
their Sherpas, carrying the high priority stores for Advance 
Base and beyond. It was brilliantly fine indeed it would soon be 
stiflingly hot. New snow sparkled dazzlingly in the sun, but it was 
a foot deep here in the Cwm and we did not have easy going. The 
previous day we had seen signs of a camp some two hundred 




yards away from our route and guessed it to be the Swiss Camp 
III. This was confirmed by Tenzing, who now led Hillary off to 
collect any food and other stores which might be useful to us. 

Charles and I continued to move right-handed towards the 
south edge of the glacier, across a wide expanse of comparatively 
level ground. We were forced in this direction, partly by the huge 
crevasses which split the surface from side to side, and partly also 
because we had noted that there was a "step" or minor icefall, 
marked by a group of monster crevasses and ice walls, in the Cwm 
some distance farther up, which could best be circumvented on 
this flank. Planting flags as we went on, we rose up beside this 
"step" and reached the upper part of the Cwm, again smooth 
and stretching almost without break to a second "step", guarding 

114 



STOCK-PILING 

the foot of the slopes beneath the South Col and Lhotse the 
distance might be one and a half miles. As we sat there, we could 
now see not only Lhotse and the South Col, but the great bulk 
of Everest itself, its west face falling over 7,000 feet to the floor of 
the Cwm on the opposite side. The rocks of this vast precipice, 
so black when we had first sighted them from below Namche a 
month before, were now sprinkled with snow, which was being 
torn off in clouds by the west wind. 

Tenzing and Hillary had now caught us up, and during a 
rest we shared some Swiss cheese, chocolate and Vita-Weat which 
they had found, among many tins of pemmican, at the old camp 
site. This pair now went ahead, slanting back to the left above 
the smaller icefall to reach a point beneath a prominent snow 
shoulder on the west ridge cf Everest, where the Swiss had 
placed their Camp IV last autumn. We arrived at about 12.30 
p.m. after a three and a half hours' journey from Camp III, and 
spent a happy hour digging. Numerous containers of various 
shapes and sizes were seen half-buried beneath the winter snow; 
their contents were exciting to surmise and no less satisfactory to 
discover. Bacon, wafer bread, cheese, jam, pemmican, porridge, 
chocolate, milk powder, solid "Meta" fuel all these were 
brought to light. The food and delicacies would be useful to supple- 
ment our own rations and provide a welcome variety. There was 
also some clothing and equipment, including a large but badly 
damaged tent. 

The weather had already closed in as we descended the Cwm 
that afternoon. The Ferry party had carried their loads to the 
top of the first "step", within about three-quarters of an hour's 
walk of the Camp, and had therefore done very well on this, their 
first trip up the Cwm. We found them in excellent form when we 
returned to Camp III, proud of being chosen for the High Level 
work, and ready for the "carry" on the next day. Indeed, there 
was no lack of stores for them to take. The two Low Level parties 
had piled their cargo outside the tents and had already gone down, 
for they would also have to turn round and return to Camp II 
next morning. There was thus exactly twice as much to carry as 
the Camp III party at their present strength could lift in one 
day, and this disproportion would increase progressively during 
the first half of the Build-up period. They were a fine crew, 
wonderfully led by Noyce and Gregory; fat little Gompu, now in 
his element, always seeking helpful jobs to perform; Kancha, 

"5 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

tough and cheerful; Pasang Dawa, quiet, experienced and sen- 
sible; Tashi Phutar, Ang Tharke, Pemba Norbu, Phu Dorji. 

So the work went on, day after day, for nine days. At the end 
of this time, each Low Level team had made no fewer than five 
complete trips to Camp III and back, staging regularly at Camp 
II for the night. The High Level men had made six long journeys 
to and from Camp IV. Always the morning heat, both in the 
Icefall and the Cwm, was stifling, inducing a heavy feeling of 
lethargy, known as "glacier lassitude". Each day fresh snow fell; 
each morning the track, wiped out overnight, had to be re- 
made. Floundering in loose snow was terribly exacting work, 
especially in the Icefall, where with a false step one was likely 
to slip between two blocks of ice, perhaps waist deep, and have 
to struggle out encumbered by a 4O-lb. load. It was a labour 
shared by Sahib and Sherpa alike, even if not in equal propor- 
tion. The climbing members went less frequently, although they 
often carried loads to help a tired man. This was simply because 
our energy had to be spared as far as possible for the tasks which 
would fall to each of us in the Assault, and it should be remem- 
bered that, despite newspaper reports to the contrary, no de- 
cisions had yet been made as to which climbers might have the 
supreme role of going for the summit. 

By 2nd May we had moved approximately ninety loads, each 
weighing an average of 40 lb. 3 to Camp III, and, of these, about 
forty-five loads onwards to, or towards Camp IV, our Advance 
Base. These stores had been selected as of high priority by 
Charles Evans, our "Quartermaster", in consultation with those 
responsible for each commodity. Before leaving Base Camp, 
where they were weighed and made up into loads by Tenzing and 
Evans, they were marked with a painted "III" or "IV" or "V", 
according to their destination. Some had been dumped by more 
energetic Low Level teams as far as one hour's journey above 
Camp III, so as to ease the heavy task of the Cwm Ferry party. 
Bearing in mind the weather conditions with which we had to 
contend, remembering too that this was a period of "trial and 
error" regarding many of our men, particularly those working 
in the Icefall a number not unnaturally were found unsuitable 
and had to be changed and that sickness also depleted the 
strength of the parties, this was a noteworthy achievement. 
Moreover, we experienced during this time a crisis with the 
crampons, essential for the Icefall. At least twelve pairs had broken 

116 



STOCK-PILING 

beyond repair and despite an urgent message transmitted from 
the wireless station at Namche to the Himalayan Club, replace- 
ments could not be expected for several weeks. It was strenuous 
and anxious work for all, and especially for the Sherpas. It was 
frightening for some of the novices. It was a routine which be- 
came increasingly monotonous by its constant repetition. Yet 
there were no complaints. The scheduled Ferries ran to an almost 
clockwork timetable. The Low Level Ferry would leave Base at 
1 200 arrive Camp II, 1500 spend night leave Camp II, 0800 
arrive Camp III, 0930 leave Camp III (down), 1030 arrive 
Base, 1400. The High Level Ferry would leave Camp III 0800 
arrive Camp IV, noo leave Camp IV, 1200 arrive Camp III, 
1330; and so on. Our Ferry trains and their guards had well 
earned their rest on 2nd May. 



Base Camp was not a beautiful place. Situated at about 
1 7,900 feet, above and beyond the region of the highest vegeta- 
tion, yet hemmed in by the glacier pinnacles and overshadowed 
by the great bulk of Nuptse, it was lifeless without the compensa- 
tion of stark grandeur to impress the mind. Breathlessly hot on a 
still, windless morning, it would become chill and drear as the 
clouds billowed up the valley and the snow began to fall a 
depressingly regular occurrence during the first three weeks of 
our occupation. The ice was melting visibly all around, and our 
tent platforms soon stood comically and uncomfortably high above 
the general surface level of stony wilderness. An unpleasant odour 
permeated the close surroundings. Fortunately most of us only 
visited the place infrequently and for brief periods, for it un- 
doubtedly tested the happy relations which existed between us 
all. It seemed also to give rise to sudden bouts of diarrhoea, which 
might have been caused by the growing insanitation around us. 
George Band, George Lowe and Mike Westmacott were more or 
less seriously sick with this complaint for many days. I have 
already explained the almost insuperable difficulties of keeping 
the camp clean, mainly owing to the intense cold at night. This 
should not, therefore, be interpreted as an aspersion on our three 
able and assiduous doctors, who were constantly examining 
patients and handing out interesting new drugs. Even Michael 
Ward, whose recommendation of the pills he dispensed was once 

117 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 




heard to be: "Try some of these they do no good at all", in- 
spired implicit confidence. 

Yet there were times when we appreciated Base Camp despite 
its drawbacks. It was a haven of luxury to the weary climber 
coming down from a reconnaissance up the Cwm, or even from a 
shorter routine Ferry trip up and down the Icefall. There was 
good food from Thondup's skilled hands; during this period we 
actually ate fresh beef, for thanks to the initiative of our caterers, 
George Band and Griff Pugh, and the stoicism of our butcher, 
George Lowe, a yak had been lured up from the distant pastures 
and slaughtered in the precincts of the camp. Potatoes were a 
luxury we could enjoy at Base, whereas in the Cwm they were 
quickly spoiled by frost. There was usually a choice of accom- 
modation, whether a Meade tent to yourself, the convivial atmo- 
sphere of the Mess tent or the constant temperature of an ice 
cave we had by now carved several from the ice hill to make 
up for the steady drift of our tents upwards into the Cwm. 
Above all, perhaps, there was the chance to rest and relax; to 
sleep, write or read; listen to Radio Ceylon. And there were other 
moments when Base Camp was enshrined in a certain beauty. 
At night the snow would often cease and the clouds disperse. 
There was a full moon during the Build-up, and to leave the Mess 
tent after supper on your way to bed was an unforgettable experi- 
ence. The moon was lighting the top of Pumori and Lingtren, 
making the slippery sides of the near ice 'pinnacles shine like 
polished silver; towards Everest the Icefall was plunged in deep 

shadow. It was grippingly cold 23 C. and utterly quiet, save 

for an intermittent murmuring from some Shcrpas' tent where a 
lamp was glowing dimly through the canvas, or a sudden dull 

118 



STOCK-PILING 

roar as ice broke from the cliffs of the Lho La. At moments such 
as these it was possible to feel more kindly towards the camp on 
the Khumbu glacier. 

None the less, when the opportunity came to rest for most, 
this was between 2nd and 5th May, for others, shortly after these 
dates the chosen holiday camp was Lobuje. At a distance of 
barely two and a half hours' journey from Base Camp down the 
west bank of the Khumbu glacier, Lobuje is indeed a delectable 
spot. It was still early in the year for the grass and flowers to be 
fully up, yet even the dead grass and dry pods of last year's glory, 
aided by a little imagination, gave an impression of greenery. 




The place consists of a couple of yak-herds' shelters upon a small 
mound, in the trough between the glacial moraine and the moun- 
tainside. A spring of fresh, clear water bubbles out strongly from 
the turf just below the huts; weeds wave lazily in the current. 
The earliest flowers were beginning to blossom in early May; 
tightly cushioned moss campion and mauve primula. A magenta- 
coloured azalea was also in scanty bloom on bushes among the 
boulders. The valley wind, blowing up-glacier, spared this shel- 
tered nook. Bird and animal life were a delight after living for a 
time in a dead world. Tibetan tail-less rats, looking for all the 
world like grey guinea-pigs, and a pair of martens played among 
the rocks; there was always a variety of birds snow pigeons, 
white-capped redstarts, rosefinches, a wren, an enormous 

119 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

lammergeyer drifting listlessly overhead, and various hawks. 
Surrounded by this atmosphere of peace and comfort, you could 
once more look upon the high peaks as things of beauty, indeed 
they inspired a feeling of friendship once more. There, above the 
far edge of the boulder-strewn glacier, stood Nuptse, the near end 
of its long ridge assuming the form of a sharp snow cone, perched 
in isolation above a plunging precipice of rock, blue ice cliff and 
shining slope. 

From 2nd May until about the I2th, there was a small but con- 
tinuous population at Lobuje. One and all benefited enormously 
in both physical health and renewed zest for the tasks ahead of 
them. For any future venture as serious and on as large a scale as 
Everest, a rest camp of this sort is highly to be recommended. 

It was while resting here that Charles Wylie received news of 
the birth of his son, in a telegram passed over the Indian wireless 
link at Namche Bazar; an earlier mention by the B.B.C. had not 
been received by us. In forwarding these glad tidings, our friend 
at the Namche wireless station added his own congratulations: 
"I am transported with great exultation to announce the birth of 
your son. I hope that you have cause for similar rejoicing at least 
once a year. Please pay bearer one rupee." 



ISO 



CHAPTER TEN 

LHOTSE FACE: ONE 

WHILE the work of ferrying loads came to a temporary stop 
in the early days of May, an event of great significance was 
in progress. This was a reconnaissance of the Lhotse Face, the 
third major reconnaissance to be undertaken in the course of our 
expedition. In fact, this excursion was also a dress rehearsal for 
Everest, for experiments were to be carried out in the use of both 
types of oxygen apparatus at higher altitudes than had been pos- 
sible hitherto. These dual aims first, the reconnaissance, to push 
up as high as possible on the Face, find a practicable route and 
report on the nature of the problem; and, second, the testing of 
the oxygen equipments had to be achieved before I could 
decide on the plan for the Assault. 

When we were discussing the project earlier, Charles Evans, 
Ed Hillary and I had hoped that we might get very high on the 
mountain even at this early period ; indeed I dreamed of getting 
above the South Col, using Closed-Circuit apparatus. But it was 
clear that we must not expend undue effort on this rehearsal at 
the expense in terms of human exertion, time and equipment 
of the Assault itself. Before briefing the team selected to carry it 
out, therefore, I decided to go with them myself to make a pre- 
liminary reconnaissance of the upper Cwm and lower slopes of 
the Face and try out the Closed- Circuit oxygen once again. 

The main reconnaissance party, using Closed- Circuit oxygen, 
consisted of Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon, who would 
camp as high as possible up the Lhotse Face and continue next 
day, if possible to the South Col. Charles Wylie and Michael 
Ward would be in support of them, using Open- Circuit equip- 
ment. Their task was to help in establishing the camp in the 
Lhotse Face and render any other assistance that might be needed. 
In addition, they would be able to report on the efficacy of their 
own oxygen equipment; Michael also undertook to make certain 
physiological observations for Griff Pugh. To carry the loads for 
the party, the seven elite Sherpas were to participate, and Charles 
Wylie would have an opportunity of watching the performance of 

121 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

these men, his team-elect for the Assault. For them, too, it would 
be a "trial match". I had hoped that they also would be able to 
use oxygen, thus increasing their understanding of it and con- 
fidence in its value, but it would have greatly increased the loads, 
and we were already finding the need to economize on oxygen, 
owing to the leakage of a number of cylinders on their way from 
England, so we had to abandon this plan. A final briefing would 
be given only after the preliminary reconnaissance had taken 
place, but the general intention was that it should be completed 
during the rest period. 

I escorted the special Sherpa team from Base to Camp III on 
3Oth April. Tom Bourdillon followed with Charles Evans, both 
making a low-level trial of the Closed-Circuit system. Others on 
the Icefall route that day were Griff Pugh himself with his re- 
tainer, the boy Mingma, son of Da Tensing. They were to come 
up to Camp IV or, alternatively, stay at Camp III during the 
reconnaissance. This was Mingma's first experience of the Icefall 
or any other serious climbing, and it was perhaps too severe a test 
for a youngster of thirteen, carrying a considerable load. Griff had 
a great affection for little Mingma. He arrayed him in some of 
his own clothing, and Mingma height 4 feet 6 inches would 
proudly go about his duties draped to the knees in a sweater 
suitable for a 6-foot man. It was charming to listen to them con- 
versing each in his own language, incomprehensible to the other, 
and it was hardly surprising that Mingma would occasionally 
make mistakes in carrying out his instructions. One would hear 
the fatherly reproof of Griff, in slow, pedantically clear English : 
"Mingma, how many times have I told you not to do that?" And 
the boy would gaze at him, contritely accepting a rebuke which 
he did not understand, in respect of some misdemeanour of which 
he was unaware. On one occasion, Griff had put aside a packing- 
case purporting to contain important physiological equipment, 
test tubes and the like, to be carried up the Icefall. His feelings 
were understandable when, on arrival at Camp III after a most 
tedious journey with a weary and stumbling Mingma dragging at 
the end of a tight rope (or vice versa I forget who was the more in 
need of assistance) Griff eagerly opened the box to extract his 
treasures, only to find that instead of test tubes it contained bottle 
upon bottle of mango chutney. 

At Camp III that afternoon we issued for the first time the so- 
called "Bradley" High Altitude boots with their accompanying 

122 



LHOTSE FACE: ONE 

crampons. These had been carried there in the first part of the 
Build-up for use in and above the Cwm. By leaving our normal 
mountaineering boots and crampons at Camp III, we were able 
to ease the acute shortage of these latter items of equipment for 
use in the IcefalL The new boots were rather warm at this lower 
altitude, but they proved very comfortable to wear. 

On ist May, Charles Evans, Tom Bourdillon and I went up the 
Cwm to establish Camp IV so far it was no more than a dump 
of stores on our way to get to grips with the Lhotse Face. We 
were to make a preliminary acquaintance of the Face the next 
day and would then be joined by Wylie and Ward for the main 
reconnaissance. With us were six of the seven elite Sherpas; 
Topkie, a young boy of no great experience who had nevertheless 
reached the South Col last year, had fallen out soon after leaving 
Base the previous day, suffering from the prevailing hacking 
cough. Everyone in the party was carrying a heavy load, for not 
only did we start short of one porter, but Da Namgyal, one of our 
most outstanding men, had to drop out not more than one hour's 
journey from the camp. We divided his load between us, carrying 
about 50 Ib. each. We three were using the Closed- Circuit 
apparatus ; the heat of this in the intense glare of the morning 
sun, beating down into the windless basin, made it a trying trip. 
Despite this and the usual heavy going making a fresh track 
in the snow which had fallen the day before, we eventually 
reached Camp IV in two and a half hours, an hour less than the 
time taken in the Cwm reconnaissance a few days before. The 
Sherpas returned to Camp III the same afternoon in order to 
carry further stores required for the reconnaissance. They were 
to come up with Wylie and Ward the next day. 

Camp IV provided a perfect viewpoint for an examination of 
the problem which the reconnaissance party were about to tackle. 
Sited in a sheltered hollow, close beneath the immense cliffs 
falling from the summit ridge of Everest, it stood back less than 
a mile from the head of the Cwm. Enclosing the Cwm on the far 
side, the long ridge of Nuptse ran its level course, rising 4,000 feet 
from the valley floor: steep, striated by rock bands below its 
jagged crest. Even at this distance, the wall enclosing the head of 
the Cwm seemed to be on a huge scale, the prospect of climbing it 
almost desperate. A vast expanse of steep snow, bared in places 
by the wind to reveal long streaks of shining ice, its smooth 
uniformity is broken by two significant features. Taking its origin 

123 




A First Step 

B Second Step 

G Lhotse Glacier 

D The Traverse, 25,000 ft. 

E Eperon des Genevois (Geneva Spur) 

e Eperon Couloir 

F South Col 

G Lhotse, 27,800 ft. 

H General line of South-East Ridge 



J The Bergschrund 
K Point reached by Hunt, Evans 
and Bourdillon on 2nd May, 
1953) 22,500 ft. 

AIV Advance Base (or Camp IV), 21,200 ft. 
AV Camp V, 22,000 ft. 
AVI Camp VI (Temporary Camp), 23,000 f 
AVII Camp VII, 24,000 ft. 
AVIII Camp VIII, 26,000 ft. 



By W. Hcaton Cooper, based on the line drawing by Robert Anderson in 
y of Everest^ by W. H, Murray, published by J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. 



LHOTSE FACE: ONE 

directly from the wide opening of the South Col, a rib of rock 
stands out from the Face, felling obliquely from left to right, and 
flattening into the snow surface at about half height. This was 
christened by the Swiss the "Eperon des Genevois" and called by 
us "the Geneva Spur". There is neither shelf nor change of 
gradient on which to place a tent along the flanks of this spur, 
and the rocks themselves are uncomfortably steep. Farther to the 
right and directly beneath the turreted top of Lhotse, the surface 
of the Face is again interrupted by a succession of shallow, 
shelving terraces, separated by crevasses and steep ice walls. 
This, known as the Lhotse glacier it might more aptly be 
described as a glaciated slope starts about 3,000 feet below 
Lhotse's summit, or some two-thirds of the way up towards the 
South Col from the head of the Cwm. Except in the area where 
this Lhotse glacier spills into the Cwm, the Face itself is severed 
from the steepening upper slopes of the Cwm by a horizontal cre- 
vasse, a "Bergschrund" which skirts its foot. Evidently the most 
direct way to attain the Col is to force a crossing over this Berg- 
schrund and make for the Geneva Spur, climbing by the slopes 
on one or other of its flanks. But the slope is unrelentingly steep 
and much of it is ice-covered. There is virtually no natural resting- 
place for a tent between the Cwm and the Col, over a height of 
4,000 feet. This is the route taken by the Swiss last spring. They 
followed close beside the right edge and made straight for the 
Col; their success in reaching it although nearly at the end of 
their strength was an astonishing performance. 

By contrast with this, the Lhotse glacier provides a succession 
of giant "steps", each liable to hold deep snow, each only to be 
reached by climbing up a steep or vertical ice wall: frequent 
deviations have to be made to find the least difficult passages. 
It leads towards Lhotse; at its highest point, therefore, a long 
traverse must be made away to the left, towards the Geneva Spur, 
in order to reach the Col. It is thus a considerably longer route. 

Comparing the two alternatives before us, one point stood out 
and was underlined by the hard experience of the Swiss. This was 
the absolute need to make at least one resting-place for the night 
in the eventual journey to the South Col. In this way, the ascent 
could be made in two stages; indeed we might need to find two 
camp sites and break the journey into three stages. This was due 
to the difficulties of the climbing, combined with the altitude at 
which these difficulties must be tackled from 22,000 to 26,000 

A.E. 10 C 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

feet. Only by discovering a route via the more devious Lhotse 
glacier could such resting-places be found. Viewing this problem 
from the distant slopes of Pumori in 1951, Shipton also expressed 
this opinion. It had been almost a foregone conclusion before we 
left London. The Lhotse Face reconnaissance party were expected 
to find the best way up the Lhotse glacier; they hoped to find the 
camp sites used by the Swiss in their autumn attempt, but it was 
not by any means certain that they would retrace in detail the 
route taken by our predecessors. 

We continued upwards on 2nd May, still using oxygen. It was 
sultry and the heat seemed almost unbearable in our masks; as 
usual, we were sinking deep into new snow, and we were now 
climbing over untrodden ground. A second and final "step" or 
small icefall defends the last hollow at the head of the Cwm, but 
by keeping to the north side of the glacier it was easy to dodge this 
obstacle, and we were scarcely troubled by crevasses. Above this 
"step", and standing midway between the direct line of the South 
Col and the summit of Lhotse, we found traces of the Swiss Camp 
V; a few sticks marking the limits of the camp and several food 
boxes half-hidden in the snow. We had taken two hours, about 
twice as long as the average time required to make the journey 
later on. The height of this camp was approximately 22,000 feet 
by our reckoning. 

We now examined the foot of the Face and chose a point away 
to the right where a shelf running up and across an ice step 
seemed to afford lodgment on the steep slopes above ; it seemed a 
weak link in the defences. Long before we reached this, it began 
snowing heavily and our pace became even slower. For the first 
time while using oxygen equipment I experienced a feeling cf 
effort and had to rest fairly frequently when taking my turn to 
lead; indeed we were all reduced to much the same state. One 
and a half hours after leaving the Swiss Camp V, we had climbed 
the first steep rise above the foot of the Lhotse Face, finally 
cutting steps up bare ice to reach a typical terrace, which was 
dominated by a big ice wall, partly overhanging. It might have 
been no more than 600 feet above Camp V, for we had averaged, 
even at this moderate altitude, less than 500 feet an hour. The 
traverse which we had seen from below started leftwards from 
this point, and we rested for a while. The weather was now 
very bad. The Cwm was filled with heavy clouds. From where 
we sat, the ground was so steep above that it was not possible 

126 



LHOTSE FACE: ONE 

to discern the line which we had selected from below. It seemed 
best to return rather than expend effort which it would be better 
to reserve for the main reconnaissance in the following days. We 
had removed our masks and the effect of oxygen lack was very 
marked. Our movements were noticeably sluggish, as I was to 
realize when walking a few paces along the terrace to take 
a photograph. But it was interesting that in this state of anoxia 
the mind was still conscious of this slowing-down effect. 

Going down towards the Cwm, my oxygen bottle was soon 
empty, and Tom removed it as well as the soda lime canister to 
lighten the load. Charles Evans likewise threw away his bottle 
and canister soon afterwards. Though we were relieved of 30 
Ib. from our backs and descending over easy ground in the 
tracks we had already made, both of us were very tired. I found 
it a great effort even to place one foot in front of the other, and I 
believe Charles's experience was similar. Tom still had a reserve 
of oxygen and continued to use his set; he was therefore in better 
shape than we, but it was a very weary party which reached 
Camp IV at about 4 p.m. that afternoon. 

While we had been thus engaged, another oxygen experiment, 
also planned to take place just before the rest period, was in pro- 
gress at a lower level. Leaving Base Camp that morning and 
using Open-Circuit sets at a flow rate of 4 litres a minute, Ed 
Hillary and Tenzing had climbed directly to Camp IV in exactly 
five hours, including a total period of forty-five minutes spent in 
rests at Camps II and III. The state of the track up the Cwm had 
not been good owing to the prevailing weather conditions the day 
before. This was a truly remarkable achievement, an indication 
both of the going powers of these two exceptional men and of the 
efficiency of the equipment they were using. Both were quite 
fresh and anxious to start on the long journey back to Base. I had 
arranged to go down with them at the conclusion of the preview 
of the Lhotse Face, but I was too tired to join them and they left 
almost at once, for the tracks were already disappearing under 
fresh snow, they were heading into a snowstorm and there re- 
mained only two hours of daylight. They had a terrible time going 
down the two miles of the Cwm, staggering over a fearful break- 
able crust on the snow surface, frequently losing the route through 
the Icefall. In spite of all they had accomplished that day, blind- 
ing snow and the fact that it was now dark and the track masked 
by new snow, they reached Base Camp soon after 7.30 p.m., less 

127 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

than three and a half hours after leaving Camp IV: "Tired" to 
quote Hillary's diary "but by no means exhausted". 

The whole reconnaissance party moved up to Camp V on 3rd 
May. I left them with instructions to establish a camp as high as 
possible on the Lhotse Face, and from there the Closed- Circuit 
party would push on next day. From our experience on 2nd May, 
it was now clear that in the present condition of snow there was 
very slight chance of their getting to the South Col, but it was 
hoped that they might reach the top of the Lhotse glacier and be 
able to inspect at close quarters the beginning of the traverse 
towards the Geneva Spur; this part of the route had seemed to 
me to be a danger-point for avalanches. In view of the great effort 
which we had had to make in reaching a point but little above the 
foot of the Face, I stressed that the whole operation should be 
limited to forty-eight hours; we decided that the reconnaissance 
party should be back at Base Camp by 6th May. I then left them 
in this, our highest camp so far, and returned with three Sherpas, 
Da Tensing, Gyaljen and Ang Dawa II, who were unwell, first to 
Camp IV and then to Camp II, arriving at dusk. We spent the 
night there before descending to Base Camp on 4th May; the 
Lhotse Face Reconnaissance was safely launched and we must 
now await their report. 

The weather continued to be dismally bad; more snow piled 
up in the Cwm -as Charles Evans's party started up the Face on 
4th May. Instead of following the possible lead on the right flank 
which we had inspected, they cast more over to the left at the 
prompting of Ang Temba, who remembered the Swiss route. It 
all looked most unpromising : steep, bulging seracs hanging over 
the topmost terrace of the Cwm, beneath the Lhotse glacier. 
There was one possibility a gully slanting diagonally to the 
right, set at a high angle and filled with thigh-deep, powdery 
snow. Charles Evans chanced to see a piece of thin rope on the 
surface and, pulling it, revealed a handline; it was the beginning 
of the Swiss autumn route. They struggled up it. Vertical ice 
then forced them to traverse left and round another bulge, up 
between further ice cliffs, always on exceedingly steep ground. 
In some ways this intricate route finding, pitch by pitch, might be 
compared with a complex route on a rock face, rather than a 
problem of ice and snow. 

On the way up Ward, climbing on Open-Circuit equipment 
with Evans, complained of breathing difficulties. On examining 

128 



LHOTSE FACE: ONE 

his set, Bourdillon discovered that he was getting only just over 
i litre a minute instead of 4. He was found to be in some distress 
and nothing could be done about the fault, so Ward stopped to 
await the return of those who would later be descending to 
Camp V. 

For a time they were able to climb directly upwards, breasting 
a gully whose angle rose to over 50 degrees, until, at the moment 
when it became unacceptably precipitous, they could make an 
awkward step out to the right, on to another terrace and along it. 
Then a short ice chimney, indicated by more Swiss rope pegged 
into the ice by pitons, led them by a zigzag movement up and 
across some of the steepest ground yet encountered : first right, 
then a long swing back and up to the left. They cleared a thick 
layer of loose, unreliable snow overlying the ice as they went, in 
order to cut steps. It was extremely exhausting, especially for 
Bourdillon, who was then in the lead. 

At this very time while they were engaged upon this severe 
passage there was a minor crisis, serious enough in the circum- 
stances. As Tom Bourdillon was clearing away the snow and cut- 
ting steps in the ice beneath it, he heard a faint shout: "I am 
getting no oxygen." It was Charles Wylie, immediately behind 
him on the rope, crouched over his axe and obviously in diffi- 
culties. Here was an awkward situation. On such steep ground 
there was no security; it was no easy matter to turn round in his 
steps and go back to see what was wrong; nor was it easy for 
Charles, delicately balanced and breathless as he was, to swing 
his heavy equipment off his back to find out the cause. Yet it was 
done. Charles's oxygen bottle was empty. His mask removed, he 
was for some moments in distress, gasping in the thin air after 
being for so long dependent on his oxygen supply. In a little while, 
however, though still decidedly groggy, he managed to continue, 
very slowly now. They were in sight of a tiny shelf just above, on 
which were the tattered remains of a tent and signs of other 
equipment. This was the Swiss Camp VI. They struggled up to it, 
cleared a space and pitched their own tent upon it. Leaving the 
food, oxygen and other equipment for their stay, Wylie and the 
Sherpas now turned and went down to find Ward, who was 
suffering badly from anoxia. The weary little party plodded very 
slowly back to Camp V, leaving Bourdillon and Evans alone on 
the Lhotse Face. 

At Camp VI Evans and Bourdillon made a most valuable dis- 

129 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

covcry. Four charged oxygen bottles, mentioned by the Swiss but 
believed to be at their Camp VII higher up the Lhotse Face, had 
been found in good condition. Among their tasks had been that of 
looking for Swiss stores, and Tom Bourdillon had been prepared 
for this treasure. With the aid of the adaptors manufactured 
specially for us by our oxygen assembly firm and other tools 
which he had found at Camp V, he broached these bottles. 
Thanks to this, he and Charles Evans spent a restful night there, 
sleeping with the aid of oxygen, while still leaving enough to be 
useful for later operations in the Assault. 

With Ward still feeling the after-effects of his unpleasant ex- 
perience, Charles Wylie returned, this time without oxygen, to 
Camp VI on 5th May with Ang Temba and Pemba, while Bour- 
dillon and Evans pushed on up the Face. The snow and weather 
conditions were alike atrocious. I had hoped that they would be 
able to take a central line up the glacier where a slope apparently 
clear of ice steps and crevasses seemed from below to present 
straightforward climbing. In the present conditions at any rate 
this proved to be out of the question. They were forced to remain 
in the more complicated zone on the left. Even on the short slopes 
the deep snow appeared to be unstable, and both felt that there 
was a considerable risk of starting avalanches. Moreover, they 
could not get a clear view of their whereabouts owing to poor 
visibility; for it was snowing. They were probably little short of 
24,000 feet when they decided to turn back. No very definite 
point had been reached, but in the circumstances there was no 
advantage and considerable danger in pushing the reconnaissance 
farther than this. 

It was in fact a fine effort and a useful one. Clearly the Lhotse 
Face would be as tough a problem as we had expected and much 
time must be devoted to the tasks of preparing a route upwards, 
establishing camps and getting up stores destined for these and 
the highest camps on and above the Col. Equally valuable was the 
experience gained in the use of oxygen, particularly the still 
experimental Closed-Circuit type. When I questioned the users 
two days later at Base Camp, they both surprised me by their 
enthusiasm; after our common experiences in the Cwm I had not 
expected this. However, in the colder weather and at the greater 
height it had given a very satisfactory performance. Charles 
Wylie was well pleased with those of the special Sherpas who had 
been able to continue after their comrades had fallen sick; it 

130 




T 

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N ^ 

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S r C ' 




THE KHUMBU ICEFALL 

View near Base Camp, showing the lower part of the Icefall 




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HH 
P 

OQ 

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5 

33 



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THE KHUMBU ICEFALL 

"Mike's Horror'' 




THE KHUMBU ICEFALL 

Camp II, with Pumori 







U U R 

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-J M fl. 



W X C 



ex 

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u 





THE WESTERN GWM 

The lower part of the Western Cwm, showing the "first step" and 
Lhotse. The foot of the Lhotse Face is about 2^ miles distant 




THE WESTERN GWM 

Lower part of Western Cwm; Ferry party on its way to Camp IV 





THE WESTERN CWM 

Advance Base (2 1 ,200 feet) and the Lhotse Face. The foot of the Face 
is about one mile distant 



LHOTSE FACE: ONE 

looked as if we had a choice of outstanding men for the final phase. 
Two other impressions had been gained from this preliminary 
reconnaissance. The first was that the hope, on which planning 
in London had been based, that we should be able to climb from 
an Advance Base in the Cwm directly to a camp half-way up the 
Lhotse Face, was likely to be a vain one ; in fact, the London fore- 
cast proved to be quite feasible in the event. The second impres- 
sion was that we must delay the administration of oxygen to the 
climbers until the moment of leaving the Swiss Camp V, at the 
foot of the Lhotse Face. This was due partly to the discomfort of 
wearing the masks in the Cwm, and partly because, when accom- 
panying the reconnaissance party up to Camp V on 3rd May I 
had not used oxygen although carrying about 30 Ib. of stores. 
I had travelled at least as well as the others and with much greater 
enjoyment. Here again, we were proved wrong later on. 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 

THE PLAN 

BASE Camp was strangely empty and silent when I returned 
with the three sick men on the morning of 4th May. Apart 
from Tenzing, who came out to greet me with his usual warm 
handshake and ready smile, there were only James Morris of The 
Times, Griff Pugh, George Band and one or two Sherpas. Every- 
one else was on holiday at Lobuje. There was plenty of news; 
best of all, there was a new batch of letters. By now our mail 
runners were coming and going regularly at intervals of about a 
week. The average time between Base Camp and Kathmandu 
over 150 miles across rugged mountain country was about nine 
days, but the swiftest of them all, who was working for James 
Morris, actually made the journey in six days; an astonishing 
achievement. 

I learned that James had been up to Camp III in company 
with George Band and Mike Westmacott a remarkably good 
performance for one who had never climbed before nor become 
acclimatized to such an altitude. Weather bulletins had started on 
ist May, and we had been able to pick them up on both the All 
India Radio and the B.B.C. Overseas networks. They had fore- 
told daily "snow showers" with accuracy but monotonous regu- 
larity, useful to ourselves but giving little idea to other listeners 
of the trials and handicaps which these "showers" were proving 
to be to the toiling carriers in the Icefall and the Cwm. We were 
also very glad to learn of the weather conditions as they affected 
two other big expeditions which had by now taken the field : the 
Japanese were attempting to climb Manaslu, and the Swiss were 
on Dhaulagiri, the taller neighbour of Annapurna which had been 
the original objective of Maurice Herzog's expedition in 1950. In 
this season these mountains, situated to the north-west of us, could 
be expected to receive the prevailing weather on its way towards 
Everest. There was still no mention of the approach of the mon- 
soon, so I asked George Band to cable a request that it should be 
referred to, if only in the negative. 

A number of Sherpas appeared to be casualties, mainly from 

132 



THE PLAN 

a tiresome dry cough very prevalent just then amongst us and 
familiar to all who have been to Everest. It would seem to be due 
to the dry, cold air, although Tenzing attributed it to the spell of 
bad weather, which he assured us is normal for this time of year. 
Anyway, I hoped that the warmer conditions at Lobuje would 
help to put right the many invalids, for our ranks were seriously 
depleted. More serious still was the illness of Tom Stobart. Just 
before the break he, too, had made a first journey to the top of 
the Icefall in order to take action pictures of our Ferries, but had 
been unwell when he got back to Base. At Lobuje he was running 
a high temperature and was having difficulty in breathing. Griff 
was anxious to receive a first-hand report before making a pro- 
fessional visit Mike Ward and Charles Evans being on the 
Lhotse Face so we sent a wireless set down at once to the lower 
camp by a mail runner, with instructions to open communica- 
tions at 6 p.m. George Band was very doubtful whether the re- 
ception would be satisfactory, for the distance six miles was 
unduly long for the power of our sets and the two stations were 
screened from each other by intervening high ground. It was 
therefore a surprise and a relief when we heard George Lowe's 
voice, at first indistinctly but later well enough to enable Griff to 
obtain some particulars about his patient. Pneumonia was sus- 
pected and this was confirmed after Griff's visit next day. 

I went down to see Tom on 6th May and was greatly relieved 
to find him much better, already fretting over the opportunities 
he would be missing to "shoot" film in the Icefall and the Cwm. 
For some time, however, George Lowe had been understudying 
him as a reserve photographer, using one of several small cameras 
intended for taking pictures above 
the Western Cwm, when this work 
would have to be carried out by 
members of the Assault parties. 
Yet Tom, always conscientious, 
was most anxious not to fail in his 
mission, and it is a very remarkable 
tribute both to his physical powers 
of recovery and to his determination 
that by the middle of May he was 
back with us at Advance Base, his 
camera set up in a strategic position 
and Tom himself waiting in his tent 

133 




THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

like a spider at the centre of its web, quick to emerge and catch 
every interesting episode that occurred. 

The Build-up started again on 5th May. Since about half the 
total stores we required had now been shifted to the top of the 
Icefall, for a time Camp III would be the focus of our activity; 
indeed, it became an advance base for the next ten days. Two 
High Level teams were sent up there, in charge of George Lowe 
and George Band ; Michael Westmacott, who was still unfit, was 
to join them a few days later. It was the task of this trio and their 
fourteen men to shift all loads to their respective destinations at 
Camps IV and V, setting up Camp IV as the Advance Base by 
mid-May. In giving him this important job, I said to George 
Lowe, ever anxious to play a full part in whatever had to be done 
and eager now to make up for the days he had missed through 
illness: "Don't worry; it's quite likely I shall be asking you to do 
some route-making on the Lhotse Face as well as all this, depend- 
ing on what the reconnaissance party have to report when they 
get back tomorrow". Little could either of us realize then how 
significant these words would be to George's future role on the 
mountain. For the time being, there were only Tenzing, Gregory 
and Noyce to lead the two Low Level teams, but others would 
become available after the reconnaissance party had returned and 
rested. The stacks of crates and food boxes had already shrunk 
encouragingly and it was expected that all stores would reach the 
camps for which they were intended by I5th May. 

Charles Evans's party got back on the evening of 6th May, 
tired but with a certain indefinable air of assurance, which 
momentarily surprised me when I learned of the appalling con- 
ditions on the Face and the height, under 24,000 feet, at which 
they had been stopped. I soon realized, however, that they had 
very good cause to be satisfied and proud of their achievement in 
face of the handicaps of weather and bad snow. Indeed, it had 
been a fine performance to climb those steep slopes to Camp VI, 
and even more creditable to have pressed on beyond. The infor- 
mation they were now able to disclose left me in no further uncer- 
tainty either regarding the plan which we should now adopt or the 
tasks which should be allotted to each 1 and all of us in order to 
carry it out. I asked all the climbing party to assemble in the 
Mess tent next morning so that I might outline the programme. 
Just before this most important meeting, Ed Hillary, Charles 
Evans and I sat in the morning sunshine outside Tom Bourdil- 

'34 



THE PLAN 

Ion's oxygen shanty on yth May to exchange views on the plan. 

For some weeks we had realized that, while we must always 
remain capable of making a third and last attempt should this 
become necessary, our resources in men and material would only 
allow us to make two consecutive Assaults; after this we must 
necessarily wait for some days in order to recover our strength 
and replenish our camps. Accepting this conclusion, I had first 
toyed with the idea of putting most of our combined effort into 
one powerful thrust a thrust equivalent to two lesser ones and 
then, if this were not successful, falling back in order to prepare 
to launch two more in quick succession. Later, it had seemed to 
us that the great weakness of such "one up" tactics was that our 
Assault would tend to be inflexible and unwieldy ; and that it was 
ill-designed to take advantage of the weather. On balance, it 
seemed wiser to plan on the "two up" principle: that is, to put 
in two attempts in close collaboration and quick succession. A 
near failure by the first party might then be exploited by the 
second without losing time and suffering an incalculable moral 
setback by retiring from the South Col, which had called for 
such great effort on behalf of so many to reach. The third attempt 
would, I hoped, not be needed ; if it had to be made, we would 
then take time to prepare it thoroughly. 

Two successive Assaults, then, it was to be. How should they 
be launched and what oxygen equipment should we use? These 
questions were really linked, for the tactics of each Assault were 
to some extent governed by the type of oxygen equipment. It 
had long been realized, in theory at least, that the peculiar 
advantage of the Closed-Circuit system was the benefit of greater 
endurance it should confer on the climber; that is, of being able 
to climb for a longer time with a given supply of oxygen than a 
colleague using a similar bottle would be able to do with the 
Open-Circuit system. There was also a good chance that, at very 
great heights, the Closed-Circuit user might move appreciably 
faster than if he were using the Open-Circuit equipment, despite 
the weight of his set. Indeed, it was confirmation of these two 
assets which we were seeking in the experiments just carried out 
on the Lhotse Face. As applied to the final pyramid of Everest, it 
was hoped that with the Closed-Circuit system the summit might 
be reached directly from a camp on the South Col, 3,000 feet 
below and about a mile distant. 

In contrast with this, there was virtually no hope of reaching 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

the top on the Open-Circuit apparatus without interposing a 
further camp. Its endurance was appreciably less and, while still 
enjoying great advantage over a man without oxygen, the climber 
must expect to move progressively more slowly as he rose higher. 
The economy achieved, in time and effort, of avoiding this extra 
camp needs no stressing. Moreover, the more protracted the 
period of the climb, the greater the risk of being overtaken by bad 
weather speed spells safety on any mountain, but most especi- 
ally is this true of Everest. It was for this particular reason that I 
had encouraged Tom Bourdillon in pursuing the tests of his 
special equipment, despite its more obvious drawbacks; despite, 
too, the apparent unsoundness of employing two types of equip- 
ment, since success in the usage of either depended on the most 
thorough understanding and drill-like efficiency in handling it. 
My persistence was also due to the fact that our carrying problem 
over the final 3,000 feet, from the South Col to the top of Everest, 
would clearly be critical and we must reduce to an absolute 
minimum the baggage to be taken up by our few specially chosen 
men. 

There were, in effect, only two acceptable alternative com- 
binations in this "two up" plan. Either we must send up two 
Assault parties each using Open-Circuit equipment, or one party 
must use the Closed- Circuit type and the other the Open-Circuit. 
A third possibility, that of two "Closed-Circuit" Assaults, I ruled 
out owing to the risks involved in this equipment: the danger 
of unconsciousness overcoming the climber in the event of a 
failure in the mechanism, exposing him to the sudden contrast 
of breathing the rarefied surrounding air after having been de- 
pendent on too per cent, oxygen. The mechanical efficiency of 
the equipment could not be fully established until it was tested on 
the final climb. Of the two acceptable alternatives, the second 
would, for the reasons I have explained, be the more economical 
in time, stores and human effort, and this was important because 
of the need to conserve enough of all these three resources in order 
to face an eventual challenge to enter the ring for a third round. 
It was also safer from the weather point of view, as it would save 
a day. On the other hand, the first alternative, if we could succeed 
in mounting it, would be safer from a no less important viewpoint; 
namely, that the equipment was well-proven and unlikely to 
break down. Even if it did, the climber would be less prone to 
succumb to the sudden effects of exposure to high altitude, as he 

136 



THE PLAN 

would already be receiving a percentage of the surrounding air 
mixed with the supplementary oxygen supply which he was carry- 
ing. It was a nicely balanced choice. 

Whichever system was adopted, the main features of both 
types of Assault would follow a common pattern. The summit 
parties should each be two in number. There were good reasons 
for increasing this to three and even four, but the ever-dominant 
supply limitations ruled this out. Each summit party must be 
supported by other climbers below, helping to carry the loads, 
ready to receive them on return from their climb, capable of 
replacing them and going to their help in emergency. The second 
Assault must follow closely on the first. The size of, and supplies 
at, the highest camps on the mountain being restricted by the 
carrying problem, the minimum time interval between the 
Assaults must be twenty-four hours. Thus the second party would 
in a sense be in support of the first, as well as preparing to carry 
through to the summit if the first party failed. The second party 
must be larger; it must contain its own support group in its ranks. 

Both Assault parties would start from Advance Base which, it 
will be remembered, was to be our present Camp IV at 21,200 
feet, and climb to the South Col at 26,580 feet, according to a 
similar schedule: first, to Camp V at the foot of the Lhotse Face; 
the next day to a camp half-way up the Face of Lhotse at that 
time we referred to this as the Lhotse Face Camp; from there, on 
the third day, to the Col, where another camp would be set up. 
There would be no pause on the Col unless this were forced on 
either party by wind or weather; the risk of physical deterioration 
and the additional food stores involved by delays made this point 
a most important one. 

As regards the employment of oxygen, again, both types of 
Assault were to be similar in certain respects. At that stage of our 
thinking, strongly influenced by unpleasant experiences in the 
preliminary reconnaissance of the Lhotse Face in the first two 
days of May, we proposed to use oxygen only from Camp V 
rather than from Advance Base. From that point onwards, both 
the summit parties would use oxygen for climbing. It was also 
planned to supply the camps above the Cwm with bottles of 
"night oxygen", including the Swiss bottles for this purpose; 
equipped with a special light mask, the summit climber would be 
able to take oxygen at a low rate of flow (i litre per minute) 
during the night and thus maintain his physical condition. In 

137 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

particular, he would be able to sleep more restfully and withstand 
the cold better. 

All these main points had long been settled. Detailed load tables 
(shown in Appendix VIII) had been prepared for either plan 
and only two matters remained for me to decide on the morning 
of yth May : which of the two plans to adopt, and the tasks to be 
carried out by each member of the climbing party. These were 
the matters which Ed Hillary, Charles Evans and I were now busy 
discussing in the growing heat of that memorable day. Our 
deliberations were brief, for we found ourselves in complete 
agreement. We walked over to the Mess tent and everyone 
gathered within. 



There was an unmistakable atmosphere of expectancy and 
tension. This was, after all, one of the moments everyone had been 
waiting for. It was the biggest event before the bid for the sum- 
mit itself. The occasion had an inescapably personal interest: 
"What is my job to be?" I looked briefly at each of my compan- 
ions before starting to speak. Some were sitting on boxes, others 
lying on their sleeping-bags ; James Morris was waiting to make 
notes from which he would write an important dispatch for his 
newspaper; Tenzing was near me, at the entrance to the big tent. 
In the mind of everyone there was this unanswered question. It 
was still and sultry. 

The main points which I had to make were as follows. We 
would continue the work of building up the stores so as to be ready 
to make our attempts at any period after I5th May. During this 
time there was a great deal of work to be done in preparing a 
route up the Lhotse Face, which would probably take longer 
than we had thought earlier; but this too must be finished by the 
same target date. 

We would go for the Closed-Circuit/Open-Circuit plan. The 
Closed-Circuit attempt would be made first because it was in 
itself quicker and more economical ; if it succeeded it might not 
be necessary to make another attempt indeed the weather 
might not last long enough for both and a camp on the South- 
East ridge might thus be obviated. This first Assault wats to be 
made by Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, now so successful in 
partnership and well versed in the handling of this equipment. 

138 



THE PLAN 

In speaking about this Closed-Circuit attempt, I made it clear 
that because of the experimental nature of the equipment and 
the great distance to be covered, partly over ground which we 
had not been able to see, the primary objective would be the 
South Peak. Only if the oxygen apparatus and supply were 
alike satisfactory, the weather fair and the terrain between the 
two peaks such as to allow them time to get there and back 
within safe limits, should they attempt to go farther. This leading 
team would be followed immediately by Tenzing and Hillary 
using the Open-Circuit equipment; they had by now established 
their claim beyond any doubt. This second summit party would 
have a support group consisting of myself and Gregory with four, 
possibly five, of the elite Sherpas whom we had trained and kept 
in reserve for this special purpose. We would follow the advice 
given me by Norton and Longstaff; our very special responsi- 
bility being that of carrying the last camp up the South-East ridge 
to the highest possible point. I had in mind 28,000 feet, although 
this of course depended on unforeseeable matters, not the least of 
them the finding of a platform large enough to accommodate the 
little tent. 

I must digress for a moment to explain that later the support 
arrangements were altered. There were strong arguments for 
keeping together all those who would be carrying the material 
for the highest camp, but I felt that this was outweighed by the 
need to have a supporting party close behind the first summit 
pair, particularly as we could not be sure that the interval between 
the two attempts might not become greater than twenty-four 
hours, due to bad weather or other causes. Wishing to be in posi- 
tion on the Col throughout both Assaults, I decided to attach my- 
self, with two Sherpas, to the first pair; Gregory was to remain in 
support of Hillary and Tenzing, with three Sherpas. 

Assuming that there were no hitches in the progress of these 
parties from the Cwm to the Col, the second party should arrive 
on the Col on the same day as the Closed-Circuit pair came down 
after reaching, or attempting, the summit; a decision would then 
be arrived at on the spot whether to continue with the second 
attempt. It was my hope that it would be made in any case. It 
would take place over a period of two days, the first day being 
spent in taking a tent and stores for one night as high as possible 
up the ridge towards the South Peak. 

But there was much to be done leading immediately up to 

139 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

these events. First we must stock our Camp IV with stores 
sufficient to enable us to await an opportunity offered by the 
weather; we were already planning to besiege Everest for a 
fortnight. If the mountain held out for longer than this, then we 
should be forced to replenish from Base Camp. At the same time, 
we must place the stores required for the Assault all those to be 
carried above the head of the Cwm at Camp V, which would 
thus, in effect, be a depot of the Assault stores. The exact amounts 
and their weights were already known, and consequently the 
number of High Altitude Sherpas required was established. At 
least twelve men were needed, and reserves must be added. 
These would climb in two teams, each under the leadership of a 
member of the climbing party. The two leaders chosen for this 
most important part of the Assault plan were Charles Wylie and 
Wilfrid Noyce; both had a quite exceptional understanding of our 
men. This final "lift" to the South Col might take place inde- 
pendently of the timing of the Assault, although, if weather con- 
ditions continued to be good at its completion, the first Assault 
party would follow immediately these South Col Ferry parties. 
In order to avoid an unnecessarily large camp on the Lhotse Face 
and to limit the effects of a setback, it was preferable for Noyce's 
and Wylie's parties to go up separately, like the Assault parties, 
at a twenty-four-hours' interval. 

And there would be yet another task to be done even before the 
South Col "lift" could start: the preparation of a route up the 
Lhotse Face, at least as far as the traverse from the head of the 
Lhotse Glacier leftwards towards the Geneva Spur. Some idea of 
the magnitude of this problem had been given us as a result of 
the reconnaissance, but on yth May we had still not realized its 
true difficulty. This job I had decided to give to George Lowe, 
a master of ice craft, with George Band and Mike Westmacott 
and four of our best Sherpas to assist him. This team, except 
for Westmacott, was already at Camp III and therefore half- 
way to the foot of the Face ; their work must begin at once if it 
were to be completed by I5th May, and their place at Camp III 
must be taken by others. Ed Hillary and I would go up the fol- 
lowing day, Ed to lead the main Ferry party on its journeys 
between Camp III and Camp IV, I with four men to be chosen 
from those at Camp III, to take station at Camp IV and start to 
move loads to the site of the Swiss Camp V. For the time being, 
Gregory and Tenzing would continue to conduct the Low Level 

140 



THE PLAN 

Ferries in the Icefall. The reconnaissance party was due to go 
down to Lobuje for a well-merited rest. 

It will be seen that these many tasks absorbed practically the 
whole of the climbing party. This was ambitious in that it as- 
sumed complete fitness on the part of everyone from this time on- 
wards in order to have the best chance of success. I had one re- 
serve from outside the climbing party proper Michael Ward. 
In the Assault itself it seemed to me important that Michael 
should remain at Base in case of casualties from frostbite, ex- 
haustion or other causes. But in the preliminary stages he might 
be very useful to replace tired or sick men. 

I was no less anxious than before that we should not stay 
longer on the mountain than we must. If the weather went on 
being as bad in mid-May as it had been for the past month, and 
if the weather forecasts predicted a continuation of this state of 
affairs, then we would probably withdraw off the mountain, 
staying well down the glacier in comparative comfort, until there 
was an improvement. 

Thus was the plan unfolded. If I am any judge of these things, 
I would say that the air of expectancy and tension had now been 
replaced by one of confidence and satisfaction. Doubts about the 
future intentions had been removed; everyone knew the course 
we were steering, what his particular task was to be, and how the 
various jobs would be dovetailed together towards the attain- 
ment of the ultimate aim of the expedition. Everyone felt he had 
an important contribution to make towards that aim. 

The conference was over and we dispersed, Charles Evans and 
Tom Bourdillon to sort and label their remaining loads to go up 
the Icefall, Tenzing and Charles Wylie to discuss the selection of 
the Sherpa teams, Wilfrid Noyce, just down from a Low Level 
carry, to make calculations of rations on behalf of George Band, 
who was at Camp III. Only the Georges had not been present, 
but I would be able to tell them the plan shortly when I went up 
to join them. 

Yet our purposeful mood was tempered by serious concern next 
evening. At the time of the 5 p.m. wireless call I spoke to George 
Lowe, telling him of the intended arrival next day of Ed Hillary 
and myself to take over from him, bringing with us Mike West- 
macott in order that he, with the two Georges, might be released 
for "other important jobs"; it seemed better to leave explanations 
until we met. George had a tale of woe to unfold. "Hallo, John at 
A.E.II 141 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Base this is George Lowe at III George Band is ill bad throat 
and temperature has been laid up all today little chance of his 
recovering up here he ought to go right down as soon as pos- 
sible Over". So our spearhead on the Lhotse Face was already 
one man short; for some days at any rate neither Mike Ward, just 
back from the reconnaissance, nor any other member of the party, 
could be spared to make up the numbers. I agreed at once that 
George Band should come down to recuperate at Lobuje. George 
went on: "Got to IV at midday after plugging solidly since half- 
past eight it began to snow an hour after we set out got off 
again soon after twelve followed steps half a mile, then wind and 
snow so heavy all tracks went impossible to see flags sixty yards 
apart Topkie fell down a crevasse some Sherpas panicked, but 
not good old Dawa Thondup Gompu was absolutely finished 
everyone iced up and lost snow nearly knee-deep we were cast- 
ing all the time for flags Hunt's Gully crossing was tough 
crawled over the ladder and staggered back to III all of us 
dead beat." 

I asked George to give everyone at Camp III a day's rest to 
recover from this ordeal. 

It already began to look as if we might not have enough men to 
carry through the plan. This was the beginning of a period of 
mounting anxiety for us all. 



142 



CHAPTER TWELVE 

LHOTSE FACE: TWO 

DURING the brief respite in the work of stock-piling, the 
Icefall had undergone some surprising changes. Making our 
way up to Camp III on gth May, in order to release George Lowe 
for his new task on the Lhotse Face, Ed Hillary and I missed 
a familiar feature, an elegant, finger-shaped ice pinnacle at the 
brink of the terrace where the tents of Camp II were pitched, 
piercing the skyline as you approached the steep section of the 
route beneath "Hell-fire Alley". In a way, it was a relief that this 
serac no longer remained, a standing threat to topple over while 
a party was passing up or down the route, but it had served as a 
useful guide-post when searching for the right direction in the 
labyrinth, through a blanket of freshly fallen snow. As though to 
make up for this, however, a nearer menace in the form of a tall 
ice pillar now leaned over just above "Hell-fire Alley", making 
its fell intent only too clear. Something would have to be done 
about this, and soon. 

The "Atom Bomb Area" was unrecognizable. We spent some 
minutes casting around for a new line through this chaotic scene, 
noting the need for a log bridge across one of the newly-opened 
chasms. A little later, when I was resting at Camp II before 
tackling the second section of the journey to the top of the Icefall, 
Greg arrived with a Low Level team. Without any attempt to 
dramatize the incident, he told me how they had been very lucky 
to escape when, just below Camp II, a mass of ice crashed from 
above their party, passing behind Greg and grazing the man 
next on the rope. This was probably the nearest moment to dis- 
aster which any of us experienced throughout our stay on the 
mountain. 

The dangerous gap overshadowed by loose ice boulders above 
Camp II had now stretched so wide that the two-sectional span 
of metal ladder barely touched at either edge; we noted this, too, 
for the evening wireless call to Base Camp. Along the traverse on 
the top of the debris slope we found ourselves on unfamiliar 
ground, moving on pulverized ice between blocks of all sizes, from 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

pebbles to vast boulders twelve feet high, blue and freshly split 
from the parent cliff above us. 

That evening at Camp II I spoke to Wilfrid Noyce on the 
wireless. He was due to conduct a Ferry party upwards the next 
day, and I asked him to deal with the two most urgent prob- 
lems: the serac menacing "Hell-fire Alley" and the bridge above 
Camp II, now in danger of falling into the crevasse beneath it. I 
learned later that he had a hard job of it, hacking away for three- 
quarters of an hour at the base of the serac until, prompted by a 
hefty shove with a bridging log, he had the satisfaction of watch- 
ing it totter, unbalance and lurch like a felled tree, breaking into 
countless fragments across the very path by which our many 
parties made their toilsome way. 

As the work of building up our final requirements of stores 
went on through the Icefall in this first fortnight of May, Camp II 
itself, sited in an apparently peaceful zone amid the surrounding 
turmoil, became unsafe. The noises of underground movement 
increased in frequency and eeriness; splits appeared, admittedly 
small but nonetheless tell-tale, in the ice beneath the tents during 
one anxious night. After that the porters preferred to carry their 
loads directly to Camp III and descend again to Base in one day, 
great though this effort was, rather than make the overnight stop 
in the Icefall. 

Mike Westmacott also came up on this day to join George Lowe. 
He had never really recovered from his bout of sickness in the 
early days of reconnoitring the Icefall nearly a month before, but 
had stoutly continued to help there. Now, at the moment when 
his opportunity to fulfil this important mission on the Lhotse 
Face had come, Mike was evidently not fit to play a full part. 
Despite a painful cough, bad throat and queasy stomach, he 
insisted against all the evidence that he was much better. 
Unconvinced, I could not but admire his spirit, and so 
badly did we count on his services now that George Band 
had fallen sick that I did not suggest that he should return to 
Base. 

Camp III was a large camp that night, with four Sahibs and 
no less than nineteen Sherpas, for we had with us additional men 
to complete George Lowe's team for the work on the Lhotse 
Face, Ed Hillary and I had decided that for some days at any rate 
he should conduct the Ferry from Camp III to Camp IV, while I 
should take four men from the fourteen now located at Camp III 

144 



LHOTSE FACE: TWO 

and move up to Camp IV, in order to form the dump of Assault 
stores at Camp V. 

By the evening of loth May, George was already in position at 
V; Mike had been obliged to rest with my party and hoped to 
join him next day. I was at IV and Ed had returned to III after 
delivering a first consignment of stores in this, the second half of 
the Build-up. 

So the work continued for the next eight days in the Icefall and 
the Western Cwm. If there were no incidents, it was nevertheless 
a depressing period, for the weather, which had been bad ever 
since we had taken up our programme of acclimatization again 
on gth April, relentlessly went on hindering our preparations. If 
anything, it got worse. On loth and nth May it snowed heavily 
from about midday until after dark, leaving a mantle of snow 
over a foot deep to be ploughed through in the intense heat which 
filled the Cwm each morning, unrelieved by the faintest breeze. 
On the second of these days, Ed Hillary's party took no less than 
four and a half hours between Camps III and IV, a journey which 
in fair conditions would be covered by a laden man in under 
three hours. In my diary for i2th May I find the words: "It is 
difficult not to feel bitter disappointment in these atrocious 
weather conditions. Today it has snowed another seven inches or 
so, and this evening I found the tracks up and down the Cwm 
obliterated." Even down at Base this was having its effect on the 
spirits of the party. Somebody else noted: "A most depressing 
afternoon. Three inches even down here." Above us on the Face 
of Lhotse, George Lowe was waist-deep in loose and dangerous 
snow. Considering everything, the cheerful willingness of everyone 
and especially our Sherpas was amazing. Charles Wylie re- 
ported that, despite the conditions in the Icefall, the teams had 
settled down; the number of men falling out through sickness 
was much less than before the break. Everest's weapon of weather 
slowed us down but did not hold us up. 

*Then there was a change, dramatically sudden. We had heard 
of it through the weather broadcasts but had hardly dared to 
credit it. The "sno^ showers" ceased, the afternoons remained 
clear. The long trail up through the Icefall and the Cwm to the 
foot of the Lhotse Face became a well-worn path ; parties moved 
up and down it more speedily, with far less toil and trouble than 
before. In fact, the whole outlook brightened, for the news from 
the party on the Face was at that stage most encouraging. But I 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

will shortly be telling of their activities. First I must finish the 
story of the Build-up. 

By 1 5th May this was still not complete. On that day, following 
the arrival on the I4th of a fresh party consisting of Charles 
Evans, Tom Bourdillon, Greg and Wilfrid Noyce, I went down 
the Cwm, changing places with Ed Hillary, as we had previously 
agreed. After carrying loads and conducting the Ferry party 
between Camps IV and V for five days, the time had now come 
to organize the final move of the whole party to Advance Base. 
This could best be done from Camp III, where most of our activity 
'had been focused since 6th May. Griff Pugh was there, and there 
were two others on their way down; Mike Westmacott, now 
forced to go down for a rest, and James Morris, who had not only 
climbed the Icefall for a second time, but had accompanied 
Charles Evans and the others as far as Advance Base that morn- 
ing. We all admired his enterprise : he had well earned his place 
as a full member of the expedition. That evening I was able to 
speak to Charles Wylie at some length on the air. I asked him 
to wind-up the Low Level Ferry service, pay off the surplus men 
and come up, with Tenzing, to Advance Base by i8th May. The 
news from George Lowe, speaking on the air from his perch at 
Camp VI, seemed to warrant this, and with the welcome change 
in the weather we must now line up at the start. The tent distri- 
bution plan had always been complicated and I asked Mike 
Westmacott, whose job this was, to make the final dispositions 
with Charles Wylie before leaving for Lobuje. It had proved im- 
practicable to have direct communication between Camp IV 
and Base, although it may be of interest to mention in passing 
that while at Camp III I had managed to have two-way com- 
munication with Camp IV via George Lowe at Camp VI. 

A less successful wireless conversation took place about this 
time between Da Namgyal, now recovered from his illness and at 
Camp III, and Tenzing at Base Camp. Tenzing was anxious to 
give Da Namgyal an important message and he was persuaded to 
use the Walkie-phone set for this purpose. An unwilling Da Nam- 
gyal was handed another instrument at Camp III. Neither had 
tried these gadgets before and both, for some unaccountable 
reason, got stage fright. The conversation went something like 
this: "Oh Da Namgyal" "Oh Tenzing" "Oh Da Nam- 
gyal" "Oh Tenzing." It never got any further and two very 
discomfited Sherpas had to abandon the attempt. 

146 



LHOTSE FACE: TWO 

I stayed two nights at Camp III, conversing each evening on 
the air with George Lowe and through him with Hillary at Camp 
IV. While I was there, Griff Pugh arranged to let me try out 
"sleeping oxygen", an experience which was both useful and 
pleasant. Specially light masks, of the type used by the British 
Overseas Airways Corporation for non-pressurized aircraft, had 
been brought for this purpose, and these were connected with an 
oxygen bottle in the same way as our large masks. Normally one 
bottle is shared by two men, the oxygen flow being imparted in 
equal quantities to each through a light rubber tube dividing at 
a "T" joint. We used i litre a minute each. I found no discomfort 
in wearing the mask and enjoyed a really restful night and 
pleasant dreams. 

An experiment of a different but no less important nature 
was at that time taking place in the Icefall. We were keen to 
do everything possible to ensure that the stores required to 
support the two Assaults, on which the whole plan depended, 
should reach their destination. Michael Ward had in his medical 
chest some Benzedrine, a drug used successfully in the war to 
maintain the endurance of troops during periods of prolonged 
fighting. Its particular property was that of suppressing a desire 
to sleep. Michael considered that it might be risky to make the 
initial tests with this on the Lhotse Face itself, so it was admin- 
istered to two volunteer Sherpas working in the Icefall. When 
Charles Wylie asked them their impressions on this experiment, 
one said: "Splendid! it has cured my cough." The other had a 
different but no more helpful experience. "Fine! it helped me to 
sleep." 

I returned to Camp IV on iyth May, in company with Griff 
Pugh. The fine weather continued and we were beginning to feel 
impatient to complete our preparations for the Assault while the 
mountain remained thus kindly disposed towards us. The most 
vital of these preparations was that in which George Lowe had 
now been engaged for a week on the Face of Lhotse. It is time to 
recount his adventures upon that great barrier of ice and snow. 



George had gone up to Camp V on the afternoon of loth May, 
accompanied by four of our best Sherpas: Da Tensing, Ang 
Nyima, Gyaljen and Ang Namgyal. The Sherpas' task would be 
to replenish Lowe and Westmacott with stores at their temporary 

H7 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

camp on the Lhotse Face and, later, to bring up baggage required 
to stock the Swiss Camp VII, which was to be the half-way house 
during the Assault period for parties on their way to and from the 
South Col. George's first move was to establish himself at the Swiss 
Camp VI, from which he could move both upwards and down- 
wards, stamping out a track, cutting steps and fixing ropes as 
hand-lines on the steepest ground. He and his Sherpas went up 
there on nth May. Conditions were most difficult, for new snow 
once again lay deeply on the route followed by the reconnaissance 
party, and he sank in at least as much as they had. The ascent of 
600 feet from the beginning of the steep slope to the camp site 
took the party five and a half hours little more than 100 feet of 
upward progress per hour. 

As Westmacott had not arrived at Camp V when George Lowe 
left, he had asked Ang Nyima, the most skilled and experienced of 
his team, to remain with him at Camp VI ; the others descended 
to the lower camp. Both Lowe and Ang Nyima were very tired 
after this gruelling experience and settled down at once to sleep. 
They slept for fifteen hours. For the next few days the Lhotse 
Face party worked on two levels. George and Ang Nyima oper- 
ated from Camp VI, improving or renewing the track downwards 
and forcing a route gradually farther up towards the top of the 
Lhotse glacier. Westmacott, with the three remaining Sherpas, 
was based on Camp V. He would go up to or towards Camp VI, 
carrying George's daily needs of food, fuel, rope and pitons, and 
gradually shifting Assault stores to that camp. The really dreadful 
weather which so afflicted us lower down the line of communica- 
tion was an even greater trial to this spearhead party, operating 
on unprepared and much more difficult ground and doing so in 
a more rarefied atmosphere. 

I went up to Camp VI after completing a Ferry trip to V on 
1 3th May. Michael Westmacott was at the lower camp when I 
arrived ; his condition was much worse than when I had seen him 
three days before, and although he had started out with the ut- 
most determination the previous day, he had not had the strength 
to reach Camp VI himself. It was obvious that he was approaching 
a state of exhaustion. Yet he insisted on accompanying me on this 
occasion. Equally praiseworthy was the devoted work and skilful 
climbing of the Sherpas, in particular Da Tensing and Ang Nam- 
gyal, who had gone on to Camp VI the day before on their own, 
taking exceptionally heavy loads to make up for the weakness in 

148 



LHOTSE FACE: TWO 

numbers of the carrying team for Ang Nyima was doing a 
climber's job with Lowe, and Gyaljen was by no means well; he 
had not recovered from the illness which prevented him from 
taking part in the reconnaissance at the beginning of the month. 
Taking Ang Namgyal I went up through the deep overnight snow 
there was no sign of a track followed by Mike and Da Tensing. 
We were very tired when, two and a half hours later, we reached 
George and Ang Nyima, who that day were busy clearing snow 
from the final steep ice slope below their camp, cutting bucket- 
sized steps and fixing a stout hand-rail of manilla rope to replace 
the frail and weathered Swiss cords. They were both in splendid 
heart. George was intent on recording our distress with his cine 
camera. Ang Nyima, whom we had regarded as somewhat of a spiv 
when he had first joined us with Roberts towards the end of April, 
was now in his element. He is undoubtedly one of those few mor- 
tals who blossom out only above a certain altitude. Whereas at 
Base Camp, and even at Camp III, he had not been forthcoming 
either in demeanour or in his readiness to volunteer his services, 
here on the difficult slopes of the lower Lhotse Face he was not 
only giving himself devotedly and skilfully to the task, but doing 
so with a huge, slow grin. Ang Nyima chain-smoked, and we 
were at pains to send up supplies to pander to this habit. He 
deserved it. 

After spending about half an hour at Camp VI I went down 
into the afternoon snowstorm for once short-lived and found 
the other two some distance below. Westmacott was obviously un- 
fit to go any farther, but he told me again how much better he 
was going today, and somehow he and Da Tensing struggled up 
another fifty feet to hand over a load to George Lowe. It was in- 
deed a fine effort. 

On return that evening I sent a message to Base Camp for 
Wilfrid Noyce and, later, Michael Ward to come up, in order to 
reinforce George's party. From my own experience at this time 
and from the conversation I had had with George, it was evident 
that the Lhotse Face was an even tougher proposition than we had 
judged it to be from the results of the reconnaissance. Both Wil- 
frid and Michael were to some extent prepared for this assign- 
ment, for I had spoken to them regarding some such eventuality 
when the plan was unfolded on 7th May. They were delighted 
to join the fray. 

On 1 4th May George and Ang Nyima went up 1,000 feet in fine 

*49 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

weather and discovered the Swiss Camp VII. That evening I was 
able to tell George on the air of the reinforcement plan; in reply 
he spoke enthusiastically of his success that day and of his future 
intentions. He proposed to rest next day it would be the sixth 
since his arrival at Camp V and on the following day climb on- 
wards to the top of the Lhotse glacier and inspect perhaps also 
prepare a route across the Traverse. After that well, although he 
may not have said so, it could easily be guessed what was in the 
mind of the irrepressible George. It was to be nothing short of 
the South Col. This oration was heard distinctly at Camps IV, 
III and Base. It was a cheering message and must have set every- 
one thinking, as it did in my case, that we were virtually on top 
already. 

All available effort was now turned on to the Lhotse Face. 
Each day two teams went up from Camp IV; one, which often 
included as porters members of the climbing party, intent on 
keeping fit, went up to Camp V and back, themselves carrying 
further stores to complete the Assault dump; another would go to 
Camp VII, either stopping the night at Camp V or making the 
journey direct from Camp IV, carrying the stores required for 
VII and in addition dumping there some of the loads intended for 
the South Col. By so doing we hoped to lighten the burden of the 
South Col parties when the time came for them to go up the Face. 
Following the addition of Wilfrid Noyce to the Lhotse Face party 
on 1 5th May he replaced Ang Nyima, who came down for a 
much needed rest first Ed Hillary, then Tom Bourdillon, fol- 
lowed in succession by George Band and Michael Ward, escorted 
Sherpas up those 2,000 feet on successive days. 

George Lowe's optimism had not taken into account the 
hazards of high altitude. On the night of Wilfrid's arrival at 
Camp VI, they both took a dose of sleeping-pills. Next day 
Wilfrid noticed his companion was bemused and had to pummel 
him into activity before starting. He became more and more con- 
cerned as George, moving extremely slowly, climbed towards the 
site of Camp VII, apparently half-asleep; they took two and a 
half hours to cover 600 feet. He actually dropped into a sort of 
stupor several times on the move, and during a pause for rest and 
food, Wilfrid found him asleep with a sardine hanging half out of 
his mouth and George is fond of sardines. It was obviously un- 
wise to continue in this state, and the party turned back to the 
dismay of the watchers in the Cwm below. "It was," said Wilfrid 

150 



LHOTSE FACE: TWO 

"like playing a drunken man downhill." On arrival at the tents 
of Camp V, George dropped off into a coma until the following 
day. 

The ill-effects had completely worn off by morning and the 
pair went far to make amends for this misfortune. Not only did 
they arrive at Camp VII the gear for which had been carried 
up by Ed Hillary during I5th May, when he had made the double 
journey from Camp IV to Camp VII and back in the day but 
their delighted spectators observed them in the afternoon emerg- 
ing from behind the serac which conceals that camp and continu- 
ing upwards for over 600 feet. This was splendid progress and we 
waited full of hope for a triumphal advance on the following day. 
By this time Mike Ward had arrived to join George, thus releasing 
a reluctant Wilfrid, who would gladly have stayed to continue 
in the van, but returned in accordance with my request that he 
should rest in anticipation of the first South Col carry, now 
scheduled to start on soth May. 

But our hopes, so buoyed up by the previous day's events high 
up on the Face, were dashed when, on the i8th, three climbers 
one of them was Da Tensing eventually started out from Camp 
VII only to turn back at a point but little higher than that reached 
before. This was bitter indeed, and in our state of tension we found 
it hard enough to understand. Later, we learned from Tom 
Bourdillon, down from his escort trip to Camp VII, that the wind 
was very severe indeed, we could hear it from our sheltered 
position, roaring higher up like a train. When they had at last 
ventured out, Michael Ward, tired after his climb the day before, 
had suffered severely with cold feet, and later George had a 
slightly frost-bitten hand. In the circumstances they had done well 
to start out at all. 

The drama of the Lhotse Face continued unabated. It was now 
igth May and the tenth day of the struggle. The wind continued 
to batter the rocks of the west face of Everest high above us ; it 
was deflected across the Lhotse Face and rushed through the 
funnel formed by the serac guarding Camp VII and the slopes 
behind it. We waited hour by hour that morning, vainly hoping 
for signs of movement. There were none. George Band had gone 
up there and he gave us some idea of the gale; yet the general 
feeling was one of disappointment. To increase our difficulties, we 
were no longer able to get any wireless communication with Camp 
VII. I was anxious to have a direct report from George Lowe him- 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 



self so as to be able to form a proper opinion of the situation up 
there; George must be tiring after his astonishing feat of endur- 
ance ; Griff Pugh was even worried about the effect on the mind 
of so prolonged a period at over 23,000 feet. 



^/ 




Another cause for concern was Charles Evans, hitherto one of 
the fittest among us all. He had gone up to Camp V two days 
before in order to assist in the Ferry to Camp VII. He had dosed 
himself with aureomycin on an empty stomach and was very un- 
well at that camp, having to rest there and come back to Camp 
IV next day. Since then he had been almost unable to eat and I 
wondered whether he would be well in time to take his place in 
the first Assault. To complete my woes, there appeared to be an 
imminent food crisis. George Band had been meticulous in keep- 
ing check of our supplies a most difficult task now that they were 
widely distributed in several camps. Although the estimates had 
shortened, it had been expected at the time when the plan was 
drawn up that we should have sufficient "Compo" our main 
food supply to last until 7th June. While I had originally asked 
that we should be rationed until mid-June at least, this still 
seemed adequate. Now, however, I learned that we might run out 
of "Compo" by the end of the month; had it been so, this would 
have been a serious blow, for we might well need to wait until the 

152 



LHOTSE FACE: TWO 

next month before making our Assault, and in any case there 
would have been difficulty in staging a third and final attempt. 
Happily, George was later able to reassure me on this point, but 
we no longer had a comfortable margin. 

There was likewise a crisis at this time in the matter of food for 
the Sherpas. At Advance Base and below, the Sherpa ration con- 
sisted largely of their own tsampa, supplemented by Assault 
rations. It was found by Wilfrid Noyce, who was responsible for 
the Sherpa food, that they were consuming far greater quantities 
oftsampa than he or Tenzing had estimated. Urgent messages had 
to be sent down to Base Camp for a further 500 Ib. to be fetched 
by Nimmi an ex-parachutist Sherpa who was one of our casual- 
ties and had been given the task of collecting local food. It arrived 
just in time to save the situation. 

The prevailing mood of anxiety was turned, if not removed, 
with the arrival on i8th May of Tenzing and Charles Wylie with 
the remainder of our tents and stores. I now decided to fix the 
start for the South Col "carry" for the following day, when the 
first party, led by Wilfrid Noyce, would go up to Camp V on the 
first stage of their journey. They would be followed on 2Oth May 
by Charles Wylie and a second team of Sherpas, and if their 
mission was successful, it would immediately be followed by the 
Assault. The first Assault party, then, might start upwards on 
22nd May. 

In making this decision, I reckoned that we could no longer 
afford to wait for further progress in the preparations on the 
Lhotse Face. The fine weather, now in its seventh day, must be 
exploited while it lasted, for it would be tempting providence to 
delay further. Moreover George Lowe must now be nearing the 
end of his strength and, weather apart, we had no one else to 
replace him in his task unless we were to disrupt the parties 
chosen for the Assaults. This decision was glad news to everyone. 

A second and no less joyous event was the arrival with the rear 
party of our head cook Thondup. I have already mentioned that 
Thondup, while being an outstandingly good cook, is no climber, 
nor is he young, by Sherpa standards. Yet Charles had rightly 
judged that his presence at Advance Base as we could now call 
Camp IV would greatly raise morale. Food continued to be a 
subject of great interest to nearly all of us ; there was no loss of 
appetite. "A good supper," noted George Band on i6th May, 
"Soup; stewed steak and peas; tinned peaches and pineapple." 

153 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Even on the Lhotse Face George Lowe had clamoured for meat 
and fruit. "What are you chaps eating down there?" he inter- 
vened one evening during a serious wireless conversation on sup- 
plies, Sherpas and future plans. "Peaches, I expect." He com- 
plained loudly when first rationed on the High Altitude scale. 
It is a pity Greg did not keep a diary; he was well known for his 
keen interest in the subject of food and his comments would have 
been worth reading. 

Thondup, arriving that afternoon with his somewhat toothless 
grin, after an adventurous journey through the Icefall to the 
delight of his fellow Sherpas, quick to enjoy a joke, he had 
tried to fix his crampons on to his boots with the spikes pointing 
towards the soles was rapturously greeted by us all. Tenzing and 
he quickly reorganized the whole camp in particular, the cook- 
house to their satisfaction, and we had pancakes with our tea. 



Life in camp during those last few days before the Assault 
followed a regular pattern. Depending on the population at 
Advance Base at any one time, you might be lucky enough to 
have to yourself one of the six Meade tents, or you might prefer 
the convivial atmosphere of the Pyramid or the big Dome, where 
we also had our meals; all were within a few paces of each other 
about twelve tents of various sizes in an area of ten yards by ten 
in the little hollow which provided good shelter against the wind. 

-It is about 8 o'clock in the morning. The walls of your tent are 
white inside with frozen condensation; the sun has still not 
reached the camp and it is deadly cold. A cheery Sherpa face 
appears through the tent opening, with a mug of very sweet tea, 
heavily dosed with milk powder. Thus fortified, you wait for the 
warmth of the sun to strike the tent roof; this will happen about 
a quarter to nine. So intense is the cold that a great effort of will 
would be needed to emerge earlier. You come out into yet 
another Everest day; a cloudless sky, a blinding glare which forces 
you to put on your snow goggles. A quick glance round first 
upwards to the slopes of Lhotse: had they started out? Reaching 
for a pair of binoculars you scan the well-known point half-way 
up the wall where lies Camp VII. No sign of movement there. 
You note the amount of snow being blown about on the edge of 
the Col and the towers of Lhotse's summit ridge. Then over to 
breakfast in the big tent. 

154 



LHOTSE FACE: TWO 

Da Namgyal is carrying over plates of steaming porridge from 
the cookhouse shelter. The tent is in incredible confusion, with 
boxes, rucksacks, newspapers and tinned food lying about. In 
the midst of this debris the resident members are warm in their 
sleeping-bags, lying on air mattresses. Breakfast is a leisurely 
affair, for we usually have a good deal to discuss regarding the 
events for the day. Over our bacon and, possibly, eggs or fried 
luncheon meat, we wonder when the next batch of mail will 
arrive; there is a change in the load table for the South Col in- 
volving an additional Sherpa to be added to the South Col team; 
there is an important message to be sent down to Base Camp; 
how many "Assault" and "Compo" boxes are still down there? 
This vitally affects our planning and we may have to eat a higher 
proportion of Assault rations here at Advance Base a most un- 
welcome prospect: someone makes a note to try to send a mes- 
sage to James Morris at Base. 

During this time Charles Evans has been sitting on a ration box 
near the tent door, watching the slopes above through a pair of 
binoculars. "How are they getting on, Charles?" "They are just 
above VII. They are not getting on very fast. ... I can just see 
Tom Bourdillon's party starting up the slopes from V." 

Gradually most of us disperse, George Band to see Tenzing 
about the Sherpas who are to go up with him that evening to 
Camp V on their way to Camp VII with Assault stores. They will 
be the same men as those selected for the Assault. Greg, Ed 
Hillary and I are also going up, carrying loads for Camp V, and 
we have to divide them among us. Both parties will be starting 
in the late afternoon, for it is already uncomfortably hot. A pair 
of boots just sticking out from the sleeve opening of a Meade tent 
reveal Wilfrid Noyce, who is lying on his sleeping-bag, writing. 
A few choughs and a single raven are walking around on the 
snow, looking for scraps. 

And so we are occupied till lunch, when everyone again meets 
in the Mess tent. There is soup followed by cold salami sausage 
and a huge round of Cheddar cheese luxuries these; butter from 
a tin, a packet of Swiss Knackebrot and our own biscuits. This is 
washed down with a choice of coffee or lemonade from our 
Assault ration packs. We take another look at George Lowe and 
Michael Ward. They are once more sitting down, but are not far 
below the top of the Lhotse glacier in fact, tantalizingly close. 
Will they go any farther? But a little later, with a slight sinking of 

155 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

the heart, I notice that they are coming down. Meanwhile, Tom 
Bourdillon and six Sherpas are seen crossing the last steep ice 
slope below Camp VII and soon they disappear behind the s^rac 
another 200 Ib. or so of stores have been carried half-way up 
the Face. 

At 4 o'clock there is tea, jam and biscuits; perhaps a slice of 
excellent fruit cake from a "Compo" tin. Then the two parties are 
getting ready, roping up, shouldering loads which have been 
standing ready since midday, and moving off round the shoulder 
of our hollow, into the shallow trough in the glacier up which the 
track, now clearly traceable for several hundred yards, lies like a 
pencil line in the sun-glazed surface of the snow. Tom Stobart is 
in action with his cine camera on a mound above the camp. He 
takes a few shots and prepares to join us for a trip up the Cwm. 
It is still hot and the big clouds which have been building up 
down-valley as far as the entrance of the Cwm are beginning to 
recede; the wind is getting up, swirling loose snow over the edge 
of the South Col. The icy cliffs of Nuptse are in deep shadow, and 
the sun has not far to go before slipping down behind Pumori. 
Both the parties have disappeared from the Face. 

A little later, just as the shadow creeps down the Cwm towards 
our tents, Tom Bourdillon comes in with his party of Sherpas. 
He is tired, but obviously delighted to have been up to 24,000 
feet without oxygen. "The wind is terrific there" is his comment 
on our enquiries regarding the progress of the Lhotse Face party 
that day. 

With the departure of the sun it suddenly becomes bitterly 
cold. The Camp V party has returned after dumping our loads 
there and we go straight to our tents, put on down jackets and 
wait for supper. In the Mess Tent, someone turns on the wireless : 
"This is the General Overseas Service of the British Broadcasting 
Corporation. Here is the weather forecast for the Everest Expedi- 
tion, valid for twenty-four hours commencing 12.00 hours G.M.T. 
or 17.30 hours Indian Standard Time. . . . There will be mainly 
overcast skies with occasional thunderstorms, accompanied by 
moderate to heavy snow showers. . . . Winds in free air at 29,000 
feet above sea-level will be mainly westerly at 30-35 knots, and the 
temperature in free air at the same altitude will be 16 to 12 
degrees Fahrenheit." This is a time for reading or writing, tucked 
warmly in a sleeping-bag, until someone shouts "Supper up!" It is 
getting dark now, but the Mess tent is brilliantly illuminated by a 

156 



Tclcpholo of unnamed peak on 
the south side of Everest 



156] 



LHOTSE FACE: TWO 

Buta-Gaz lamp. The tent residents have their plates handed to 
them lying in their bags ; the visitors gather round the improvised 
table and sit on boxes. We close the tent door, for it is cold even 
in down clothing. For supper there is a mug of soup, tinned steak 
and kidney pie, eaten with a spoon, a fork or a knife, but not with 
a combination of these utensils, for most of our cutlery has been 
lost. Fruit cake and coffee round off the meal. 

After supper some interesting conversation is apt to develop. 
Tom Stobart still has a seemingly endless repertoire of adventure 
stories. But most of the visitors slip away as soon as they have eaten, 
to warm up again in their sleeping-bags. I go over to Thondup's 
shelter and beg a candle; he is an expert hoarder of items in 
strangely short supply. Sticking this on to a small cardboard box 
which once contained my oxygen mask, I light it and open my 
diary. The stylo pen is frozen and will not write ; it has to be held 
over the flame every few seconds to make it flow. First putting my 
hands into my bag to warm them, I make myself comfortable on 
one elbow and start to write. "18.5. This has been an important 
day in the expedition's history. . . . We have set up Advance 
Base at full strength. . . . Thondup, our head cook, is here, which 
means good meals for all of us. . . ." Closing the notebook, I reach 
for a sleeping-pill, blow out the candle and snuggle down for the 
night. One more Everest day has slipped away. How long will it 
be before we are finished with this mountain? 



1 went up to Camp V with Wilfrid and his men on the evening 
of the igth carrying a load of oxygen; it was windy, but the track 
was now stamped and frozen into an excellent footpath, and we 
reached there in an hour. Before leaving him I said: "In case 
George and Michael don't manage to prepare the Traverse before 
they come down tomorrow, you will have to decide whether to 
carry straight on to the Col with the Sherpas the next day, or 
whether it will be better to go up there yourself first and prepare 
the track. If this is necessary, then your party will have to spend 
a second night with Charles Wylie at Camp VII and you must go 
up together on the 22nd. You can only judge this on the state of 
your chaps and the going above Camp VII as you will hear of it 
from George." 

George Lowe and his companion Michael Ward did not give 
in easily. They made one more attempt to get up to the Traverse 
A.E.X2 157 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

on the soth, the last day available to them before they were to 
give place to Noyce's party. But the long strain was telling greatly 
on their endurance. They again made some progress upwards but 
soon turned back. If they had a sense of failure it was a failure 
where no other human being could have succeeded. Hindered by 
weather, his team delayed and weakened by sickness, and in spite 
of the demoralizing effect of the terrific west wind, George Lowe, 
supported at intervals by others, had put up a performance 
during those eleven days which will go down in the annals of 
mountaineering as an epic achievement of tenacity and skill. 



158 



PART 

v 

ASSAULT 



CHAPTER THIRTEEN 

SOUTH COL: ONE 

THE time-table for the "carry" of our Assault stores to the 
South Col extended over a period of five days. It was on this 
basis that we had been busy stocking the intervening high camps 
to cater for the High Altitude teams; their large numbers would 
make it difficult to increase the period because of the additional 
food and fuel required, apart from considerations of weather 
and physical deterioration. Inevitably, therefore, the plan for 
this final phase of the Build-up was a somewhat rigid one, mak- 
ing little provision for any hitches. When I had told Noyce at 
Camp V on the evening of the igth that he might have to leave 
his party at Camp VII for a second night, I stressed the words 
"if necessary", for this was bound to create an awkward situation 
in that camp. There were not enough tents for so many men, and 
they would use up food and fuel supplies intended for the Assault 
parties. 

During soth May at Advance Base another clear day, but 
with plenty of wind higher up, for the rocks above us were hum- 
ming under the impact of terrific gusts Charles Wylie was get- 
ting himself and his men ready to follow Wilfrid Noyce. In spite 
of all the loads which had been carried to Camp VII during the 
past few days, both Wylie's and Noyce's parties were very heavily 
burdened. In London we had reckoned that 30 Ib. would be as 
much as could be expected of the Sherpas carrying loads up the 
Lhotse Face, but here were Wylie's team shouldering nearly 50 Ib., 
and preparing cheerfully to carry this tremendous load to Camp 
VII at 24.000 feet up those steep slopes without oxygen. It should 
be explained that a proportion of this baggage belonged to the 
Sherpas themselves. Apart from their bedding sleeping-bags and 
air mattresses they have a weakness for carrying more personal 
kit than we considered to be strictly necessary. But when all this 
has been taken into account, there remained a "useful" load of 
about 30 Ib. to lift. In order to make sure that all the stores were 
carried up, I had readily agreed with the advice of Tenzing and 
Wylie to increase by a few reserves the strictly minimum number 

161 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

of thirteen men calculated to be necessary for this "lift". Each of 
the two parties had two extra men, mainly in case of sickness or 
other inability to continue the journey, especially over the 2,000 
feet of partly unknown ground from Camp VII to the South Col, 
and also possibly to lighten individual loads during that stage. In 
any case, their bedding and personal belongings being left at 
Camp VII, the loads would be lighter in that second part of their 
climb, and it was proposed to send down any very tired or ill 
Sherpas from that camp. 

That afternoon, two Sherpas were seen descending from Camp 
VII soon after the arrival there of the first South Col "carry". 
They were evidently sick or too tired to continue. When they came 
down to Advance Base, they handed me a disturbing note from 
Wilfrid who, as in the case of all users of oxygen other than the 
summit parties, was using "Utility" or training oxygen bottles. 
According to him, his bottle had been leaking on arrival at the 
now abandoned Camp VI, but he had found and made use of 
another bottle which was lying there. This was also leaking and so 
on arrival at Camp VII he had appropriated two more bottles for 
the next day, one for himself and another for his leading Sherpa, 
Annullu who, it had been agreed, should have oxygen to enable 
him to assist Wilfrid in making the unprepared track upwards 
next day. Worse still, Wilfrid finished up with the words: "Tell 
Tom that several of them leak when turned on." 

Now this was bad news indeed. Poor Tom Bourdillon, not easily 
dismayed, was distinctly ruffled. Nine Utility bottles, each weigh- 
ing 20 lb., had been laboriously carried to that high camp; each 
had its particular use to match the detailed plan of Assault. Did 
this mean a failure in our oxygen supply, with possibly disastrous 
consequences to the Assault ? Wilfrid, though gifted in more ways 
than one, has not a markedly mechanical bent and we hoped that 
his tests were not conclusive. Tom, however, had a lurking fear 
that these very tests, carried out by a possibly anoxic Wilfrid at 
24,000 feet, might have resulted in the discharging of all nine 
cylinders. Tom's habitual peace of mind was rudely disturbed. 
Meanwhile, we still had no wireless communication with Camp 
VII, which might have reassured us. In the absence of definite 
information, I decided that we must prepare for the worst and 
arrange for an additional supply of bottles to accompany the second 
Assault party. These were urgently ordered from Camp III, and 
I warned Charles Wylie of the need to send up a replenishment 

162 



SOUTH COL: ONE 

team of Sherpas with the second Assault party. It would be most 
difficult to find men, as almost all, other than members of the 
Assault teams, were committed to the present "carry" on the 
Lhotse Face. They would have to be volunteers and some would 
already have made the journey to the Col. I then turned to George 
Lowe, only just back from his ordeal on the Lhotse Face but 
clamouring for a job, and asked him to be prepared to lead this 
party. Needless to say, he jumped at the idea. I now suspect that 
then and there he secretly set his own objective even higher. We 
were to find later that the state of the oxygen bottles at Camp VII 
was not as serious as we had feared. 

That evening, I was turning over in my mind the possible 
implications of a hitch in the South Col "carry". Considering the 
ill-repute which the Col had gained during the Swiss expeditions 
the year before, remembering that we had not succeeded in 
climbing much more than half-way towards it in the course of 
eleven days' hard struggle, could we be sure that all, or even more 
than the stoutest few among the Sherpas would agree to go? It 
would hardly be surprising if many found themselves overawed 
in the face of the unknown, for Sherpas are superstitious folk; they 
have many memories of disasters in high places. Or they might in 
some cases simply not be strong enough to continue to that far 
saddle, which had so nearly exhausted the Swiss and the Sherpas 
with them. After all, they would be climbing with heavy loads 
and without oxygen. 

Yet it was quite essential to the success of the plan that each 
and every load should reach its destination and that it should do 
so according to the time-table. Ruminating thus, I felt that 
something more might have to be done to "boost" the action now 
in progress, and I discussed this with some of my companions 
that evening at Advance Base. In the end, it was agreed that, 
should Wilfrid be seen to adopt his alternative plan of leaving his 
men and going up himself with Annullu, and if he was not able 
to make satisfactory progress we should have to judge of this 
through our binoculars two of us would go up to encourage and 
assist both South Col parties. It would mean a considerable sacri- 
fice in the detailed execution of the plan, but clearly first things 
must come first. So it may be imagined with what intense anxiety 
we at Advance Base awaited the events of 2ist May. 

The morning of sist May dawned fine and there seemed to be 
less wind higher up. We scanned the white expanse of snow above, 

163 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

our eyes glued to a certain bulge of ice split by a vertical crevasse. 
Just above this was a serac concealing the tents of Camp VII. 
We hoped for an early start by the first "carry". But nothing 
happened until 10 a.m. Then two tiny dots, barely discernible to 
the naked eye, but clearly seen through glasses, emerged and 
moved horizontally to the right, towards the foot of an ice 
groove by which the small cliff behind the camp is climbed. They 
were alone. Obviously Wilfrid had adopted the alternative plan. 
Thinking of the effects this might have on the Assault, we were at 
first disappointed; we had naturally hoped for the best. More- 
over, their progress was very slow at first as they toiled up the 
slopes leading to the top of the glacier, about 1,000 feet above. 
Naturally, we did not doubt that there were difficulties up there 
finding the route, cutting steps and perhaps fixing ropes. 

It was at this juncture that I made up my mind to take the 
action proposed overnight: namely, to send up a pair of climbers 
to reinforce the "carry". This decision made, there was the deli- 
cate matter of choice of individuals. Everyone in the camp was 
either part of the Assault teams, ready to start as soon as the 
"carry" was completed, or resting after recent work on the Lhotse 
Face. Members of the first summit party I ruled out, for this 
would have meant either reversing the order of the two attempts 
or cutting out the Closed- Circuit effort. It might have been pos- 
sible for myself and Gregory to go up, but, apart from disrupting 
the composition of the Assault teams, this would have removed 
from each team those responsible for conducting the supporting 
parties. From every point of view, there was only one solution, 
and it was a drastic one; the lot must fall on Tenzing and Hillary. 
They came last in the order of batting, they were both fresh and 
quite exceptionally strong. Moreover, Tenzing's reputation 
among the Sherpas stood immensely high ; if any persuasion were 
needed to support that of our chosen leaders in the South Col 
"carries", he was the one best qualified to give it. I spoke to them 
about this at n a.m. that morning, pointing out the delay it 
would probably cause in the timing of the second Assault and the 
strain it must impose upon themselves, possibly to the detriment 
of their own chances in the Assault. 

Both men were not only willing; they seemed pleased at the 
prospect of their mission. Tenzing was especially delighted. All 
through our work of stock-piling he had necessarily undertaken 
the least exciting tasks of all, leading the Low Level Ferries, 

164 



SOUTH COL: ONE 

organizing ration and firewood parties, sending and receiving 
mail runners at Base; maintaining order there and helping to 
keep all his men cheerful. These things he had done well and 
willingly, for it was in his nature to do so. But I knew that his 
heart was set on getting higher, and higher still. Always he was 
happiest when climbing. I had first seen this on Chukhung Peak, 
and again when we went up the Cwm together to find the Swiss 
Camp IV. Now, for the first time since his astonishing dash with 
Hillary from Base to Camp IV and back on 2nd May, he was to 
have a chance to show his mettle. This was what he had been 
waiting for. They prepared themselves without more ado and 
left at midday. 

Meanwhile, we continued to watch the progress of Noyce and 
Annullu. Soon after the departure of Hillary and Tenzing, they 
had passed the highest point reached so far on the Lhotse glacier 
and stood at 12.30 on the shelf beneath the final slopes sweeping 
up to Lhotse, where a traverse must be made to the left towards 
the couloir beside the Geneva Spur. They were now at about 
25,000 feet. Excitement mounted as we watched them move to- 
wards this famous Traverse; although we did not know it then, 
Annullu was now in the lead, "moving", as it seemed to Noyce, 
"at the pace of a fast Swiss guide". 

It was not easy to judge from below, but it had always seemed 
that a shallow gully just flanking the glacier before the wider 
slopes of snow or ice could be reached, might harbour loose, 
dangerous snow. We expected to replace a Swiss rope marked on 
one of their photographs as having been fixed to safeguard this 
passage. Yet these two men moved steadily on. They were taking 
an unexpectedly high line, as though straight towards the top of 
the Geneva Spur. Although we did not yet believe that this was 
their intention, it was good enough to see that they found it un- 
necessary to stop and fix a rope over the doubtful place. Their 
speed had noticeably increased and our excitement soon grew 
to amazement when it dawned upon us that Noyce and Annullu 
were heading for the South Col itself. Our earlier worries quite 
forgotten, we continued to gaze all that afternoon. 

With scarcely a pause they moved on until they were close in 
beside the rocks of the Spur. They climbed farther, disappearing 
behind the projecting buttress and I, unable to bear the suspense, 
left camp alone and moved out about two hundred yards into the 
centre of the glacier to get a better view. This was probably un- 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

wise; only the day before Tom Bourdillon had fallen to a depth 
of six feet in a concealed crevasse a few yards from the tents, but 
the occasion must have dimmed my mountaineering judgment. 
I was able to watch them for some time longer; then after an 
interval, I caught one more fleeting glimpse, this time a point of 
blue the colour of a windproof smock against some rocks just 
below the skyline; it quickly merged into the background of sky. 
It was 240 p.m. Wilfrid Noyce and his companion Annullu 
stood at that moment above the South Col of Everest, at about 
26,000 feet. They were gazing down on the scene of the Swiss 
drama, and they were also looking upwards to the final pyramid 
of Everest itself. It was a great moment for them both, and it was 
shared by all of us who watched them. Their presence there was 
symbolic of our success in overcoming the most crucial problem of 
the whole climb; they had reached an objective which we had 
been striving to attain for twelve anxious days. 

They descended a short slope it might have been a mere 200 
feet, but it would be an unwelcome feature to an exhausted climber 
on his way back from climbing Everest. I had asked Wilfrid to 
fix a hand-line here to help returning parties up this slope, and 
on his way back he did this; we were to be thankful for it later on. 
On the level plateau of the Col they found the remains of the 
Swiss occupation: battered tents, oxygen frames, climbing gear 
and food. They helped themselves to a few useful items Annullu 
exchanged his oxygen set for a filled rucksack, Wilfrid picked up 
some Vita-Weat, a tin of sardines and a box of matches, all in 
perfect condition after lying exposed to the elements for over six 
months. There was no more than a stiff breeze blowing and they 
were able to enjoy this unique occasion to the full. 

With Noyce still using a bottle of oxygen which, far from leak- 
ing, seemed to possess an abnormally long life, they now returned 
to Camp VII, arriving there relatively fresh at 5.30 p.m. For 
Noyce, it was "one of the most enjoyable days' mountaineering 
I've ever had". Wylie's party, followed by Tenzing and Hillary, 
had by now arrived there. Noyce and Annullu were greeted 
with tremendous enthusiasm by the group of Sherpas as they 
descended the fixed rope and approached the tents. There is no 
doubt that the return of this pair, without distress or injury, after 
climbing steadily to the South Col that day, had made a profound 
impression on the waiting men. If these two could do it, so could 
they. After his arrival, Wylie had spent some time talking to them, 

166 



SOUTH COL: ONE 

sympathizing with their tiredness, their headaches and coughs, 
handing out pills; they had all promised to do their best on the 
next day, but it was obvious that they had lacked confidence until 
this moment. Morale rose suddenly, inspired by a fine example. 
Spurred by Tenzing's encouragement and clear orders for the 
morrow, the success of the "carry" was now assured. 

But the watchers in the Cwm could not know this. Our 
anxiety persisted the following morning as we again stared up the 
Lhotse Face, waiting for signs of activity at Camp VII. This time 
we had not long to wait. At 8.30 a.m., an unwontedly early hour 
for so high a camp, two little dots were seen coming out from 
behind the sheltering ice pinnacle. The atmosphere at Advance 
Base was tense as we waited to see what would happen. Yes! 
there they came; we counted aloud, as one after another the 
Sherpas followed in a long string spread out across the dazzling 
expanse of snow. Fourteen . . . fifteen . . . sixteen . . . seventeen: a 
seemingly incredible number were on the move together, at over 
24,000 feet. The entire caravan was on its way, carrying our vital 
stores towards the South Col. 

The two leaders remained ahead. We guessed that these must 
be Hillary and Tenzing, and this was confirmed later in the day, 
when Noyce and Annullu returned. At first I was disappointed 
by this for, with his supreme mission in mind, I had asked Ed to 
do no more than was strictly necessary to ensure the success of 
this convoy. Supposing any action were needed, it had been hoped 
that this might be supplied by verbal encouragement alone. At 
most, I had suggested to them that they should give a lead as far 
as the top of the glacier. Yet they went on steadily, remaking the 
track which the overnight wind had quite wiped out from the 
slopes, acting as a human magnet to the others. Even from below 
we could realize the toil of this journey; progress was painfully 
slow. But only those who lived it could fully know the hardships. 

There had been nineteen men at Camp VII that night. They 
had been crammed into tents insufficient for so large a party, and 
buffeted by the wind. There was an unaccountable dearth of 
rations, for enough had been sent up and the lack should have 
made itself felt only after their departure. Moreover, cooking in 
those cramped quarters was not easy. Knowing that a long day's 
climbing lay ahead, Tenzing had rightly insisted on an early 
start; but such are the difficulties, mental as well as physical, of 
doing even the simplest things at high altitude that, though 

167 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

roused at 6 a.m., the party had managed to prepare only a mug of 
tea by the time they started at 8.30. A very few added some 
Grape-nuts to their tea, but most of the Sherpas started out with 
no solid nourishment at all. 

Many of them were feeling the effects of altitude acutely and 
were slower than others would have been, but when roped together 
on a climb the pace of a party is necessarily that of the slowest. 
Two steps, heavy panting, leaning over the ice-axe for support, 
then another two steps. After ten paces forward in this way, a few 
would collapse against the slope and all must wait for them to re- 
cover. So it went on the whole day. They sadly lacked nourish- 
ment. "We went through all our pockets," said Charles Wylie 
later, "and finished our sweets." But they stuck to their job. 

Almost imperceptible as their progress was from below, the 
column advanced across the great snow slope until the last man 
disappeared behind the rocks of the Geneva Spur. All but one. 
He had reached the end of his tether and had to stop half-way 
across. Charles Wylie, always solicitous of his men and con- 
scientious about his job, at once shouldered the load of this man 
and went on. Shortly afterwards, Wylie's oxygen apparatus de- 
veloped a leak in the 4-litre flow rate connection. It could only 
be cured by plugging into this coupling and receiving oxygen at 
the higher rate; for he had been using 2 litres until then. Using 
twice the amount of oxygen, he soon exhausted his supply, while 
still some 400 feet below the top rocks of the Spur. In far worse 
plight than the Sherpas, for as had happened to him during the 
Lhotse Face reconnaissance, he was now suddenly dependent on 
the rarefied air for existence, after breathing additional oxygen for 
a number of hours, Wylie went on, decidedly groggy but deter- 
mined, until he reached the top. Later, on the Col itself, he found 
the presence of mind and energy to make a careful stack of the 
stores, weighting them down with stones against the risk of their 
being blown away by the fierce wind. He then proceeded to notice 
the scenery and film the surroundings; such conduct still seems 
almost unreal. 

In their state of tiredness, weak from lack of food, the return 
journey was almost as much a trial as the climb to the Col. The 
last stragglers reached Camp VII at 7 p.m. that evening as it was 
growing dark; they had been out for ten and a half hours. Most 
elected to spend a second or, for some, a third night there. They 
had an even more uncomfortable night than the previous one. 

1 68 



SOUTH COL: ONE 

The wind had risen to gale force and, sweeping across the Lhotse 
Face, was driven as in a bellows between the serac and the 
mountainside. The tents were often in danger of being uprooted 
from their platform and the occupants had a nerve-racking time 
sitting up against the tent walls to hold them down. 

A few stalwarts preferred to make a dash for the comforts of 
Advance Base. Five Sherpas, led by the indomitable veteran 
Dawa Thondup, who had graduated to the select South Col team 
after setting an outstanding example in the Icefall and the 
Western Cwm, came down the slopes to Camp V as we of the 
first Assault party arrived there that evening. Some apparently 
almost fresh Dawa was one of these others staggering with 
fatigue, they passed straight on towards Advance Base. Each 
smiled as he went by; more than one boasted of having had only 
a mug of tea since 7 o'clock that morning. And ahead even of these 
heroes were Hillary and Tenzing who, having climbed directly 
from Advance Base to Camp VII the previous afternoon, having 
led the whole way to the South Col, stamping out a track through 
difficult wind-crusted snow, now descended that same day from 
the Col to Advance Base, which they reached after dark. In under 
thirty hours, these two men had climbed from 21,200 to 26,000 
feet and back. When I saw them they were already tired, Ed more 
weary than I had ever seen him before; so much so that I won- 
dered how long it would be before they would be fit enough to 
start the second Assault. 

When, at about 2 p.m., it was already obvious that the South 
Col "carry" would reach its destination, we all experienced a 
tremendous feeling of relief. Although we could not predict the 
wind conditions, the weather remained fine; the stores we needed 
were at the foot of the final peak. There was no reason for further 
delay: the Assault was on. I spoke to Charles Evans, now most 
fortunately fit once more, and to Tom Bourdillon. We would leave 
that evening for Camp V on our way upwards. For us, the climax 
was fast approaching, and we must now live up to the splendid 
examples set by those who had paved the way. 



169 



CHAPTER FOURTEEN 

SOUTH COL: TWO 

WHEN we arrived at Camp V on the evening of the 22nd, 
the wind was already active, blowing snow around and in- 
creasing the sensation of cold; by the time we had settled into our 
tents it was strong and getting stronger every minute. We spent 
an uncomfortable night there ; it was of course far worse for the 
South Col party at Camp VII. 

Next morning, Da Tensing looked into my tent while I was 
getting ready to start. Despite our best estimates, we still found 
that more stores must be lifted up to Camp VII than we could 
manage, and I had asked for two men to join our caravan. Da 
Tensing, always ready to help, had come forward, and here was 
this fine veteran, with young Changjiu, on their way up. They had 
preferred to start straight from Advance Base, where they would 
have a better night, and they were keen now to press on. Da 
Tensing climbed well and knew the route intimately, so I raised 
no objection. 

I left camp with the two Sherpas of the first Assault team, Da 
Namgyal and Ang Tensing (nicknamed Balu), at 8.30, using my 
Open- Circuit set. The route bore no resemblance to the one I had 
followed ten days before when I went up to visit George Lowe. 
We were now walking on a hard, well-beaten path leading to the 
foot of the steep Face. Once on the Face, although some of the 
technical difficulties remained, conditions were far easier. Deep 
footmarks had pressed down the snow into comfortable pockets 
and large steps had been carved in the ice; the insecure Swiss cords 
had been replaced by stout manilla rope, haziging free from any 
encumbering snow. In these conditions, we went up as far as the 
site of our Camp VI in reasonable time just under two hours ; 
indeed, this was good going for the laden Sherpas without the bene- 
fit of oxygen. Yet for some reason I was finding it hard work and 
remember wondering, as we sat upon the now deserted tent plat- 
form, whether I should perhaps fail the summit party, not even 
getting to Camp VII ; it was a disturbing thought. I was almost 
pleased to note, when Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon arrived 

170 



SOUTH COL: TWO 

just as my party were getting ready to leave, that they, too, were 
making heavy weather of it. Whatever the reason for this bad 
start, the next 1,000 feet proved to be far less tedious. Instead of 
feeling sorry for myself, I was able to spare a thought for the poor 
Sherpas, struggling up manfully but now obviously feeling the 
altitude and unable to climb at my pace. 

The route between Camps VI and VII was still very steep, but 
generally speaking more straightforward. For a short while the 
line chosen by George Lowe closely bordered the great ice slope 
of the Lhotse Face on the extreme edge of the Lhotse glacier; I 
noted that we were about level with the lowest rocks of the 
Geneva Spur at this point. Then a long traverse was made back 
to the centre of the glaciated slope, beneath a huge ice cliff, and 
after a few steps upwards on steep ice we reached the foot of 
another rope, hanging over a vertical pitch by which the cliff was 
turned. Looking up as we sat resting above this obstacle, I noticed 
that the split bulge on which I had so often gazed from Advance 
Base in the last week was very close above. On we went, up further 
ice steps, on to terraces, getting nearer to the still hidden 
camp. 

We heard a shout from above, carried away on the wind : the 
South Col men were coming down, unladen and gay, as if they 
had just enjoyed a Sunday School treat. There was no room for 
both parties on this particular traverse, and there was more 
difficult ground, indicated by another rope dangling a few yards 
off; so we were glad to stay and rest. Last of the party came Charles 
Wylie. I congratulated him, although not then aware of the full 
story of his personal achievement the day before. Shouting against 
the wind, he said: "By Jove, John, that last part of the ridge is 
tremendous. With a bit of luck you should get the top camp very 
high indeed." It was just the sort of encouragement I needed. 
The last hundred feet to the camp were even steeper than I had ex- 
pected. A slanting traverse led up to the foot of the cleft bulge 
and its base, then to be contoured round to the left, up about 
fifty feet of very steep ground : more rope : more ice steps. The tents 
remained invisible until the last moment, and it was a relief to 
sight them on a spacious platform, backed by a big cliff and 
screened from the Cwm by a tall, wedge-shaped s&rac. Da Ten- 
sing and Changjiu had deposited their loads and passed us on 
their return journey as we made a long stride across the crevasse 
which marks the line of eventual cleavage of that serac from the 

171 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

parent mountainside. They wished us luck. We had taken under 
three and a half hours from Camp V. 

This balcony is astonishing, jutting out from the general line 
of slope falling from Lhotse, it must have surprised the Swiss when 
they discovered it last November; it is so unexpected and it is 
the only resting-place large enough to accommodate more than 
about two tents on the whole length and breadth of the Lhotse 
Face. Here the party had been able to erect as many as eight 
tents on the nights preceding our arrival. Walking a few steps to 
the southern end, I looked across at the ridge of Nuptse, now seen 
almost in profile and scarcely higher than we were. The blade- 
like sharpness of its crest was fascinating, almost frightening. 
There was a certain nick in the arete, at just 25,000 feet, now 
not more than a 1,000 yards away to the south. Often during the 
acclimatization periods we had looked through this gap the 
lowest point on the Nuptse-Lhotse wall. Once, after climbing 
some 3,000 feet above our first Base Camp at Thyangboche, 
Michael Ward and I had seen the South Col for the first time 
and examined the final part of Everest. Now I longed to see the 
reverse view: to recognize the places where we had stood then. 
But I was still not high enough. 

At its north end, the balcony gave a grandstand view of the 
upper part of our mountain. Now more foreshortened than ever, 
the summit ridge above the sweep of brown rocks on the west face 
seemed incredibly close. There was plenty of wind up there that 
day too much to make any attempt possible; a long plume of 
snow vapour stretched the whole length of the South-East ridge. 
In contrast with this apparent nearness, the South Col seemed a 
long, long way off. I now fully understood for the first time that 
we were only half-way there : a point frequently stressed by George 
Lowe from this same place, but never quite accepted in my mood 
of optimism and impatience in the Cwm. I felt comparatively 
fresh and was busy for half an hour taking photographs before the 
two "summiters" arrived. They had exchanged the soda lime 
canisters of their Closed-Circuit sets while resting at Camp VI, 
using new ones left lying in the snow at this camp site, and they 
had subsequently had trouble due to the freezing of valves in 
Charles Evans's set, caused by the coldness of these fresh canisters. 
It was a portent of later events. 

That evening, thanks to George Band's foresight in sending up 
replacement equipment, we were able to have a good wireless 

172 



View from the South Col looking towards Nuptsc. 
In the right foreground are remains of the Swiss 
1952 camp. This photograph was taken on 25th 
May on an exceptionally still day 



SOUTH COL: TWO 

reception with Advance Base, thus reopening communications 
after an interval of several days. This was most timely, for I was 
keen to hear the plans of the second Assault party. It was a relief 
to learn from George Lowe that the party would be moving up 
to Camp V the next evening and would be only forty-eight hours 
behind us. After seeing Tenzing and Hillary on their way down 
from the South Col, this was better than I had dared to hope. 
Very faintly, I also heard James Morris speaking from Base Camp 
to some other station up the Cwm probably Camp III. In the 
hope of telling him the latest news, I made a long verbal report 
on our set, but we learned later that this was not heard. 

While we were having supper we compared notes on previous 
experience of this altitude. Charles Evans had climbed to about 
24,000 feet on Annapurna three years before; I had been to about 
24,500 on Saltoro Kangri in the Karakoram iA 1935. For Tom 
this was the highest he had yet reached. 

The wind got up that evening in gale force once more. As on 
the previous night, the tents bellied and roared, giving us at first 
little rest, for it is an anxious sensation to be kept in uncertainty 
whether you and your party are going to be lifted bodily and cast 
down the mountainside. However, thanks to our oxygen helpers 
at home and to Tom Bourdillon's skill, we slept well later, using 
the Swiss cylinders which had by now been transported here from 
Camp VI where they were found. The usual method was for two 
men to use one bottle of oxygen for sleeping; the flow rate of 
2 litres a minute was then divided equally between them. I, being 
third man out and the least important of the three of us to the 
Assault, had a bottle to myself. Having 2 litres per minute to 
myself, I was better off than they while the supply lasted, but 
that was only for about four hours. 

For me it was a bad start on the morning of 24th May. I found 
each step an immense labour, even along the level fifty yards of 
the lower lip of the crevasse dividing us from the cliff above, in 
order to reach the fixed rope and ice gully. Climbing this very 
steep pitch, the effort was agonizingly great. I stopped to gasp 
after every step upwards. Some feet farther on, after moving along 
a terrace immediately above our tents, I could continue no longer, 
and for a terrible moment imagined that my day, and in fact my 
part in the summit effort, was over. I consulted Tom when he and 
Charles Evans came up to us. The oxygen pipe connecting the 
economizer with the flow-rate manifold was kinked and I had 
A.E. 13 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

been carrying a dead weight of over 50 Ib. without oxygen and 
breathing only the air filtered through the valves of my mask; small 
wonder it had been a trying experience! He put this right only 
to find that there was a leak in the 2 -litre-rate connection, which 
could only be prevented by plugging into this coupling; it was 
the reverse situation to that which Charles Wylie had experienced 
two days earlier in the couloir beside the Geneva Spur. There was 
nothing for it but to climb at the lower rate of flow I had been 
using 4 litres. Apart from the extra effort involved, this might not 
be a disadvantage, for it would bring down my pace towards that 
of the Sherpas and economize oxygen; there would thus be less 
danger of the supply running out. 

So on we went, after losing a valuable half-hour on this incident. 
I thought of the watchers below wondering, as I had done on 
similar occasions, "What on earth can they be up to, stopping so 
soon after leaving Camp VII?" We climbed up to the top of the 
Lhotse glacier very slowly indeed; both ropes were moving at 
much the same snail's pace. Just before the top terrace is reached, 
two final obstacles bar the way; another ice cliff, with a yawning 
crevasse along its foot. Fortunately, a shelf of ice ran across this, 
rising steadily from left to right. It meant a deviation from the 
direction in which we wanted to go, but it led us to the top of the 
cliff, delightfully. Once again an old Swiss line lay about loosely, 
but it was unsafe and in any case unnecessary to use it. 

Above, another big crevasse stopped us; we had to move yet 
farther to the right until it narrowed sufficiently for a big upward 
stride to be made. An awkward and anxious stride, for the edges on 
both sides overhung, and you stepped from one fragile snow bracket 
on to another. But we got across, as had many before us, and after 
climbing up a few more feet we all sat down to rest at the level of the 
Traverse. It was about i p.m. The Cwm looked shrunken and very 
distant ; it seemed to have narrowed to map-like proportions. Below 
the brink where the Icefall dropped away, the Khumbu glacier was 
a black well of seemingly bottomless depth ; a few clouds hung 
above it in white blobs. An insignificant blur some way down, under 
the west ridge of Everest, was Advance Base. Now at last I could 
overlook that nick in the Nuptse ridge to the forest-clad mountains 
to the south. We saw beyond the dwarfed cone of Pumori to the 
level summits of two other giants, Gyachung Kang (25,910 feet) and 
Cho Oyu (26,860 feet), and felt we could almost count ourselves 
on equal terms with them. We were very high in the world. 



SOUTH COL: TWO 

On we went, intrigued, towards the Traverse. There were no 
signs of tracks, although the feet of seventeen men had passed this 
way only two days before; the wind had rubbed them out, coat- 
ing the surface with a treacherous board-like crust. Sometimes it 
let you sink awkwardly into the underlying soft snow; at other 
times it bore your weight. It was a tiring progress. For a while 
the angle was fairly steep, more so than I had expected over 45 
degrees at the point where the gully runs beside the Lhotse glacier; 
an old rope could be seen 100 feet below us, fixed between the 
glacier edge and a horizontal band of rock. Then the gradient 
relented as we stepped across the huge slope. I remember Lambert 
mentioning that it might just have been possible to ski down. It 
was in fact about the extreme limit of steepness for ski-ing turns ; 
it would have made a strenuous but exciting plunge down those 
3,000 feet to the Cwm. 

The hours began to drag as we went across this slope. Charles 
Evans and Tom Bourdillon were ahead, having a hard time of it 
breaking the trail through the crust; the Shcrpas behind me were 
now tiring rapidly, and our pace was even slower than that of the 
leading pair. Time seemed endless. We would advance for perhaps 
four, or even six successive paces. After the third, there would be 
suggestive groans from behind Balu wanted to rest. Another 
pace and he would give clearer expression to this: "Sahib, aram 
mangta hai", and when I had taken another step forward, I 
would be forcibly restrained by the rope. There was nothing for 
it but to stop, watching the agony of these two men as they 
crouched over their axes, moaning and panting, for a full minute 
at a time. "Thik hai?" I would ask. A faint grunt from Da 
Namgyal and we would go on, to the accompaniment of a few 
encouraging but probably unconvincing words from myself about 
the nearness of the Col. The performance would then be repeated. 
About every 100 yards I stopped and carved a large hole in the 
slope for all three to sit in safety and we rested for a longer spell, 
our feet dangling out over the great slope, sweeping away beneath 
us towards the tiny speck that was Camp V. 

By about 3 p.m. we had entered the couloir and were close in 
beside the rocks. We had been going five and a half hours and I 
glanced at the pressure gauge of my oxygen bottle 300 Ib. 
per square inch. This is almost the point where the effective supply 
peters out, and I shouted up the slope to Tom and Charles to wait 
while we crawled towards them. Was I to go on without oxygen? 

175 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

It would certainly give out within the next half-hour. Or should I 
join the other rope and leave the two Sherpas to come along at 
their own pace? We were now only about 250 feet below the 
point where it is possible to traverse out of the couloir to the left 
and across the upper part of the Geneva Spur; the Col was not 
far off. I consulted Da Namgyal, who assured me that they were 
happy to come along slowly; anything was better than being 
dragged along as at present. So I tied on to Charles's rope and we 
went ahead, glancing back from time to time to make sure that 
the Sherpas were following. 

It was 4 p.m. when we topped the Geneva Spur and stopped 
for a minute on a level patch of hard snow. Above us, across the 
hollow of the South Col, rose the South summit of Everest ; no 
longer a "minor eminence" as I had dubbed it in London, but an 
elegant snow spire, breathtakingly close yet nearly 3,000 feet 
above our heads. Right-handed from this peak the South-East 
ridge descended, very steeply at first and then at a more gentle 
gradient to a snow shoulder at about half its height.This seemed 
just the place for that top camp, my task for next day. The ridge 
then dipped downwards once more, its crest rock and snow mixed, 
to another and lower shelf. Here there was again a rapid steepen- 
ing of the angle, as it plunged in a rock buttress towards the far 
right corner of the South Col, perhaps 600 yards from where we 
stood, and beyond a pronounced rocky hump rising above the 
eastern edge of the Col. 

The flanks of this ridge facing the South Col are very steep, 
part rock, part snow, seamed here and there with snow-filled 
gullies, spilling out into the upper slopes of the Col opposite our 
viewpoint. We had heard from Wilfrid Noyce that the ridge and 
the South summit which topped it were impressive; none of us had 
been prepared for any spectacle quite so sharp, quite so beautiful 
as this. To me it seemed that a new and unsuspected peak of alpine 
stature stood above the South Col; my first reaction was one 
almost approaching dismay and resentment that we should be 
confronted with such a problem after struggling so far towards 
the end of our journey. 

And what of the South Col at our feet? We looked down upon 
as dreary and desolate a place as I ever expect to see: a broad 
plateau, perhaps as much as 400 yards along each edge, its northern 
and southern limits set by the steepening slopes rising towards 
Everest and Lhotse, falling away abruptly westwards into the Cwm 



SOUTH COL: TWO 

and eastwards down the Kangshung Face. The surface of this 
waste is partly covered by stones, partly with sheets of bare, bluish 
ice. The edges are snow fringed, but the snow has been hardened 
almost to the consistency of ice by the wind. And it is the wind 
which adds to the sense of dread which possesses this place. It 
was blowing fiercely as we went down the slope which must be 
descended from the top of the Spur to reach the level surface of 
the Col. We were making towards the right where there were 
some patches of colour among the stones; a splash of orange caught 
the eye. These patches marked the remnants of the Swiss camp. 

It was a queer sensation to go down like this at the end of our 
long, hard climb, as though entering a trap ; and this feeling was 
heightened by the scene which we were approaching. For there 
before us were the skeletons of the Swiss tents, three or four of 
them; they stood, just the bare metal poles supported still by 
their frail guy ropes, all but a few shreds of the canvas ripped 
from them by the wind. Around, frozen into the ice, were other 
fragments of cloth, and lying upon the surface some heavier 
objects. I noticed two Drager oxygen frames, a coil of nylon rope. 
But there was little time to take stock of our surroundings, for it 
was growing late and we must make haste to get our tents erected 
before the cold gripped us. Clothed and hooded as we were in 
every garment we possessed windproofs, down jackets and 
trousers, down, silk and windproof gloves : all this over jerseys, 
woollen shirts and underclothes it was cold enough. We pulled 
out the Pyramid tent from the pile left by the South Col party on 
22nd May and set to work. 

And now began a struggle which none of us is likely to forget. If 
the wind had been strong on the Spur, it was terrible down here. 
My oxygen had finished before descending to the Col, and Charles 
Evans took off his set to leave him more free to work. We were 
pathetically feeble, far too weak to compete against that fiendish 
gale. For over an hour we fought and strove with it, playing a 
diabolical tug-of-war, trying to put up one single tent which can 
be put up in one or two minutes lower down. All the time the can- 
vas was being snatched from our hands and we were being caught 
in a tangle of guy ropes. We staggered about, getting in each 
other's way, anoxic and hopelessly inadequate to cope with the 
conditions. Tom kept his oxygen set on for a short time and at 
first could not understand the antics of Charles and myself as we 
rolled around like drunkards. Once I tripped over a boulder and 

177 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

lay on my face for five minutes or so, before I could summon the 
strength to get up. But soon Tom's canister gave out, and then his 
oxygen supply. He too fell down and also lay, more or less uncon- 
scious, on the ground. 

By now it might have been 5 p.m. the two Sherpas had 
arrived. Balu at once crawled into the half-erected tent; he had 
completely lost his nerve. But he served at least one useful purpose, 
even if unwittingly; we were able to pass in rocks and oxygen 
bottles for him to weight down the inner edges of the tent. And in 
the end it was up, more or less. The Meade tent took less time, 
and by about 5.30 p.m. we three were in the Pyramid, the two 




Sherpas in the Meade, lying amid a confusion of sleeping-bags, 
mattresses, rucksacks, ropes and oxygen sets, to recover from this 
ordeal. 

It was already getting dark. Charles started to prime the stove; 
I went out to chip offlumps of ice from the surrounding boulders to 
melt for water, and I hauled in ration packs from the dump. We 
sorted out the muddle as best we could and crawled into our 
bags, clothed in everything, including windproofs. Between 5.30 
and 9 p.m. we brewed and drank no less than, four mugfuls of 
liquid each; there was lemonade, soup, tea and cocoa. It was most 
satisfying. While Charles and I were occupied in this way, Tom 
was fitting up oxygen equipment for sleeping purposes. We even- 
tually settled down for the night, always conscious of that great 



SOUTH COL: TWO 



wind as it tore at the tent walls as though bent on removing us 
from this desert where it ruled supreme. 



Overnight we had agreed that it would not be possible to make 
an early start next day, desirable though this was. We were too 
tired and the confusion was too great. Despite the wind, we three 
spent a reasonably comfortable night with the aid of oxygen. I 
woke abruptly and remained awake when my supply came to an 
end after four hours ; my breathing became laboured and I began 
to feel cold in my sleeping-bag. But even so, we all agreed that we 
felt rested and refreshed next morning. It did not take long, how- 
ever, to reach a certain decision. We would postpone the attempt 
by twenty-four hours. The implications of this were serious enough. 
We should be consuming more rations, more fuel; deterioration 
was bound to make itself felt, and we might be so weakened that 
this would prejudice our chances. Last but not least, we were 
taking a big chance with the weather, and especially the wind. 
Indeed, this was the most tantalizing aspect of all, for on this morn- 
ing, 25th May, the wind relented, the weather was utterly clear. 
There was no more than a breeze blowing across the Col. 

But we were not ready. Food had to be sorted out; Balu was 
unable to start, but we hoped that, with rest, he might recover. 
The decisive factor was that the oxygen had not been prepared, 
and this is a slow task at this altitude. For it takes infinitely longer 
to do simple things, let alone intricate jobs such as this. Fortun- 
ately, from the viewpoint of the Assault programme, there was 
time, for instead of following us at a twenty-four hours' interval, 
as had originally been planned, Ed Hillary's party would not 
arrive until the afternoon of the next day. 

We spent the time restfully. After a late breakfast I forget 
what we ate, but remember it included some excellent Swiss honey 
which I had found on the Col and our own salami sausage I 
went out to tidy up around the tents. Da Namgyal came to help, 
and we put up the third tent the little 6-lb. "blister". I was in a 
tidying mood and took a certain pleasure in lining our oxygen 
bottles in a neat row just outside our tent, stowing all food stores 
close to the entrance, and placing the Swiss gear separately from 
our own. I also placed a small packet upon a rock. This contained 
photographic plates intended to record cosmic rays; it had been 
given me by Professor Eugster of Zurich University during our 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

visit there shortly before we left for India. These had already 
been exposed for nearly a fortnight at Camp VII. I very much 
regret to say that they have remained on the South Col, where 
they must by now have made a very definite recording of these 
interesting phenomena. 

In addition to four tins of honey, some cheese and Vita-Weat, 
I found a tin of tunny fish among the Swiss kit. It is an interesting 
commentary on appetite and animal instincts at 26,000 feet and a 
fact which I mention not without a certain feeling of shame that 
I was unsocial enough to conceal this tit-bit from my companions. 
I took it into the little "blister" tent and emptied the tin myself. 

After doing these chores, I took a stroll along the Col, still 
wearing on my feet only a flimsy pair of down socks over two 
woollen pairs. First towards the western edge, in order to peer 
down into the Cwm from a huge square block which had been a 
landmark from below. I moved slowly along, heading into the 
breeze. Each step had to be carefully considered, but the ground 
sloped gradually away and the effort was not unduly great. Reach- 
ing the brink, I looked down at last on the Nuptse ridge, now quite 
undoubtedly below me, and beyond it to the lower peaks to the 
south, an infinite distance away. Directly below, I could see quite 
clearly three of our camps. Advance Base, a smudge on the snow 
surface, was there in its hollow. Away to the left and slightly 
higher, I could see the tiny tents of Camp V, scarcely distinguish- 
able one from the other. Most dramatic, however, was Camp VII, 
half-way up and also away to the left. I could look, as though from 
an aircraft, straight into the funnel in which it lay. The general 
fall of the Lhotse Face dividing me from it looked exceedingly 
steep. Pumori, which so ruled above Base Camp, was now difficult 
to pick out from the background of ice and snow; I was looking 
over its top to the other side, in Tibet. Before leaving the edge on 
this side, I waved just in case anyone below should happen to be 
looking in this direction at that moment. As far as I know this 
gesture was not observed. 

And so back up the gradual slopes, the wind behind me. A 
much greater effort this, stopping every few yards with a slight 
anxiety lest I should not make the distance. As I approached the 
tents, I was astonished to see a bird, a chough, strutting about on 
the stones near me. At every camp we had been visited by 
choughs; even at Camp VII there were two or three and I had 
wondered then whether we should find them on the Col. But here 

1 80 



SOUTH COL: TWO 

the bird was, behaving in the same way at 26,000 feet as his cousins 
had at Base Camp. During this day, too, Charles Evans saw what 
must have been a migration of small grey birds across the Col. 
Neither of us had thought to find any signs of life as high as 
this. 

After a rest to gather strength, I went out again to view the 
eastern panorama. The tents were more or less in the centre of 
the Col, and the journey was much the same as the other. There 
was a good deal of ice to cross before I could stand at the edge. 
I found this tiresome in nylon-covered down socks; so much so 
that I did not venture too close in case a gust of wind it was then 
increasing in strength should send me sliding helplessly over the 
brink. Here was a scene I had been longing to see. Years before, 
in 1937, I had climbed the south-west summit of a mountain 
named Nepal Peak, 23,400 feet, close by Kangchenjunga, 28,150 
feet, the third highest mountain in the world. From there I had 
looked north-west towards Everest and Lhotse, beyond the 
nearer peak of Makalu, 27,800 feet. It was a view I had always 
treasured in memory. 

Now here was the reverse side of the medal. Across the shoulder 
of near-by Makalu, a great pyramid of snow and reddish rock, 
soared Kangchenjunga, tent-shaped above the rising clouds, 
around it a number of satellites, including the Twins and Nepal 
Peak itself; I looked again on these familiar mountains after an 
interval of sixteen years. Ten thousand feet below, I saw the snow- 
free earth, where the Kangshung valley ran its course towards the 
east. I returned to the camp. 

Tom and Charles were getting ready for the next day and it 
seemed better to give them more space and freedom to make an 
early start by moving into the little tent myself. I shifted my 
belongings and spent a restful afternoon, reading Sorrow's Wild 
Wales. There was a great urge to do nothing the danger signal 
of deterioration. 

Among the equipment scheduled to be carried to the Col was 
a "Walkie-phone" set. This I found and we tried to get it to work 
in time for the evening call. Most unfortunately one of the bat- 
teries had been damaged on the way and we were not successful, but 
I spoke a message to James Morris at Base Camp, just in case he 
might pick it up. It would have been interesting to send a message 
from 26,000 feet to Base at under 18,000 feet. 

The Meade tent was only a yard away and I shouted to Da Nam- 

181 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 



gyal to find out how Balu was. The reply was not encouraging 
and I told Da Namgyal that we should share between us the 
loads to be carried up next day. With Tom's help we prepared 
our oxygen equipment and I fetched a bottle to use that night. 
All was set for our great day. 




182 



CHAPTER FIFTEEN 

SOUTH PEAK 

1HAD decided overnight that, since we would apparently be 
deprived of the services of Balu, the chances of Pa Namgyal 
and myself carrying our share of the total loads required for the 
top camp to the Snow Shoulder, probably nearly 28,000 feet, 
were very small. It seemed best now to take them as high as we 
could and leave the second support party, Gregory and his three 
Sherpas, who had rather less than half the total weight of stores 
to lift, the task of taking on the loads from the point where we 
left them. I spoke of this to Charles and Tom during 25th May. 
Our loads consisted of oxygen, a tent, food, kerosene, etc.; my 
share weighed about 45 Ib. in addition to some personal items, 
including a camera. Gregory's party was to bring up four Assault 
oxygen bottles and a small Primus stove. 

I was astir at 5.30 next morning, still feeling reasonably fresh 
after another four hours' use of oxygen during the night, I shouted 
to Da Namgyal in the neighbouring tent, to make sure he, too, 
was getting ready. Charles and Tom were due to start first, at 
6 a.m., as they had much the longer journey. I looked out at 
about that time, hoping to see them ready to leave. But they were 
still within and I took no action. Shouting into the wind, I would 
not have been heard even at that distance five yards. Meanwhile 
I went on with my own preparations, putting on boots and cram- 
pons, all a deplorably slow business. Da Namgyal brought me a 
cup of tea and told me that Balu was in a bad way and could not 
come with us. Just before 7 a.m. the two of us came out on to 
the Col and roped up, tightening our hoods around our faces 
against the bitter wind, drawing on our outer gauntlets over down 
gloves and adjusting our goggles. Our oxygen equipment was ready 
overnight and I hauled my set out of the tent. 

Outside the Pyramid tent was Charles Evans, crouching over 
his oxygen set and blowing into one of the tubes. Clearly he was 
having trouble with it. I asked what was the matter; the supply 
valve had been broken and it had taken over an hour to diagnose 
the trouble and replace the valve, unfortunately with a less suit- 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

able component from the Open-Circuit apparatus. This was not a 
propitious start. 

Some minutes later, Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon were 
still by their tent, the technical hitch as yet unremedied. This was 
serious. Charles came over and asked if he could help by joining 
me in carrying up loads for the top camp, since in his view the 
prospects for the Assault were dim. I declined his offer, since it 
was most unlikely that two climbers who had used oxygen all the 
way since leaving Advance Base could reach a point high on the 
South-East ridge without oxygen. I suppose I was too intent on 
my own coming effort for that day to feel despondent about this 
bad news of the Assault; it seemed all I could do was to carry on 
with my job. There was indeed nothing more to say, and words 
were an effort in the wind. So Da Namgyal and I started off to- 
wards the ridge soon after 7 a.m., each carrying about 45 Ib. on 
our backs and using oxygen at 4 litres' flow per minute. 

We moved very slowly. In fact, the gently rising ice-slopes 
seemed just as much of an effort as had my wandering on the Col 
without oxygen the day before. The ground was bare ice polished 
by the wind, with scattered pebbles embedded in it. As it steep- 
ened, the slope became covered with brick-hard snow on which I 
found that my short-pointed crampons tended to scrape and slip; 
it was already tiring. Looking round, I was delighted to see Tom 
and Charles just leaving the tents and moving towards me; they 
must have put right the defect, and the first Assault was launched 
on its final lap. 

At the same time it was depressing to note how little progress 
we had made in the past half-hour perhaps 150 feet upwards 
and 200 yards in distance. I was heading for a snow-filled gully or 
ouloir, which had been pointed out to us on a photograph by 
the Swiss as being the only practicable route to the South-East 
ridge. The ridge now towered directly above our heads, over 
1,000 feet up. Da Namgyal wanted me to move farther to the 
right, to the foot of the rock buttress which cuts off the ridge before 
it reaches the edge of the Col, and from the point we had reached 
the gully appeared to rise so steeply that for a moment I was in- 
clined to agree that we might as well try the alternative rock 
climb. But it would now have involved a long detour to the right, 
and there was a compelling urge to economize energy as much as 
possible. Indeed we already had little in reserve. 

Tom and Charles were coming up fast from behind. As Da 

184 



SOUTH PEAK 

Namgyal and I stopped to take our first rest, sitting in the shallow 
groove of an incipient Bergschrund which marks a sudden steepen- 
ing of the gully, they went ahead. It was good to see that they 
were climbing so strongly, and I admit to feeling glad that I 
should be spared the labour of kicking or cutting steps higher up. 

On we went, still on a hard surface in which our crampons left 
barely a scratch, but after a while we struck softer patches and 
these became more frequent as we crept up into the comparative 
shelter of the rock walls limiting the gully. It was pleasing to note 
that already we were above the top of the rocky hump which 
stands near the eastern edge of the South Col. The couloir steep- 
ened. At half height it was perhaps 45 degrees, nearer its top it 
had risen in gradient to about 50 degrees, making the cutting of 
steps or kicking them when the snow was soft enough to make an 
impression essential to comfort at this altitude. 

Tom and Charles were busy with this task; it slowed them 
down, but they were still gaining ground on us; they were perhaps 
forty yards ahead, half-way up the couloir. Our progress grew 
slower, more exhausting. Each step was a labour, requiring an 
effort of will. After several steps at a funeral pace, a pause was 
necessary to regain enough strength to continue. For reasons 
which I was only to discover later I was already beginning to gasp 
and fight for breath. In this distress, I tried a different technique: 
resting for a minute, then starting forward as fast as I could it 
was doubtless ludicrously slow for eight or nine consecutive paces, 
without taking account of the need to co-ordinate my movement 
with breathing. I would then hang upon my axe until once more 
sufficiently controlled to go on. This was an agonizing perform- 
ance which, on reflection, I do not recommend to future Everest 
climbers. That I experimented with it at all, flouting all the tenets 
of mountain climbing, was a gesture of desperation. Towards the 
top of the couloir, Tom and Charles had traversed across it to set 
foot on a steep slope of mixed rock and snow; direct ascent had 
become awkwardly steep. We followed in their steps, and I sat 
upon the first rock ledge to take in Da NamgyaPs rope as he came 
towards me. He did not say anything but looked woefully tired. 

We went on, for the ridge was now close; up steep but easy 
ground until we reached the crest. Quite suddenly we had 
arrived at the little tent left by Lambert and Tenzing almost 
exactly a year before or the ragged remains of it. Like those on 
the South Col below, it had only the struts, held upright still, 

185 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

with scraps of orange cloth flapping in the wind. We fell on to the 
small level space just above the tent. My lungs seemed to be about 
to burst; I was groaning and fighting to get enough air, a grim 
and ghastly experience in which I had no power of self-control. 
But only while it lasted. For, as had happened lower down in the 
couloir, normality came quite suddenly and with it a desire to go 
on, an ability to take an interest in the surroundings. 

I looked around, first out on to the world, for we were now on 
its roof. Kangchenjunga and Makalu stood above a sea of cloud, 
which was rising rapidly all around us; the wind was already 
strong, but we were fairly well sheltered, for as usual it was blow- 
ing from the north-west. Then I gazed down to the South Col. 
This was highly satisfying: the tents looked minute, for we had 
climbed some i ,400 feet, even though it had taken us almost three 
hours to attain this height. Below the lip of the Col, we could now 
look straight down the Lhotse Face and upon the top of Camp 
VII; despite all its 24,000 feet, it looked an infinite distance below, 
and I wondered how we had managed to climb those apparently 
precipitous slopes below and above it. Lastly, I glanced up the 
ridge, now half-hidden in mist. It was snowing and the wind was 
in my face as I turned. There were Charles and Tom climbing the 
steeper ground towards the Snow Shoulder. They seemed to be 
going very strongly indeed, at least 300 feet above us now; I won- 
dered how they managed to go so steadily without taking rest. 

Up till now Da Namgyal had, I believe, been climbing with 
less effort than myself. But now he seemed utterly done up. I 
spoke of going on and he was apathetic. It is not Da NamgyaPs 
nature to give in, but it was only too clear that we should not be 
able to continue much farther. Leaving one oxygen cylinder, 
which I decided to carry back to supplement the supplies for the 
second Assault, we followed slowly in the track made by the sum- 
mit pair. The going was not very steep at first, the ridge narrow 
but not uncomfortably so. But there was a tiresome layer of some 
three inches of powder snow upon a harder under-surface, masking 
the rocks on the crest. The track made by the others, where we 
could trace it, was a help. I resorted to some attempt at achieving 
a rhythm a step, four or six gasps, another step, and so on. It was 
a little less painful than the rush tactics, but we climbed no faster 
than before. 

After about twenty minutes we might have climbed 100 feet 
above the Swiss tent Da Namgyal said he could do no more* I 

186 



SOUTH PEAK 

knew him too well to doubt it, for there is no stouter-hearted and 
less-complaining man. I urged him on, for there was no satis- 
factory place to leave the gear at this point; a likely-looking shelf 
could be seen above, another fifty feet up. We got there and stopped. 
As so often happens, it was disappointing scarcely room to sit, 
let alone place the equipment securely. I felt I could manage yet 
another fifty feet and again saw what appeared to be a better ledge 
up the now steeper section rising towards the Snow Shoulder 
the Shoulder itself seemed to be only some 300 feet above us now. 
But Da Namgyal could not do it, and I cannot say I was sorry 
that he had reached his limit; I was near enough mine. So we 
stopped and built a cairn upon a rock on the crest of the ridge, 
immediately above a little gap, just big enough for the tent and 
other stores. 

The place is easy to identify from below, for it is but slightly 
above the direct line of the original couloir by which we had 
climbed to attain the ridge. There we placed the tent, food, kero- 
sene and our own oxygen bottles. To these I added a candle and 
matches to provide a small measure of comfort for the second 
summit party. The height, like others, has yet to be calculated 
exactly. Taking 27,300 feet as the altitude of the Swiss tent, a 
lower figure than the Swiss themselves had estimated, I assumed 
the highest point reached by Da Namgyal and myself was 27,500 
feet. Later we agreed to a further scaling down of certain figures 
(see page x) and reckoned this dump to be at 27,350 feet. 

For no reason that I can now explain, we moved a few yards 
across the southern slope and began, very feebly, to scrape out 
a platform. This was not logical, for I had long determined 
that the highest camp must be in the region of 28,000 feet, and I 
had in mind the Snow Shoulder. Being short of one Sherpa, it 
was fairly certain that we must leave the final lift to the 
second party. We again rested until about 11.30 a.m., when 
we were ready to start back. It must have been while we were 
there that Da Namgyal removed a glove. Two days later, at 
Advance Base, I learned that he had a badly frost-bitten finger. 
This was skilfully attended to by Michael Ward and the trouble 
cleared up without his having to take any drastic measures. This 
was the only serious case of frost-bite during the whole expedi- 
tion. Carrying our empty oxygen frames, we went down the ridge, 
now enveloped in mist, the snow on our backs. We were terribly 
slow and wobbly, so much so that on reaching the platform where 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

the framework of the Swiss tent stood, I decided to use oxygen 
from the bottle left there, at any rate for the steepest part of the 
couloir, to reduce the risk of an accident. But this made matters 
worse and I quickly took off my mask. So far I had given no 
thought to the efficient working of the oxygen equipment; it had 
never failed before and it did not occur to me to check in case 
there might be some blockage. This worsening effect, when tried 
only for a few minutes as we descended towards the couloir, may, 
however, be significant. It was not until twenty-four hours later, 
when unscrewing the tube connecting the mask with the set, that 
I discovered this was completely blocked with ice. It is mentioned 
here, not in any sense as an excuse but simply as a possible ex- 
planation of the otherwise quite extraordinary difficulty in breath- 
ing and climbing which I experienced going up, an experience 
quite contrary to that in the latter part of the Lhotse Face, al- 
though the difference in height between the two places was not 
very considerable. 

In the couloir we took extreme precautions. Although it has a 
good run out on to the stone-covered ice-slopes of the Col, the 
height from the point where we entered it is certainly over 1,000 
feet above the Col, and a slip would have had serious conse- 
quences. We moved singly, each alternately securing the other 
with a turn of the rope round the head of the ice-axe, driven into 
the snow. First Da Namgyal would go down and I would join 
him, then he went down farther; so it went on, rope length by 
rope length. Once he slipped and slid for several feet, but only 
until the slight amount of slack rope was taken up. This was due 
entirely to exhaustion, for Da Namgyal is a very steady, safe 
climber; it was a warning for additional care. 

As we descended we could see figures spread out across the 
Lhotse Face, coming up towards the South Col. The second 
Assault party were approaching to join us; this was a pleasing 
sight. At last we were on easier ground. When we came out of the 
couloir and on to the upper slopes above the Col, two of the party 
arrived at the tents; shortly afterwards they came towards us. 
We were now sitting down every ten paces or so, although the 
difficulties were over and the angle was no longer steep. We 
recognized Tenzing and Hillary approaching us over the icy 
surface. I suddenly felt as though the strength was leaving me like 
water. My knees gave way and I collapsed, a ridiculous figure, as 
they came up. Da Namgyal flopped down also, while we were 

188 




THE LHOTSE FACE FROM THE AIR 

The South Col is on the left with the Geneva Spur below it. Lhotse 

is on the right and the Nuptse ridge runs across the foreground. 

Note the Lhotse glacier descending steeply towards the head of the 

Western Cwm 




THE LHOTSE FACE 

Party at the foot of the Face starting up towards Camp VI 



PLATE 30 




Camp VII (24,000 feet) seen the ke-elilT behind tlie Camp 




Camp VII. Looking across the Lhotse Face towards the Geneva Spur 
THE LHOTSE FACE 



PLATE 31 




THE LHOTSE FACE 



Everest from the highest shelf of the Lhotse glacier (25,000 feet), 
showing the edge of the South Col and Geneva Spur on right 



PLATE 32 




' ^ 



THE LHOTSE FACE 

Hillary and Tenzing on the shelf at the top of the Lhotse glacier dur- 
ing the second Assault. The flags intended for the Summit can be 
seen wrapped round Tenzing's ice-axe 



PLATE 33 




THE LHOTSE FACE 

Crossing a steep ice slope 



PLATE 34. 






THE SOUTH COL 



The Col from the top of the Geneva Spur (26,000 feet), 
with Everest hidden in cloud 



PLATE 35] 




CD 
CO 



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I 

PH 

I 



TJ 



I 



S 

HH CO 

H <u 

P ^ 

o >> 

C/5 rt 

W H 

w z 

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THE SOUTH COL 

Exhaustion Ang Temba on arrival at the Col 



PLATE 37 




THE SOUTH-EAST RIDGE 

Lhotse and the South Col; photograph taken from the site of the 
Swiss tent at 27,200 feet 



PLATE 40 



SOUTH PEAK 

plied with lemonade from Tenzing's flask. Ed helped me towards 
the tents, but finding that I could not make the distance, hurried 
off to fetch his oxygen set. With a boost of 6 litres a minute, I 
soon revived I remember very clearly what a full and free flow I 
was receiving and we were able to complete the few remaining 
yards. I shall not forget their exceeding patience and kindness. 



On reaching the ledge where we first stood upon the South- 
East ridge of Everest at 27,200 feet, Tom Bourdillon and Charles 
Evans were feeling well and confident. They arrived there shortly 
after 9 a.m., having taken one and a half hours to climb 1,300 
feet; only about the same height had to be covered to reach the 
South summit. At this rate of progress almost a thousand feet 
in one hour they should have time to spare for the suspected 
difficulties of that final hidden ridge leading to Everest itself. 
Best of all, the Closed-Circuit sets were functioning well, despite 
the anxiety caused earlier that morning and the fact that Charles 
Evans's apparatus had perforce been set at a fixed flow rate of 2 
litres per minute. The weather alone was unfavourable, but even 
this was not a serious hindrance. They set off determined and 
full of hope. 

But from this point onwards the going became worse. The over- 
lay of fresh snow called for greater care, covering the ledges and 
making it difficult to get a grip with their crampons on the 
hard surface beneath ; they moved much more slowly. In two hours, 
indeed, they had not covered more than half the distance towards 
the South Peak. But they had now reached an important landmark. 
This was th^ Snow Shoulder, so noticeable a feature when seen - 
from the top of the Geneva Spur. As Tenzing pointed out later, it 
is probably about the highest place reached during the attempt 
by himself and Lambert in the Spring of 1952. Clouds were all 
around them, snow was falling and being blown off the ridge. 

As they paused on this less steep ground, an awkward problem 
arose over the oxygen equipment. The soda-lime canisters which 
form a part of the mechanism of the Closed-Circuit appara- 
tus have an average endurance of approximately three to three 
and a half hours. They had now been going at least two and a half 
hours, and the canisters in use might be expected to have at most 
a further hour of useful life. Each man was carrying a second canis- 
ter, and it was now a question whether they should change to the 
A.E. 14 !8 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

fresh ones at this point. By doing so here, they would have the 
advantage of a fairly spacious resting-place, and this did not 
appear to be available higher up; in fact, the ridge steepened 
very considerably from this point onwards. Equally important 
was the fact that there is a tendency for the valves in the 
apparatus to freeze up after a new and cold canister has been 
connected. This had happened only three days before, when they 
had introduced new canisters at Camp VI on their way up to the 
South Col. The risk would be better faced here than on top of the 
South summit, where a breakdown of this nature might have very 
serious consequences. Against these arguments was the objection 
that by rejecting the canisters in use they would be wasting the 
endurance of their oxygen equipment and would thus shorten 
their day. If I have gone into this problem in some detail, it is 
merely to stress what a dilemma it must have been for Charles 
and Tom, at 28,000 feet on the South-East ridge of Everest; 
hardly the most congenial place in which to consider and discuss 
such a nicely balanced problem, especially wearing oxygen masks. 
They decided to change the canisters and went on. Charles was 
now having trouble again with his set, resulting in rapid laboured 
breathing, which may or may not have been due to the new 
canister; he was making a tremendous and gallant effort to keep 
going. They arrived at the foot of the final steep rise, a great slope 
tilted abruptly at a high angle sweeping up towards the South 
Peak. The snow was unstable, a fragile crust overlying loose deep 
snow underneath, and Tom, who was ahead at this point, doubted 
its safety. Away to the left were rocks, bordering the South 
face where it falls away towards the western brink of the South 
Col. They traversed across to these, half-expecting the slope to 
break away beneath them. The angle of the rocks was also steep 
and they were somewhat crumbling, but the strata dip favour- 
ably to the climber on this side of the mountain, and the ledges, 
small though they were, tilted so as to provide accommodating 
holds. On and on, up those last 400 feet they climbed, very slowly 
now, Charles Evans in considerable trouble with his breathing 
but determined not to give up. Then quite suddenly the angle 
eased, and almost at once they found themselves standing upon 
the South summit of Everest, at over 2 8^300^ feet. It was i o'clock. 
Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon had climbed higher on Everest 
by many hundreds of feet than anyone had ever climbed before. 
Better still, they had reached the highest summit so far climbed. 

190 



SOUTH PEAK 

Clouds were all round them, obscuring the view, adhering like 
a banner to the tremendous eastern precipice falling away from 
the final ridge towards the Kangshung Valley. But that final 
ridge was clear, and they were now gazing upon a problem which 
had intrigued all mountaineers and which we especially had all 
been longing to see. It was not encouraging. Viewed thus, end on, 
it is narrow and apparently rising steeply. On the left, it falls 
sharply away to the edge of the rocks topping the west face of 
the mountain, which drops sheer 8,000 feet into the Cwm above 
our Advance Base, On the right, or east, is an even more abrupt 
precipice of even greater height; it was masked now by cloud. Huge 
bulges of snow hung over it from the crest of the ridge, cornices 
of Himalayan dimensions formed by the prevailing westerly wind. 

Should they go on? For them, here was a unique chance to 
climb to the top. But unless it were to be a one-way journey, it 
obviously depended on the factors of time and weather; the 
question of time was directly linked with that of their oxygen sup- 
ply. Unless they had sufficient oxygen to last during the traverse 
along the ridge both ways and also to descend the ridge by which 
they had climbed, it was not feasible. To estimate the time re- 
quired to climb an unknown ridge, seen foreshortened in this way 
so that it is not possible to be sure the farthest visible point is the 
summit, is not easy. Charles Evans reckoned that it might take 
three hours to the top, another two hours back to the South Peak. 
At that rate they would long since have exhausted their remaining 
oxygen supply and, even had they been able to return to the South 
summit without it, they would not be back there until 6 p.m., 
with nearly 3,000 feet to descend to safety. In fact, it was out of the 
question and they rightly decided to turn back at this point. 

Yet it was with some" reluctance that they started down. 
Both were now very tired, emphasizing, if any further persuasion 
had been needed, the futility of going on towards the summit of 
the mountain. The trouble with Charles's set persisted and they 
stopped while Tom adapted it for use on the Open-Circuit prin- 
ciple a remarkable feat this, at that height and after all they 
had done already. Later, they had to stop again and change back 
to Closed-Circuit, as Charles had been receiving rather less benefit 
still. They did not fancy the small ledges on those steep rocks and 
took a chance now on the snow slope to the left, sinking deeply 
into it through the crust, but probably too tired to think of the 
possible consequences. The descent of 1,500 feet to the Swiss tent 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

took them about two hours. Their state of exhaustion is shown by 
the fact that, sound climbers as both of them are, they slipped on a 
number of occasions on the technically easy part of the ridge above 
this tent. It was about 3.30 p.m. when they arrived there. 

Then they, like Da Namgyal and I a few hours before, had to 
face the couloir. They too took the usual precautions, but they 
were understandably even more wobbly than we had been. Tom 
led down and had just reached the end of the rope and fixed his 
axe as a belay when Charles came hurtling down the slope from 
behind, to quote Tom, "like a bullet". As the rope tightened 
round Tom's axe it was wrenched out of the snow and Tom was 
dragged from his steps, sliding with gathering speed down the hard 
surface of the couloir. But the jerk on the rope as the axe checked 
it had slowed Charles's fall. Tom instinctively took the correct 
action, turning on to his stomach and jabbing the pick of his axe 
above him into the snow as a brake. They came to a stop, waited 
to recover and started on down again. 



On the Col, I was resting in the "blister" tent, talking to 
Tenzing. George Lowe suddenly put his head through the en- 
trance. He was tremendously excited ; he was jubilant. "They're 
up: by God they're up!" he shouted. This was indeed electrifying 
news, quite sufficient to banish the weariness of my own efforts 
that day. Everyone was overjoyed. The Sherpas, who had toiled up 
towards the top of the Geneva Spur behind Gregory and Lowe, 
were no less thrilled than ourselves. Indeed, perhaps more so, 
for they were under the impression that the peak rising from the 
South Col was in fact the highest point. They believed that 
Everest had been climbed. When they reached the tents, Ang 
Nyima turned to me and said in slang Hindi: "Everest khatm ho 
gya, Sahib", which in equally slang English may be translated, 
"Everest has had it". For them, the spectacle had been par- 
ticularly dramatic. They had been watching our progress all that 
morning while they were crossing the slopes of the Lhotse Face, 
but Bourdillon and Evans had been hidden for some time by the 
clouds which now screened the mountain. At about i o'clock there 
was a break in the mists around the sharp snow cone of the South 
Peak and upon it, like insects on a wall, two little dots could be 
seen. They climbed steadily up that forbidding, impossibly steep- 
looking snow slope and soon disappeared over the top. It was as 

192 



SOUTH PEAK 

if they did not trouble to stop, intent on going farther to the 
utmost point beyond. 

We spent an anxious afternoon, with a lurking uncertainty lest 
Charles and Tom might not return. The clouds completely ob- 
scured the ridge and the wind had increased in strength. At 
3.30 p.m. there was a thinning of the cloud at the top of the 
couloir, and there they were. They came down slowly and we 
prepared to receive them. At 4.30 they approached the tents and 
we went out to meet them; burdened with their cumbersome 
equipment and bulky clothing, their faces frost-covered, they 
looked like strangers from another planet. Both were utterly weary. 

Later, they told us the story I have just narrated : the story of the 
first ascent of the South summit of Everest. It was natural that dis- 
appointment should have been among their feelings, to get so near 
the ultimate goal the fulfilment of a life's ambition and then 
be denied it. Yet it must be remembered that they had achieved 
exactly what had been hoped of them. I had been insistent that 
the South summit was the objective and that, by reaching it, 
they would provide invaluable information to the second summit 
pair; indeed, the two Assaults were intended to be complementary. 
Their feat in climbing to over 28,700 feet and back in one day 
from the South Col was a magnificent effort, and a triumph also 
for the oxygen equipment on which such infinite pains had been 
taken. They had sighted that last part of the ridge and were able 
to describe it to Tenzing and Hillary. They had given us all, by 
their example, incalculable confidence in final victory. 



With the second Assault party and their extra stores safely 
arrived on the South Col, preparations were made for their 
departure next day up the South-East ridge. 

First, the Sherpas who had accompanied them, bringing up 
these stores, got ready to go down. Da Namgyal decided to join 
them, in spite of his outstanding and exhausting effort that day, 
and Balu also left. They were a heroic little band, whose names 
deserve to be specially recorded in this story of the ascent of 
Everest: Dawa Thondup, approaching his fifties; Da Tensing, 
another veteran; Topkie, a mere boy who had sometimes exas- 
perated us in the Icefall and the Cwm by his carelessness and his 
irritating cough, yet with the heart of a lion; Ang Norbu, sturdy 
and unshakable ; the jaunty Annullu, whose pace was like that of 

193 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

"a fast Swiss guide". For all these men save Da Tensing, this was 
their second trip to the South Col during this expedition. Da 
Tensing himself had done exceptional, skilled and strenuous work 
with Lowe on the Lhotse Face and had made yet another of his 
many journeys to Camp VII on the day the first Assault party 
had gone up there. No praise is too high for them. 

George Lowe had escorted them up and now asked to stay to 
assist in the "carry" of stores to the top camp. This I very gladly 
agreed to. Of the three special Sherpas accompanying this second 
party, the team to carry the stores up to Camp IX, only one now 
appeared likely to be fit to continue. This was Ang Nyima, already 
renowned among us for his work with Lowe in the early days of 
preparing the Lhotse Face. The other two, Ang Temba and 
Pemba, my orderly during the March-out, were both feeling ill 
on arrival. In the second support team, too, it would be necessary 
for the climbers to become porters. 

We were overcrowded that evening at Camp VIII. The 
Pyramid was occupied by the four members of the second Assault 
party, while we of the first party, having finished our effort, 
occupied the Meade, designed for two. The three remaining 
Sherpas of the second support team somehow managed to squeeze 
into the tiny "Blister" tent. It was a terrible night. For Hillary it 
was "one of the worst nights I have ever experienced". For those 
of us whose third night it was on the South Col, packed like sar- 
dines, managing without oxygen and exhausted after climbing 
high on the mountain throughout that day, it was a nightmare. 
The thermometer indicated 25 degrees C., and the wind, which 
had been strong all day long, now rose again to gale force. Pressed 
as we were against the walls of the tents, it was as if we had no 
protection at all. Constantly buffeted throughout the night, there 
could be no question of sleep. It continued hour after hour, adding 
greatly to our existing state of weariness. On the morning of 27th 
May, there was no longer any doubt that the first Assault party 
was in very poor shape indeed, especially, I think, Tom Bourdillon, 

My diary for this day reads as follows : 

"It was no surprise to find at about 8 a.m. that Ed's party had 
not started. The wind was blowing like mad, so much so that it 
was a nightmare to go out of the tent. A scene of wild confusion 
reigned around Everest, which was shrouded in cloud with snow 
being torn from the South-East ridge. We huddled into the Pyra- 
mid and discussed the situation while Tenzing made some attempt 

194 



SOUTH PEAK 

to work the Primus of the Sherpas, only Ang Nyima was showing 
any sign of life. A postponement of twenty-four hours was impera- 
tive; fortunately we have stock-piled enough to make this pos- 
sible and the important thing is to keep up our strength by eating 
and drinking enough. For me, this is my third day spent on or 
above the Col, and I've had three nights of it. But it is interesting 
to compare our condition with that of the Swiss who spent a 
similar period here last year, and who scarcely got down alive. 
Here are we, well supplied with food, fuel and oxygen, sitting at 
26,000 feet almost as if at Base. 

"At about midday Charles and Tom started off on their way 
down. Then Charles suddenly reappeared with the alarming news 
that Tom could not get up the slope to the top of the Eperon 
[Spur] and was in a critical state. Another of us must accompany 
him down if he were to get down alive. Here was another difficult 
decision. My post was here on the Col, to see the big assault safely 
launched and decide, if need be, on a further postponement or, 
possibly, a withdrawal. Yet I was supporting the first Assault, 
and by sending either Greg or George would only weaken the 
second Assault's chances. I decided I must go. So I rapidly packed, 
with much willing help, and plodded very slowly up the slopes of 
the Spur, Ed carrying my sack. 

"Left Ed with parting instruction not to give in if avoidable, 
and promising to send up a reinforcement party. We (Charles, 
Tom, Ang Temba and self) started slowly so painfully slowly 
down the couloir and across the big slopes beneath Lhotse. We 
halted frequently and for long intervals, for Tom, and to a less 
extent Ang Temba, were barely in control of their legs. I led, 
Charles brought up the rear. So it went on until, very nearly at 
the end of our strength (except, perhaps, Charles), we staggered 
down the last few feet to Camp VII. To our relief and delight, 
here we were met by Wilf Noyce and Mike Ward, who helped us 
in. Just as we were coming down the ice pitch above Camp, 
Temba slipped and fell into the big crevasse. He was held by 
Charles, and Wilf managed to get his sack off (he was upside 
down) and get him up. It is indicative of my state of exhaustion that 
I could not find strength to lift a finger throughout this incident." 

Wilfrid Noyce's presence at Camp VII was very fortunate. 
Without him, Tom Bourdillon, Ang Temba and I could not have 
managed for ourselves that evening; he looked after us like a 
nurse and prepared our supper. Moreover, he was half-way to the 

195 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Col and, unbeknown to him, I had told Ed Hillary before leaving 
there that I would send up Noyce and three more volunteer 
Sherpas with further stores, in order to enable them to stay out 
yet another day of bad weather if necessary. I also had in mind 
that Noyce and one or more of these men might replace any 
casualties up there and thus take part in the second Assault. So 
it was that Charles Evans, who found the energy to continue on 
down with Michael Ward to Advance Base the same evening, was 
to arrange for three men to come up and join Noyce here at 
Camp VII on s8th May. 

Tom and I descended to the Cwm next morning. On the way 
we met Charles Wylie with the three Sherpas. Wylie had rightly 
decided that they should not go up to the Lhotse Face unac- 
companied, and he had also felt that this camp should be occupied 
until the return of Hillary's party. These roles he took upon him- 
self: a great contribution to the sound conduct of the Assault. It is 
typical of Charles that as he passed I noticed in his bulky load an 
Assault oxygen bottle. This and other items of replenishment he 
had taken over from a fourth Sherpa who should have been with 
the party, but who had not been able to go beyond Camp V. 
Wylie was, of course, climbing without oxygen. 

We reached Advance Base in the early afternoon, our imme- 
diate task completed. There was nothing for us now to do but 
await the outcome of the second Assault. 



196 



CHAPTER SIXTEEN 

THE SUMMIT 

By EDMUND HILLARY 

EARLY on the morning of syth May I awoke from an uneasy 
sleep feeling very cold and miserable. We were on the South 
Col of Everest. My companions in our Pyramid tent. Lowe, 
Gregory and Tenzing, were all tossing and turning in unsuccessful 
efforts to gain relief from the bitter cold. The relentless wind was 
blowing in all its fury and the constant loud drumming on the tent 
made deep sleep impossible. Reluctantly removing my hand from 
my sleeping-bag I lookedatmy watch. Itwas 4 a.m. In the flickering 
light of a match, the thermometer lying against the tent wall read 
25 Centigrade. 

We had hoped to establish a camp high on the South-East 
ridge that day, but the force of the wind obviously made a start 
impossible. We must, however, be prepared to go on if the wind 
should drop. I nudged the uncomplaining Tenzing with my 
elbow and murmured a few words about food and drink, then 
callously snuggled my way back into my bag again. Soon the 
purring of the Primus and the general warming of the atmosphere 
stirred us into life and while we munched biscuits and drank hot 
water flavoured with lemon crystals and heaps of sugar, Lowe, 
Gregory and I discussed rather pessimistically our plans for the 
day. 

rAt 9 a.m. the wind was still blowing fiercely, and clad in all my 
warm clothing I craw r led out of the tent and crossed to the small 
Mcade tent housing John Hunt, Charles Evans and Tom Bour- 
dillon. Hunt agreed that any start under these conditions was 
impossible. Ang Temba had become sick and was obviously in- 
capable of carrying up any farther, so we decided to send him 
down with Evans and Bourdillon when they left for Camp VII 
about midday. Hunt decided at the last moment to accompany 
this party, owing to Bourdillon's condition, and George Lowe and 
I assisted a very weary foursome to climb the slopes above the 
camp and then watched them start off on their slow and exhaust- 
ing trip down to Camp VII. jf 

197 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

All day the wind blew furiously and it was in a somewhat 
desperate spirit that we organized the loads for the establishment 
of the Ridge Camp on the following day. Any delay in our de- 
parture from tlie" South Col could only result in increased deterio- 
ration and consequent weakness. The violent wind gave us another 
unpleasant night, but we were all breathing oxygen at one litre 
per minute and this enabled us to doze uneasily for seven or eight 
hours. 

Early in the morning the wind was still blowing strongly but 
about 8 a.m. it eased considerably and we decided to leavelHow- 
ever, another blow had fallen Pemba had been violently ill all 
night and was obviously not capable of going oaJOnly one Sherpa 
porter, Ang Nyima, was left to carry for us out of our original 
band of three. Our only alternative was to carry the camp our- 
selves, as to abandon the attempt was unthinkable. We repacked 
the loads, eliminating anything not vitally necessary and having 
no choice because of our reduced manpower but to cut down vital 
supplies of oxygen. 

At 8.45 a.m. Lowe, Gregory and Ang Nyima departed, all 
carrying over 40 Ib. each and breathing oxygen at 4 litres a 
minute. Tenzing and I were to leave later so that we could follow 
quickly up the steps made by the other party and so conserve 
energy and oxygen. We loaded all our personal clothing, sleeping- 
bags and air mattresses, together with some food, on to our oxygen 
sets and left at 10 a.m. carrying 50 Ib. apiece. 

We followed slowly up the long slopes to the foot of the great 
couloir and then climbed the veritable staircase hewn by Lowe 
in the firm steep snow of the couloir. As we moved slowly up the 
steps we were bombarded by a constant stream of ice chips falling 
from well above us where Lowe and Gregory were cutting steps 
across to the South-East ridge. We reached the ridge at midday 
and joined the other party. [Near by was the tattered ruin of the 
Swiss tent of the previous spring, and it added an air of loneliness 
ancTdesolation to this remarkable viewpoint. From here Lambert 
and Tenzing had made their gallant attempt to reach the summit 
after a night spent without sleeping-bags:^ 

It was a wonderful spot with tremendous views in every direc- 
tion and we indulged in an orgy of photography. We were all 
feeling extremely well and confident of placing our camp high 
up on the South-East ridge. We heaved on our loads again and 
moved 150 feet up the ridge to the dump made by Hunt two days 

198 "*~ 



THE SUMMIT 

previously. Qrhe ridge, was quite steep but the upward sloping 
strata of the rocks gave us quite good footholds and the climbing 
was not technically difficult, although loose snow over the steep 
rocks demanded care^The dump was at 27,350 feet, but we con- 
sidered that this was still far too low for an effective summit camp, 
so somewhat reluctantly we added all this extra gear to our 
already large loads^&regory took some more oxygen, Lowe some 
food and fuel and I tied on a tent. Apart from Ang Nyima, who 
was carrying just over 40 lb., we all had loads of from 50 to 63 Ib. 
We continued on up the ridge at a somewhat reduced ratej 
Despite our great burdens we were moving steadily, though very 
slowly. The ridge steepened on to a slope of firm snow and Lowe 
chipped steps up it for fifty feet. By 2 p.m. we were beginning to 
tire and started looking for a camp site. The ridge appeared to 
have no relief at all and continued upwards in one unbroken 
sweep. We plugged slowly on, looking for a ledge without success. 
Again and again we hopefully laboured up to a prospective site 
only to find that it was still at a 45-degree angle. We were getting 
a little desperate until Tenzing, remembering the ground from the 
previous year, suggested a ^traverse over steep slopes to the left, 
which finally landed us on to a relatively flat spot beneath a rock 
bluff. 

It was 2.30 and we decided to camp here. All day the magnifi- 
cent peak of Lhotse had commanded our attention, but now its 
summit was just below us. We estimated our height at 27,900 feet. 
Lowe, Gregory and Ang Nyima dropped their loads on the site 
with relief. They were tired but well satisfied with the height 
gained, and to them must go a great deal of the credit for the 
successful climb of the following day. Wasting no time, they 
hurried off back to the SouthjCol. 

It was with a certain feeling of loneliness that we watched our 
cheerful companions slowly descending the ridge, but we had 
much to do. We removed our oxygen sets in order to conserve our 
supplies and set to work with our ice-axes to clear the tiny plat- 
form. We scratched off all the snow to reveal a rock slope at an 
angle of some 30 degrees. The rocks were well frozen in, but by 
the end of a couple of hours' solid work we had managed to prise 
loose sufficient stones to level out two strips of ground a yard wide 
and six feet long, but almost a foot different in levels. Even though 
not breathing oxygen, we could still work quite hard, but rested 
every ten minutes or so in order to regain our breath and energy. 

J99 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

We pitched our tent on this double level and tied it down as best 
we could. LThere were no suitable rocks around which to hitch our 
tent guys, and the snow was far too soft to hold aluminium tent 
pegs. We sank several of our oxygen bottles in the soft snow and 
attached the guys to these as a somewhat unreliable anchon)Then, 
while Tenzing began heating some soup, I made a tally of our 
limited oxygen supplies. They were much less than we had hoped. 
For the Assault we had only one and two-thirds bottles each. It 
was obvious that if we were to have sufficient endurance we would 
be unable to use the 4 litres per minute that we had originally 
planned, but I estimated that if we reduced our supplies to 3 
litres per minute we might still have a chance. I prepared the sets 
and made the necessary adjustments. One thing in our favour was 
that Evans and Bourdillon had left two bottles of oxygen, still one- 
third full, some hundreds of feet above our camp. We were relying 
on this oxygen to get us back to the South Col. 

As the sun set we crawled finally into our tent, put on all our 
warm clothing and wriggled into our sleeping-bags. We drank vast 
quantities of liquid and had a satisfying meal out of our store of 
delicacies: sardines on biscuits, tinned apricots, dates and biscuits 
and jam and honey. The tinned apricots were a great treat, but it 
was necessary first to thaw them out of their frozen state over our 
roaring Primus. In spite of the great height, our breathing was 
almost normal until a sudden exertion would cause us to pant a 
little. Tenzing laid his air mattress on the lower shelf half-over- 
hanging the steep slope below and calmly settled down to sleep. 
I made myself as comfortable as possible half-sitting and half- 
reclining on the upper shelf with my feet braced on the lower 
shelf. (This position, while not particularly comfortable, had 
decided advantages. We had been experiencing extremely strong 
gusts of wind every ten minutes, and whenever I received warning 
of the approach of such a gust by a shrilling whine high on the 
ridge above, I could brace my feet and shoulders and assist our 
meagre anchors to hold the tent steady while it temporarily shook 
and flapped in a most alarming manner. We had sufficient oxygen 
for only four hours' sleep at one litre per minute. I decided to use 
this in two periods of two hours, from 9 to 1 1 p.m. and from i to 3 
a.m. While wearing the oxygen we dozed and were reasonably 
comfortable, but as soon as the supply ran out we began to feel 
cold and miserable*] During the night the thermometer read 27 
Centigrade, but fortunately the wind had dropped almost entirely. 

200 



THE SUMMIT 

At 4 a.m. it was very still. I opened the tent door and looked far 
out across the dark and sleeping valleys of Nepal. The icy peaks 
below us were glowing clearly in the early morning light and 
Tenzing pointed out the Monastery of Thyangboche, faintly 
visible on its dominant spur 16,000 feet below us. It was an en- 
couraging thought to realize that even at this early hour the Lamas 
of Thyangboche would be offering up devotions to their Buddhist 
Gods for our safety and well-being. 

We started up our cooker and in a determined effort to prevent 
the weaknesses arising from dehydration we drank large quantities 
of lemon juice and sugar, and followed this with our last tin of 
sardines on biscuits. I dragged our oxygen sets into the tent, 
cleaned the ice off them and then completely rechecked and 
tested them. I had removed my boots, which had become a little 
wet the day before, and they were now frozen solid. Drastic 
measures were called for, so I cooked them over the fierce flame of 
the Primus and despite the very strong smell of burning leather 
managed to soften them up. Over our down clothing we donned 
our wind proofs and on to our hands we pulled three pairs of 
gloves silk, woollen and windproof. 

At 6.30 a.m. we crawled out of our tent into the snow, hoisted 
our 30 Ib. of oxygen gear on to our backs, connected up our masks 
and turned on the valves to bring life-giving oxygen into our 
lungs. A few good deep breaths and we were ready to go. Still a 
little worried about my cold feet, I asked Tenzing to move off and 
he kicked a deep line of steps away from the rock bluff which 
protected our tent out on to the steep powder snow slope to the 
left of the main ridge. The ridge was now all bathed in sunlight 
and we could see ourjjirst objective, the South summit, far above 
us. Tenzing, moving purposefully, kicked steps in a long traverse 
back towards the ridge and we reached its crest just where it 
forms a great distinctive snow bump at about 28,000 feet. From 
here the ridge narrowed to a knife-edge and as my feet were now 
warm I took over the lead. 

We were moving slowly but steadily and had no need to stop 
in order to regain our breath, and I felt that we had plenty in 
reserve. The soft unstable snow made a route on top of the ridge 
both difficult and dangerous, so I moved a little down on the steep 
left side where the wind had produced a thin crust which some- 
times held my weight but more often than not gave way with a 
sudden knock that was disastrous to both balance and morale. 

201 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

After several hundred feet of this rather trying ridge, we came to a 
tiny hollow and found there the two oxygen bottles left on the 
earlier attempt by Evans and Bourdillon. I scraped the ice off the 
gauges and was greatly relieved to find that they still contained 
several hundred litres of oxygen sufficient to get us down to the 
South Col if used very sparingly. With the comforting thought of 
these oxygen bottles behind us, I continued making the trail on up 
the ridge, which soon steepened and broadened into the very 
formidable snow face leading up for the last 400 feet to the 
southern summit. The snow conditions on this face were, we felt, 
distinctly dangerous, but as no alternative route seemed available, 
we persisted in our strenuous and uncomfortable efforts to beat a 
trail up it. We made frequent changes of lead on this very trying 
section and on one occasion as I was stamping a trail in the deep 
snow a section around me gave way and I slipped back through 
three or four of my steps. I discussed with Tenzing the advisability 
of going on and he, although admitting that he felt very unhappy 
about the snow conditions, finished with his familiar phrase "Just 
as you wish". I decided to go on. 

It was with some relief that we finally reached some firmer 
snow higher up and then chipped steps up the last steep slopes and 
cramponed on to the South Peak. It was now 9 a.m. We looked 
with some interest at the virgin ridge ahead. Both Bourdillon and 
Evans had been depressingly definite about its problems and 
difficulties and we realized that it could form an almost insuper- 
able barrier. At first glance it was certainly impressive and even 
rather frightening. On the right, great contorted cornices, over- 
hanging masses of snow and ice, stuck out like twisted fingers over 
the io,ooo-foot drop of the Kangshung Face. Any move on to 
these cornices could only bring disaster. From the cornices the 
ridge dropped steeply to the left until the snow merged with the 
great rock face sweeping up from the Western Cwm. Only one 
encouraging feature was apparent. The steep snow slope between 
the cornices and the rock precipices seemed to be composed of 
firm, hard snow. If the snow proved soft and unstable, our chances 
of getting along the ridge were few indeed. If we could cut a 
trail of steps along this slope, we could make some progress at 
least. 

We cut a seat for ourselves just below the southern summit and 
removed our oxygen. Once again I worked out the mental arith- 
metic that was one of my main preoccupations on the way up 

202 



THE SUMMIT 

and down the mountain. As our first partly full bottle of oxygen 
was now exhausted, we had only one full bottle left. Eight hun- 
dred litres of oxygen at three litres per minute ? How long could 
we last ? I estimated that this should give us 4 \ hours of going. 
Our apparatus was now much lighter, weighing just over 20 lb., 
and as I cut steps down off the southern summit I felt a distinct 
sense of freedom and well-being quite contrary to what I had 
expected at this great altitude. 

As my ice-axe bit into the first steep slope of the ridge, my high- 
est hopes were realized. The snow was crystalline and firm. Two 
or three rhythmical blows of the ice-axe produced a step large 
enough even for our oversized High Altitude boots and, the most 
encouraging feature of all, a firm thrust of the ice-axe would sink 
it half-way up the shaft, giving a solid and comfortable belay. We 
moved one at a time. I realized that our margin of safety at this 
altitude was not great and that we must take every care and pre- 
caution. I would cut a forty-foot line of steps, Tenzing belaying 
me while I worked. Then in turn I would sink my shaft and put a 
few loops of the rope around it and Tenzing, protected against a 
breaking step, would move up to me. Then once again as he 
belayed me I would go on cutting. In a number of places the 
overhanging ice cornices were very large indeed and in order to 
escape them I cut a line of steps down to where the snow met the 
rocks on the west. It was a great thrill to look straight down this 
enormous rock face and to see, 8,000 feet below us, the tiny tents 
of Camp IV in the Western Cwm. Scrambling on the rocks and 
cutting handholds in the snow, we were able to shuffle past these 
difficult portions. 

On one of these occasions I noted that Tenzing, who had been 
going quite well, had suddenly slowed up considerably and seemed 
to be breathing with difficulty. The Sherpas had little idea of the 
workings of an oxygen set and from past experience I immediately 
suspected his oxygen supply. I noticed that hanging from the ex- 
haust tube of his oxygen mask were icicles, and on closer examina- 
tion found that this tube, some two inches in diameter, was com- 
pletely blocked with ice. I was able to clear it out and gave him 
much-needed relief. On checking my own set I found that the 
same thing was occurring, though it had not reached the stage to 
have caused me any discomfort. From then on I kept a much 
closer check on this problem. 

The weather for Everest seemed practically perfect. Insulated 

203 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

as we were in all our down clothing and windproofs, we suffered 
no discomfort from cold or wind. However, on one occasion I 
removed my sunglasses to examine more closely a difficult section 
of the ridge but was very soon blinded by the fine snow driven by 
the bitter wind and hastily replaced them. I went on cutting 
steps. To my surprise I was enjoying the climb as much as I had 
ever enjoyed a fine ridge in my own New Zealand Alps. 

After an hour's steady going we reached the foot of the most 
formidable-looking problem on the ridge a rock step someTRJHy. 
feet high. We had known of the existence of this step from aerial 
photographs and had also seen it through our binoculars from 
Thyangboche. We realized that at this altitude it might well spell 
the difference between success and failure. The rock itself, smooth 
and almost holdless, might have been an interesting Sunday after- 
noon problem to a group of expert rock climbers in the Lake Dis- 
trict, but here it was a barrier beyond our feeble strength to over- 
come. I could see no way of turning it on the steep rock bluff on 
the west, but fortunately another possibility of tackling it still 
remained. On its east side was another great cornice, and running 
up the full forty feet of the step was a narrow crack between the 
cornice and the rock. Leaving Tenzing to belay me as best he 
could, I jammed my way into this crack, then kicking backwards 
with my crampons I sank their spikes deep into the frozen snow 
behind me and levered myself off the ground. Taking advantage 
of every little rock hold and all the force of knee, shoulder and 
arms I could muster, I literally cramponed backwards up the 
crack, with a fervent prayer that the cornice would remain 
attached to the rock. Despite the considerable effort involved, 
my progress although slow was steady, and as Tenzing paid out 
the rope I inched my way upwards until I could finally reach over 
the top of the rock and drag myself out of the crack on to a wide 
ledge. For a few moments I lay regaining my breath and for the 
first time really felt the fierce determination that nothing now 
could stop us reaching the top. I took a firm stance on the ledge 
and signalled to Tenzing to come on up. As I heaved hard on the 
rope Tenzing wriggled his way up the crack and finally collapsed 
exhausted at the top like a giant fish when it has just been hauled 
from the sea after a terrible struggle. 

I checked both our oxygen sets and roughly calculated our flow 
rates. Everything seemed to be going well. Probably owing to the 
strain imposed on him by the trouble with his oxygen set, Tenzing 

204 



The Summit ridge of Everest 
from the South summit 



[205 



THE SUMMIT 

had been moving rather slowly but he was climbing safely, and 
this was the major consideration. His only comment on my 
enquiring of his condition was to smile and wave along the ridge. 
We were going so well at 3 litres per minute that I was deter- 
mined now if necessary to cut down our flow rate to 2 litres per 
minute if the extra endurance was required. 

The ridge continued as before. Giant cornices on the right, 
steep rock slopes on the left. I went on cutting steps on the narrow 
strip of snow. The ridge curved away to the right and we had no 
idea where the top was. As I cut around the back of one hump, 
another higher one would swing into view. Time was passing and 
the ridge seemed never-ending. In one place, where the angle of 
the ridge had eased off, I tried cramponing without cutting steps, 
hoping this would save time, but I quickly realized that our margin 
of safety on these steep slopes at this altitude was too small, so I 
went on step-cutting. I was beginning to tire a little now. I had 
been cutting steps continuously for two hours, and Tenzing, too, 
was moving very slowly. As I chipped steps around still another 
corner, I wondered rather dully just how long we could keep it up. 
Our original zest had now quite gone and it was turning more into 
a grim struggle. I then realized that the ridge ahead, instead of 
still monotonously rising, now dropped sharply away, and fax below 
I could see the North Col and the Rongbuk glacier. I looked up- 
wards to see a narrow snow ridge running up to a snowy summit. A 
few more whacks of the ice-axe in the firm snow and we stood on top. 

My initial feelings were of relief relief that there were no more 
steps to cut no more ridges to traverse and no more humps to 
tantalize us with hopes of success. I looked at Tenzing and in spite 
of the balaclava, goggles and oxygen mask all encrusted with long 
icicles that concealed his face, there was no disguising his infec- 
tious grin of pure delight as he looked all around him. We shook 
hands and then Tenzing threw his arm around my shoulders and 
we thumped each other on the back until we were almost breath- 
less. It was 11.30 a.m. The ridge had taken us two and a half 
hours, but it seemed like a lifetime. I turned off the oxygen and 
removed my set. 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 on top for me, waving his axe on which was a 
string of flags United Nations, British, Nepalese and Indian. 
Then I turned my attention to the great stretch of country lying 
below us in every direction. 

A.E. 15 % 205 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

To the east was our giant neighbour Makalu, unexplored and 
unclimbed, and even on top of Everest the mountaineering instinct 
was sufficiently strong to cause me to spend some moments con- 
jecturing as to whether a route up that mountain might not exist. 
Far away across the clouds the great bulk of Kangchenjunga 
loomed on the horizon. To the west, Cho Oyu, our old adversary 
from 1952, dominated the scene and we could see the great un- 
explored ranges of Nepal stretching off into the distance. The most 
important photograph, I felt, was a shot down the North ridge, 
showing the North Col and the old route which had been made 
famous by the struggles of those great climbers of the 1920*5 and 
I93o's. I had little hope of the results being particularly successful, 
as I had a lot of difficulty in holding the camera steady in my 
clumsy gloves, but I felt that they would at least serve as a record. 
After some ten minutes of this, I realized that I was becoming 
rather clumsy-fingered and slow-moving, so I quickly replaced my 
oxygen set and experienced once more the stimulating effect of 
even a few litres of oxygen. Meanwhile, Tenzing had made a little 
hole in the snow and in it he placed various small articles of food 
a bar of chocolate, a packet of biscuits and a handful of lollies. 
Small offerings, indeed, but at least a token gift to the Gods that 
all devout Buddhists believe have their home on this lofty summit. 
While we were together on the South Col two days before. Hunt 
had given me a small crucifix which he had asked me to take to the 
top. I, too, made a hole in the snow and placed the crucifix 
beside Tenzing's gifts. 

I checked our oxygen once again and worked out our endurance. 
We would have to move fast in order to reach our life-saving 
reserve below the South Peak. After fifteen minutes we turned 
to go. We had looked briefly for any signs of Mallory and Irvine, 
but had seen nothing. We both felt a little tired, for reaction 
was setting in and we must get off the mountain quickly. I moved 
down off the summit on to our steps. Wasting no time, we cram- 
poned along our tracks, spurred by the urgency of diminishing 
oxygen. Bump followed bump in rapid succession. In what seemed 
almost miraculous time, we reached the top of the rock step. Now, 
with the almost casual indifference of familiarity, we kicked and 
jammed our way down it again. We were tired, but not too tired 
to be careful. We scrambled cautiously over the rock traverse, 
moved one at a time over shaky snow sections and finally cram- 
poned up our steps and back on to the South Peak. 

206 



THE SUMMIT 

Onlv_onc hour from the top! A swig of sweetened lemonade re- 
freshed us and we turned down again. Throughout the climb we 
had a constant nagging fear of our return down the great snow 
slope/and as I led down I packed each step with as much care as 
if our lives depended on it, as well they might. The terrific impres- 
sion of exposure as we looked straight down on to the Kangshung 
glacier, still over 9,000 feet below us, made us move whhTtKe 
greatest caution, and every step down seemed a step nearer safety. 
When we finally moved off the slope on to the ridge below, we 
looked at each other and without speaking we both almost visibly 
shrugged off the sense of fear that had been with us all day. 

We were now very tired but moved automatically down to the 
two reserve cylinders on the ridge. As we were only a short dis- 
tance from camp and had a few litres of oxygen left in our own 
bottles, we carried the extra cylinders down our tracks and reached 
our tent on its crazy platform at 2 p.m. Already the moderate 
winds of the afternoon had wrenched the tent loose from some of 
its fastenings and it presented a forlorn sight. We had still to reach 
the South Col. While Tenzing lit the paraffin stove and began to 
make a lemonade drink heavily sweetened with sugar, I changed 
our oxygen sets on to the last partly filled bottles and cut down 
our flow rates to 2 litres per minute. In contrast to the previous 
day, when we were working vigorously without oxygen at this 
camp, we now felt very weak and exhausted. Far below on the 
South Col we could see minute figures moving and knew that 
Lowe and Noyce would be waiting for our descent. We had no 
extra sleeping-bags and air mattresses on the South Col, so 
reluctantly tied our own on to our oxygen frames. Then with a 
last look at the camp that had served us so well we turned down- 
wards with dragging feet and set ourselves to the task of safely 
descending the ridge. 

Our faculties seemed numbed and the time passed as in a dream, 
but finally we reached the site of the Swiss Ridge Camp and 
branched off on our last stage down on to the great couloir. There 
an unpleasant surprise greeted us. The strong wind which had 
been blowing in the latter part of our climb had completely wiped 
out all our steps and only a hard, steep, frozen slope lay before us. 
There was no alternative but to start cutting again. With a grunt 
of disgust I chipped steps laboriously downwards for 200 feet. 
Gusts of driving wind whirling down off the ridge tried to pluck 
us from our steps. Tenzing took over the lead and cut down 

207 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

another hundred feet, then moved into softer snow and kicked a 
track down the easier slopes at the bottom of the couloir. We 
cramponed wearily down the long slopes above the South Col. 

A figure came towards us and met us a couple of hundred feet 
above the camp. It was George Lowe, laden with hot soup and 
emergency oxygen. 

We were too tired to make any response to Lowe's enthusiastic 
acceptance of our news. We stumped down to the Col and slowly 
ground our way up the short rise to the camp. Just short of the 
tents my oxygen ran out. We had had enough to do the job, but 
by no means too much. We crawled into the tent and with a sigh 
of sheer delight collapsed into our sleeping-bags, while the tents 
flapped and shook under the perpetual South Col gale.jvThat 
night, our last on the South Col, was a restless one indeed. The 
bitter cold once again made any deep and restful sleep impossible 
and the stimulating effects of our success made us so mentally 
active that we lay there for half the night re-living all the exciting 
incidents and murmuring to each other between chattering teeth. 
Early the following morning we were all very weak and made 
slow but determined preparations for our departure. 

The 2OO-foot slope above the South Col was a great trial, and 
even when we commenced the long traverse down towards 
Camp VII we found it necessary to move very slowly and to 
have frequent rests. The upper part of the Lhotsc glacier seemed 
very steep to us and as we came down the ice steps towards Camp 
VII our main wish was to rest. We were only thirty yards from the 
camp when a cheerful shout attracted our attention and there to 
greet us was Charles Wylie and several of the Sherpas, all looking 
fresh and strong and with the same question trembling on their 
lips. The hot drinks they pressed into our hands and their joyful 
acceptance of our news were a great stimulant in themselves, and 
we continued on down the Lhotse glacier men tally if not physically 
refreshed. 

As we approached Camp IV, tiny figures appeared from the 
tents and slowly drifted up the track. We made no signal to them 
but wearily moved down the track towards them. When only fifty 
yards away, Lowe with characteristic enthusiasm gave the 
"thumbs up" signal and waved his ice-axe in the direction of the 
summit. Immediately the scene was galvanizecHnto activity and 
Dur approaching companions, forgetting their~weakness, ran up 
the snow towards us. As we greeted them all, perhaps a little 

208 



THE SUMMIT 

emotionally, I felt more than ever before that very strong feeling 
of friendship and co-operation that had been the decisive factor 
throughout the expedition. 

What a thrill it was to be able to tell them that all their efforts 
amongst the tottering chaos of the Icef^ll, the disheartening plung- 
ing up the snowy inferno of the Western Cwm, the difficult techni- 
cal ice work on the Lhotse Face and the grim and nerve-racking 
toil above the South Col had been fully rewarded and that we had 
reached the top. 

To see the unashamed joy spread over the tired, strained face of 
our gallant and determined leader was to me reward enough in 
itself. 




209 



PART 



VI 
AFTERMATH 



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN 

RETURN 

IT had been an anxious day waiting for news at Advance Base. 
The weather seemed perfect; it was cloudless and there was 
apparently little wind up there on the Col. We were watching the 
Lhotsc Face all day, observing Noyce and his three Sherpas going 
up from Camp VII he in the lead, much slower than on his 
epoch-making first climb. 

At the top of the Lhotse glacier one man dropped out ; shortly 
after, we noticed another of the remaining trio go back to join 
this one. Two only continued, two started down again towards 
Camp VII. It no longer looked a very promising aid for Ed 
Hillary, whether as a reinforcement or a rescue party. Meanwhile, 
three others were coming down from the Col; the two groups 
passed, and later the descending caravan reached Camp VII. It 
was all most intriguing and kept our minds from brooding too 
much on the unseen drama higher up. Some time later, no fewer 
than five men emerged from Camp VII and came down to the 
Cwm; evidently this must now include the two men who had 
broken away from Noyce's reinforcement party. All this activity 
gave rise to much conjecture. 

That afternoon we had some indication of the outcome when 
Gregory arrived with four Sherpas Ang Nyima and the sick 
Pcmba from the South Col, Ang Dorji and Phu Dorji, two of the 
three men who had been with Noyce. Greg had great news. He 
told us the wonderful story of the placing of Camp IX on the 
previous day and added the Stop Press information that he 
had seen Ed Hillary and Tenzing at 9 o'clock that morning, just 
as he had seen Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans three days 
before as they climbed the final snow slope towards the South 
Peak. They were going well while he watched them. This news 
and, in particular, the time of day when he had seen them, gave 
us good reason to be confident, and we waited impatiently for 
the evening, when it was hoped we should have a certain signal 
which Wilfrid Noyce and I had arranged between us. While I 
was at Camp VII on the way down, I had discussed with him 

213 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

some means of letting us have news from the Col so as to put an 
end to the suspense and tension. We had agreed that he would 
place sleeping-bags on some suitable snow slope either above or 
just below the edge of the Col, clearly visible to ourselves at 
Advance Base. The placing of one bag would mean that the 
summit party had been unsuccessful; two bags placed side by side 
would spell the second ascent of the South summit; two bags 
placed at right angles in the form of a "T" would give the glad 
news of complete success the summit itself. 

Our feelings may perhaps be imagined when, towards evening, 
light mists came up the Cwm, veiling the slopes below the South 
Col. In vain we strained our eyes, searching those snow slopes 
during an occasional thinning of the cloud; no sign could be 
seen. The sun went down behind Pumori. After that, we could not 
expect that Noyce or anyone else up there would have the forti- 
tude to remain outside the tents. The suspense continued. 

We waited on next day, hoping for success, not daring to con- 
template a setback. Westmacott had come up overnight, after 
doing splendid work for the past ten days in the Icefall; according 
to his report, later confirmed by our own observations, the ice 
was undergoing rapid change and he had been kept continually 
busy on this thankless, risky but essential task. Our numbers, 
apart from those engaged in the second Assault and Charles 
Wylie, waiting in support at Camp VII, were completed next day 
when James Morris came up the Cwm with two Sherpas from 
Camp III. The sense of expectation gripped us all and it was 
difficult to keep even outwardly calm. 

About 9 a.m. we saw five figures appear from behind the 
screening rocks of the Geneva Spur, in the couloir. A sigh of 
relief escaped me. At least the whole Assault party were complete 
and safe ; although they were moving slowly, no one appeared to 
be in distress. Hillary, Tenzing, Lowe, Noyce and Pasarig Phutar 
were on their way down. All we could do was to wait. Consider- 
ing what they had been through, they did not keep us long. Soon 
after disappearing into Camp VII, three of them emerged, coming 
down the Lhotse Face for the last time. Tom Stobart, with one 
Sherpa, set out for Camp V; he was intent on an early "shot" of 
the returning party, whatever their fortune. 

At 2 p.m., just after the Indian Wireless News bulletin had 
informed the world that we had failed, five men could be seen 
at the top of the shallow trough about 500 yards above the camp. 

214 



RETURN 

Some of us started out at once, Mike Westmacott and myself 
ahead, while our Sherpas crowded outside their Dome tent, no 
less eager than the rest of us to know the result. But the approach- 
ing climbers made no sign, just plodded on dejectedly towards 
us; they did not even wave a greeting. My heart sank. In my weak 
state, this plod up the track was already an effort; now my feet 
felt like lead. This must be failure; we must now think of that 
third and last attempt. 

Suddenly, the leading man in the party it was George Lowe 
raised his axe, pointing unmistakably towards the distant top 
of Everest; he made several vigorous thrusts. The others behind 
him were now making equally unequivocal signs. Far from fail- 
ure, this was IT! they had made it!! Feelings welled up uncon- 
trollably as I now quickened my pace I still could not muster 
the strength to break into a run, and Mike Westmacott was now 
well ahead. Everyone was pouring out of the tents; there were 
shouts of acclamation and joy. The next moment I was with them: 
handshakes even, I blush to say, hugs for the triumphant pair. 
A special one for Tenzing, so well merited for him personally, this 
victory, both for himself and for his people. 

Amid much chatter, we escorted them into camp, where the 
Sherpas, grinning broadly, crowded round, shaking Ed warmly 
by the hand, offering a more respectful, indeed reverent welcome 
to Tenzing, their great leader. We all went into the Mess tent to 
hear the great story. Devouring an omelette, draining mugfuls of 
his favourite lemonade drink, Ed Hillary described the events of 
28th and sgth May in graphic yet simple terms, while James 
Morris scribbled in his book the notes for his message to the 
world. He, perhaps more than the rest of us at that moment, 
realized the faint but glorious possibility of getting the headlines 
home in time for the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen. At 
this time, the climax of his mission also, James was at the top of 
his professional form. He wasted no time in starting off down the 
Cwm, this time in company with Mike Westmacott, who was to 
escort him safely down to Base Camp that night. 

A little later on during that unforgettable afternoon, I went out 
to greet Wilfrid Noyce, Charles Wylie and Pasang Phutar. They 
too had put up a great show. Noyce and Pasang Phutar had both 
been twice to the South Col. On this second trip, they had each 
carried a double load at least 50 Ib. from the point where the 
other two Sherpas had given up, about half the height and dis- 

215 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

tance between Camp VII and the Col. Noyce and Wylie were the 
only two members of the climbing party to reach the South Col 
without oxygen, as well as carrying heavier loads than our 
Sherpas. Wylie had covered the last 400 to 500 feet without it on 
22nd May; Noyce on 28th May must have climbed some 1,400 
feet after his supply gave out. 

I asked Wilfrid about the agreed signal. Yes, he had made it. 
Although he had only reached the South Col an hour or two 
before when Hillary and Tenzing came down from the South-East 
ridge, Wilfrid had set out again with a very puzzled Pasang 
Phutar to the top of the Geneva Spur, carrying two sleeping-bags. 
What could this eccentric Sahib be doing at this hour of the day, 
starting off so soon after getting to the Col, apparently determined 
to sleep out ? The mystery deepened for him when, on arriving at 
the slope which seemed to Wilfrid most likely to be seen from 
below, he arranged the sleeping-bags in the form of a "T" and 
proceeded to lie down on one of them the wind was strong and 
this was essential to prevent the bags being blown away bidding 
the astonished Sherpa to do likewise. Surely, thought Pasang, 
this was carrying hardihood too far ? So they were not even to get 
inside the bags? Thus they remained, shivering, for ten long 
minutes as the sun went down behind Pumori, until Wilfrid 
decided they had done their best to pass the great news down to 
us. Thankful that the ordeal was over, they went down again to 
the tents. 

After supper we brought out the expedition rum and toasted 
the Patron of the Expedition, H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, 
who had followed our progress with such keen interest and 
sympathy. We also drank the health of Eric Shipton who, among 
others, had done so much to bring about this event. 

That evening we thought again of those many earlier climbers, 
of their struggles, their skill and courage, of all they had contrib- 
uted towards the ascent of Everest; we knew how tremendously 
glad they would be to know of the triumphant outcome of this 
long struggle. And I looked around the tent at these men who had 
finished the job, all of them now relaxed, happy, exuberant. How 
well they deserved it and how fully they each and all had shared 
in the achievement so brilliantly concluded by Tenzing and 
Hillary! I felt an immense pride in these companions of mine. 



216 



RETURN 

The mountain had been climbed and we lost no time in 
getting away. We had an overwhelming urge to return to 
more congenial surroundings, and, as we had only provisioned 
ourselves in the Cwm until the end of the month, we were now 
running short of supplies of food and fuel. Anxious to salvage as 
much serviceable equipment as possible, I asked Charles Wylie 
to stay behind in the Cwm with a rear party to carry loads down 
to Camp III. Parties descending from Camp VII had brought 
back tents and stoves from there the day before, and another 
party of Sherpas under George Band had gone up to collect 
stores from Camp V. The rest of us started down to Base Camp on 
3ist May. 

No one had any regrets about this leave-taking of Everest. 
Indeed, the Western Cwm and the Khumbu Icefall no longer held 
any glamour for us now that the job was done; the beauty of the 
Cwm was much impaired by the hot sunshine of the past fourteen 
days which had fretted and furrowed the snow. It now had a 
rough and dirty surface from wind-carried dust and badly needed 
a new coat of snow. Camp III we found to be a scene of squalor, 
a mess of abandoned boxes, food-tins and other rubbish, remin- 
iscent of some much-frequented ski-ing haunt in early summer. 
Farther down, in the Icefall, there were remarkable changes and 
part of the route was unrecognizable ; it was melting like a big 
sugar cake. On the neglected site of Camp II, the tent platforms 
were fissured with small crevasses, and the same filth as at the 
higher camp surrounded it. An entirely new variant of the 
original route had been made in the "Atom Bomb" area, itself 
obviously precarious; I wondered what would have been the 
solution to this recurring problem if we had stayed much longer. 
Of all the many flags we had planted between Camp V and Base 
Camp, not a single one was standing; they lay in deep melt 
grooves or at the bottom of crevasses. It was as if the mountain 
was bent on showing us, before our departure, how ephemeral 
was our intrusion into its territory. 

I was travelling with Greg, Ang Norbu and Balu; Greg and I 
were still suffering from the after-effects of our climb above the 
South Col and were in a very feeble state. Indicative of my own 
weakness was the fact that during the descent of the steep section 
of "Hell-fire Alley", I twice slipped and fell some distance, being 
well held on the rope by Ang Norbu. At the bottom we missed 
our way on ground which was now quite new to us, for a big river 

217 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

ploughed its way through the ice pinnacles where there had been 
flat ice alleys before. The others had similar experiences. We 
reached Base very late and very tired, but it was a relief to be 
down for the last time. 

All were gathered at Base Camp by the afternoon of 2nd June, 
after much good work on a reverse Ferry service to bring back our 
gear; Mike Westmacott led a final party up to Camp III on 
the morning of the 2nd to assist Charles Wylie's party with the 
last loads. It was a typically unselfish act on his part, to spare the 
remainder of us and to observe to the last the policy of accompany- 
ing our men through this section of the route. Mike Westmacott's 
name will always be closely associated with the Khumbu Icefall; 
having taken a leading part in the reconnaissance, he also partici- 
pated in its preparation, in leading Ferry parties through it and in 
its maintenance during the whole of the Assault period. 

In our Mess tent after supper we turned on the wireless to hear 
the Coronation news; George Band tuned in to All India Radio. 
In the second headline of the news summary, the announcer said : 
"The wonderful news broke in London last night that Everest has 
been climbed by the British Expedition. . . ." We were dumb- 
founded. Before leaving us in the Cwm, James Morris, now on his 
way to Kathmandu, had said that he hoped to be able to get a 
brief message back quickly, but none of us had seriously imagined 
that it could already have been known at home twenty-four hours 
ago. Great though my private hope had been that we might have 
climbed the mountain in time for the Coronation, this hope had 
gradually receded as the days passed, and I had finally contented 
myself with the thought that it would be nice to have the news 
follow as closely as possible after that great event. 

With growing excitement and amazement we listened further. 
The Queen and the Prime Minister had sent telegrams of con- 
gratulation to us via the British Ambassador in Kathmandu; the 
news had been announced over the loudspeakers along the Coro- 
nation route; the crowds had cheered; and so on. It all sounded 
like a fairy-tale. Although we were still far from grasping the full 
significance of the event, we already knew quite as much as was 
good for us in one evening. Another jar of rum was called for and 
a second celebration took place. There would be many more to 
follow. The Sherpas naturally shared in the revelry. We drank a 
loyal toast to Her Majesty the Queen, assuming the privilege of 
drinking it seated upon the ground or on ration boxes, for space 

218 



RETURN 

forbade otherwise. A runner was summoned to carry urgent mes- 
sages to Namche, to go thence by the good offices of the Indian 
wireless station to Kathmandu. Cables of humble appreciation 
were sent to the Queen and the Prime Minister, another to the 
Himalayan Committee saying that I proposed to bring Tenzing 
and Hillary to England George Lowe had already planned to 
come. At the same time, I tentatively suggested that we might all 
be allowed to come home by air, together if possible. Still dazed 
with our success and possibly a trifle bemused by the excellent 
rum, we tottered off to our tents very late that night. 

Tenzing had already sent for coolies, and when these came up 
next morning we moved off down glacier, bidding an unreluctant 
farewell to Base Camp. We were more than ready to turn our 
backs on this dead world of ice and rock and reach out towards 
the life-giving earth. 

At Lobuje we heard more glad news on our wireless set; a most 
generous message from the Chairman of our sponsoring com- 
mittee, Sir Edwin Herbert, another, most precious to me, from 
my wife. In our light-hearted mood, we remembered our 2-inch 
mortar. It had not been called upon to clear a path up the moun- 
tain for us, but it would carry out a no less appropriate function 
now. A salute should be fired, a feu de joie. We had twelve 
bombs, a gift from the Indian Army. With each of us taking 
turns, these were duly loosed off, to the delight both of ourselves 
and of the whole of our numerous retinue. This was followed by 
some practice with our equally neglected ,22 rifles, the targets 
being some spare mortar-bomb detonators; in this some of the 
Sherpas also tried their hand. After dark the Sherpas and Sher- 
panis, who had fully caught the general spirit of rejoicing, started 
a dance which continued into the early hours. Linking arms, they 
formed a long line, the men at one end, the women at the other 
and, to the accompaniment of strange and melancholy singing, 
swayed and stamped their feet in intricate rhythm. Some of the 
party joined in and managed to get the hang of it. In pauses be- 
tween dances, we obliged with a chorus of songs " Uncle Tom 
Cobley", "Ilkley Moor", "John Brown's Body". 

Below Lobuje next day, we had to cross the now swollen 
Lobuje Khola, and some of us chose to do so where the torrent 
was fairly wide. Last to cross at this spot was little Greg, decorated 
as usual like a Christmas tree with several cameras and light- 
meters. Having struggled about half-way across, he was in danger 

219 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

of losing his balance in the foaming water. He shouted something 
to this effect to Tom Bourdillon, the largest and strongest of those 
who had reached the far bank. Quite unimpressed by the plight 
of his companion, Tom callously yelled back: "I can't help you, 
I've just put my boots on." Luckily for Greg, his leader had a 
softer heart and strode back into the stream, boots and all, to lend 
him a hand in his distress. 

The expedition returned to its original base at Thyangboche on 

4th June. We again went to pay our 
respects to the monks, and I was 
happy to be able to make a dona- 
tion towards the repair of the 
Monastery roof after all. The 
promised dance was arranged for 
the same evening. We arrived at the 
appointed hour and were seated 
along a gallery overlooking the 
inner courtyard in the growing 
dusk. After a long pause, conch 
shells were blown and grotesque 
figures came down the steps from 
the sanctuary. The performing 
monks, robed in richly coloured 
garments, wearing masks of terri- 
fying ugliness, proceeded to whirl 
and gambol in a strange and un- 
dignified manner around the prayer flag marking the centre 
of the courtyard. Others provided some very rudimentary 
music with horns and cymbals. It was quaint, sometimes comic, 
but quite unbeautiful. It went on for a very long time. While 
I was at the Monastery, I told the elderly acting Abbot that we 
had climbed Everest. He was plainly incredulous and nothing 
would shake his unbelief. But his natural courtesy forbade him to 
give expression to this in so many words, and when we left he 
graciously congratulated us on "nearly reaching the summit of 
Chomolungma". 

While we were at Thyangboche, the early telegrams reached us, 
transmitted over the Indian wireless network. We began to 
realize that with the completion of our mission on Everest, tasks 
of a different but, in their way, equally arduous nature lay ahead. 
Among the many messages received at this time was a most 

220 





tt) 



u 
2 ' a 

S 

;fi 

< o 

cfc 

1 Si 

H a 

P 3 

o 2 



I 




THE SOUTH-EAST RIDGE 



Da Namgyal, with Makalu in background. This picture was taken 

at the dump of stores left by Hunt and Da Namgyal on 26th May at 

27,3^0 feet 



iW'''f";;v""t i "t\ i ; i ^ 




13 
C 







5 

I 

OJ 

I 




THJi SUMMIT 



View down North Face, showing North Col, North Peak, Rongbuk 
glacier (left), East Rongbuk glacier (right) and Rongbuk Valley 



PLAT*; 4* 




N U 
fi C 



s 

'E-S 

c^3 O 



U V3 




THE HIMALAYAN CHALLENGE 

Nuptse seen from above the Khvimbu glacier 



PLATE 



generous one from our Patron, H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. 
Another which specially delighted us was from the kindly official in 
charge of the Namche wireless post, who congratulated us on 
"your thumping Victory over the King of Adventure". 

Next day an Advance party consisting of myself, Gregory and 
Bourdillon left Thyangboche to reach Kathmandu as quickly as 
possible. There was clearly a great deal to do. The main party, in 
charge of Ed Hillary, was to start as soon as the coolies had been 
mustered, not an easy task in this season when every man is busy 
in his fields. With our departure from Thyangboche, Charles 
Evans left us. He had always planned to remain in Nepal until 
the autumn and now, though very tempted to return with us and 
take part in the popular rejoicings, he decided to carry on with 
the programme which he had always had in mind. This started 
with the collecting of further data for the making of a map of the 
Everest area; he was to return for some days to the valleys in 
which we had trained before going to Everest. Annullu and Da 
Tensing stayed with him. 

Our start was inauspicious. There is nothing Sherpas enjoy 
more than a good "party" ; the occasions come easily to them, and 
what better excuse could there possibly be than the ascent of 
Everest? They wasted no time in making merry, from the mo- 
ment they reached the highest village in the valley onwards. In 
these circumstances we found Namche Bazar a difficult place to 
get away from. On 5th June, after we had waited there most of the 
day for our Sherpas and the few coolies to catch us up, they eventu- 
ally arrived in an advanced state of inebriation. This condition 
quickly grew worse in the next hour, so much so that three very 
impatient "Sahibs" eventually left the village accompanied only 
by Dawa Thondup, whose head is even harder than that of most 
Sherpas. In our eagerness to press on double marches were 
planned throughout our return journey we were hardly dis- 
posed to take a lenient view of this lapse. Indeed, I sent back an 
urgent message to Charles Wylie to dispatch a reliable Sherpa 
forward at utmost speed to catch us up, for we did not then expect 
to see these men again. 

We heard later the result of this request. Charles chose Pemba, 
a quiet and solid type of man. To ensure that he should travel 
fast, he hired a pony for him; he was to carry an urgent message 
to me from Charles. The following day, as the main party ap- 
proached Namche, they came across a sad accident on the track. 

A.E. 16 221 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Sitting on the bank nursing a twisted ankle was a glassy-eyed and 
befuddled Pemba; lying across the track itself was another Sherpa, 
sleeping it off. There was no sign of the pony. Diligent in the duty 
bestowed upon him by Pemba before the fumes of alcohol had 
overcome him, the recumbent Sherpa sat up and solemnly 
handed Charles his own urgent message. "It's very important, 
Sahib", he said. 

As we descended the Dudh Kosi the rain started; it rained 
most of every day for several days as the Advance party hastened 
back along the homeward track. The way was long and tiring, 
climbing across the big ridges in thick, clinging mist, with the rain 
teeming down. Sometimes we made a rough shelter with our two 
tarpaulins and slept out. More often, to escape the leeches and 
the rain, we begged the hospitality of some Sherpa family and 
spent a comfortable night on the upper floor of a solid stone and 
timber house. As we marched we rapidly recovered from our state 
of weakness and with this recovery our appetites grew. Pasang 
Dawa, quite himself again and back with us, together with Ang 
Temba, was our cook. We ate rice, eggs and sometimes a chicken, 
supplemented by pemmican, biscuits, jam, coffee or tea from our 
dwindling Assault rations the "Compo" was long since finished. 
We bathed in the rivers, delighting in getting clean again for the 
first time in three months. Usually we reached the end of a double 
stage only at dusk and were on the move again next morning soon 
after daylight. Always we slept blissfully well; a great treat this, 
after the long period of drug-assisted slumber. 

If the long views were usually denied us by the monsoon clouds, 
it was all the more startling when the high peaks were unveiled in 
some sudden break, unbelievably high and distant now, with- 
drawn from us, no longer intimate and real, and we found the 
more delight in our immediate surroundings, especially during 
the first few days of the march, when we were still moving in the 
region of 10,000 to 14,000 feet. Approaching the mountain, the 
countryside had been arid, now it was green. The path was 
bordered by big purple orchids, magenta and pale yellow azaleas, 
saffron and pink rhododendrons ; ripe wild strawberries carpeted 
the ground. We caught glimpses of exotic birds. None of us will 
ever forget those little miracles of beauty, the yellow-backed, fire- 
tailed Sunbirds, flitting above the rhododendron scrub in their 
bright red-yellow plumage and singing a high-pitched, plaintive 
song. Nor were the clouds themselves without a certain majesty, 

222 



RETURN 

as they rode inexorably northwards in stately procession, heavily 
laden with their burden of moisture. 

Shortly before we climbed up the vast mountainsides to leave 
the Dudh Kosi, we were surprised to hear a large aircraft over- 
head, and soon we caught sight of its shining fuselage in a break 
in the clouds. It was flying northwards, towards Everest, and we 
wondered whether it might be looking for signs of us on the moun- 
tain. It was only on return to Kathmandu that we learned that 
this was a photographic reconnaissance flight sent by the Indian 
Air Force, whose Commander-in-Chief had most considerately 
delayed this mission until it was certain that we were safely off the 
mountain, lest the reverberation of the engines might dislodge 
avalanches or otherwise disturb our concentration on the job of 
climbing. 

Returning runners now began to pass us daily, bringing huge 
piles of telegrams and the first congratulatory letters. We con- 
tinued to be astonished almost incredulous at the reactions all 
over the world to our success. Pushing on still with all speed in 
the heat of the lower hills, a very weary Advance party eventually 
arrived at Kathmandu on the evening of 1 3th June, nine days after 
leaving Thyangboche. Our Ambassador, Christopher Summer- 
hayes, gave us a warm welcome; we had been thinking of this 
moment for some time. 



The main party followed at a more leisurely pace, for they had 
with them the whole of our remaining gear, amounting to about 
one hundred loads. They also experienced difficulty in getting 
clear of Namche, not only on account of the chang and rakski, but 
also owing to the Sherpa mothers determined women who rule 
sternly in the home. Young Mingma, Griff Pugh's devoted assist- 
ant, whose father Da Tensing had remained with Charles Evans, 
had made up his mind to travel with the party and see the big 
world outside Khumbu. But his mother not unnaturally thought 
otherwise. Arriving on the scene early on the morning of their 
departure from Namche, she railed at the would-be abductors of 
her child. "You have taken my husband", she said, "now you 
would snatch my son away from me too. Mingma, come here!" 
and the weeping fourteen-year-old was led unwillingly back to 
his home. 

Another lad, Ang Tsering, aged seventeen, the youngest of our 

223 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

team who went to the South Col, was more cunning when his 
parent also appeared on the scene with the same intentions as 
Mingma's mummy. He persuaded her to let him go with the 
party as far as Ghat, one march distant down the valley, promising 
to come back from there. She was guileless enough to agree with 
this entreaty. Needless to say, Ang Tsering is now in Darjeeling 
with all the other boys. 

After a journey lasting fourteen days, the main party arrived 
at Banepa, at the eastern end of the Valley of Nepal. 



A week after our return to Kathmandu, I set out with my wife, 
who had flown out from England to greet me, and James Morris 
of The Times, to meet the main party as they approached the 
Valley of Nepal. We spent a night with them at Hukse, their last 
staging-place before reaching the end of the motorable track. 
There was wild commotion now throughout the Valley, mingled 
with some political opportunism, mainly over the achievement of 
Tenzing, a native of Nepal, whom they rightly hailed as a national 
hero. Amid the tremendous rejoicings all along our route on the 
following day, which ended with a triumphal procession in a 
flower-bedecked state coach along streets thronged by dense 
masses of shouting and excited people, who showered Tenzing, 
Hillary and myself with rice, red Holi dust and even coins, we were 
escorted to the Palace, to be most graciously received by the King. 

The scene at the Reception was a moving one ; it was also not 
without a touch of humour. There was the Nepalese Court, 
attired to do us honour, seated along the walls to witness the 
ceremony of Investiture of decorations by His Majesty the King 
to certain members of the expedition. There were the members of 
the expedition, at the end of their three weeks' journey from the 
distant mountain, bedraggled, unshaven, dirty, dressed in filthy 
clothes shorts, gym shoes and the like. Pugh, standing, I was 
glad to notice, somewhat in the background, was still wearing 
pyjamas, the same pair of pyjamas which he had worn through- 
out both the March-out and the return journey. 

But in all these rejoicings, I could not help feeling sorry that 
the nature of our enterprise was so misinterpreted by many of 
these good people. In their rightful pride and joy over Tenzing, 
they quite neglected the other Sherpas and most members of the 
expedition, his comrades in the great achievement. 

224 



RETURN 

After four days during which we were busy packing our baggage, 
attending receptions and enjoying the generous hospitality of the 
Court and Government, the Indian Embassy, the Indian Military 
Mission, our own Ambassador and many others, we left Kathmandu. 

At the airfield we bade farewell to our friends Thondup, Dawa 
Thondup, Pasang Dawa and Ang Temba. They and others who 
had returned with us were leaving for Darjeeling next day. Some 
had stayed behind in Khumbu. Among many other friends and 
kind people of Nepal, His Excellency the Prime Minister, Mr. 
M. P. Koirala, who had been most appreciative of our success, 
was also present to see us off. 

Temporarily, the party divided. Charles Wylie and Michael 
Ward undertook the hardest job, that of escorting our baggage by 
road and rail to Lucknow, where it was taken over by a repre- 
sentative of the Shipping Agency, who had kindly come all the 
way from Bombay to oblige us. Hillary, Gregory, Tenzing and his 
family, and my wife and I flew to Calcutta, where the Governor 
and the City authorities were anxious to do honour to the expe- 
dition, and especially to the great citizen of their State, Tenzing. 
The rest of the party travelled via Patna to Delhi, where we were 
all reunited on 27th June. 

In three hectic days, we received a wonderful welcome from 
the public of Calcutta ; everywhere we were entertained with the 
utmost kindness and hospitality, and especially by the Governor 
and Srimati Mookherjee, Mr. Shannon, our Deputy High Com- 
missioner, members of his Staff, and members of the Himalayan 
Club. It was impossible not to be touched by the genuine thrill our 
adventure had given to so many ordinary folk, and particularly 
the youth of Bengal. For my wife and myself, this was a specially 
pleasant interlude on our journey home, for we had been stationed 
in Bengal before the war and many old Bengali friends came to 
see us. 

No less joyous, despite the heat, were the mammoth receptions 
in Delhi. The highlight of this triumphal tour was a most im- 
pressive ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where the President of 
the Indian Union, Sri Rajendra Prasad, decorated some members 
of the party and presented engraved silver shields to us all. Nor 
shall we forget the graciousness and hospitality of the Prime 
Minister, Sri Jawaharlal Nehru, Mr. George Middleton, our own 
representative, his wife, the Staff of the High Commission, Major- 
General Williams, and very many others. 

225 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

It was a particular delight in Delhi to meet again George 
Finch, veteran of the 1922 Expedition and pioneer of the use of 
oxygen for climbing purposes. His presence among us at this 
time was the more welcome in that we were so anxious that the 
tributes with which we were being showered should be shared 
with those who had shown us the way. As one of the two outstand- 
ing climbers of the first expedition to make a definite attempt to 
reach the summit of the mountain in 1922 the other was George 
Mallory and as the strong protagonist of oxygen at a time when 
there were many who disbelieved in its efficacy and others who 
frowned upon its use, no one could have better deserved to repre- 
sent the past than George Finch, We saluted him. 

We had regretfully to decline many requests to visit other 
Indian cities official invitations came from Madras, Bombay, 
Patna, Dehra Dun and Darjeeling. The generous enthusiasm of 
the Indian people for the Everest adventure was indeed a revela- 
tion to us. But we were wanted at home as quickly as possible, 
and we were naturally no less eager to be there. 

And so, at last, we set out homewards by air, thanks to the 
generosity of The Times, in an aircraft of the British Overseas Air- 
ways Corporation. To our great delight, Tenzing and his family 
came with us. Everywhere we touched down at Karachi, Bah- 
rein, Cairo, Rome and Zurich we met with the same expressions 
of spontaneous enthusiasm; everyone was most kind. Of particular 
interest to us was our meeting at Zurich with members of the 
Swiss Everest Expeditions and of their sponsoring body, the 
Foundation for Alpine Research. No climbers could have been 
more generous in their appreciation of our success than the Swiss 
team who so nearly succeeded last year. In the short time we 
spent with them, we were able to discuss with our Swiss comrades, 
Raymond Lambert, Gabriel Chevalley, Herr Feuz and others, 
the problems of the climb we all knew so well, for our ascent was 
linked at almost every step with their attempt. I also gladly take 
this opportunity to mention the warm acclamation given to the 
ascent of Everest by the French party who were busy preparing 
to go out themselves next year, should we not get to the top. 

On 3rd July we landed at London Airport, where we received 
the most longed-for welcome of all; that of our own people here 
at home. 

The adventure was over. 



226 



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN 

REFLECTIONS 

WHAT were the reasons for our success ? How was it that we 
succeeded in getting to the top when so many others before 
us had failed to do so? I am adding the second question only to 
give what, in my mind, is the one reason transcending all others 
which explains the first. For I wish once again to pay tribute to 
the work of earlier expeditions. 

The significance of all these other attempts is that, regardless of 
the height they reached, each one added to the mounting sum 
of experience, and this experience had to reach a certain total 
before the riddle could be solved. The building of this pyramid 
of experience was vital to the whole issue ; only when it had at- 
tained a certain height was it within the power of any team of 
mountaineers to fashion its apex. Seen in this light, other expe- 
ditions did not fail; they made progress. They had reached this 
stage when we prepared to try again last winter. By that time, 
but not before, the defences by which the mountain had so far 
withstood assault were well enough known; it only remained to 
study them and draw the right conclusions in order to launch yet 
one more party which would have every weapon material and 
human with which to do battle against Everest. We of the 1953 
Everest Expedition are proud to share the glory with our pre- 
decessors. 

Above all, and independent of their lessons, we were inspired 
by their example, their persistence, their spirit of quest, their 
determination that there should be no surrender. For this com- 
pelling urge to continue the struggle, we have above all else to 
thank the earlier Everest climbers. 

With this just tribute to the past, I would link the names of 
those who served on the Committees which launched them and 
of others who generously contributed the funds which, alone, 
made possible each successive enterprise. 

Next in the order of events I would place sound, thorough, 
meticulously detailed planning. On Everest, the problems of 
organization assume the proportions of a military campaign; I 

227 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

make no apology for this comparison, or for the fact that last 
winter we planned the ascent of Everest on these lines. It was 
thanks to this that we were able not only to foresee our needs in 
every detail guided by previous experience provided by others, 
we judged aright but to have constantly before us a clear pro- 
gramme to carry out at every stage: the March-out; acclimatiza- 
tion; preparation of the Icefall; the first and second stages of the 
Build-up; reconnaissance and preparation of the Lhotse Face; 
even, in outline, the Assault plan itself. These were the aims to be 
achieved by given dates, and achieve each and all of them we 
would, and did. 

I would once more pay tribute to the excellence of our equip- 
ment and the fact that it stood up to the severe testing on the 
mountain and did what was required of it. Those firms, those 
zealous hands both in this country and abroad, which took such 
great pains to produce all we needed, which worked, often against 
time, to do this, and those who gave us financial support, they 
must also share the triumph. 

Among the numerous items in our inventory, I would single 
out oxygen for special mention. Many of our material aids were 
of great importance; only this, in my opinion, was vital to suc- 
cess. In this department perhaps more than in any other, those 
who worked to satisfy our requirements had the hardest task of 
all, for time was so short. But for oxygen, without the much- 
improved equipment which we were given, we should certainly 
not have got to the top. 

The chance of success of big Himalayan expeditions has often 
been adversely affected by ill health among the climbers. Unless 
allowance was to be made for this by making the size of the party 
so large as to be unwieldy, it seemed to be a matter of the first 
importance to avoid this handicap of sickness. The number in our 
party was sufficient to carry out the kind of plan which I had in 
mind, but there was not a large margin. The plan adopted was an 
ambitious one in that it depended on the active participation 
high on the mountain of almost the entire team; if several of us 
had been sick when the opportunity for the Assault occurred, 
it is very doubtful if we should have got to the top. That we 
were so fit was due initially to careful selection of the party. 
In the field, the training and acclimatization carried out in the 
period allotted for this purpose were an outstanding success. We 
have also to thank those who furnished our sound and sufficient 

228 



REFLECTIONS 

diet and advised on the need for drinking large quantities of 
liquid daily throughout our time on the mountain, and especially 
while at high altitude. Nor must we forget the care we received 
from our doctors. A few figures may be of interest to illustrate this 
matter of fitness, combined with the use of oxygen. No fewer than 
nine of the climbing party went to the South Col; three of these 
climbed twice to that place. Of the nine who reached it, seven 
went to heights which, even at our conservative estimates, were at 
least well over 27,000 feet on the South-East ridge; four climbed 
the South summit, over 28,700 feet; ultimately, two went on to 
the top. Of those nine, three remained at or above 26,000 feet for 
four days and nights; three more for three days and nights. 
Although some of us were very weak on return to Advance Base, 
none was in a state of collapse. 

Before leaving the question of diet, I must add one other point; 
the effect of our rations on morale. After allowing for the fact that 
individual tastes in the matter of food can never fully be catered 
for, even within the ample limits of baggage of a large expedition 
such as ours, I am certain that the rations so carefully calculated 
and provided had much to do not only with our good health but 
also with our general contentment. 

Above all else, I should like to stress our unity as a party. 
This was undoubtedly the biggest single factor in the final result, 
for the ascent of Everest, perhaps more than most human ven- 
tures, demanded a very high degree of selfless co-operation; no 
amount of equipment or food could have compensated for any 
weakness in this respect. It would be difficult to find a more close- 
knit team than ours. It is a remarkable fact that throughout the 
whole four months that we were together, often in trying circum- 
stances, I never heard an impatient or angry word passed between 
any members of the party. This made my own task infinitely 
easier, and most particularly when the time came to decide on the 
individual tasks to be undertaken during the period leading up to 
and during the Assault. It could not fall to everyone to attempt 
the summit, and for some there must have been disappointment, 
made greater by their fitness to go high. But everyone rightly be- 
lieved that he had a vital part to play in getting at least two mem- 
bers of the team to the top, and it was in this spirit that each man 
carried out his job whether it was finding and preparing the 
route up the Lhotse Face; leading Sherpas to the South Col with 
Assault stores; carrying heavy loads to establish the final camp; 

229 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

or the less conspicuous tasks of maintaining our communications 
with Base Camp, supervising the catering and other chores at 
Advance Base. All these things were done without complaint, and 
they were done well. In this, and in the work of our Sherpas, lies 
the immediate secret of our success. 

And the Sherpas were magnificent. Their co-operation in the 
essential teamwork of the whole party, their own individual per- 
formances, are beyond praise. I can give no better proof of this 
than by saying that of our total team of twenty-seven Sherpas 
chosen for the work above the Western Cwm, nineteen men went 
to the South Col and, of these, six did so twice. In terms of stores 
this means that we lifted some 750 Ib. up to 26,000 feet; this it was 
that enabled our Assault teams to remain there in good spirits 
and without suffering undue deterioration over a longer period 
than had been expected. The happy relationship between the 
Sherpas and ourselves was brought about by everybody in the party, 
but most particularly was this the work of Tenzing and Wylie. 

The combined efforts of the Sherpas and ourselves are summed 
up in the placing of our highest camp at just under 28,000 feet. 
Here was the supreme test of support for the two who were to make 
the final attempt to reach the summit; on those two days, 26th and 
28th May, the tasks of Sherpas and Sahibs were no longer com- 
plementary, they were identical. All were sharing the same bur- 
dens, all, equipped with the same aids, were sharing the difficul- 
ties of the climb and the height. Thus it was that we achieved 
what Norton and Longstaff had so strongly advocated as an essen- 
tial preliminary step to final success. 

Lastly among the matters contributing to our success, there was 
the weather. After hindering our preparations to no small extent 
for five weeks between 8th April and i4th May, snow fell 
almost every day the weather settled down to be steadily fine 
for the whole of the second half of May. We were undoubtedly 
lucky in this one matter over which we had no control. But it is 
important to stress that this does not mean that conditions were 
favourable for the Assault on any day during that period, for 
there was always the wind, and the wind was unpredictable. It 
chanced that the two who reached the top did so on a compara- 
tively still day, but this had been preceded, and was doubtless 
followed, by others when conditions were impossible. 

To these factors, then, the triumph should be attributed, it 
matters not in what proportion : to all who had climbed on Everest 

230 



REFLECTIONS 

before; to our planning and other preparations; to the excellence 
of our equipment; to our Sherpas and ourselves; to the favour of 
the elements. And I would add one more asset, intangible, less 
easy to assess : the thoughts and prayers of all those many who 
watched and waited and hoped for our success. We were aware of 
this hidden force and we were fortified by it. 

Was it worth while? For us who took part in the venture, it 
was so beyond doubt. We have shared a high endeavour; we have 
witnessed scenes of beauty and grandeur; we have built up a 
lasting comradeship among ourselves and we have seen the fruits 
of that comradeship ripen into achievement. We shall not forget 
those moments of great living upon that mountain. 

The story of the ascent of Everest is one of teamwork. If there 
is a deeper and more lasting message behind our venture than the 
mere ephemeral sensation of a physical feat, I believe this to be 
the value of comradeship and the many virtues which combine to 
create it. Comradeship, regardless of race or creed, is forged 
among high mountains, through the difficulties and dangers to 
which they expose those who aspire to climb them, the need to 
combine their efforts to attain their goal, the thrills of a great 
adventure shared together. 

And what of others? Was it worth while for them too? I believe 
it may have been, if it is accepted that there is a need for adventure 
in the world we live in and provided, too, that it is realized that 
adventure can be found in many spheres, not merely upon a 
mountain, and not necessarily physical. Ultimately, the justifi- 
cation for climbing Everest, if any justification is needed, will lie 
in the seeking of their "Everests" by others, stimulated by this 
event as we were inspired by others before us. From the response 
to the news of our success, not only in our own country and 
Commonwealth but also in many other lands, it seems clear that 
the zest for adventure is still alive everywhere. Before, during and 
especially after the expedition, we received countless gifts and 
messages of goodwill and delight, in both prose and verse, from all 
over the world, from heads of Governments and humble folk alike. 
Very many of these messages were sent by children and young 
people. The ascent of Everest seems to have stirred the spirit of 
adventure latent in every human breast. 

And there is no lack of signs that this quickening of the spirit 
may have results of a permanent kind. As an instance of this, I 

231 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

would mention that while we were in Calcutta, the Chief Minister, 
Sri B. C. Roy, outlined to us a project for setting up a special 
training school near Darjeeling, at which leading Sherpa moun- 
taineers will introduce to boys from all walks of life the lore and 
craft of mountain climbing. It is proposed to do this as a memorial 
to our ascent of Everest, and in particular as a tribute to the 
Sherpas, many of whom live in Bengal. Such a scheme, analogous 
to the Outward Bound Schools in this country, is worthy of the 
highest praise. 

What of the future? There is indeed no ground for despondency 
about the aftermath of Everest. Within the province of moun- 
taineering alone, while we may perhaps have a lingering regret 
that this great peak no longer remains inviolate to hold out its 
challenge, I believe it was good and it was timely that Everest 
should have been climbed this summer. The attraction of Everest 
tended to focus too much of the resources available for promoting 
mountain exploration; now that its summit has been reached, it 
should be possible to give practical encouragement to larger num- 
bers of enterprising explorers and mountaineers to go far and 
wide, in the Himalaya and elsewhere, in search of climbing and 
in pursuit of other interests. 

Some day Everest will be climbed again. It may well be at- 
tempted without oxygen, although I do not rate the chances of 
success very high at present. Let us hope for the opening of the 
frontier dividing Nepal and Tibet to climbers from both sides of 
that political barrier, for the route to the top of the mountain by 
the North Face remains to be completed. The time may come 
when the prospect of traversing across the summit, climbing up by 
one ridge and descending by another, may no longer be a fantasy. 
These possibilities, and others, give scope for adventure in this one 
small area of the globe alone. 

I also believe that we cannot avoid the challenge of other giants. 
Mountains scarcely lower than Everest itself are still "there", as 
Mallory said. They beckon us and we cannot rest until we have 
met their challenge too. 

And there are many other opportunities for adventure, whether 
they be sought among the hills, in the air, upon the sea, in the 
bowels of the earth, or on the ocean bed ; and there is always the 
moon to reach. There is no height, no depth, that the spirit of 
man, guided by a higher Spirit, cannot attain. 

232 



APPENDICES 



APPENDIX I 

DIARY OF THE EXPEDITION 

September 1952- June 1953 

Compiled by 
WILFRID NOYCE 

1952 

Sept. i Wylie started work as Organizing Secretary. 

Oct. 8 Hunt, Leader of Expedition, arrived in London. 

Oct. 30 First Equipment Co-ordination Meeting. 

Nov. 5 Selection of Party completed. 

Nov. 1 7 First Alpine Test Co-ordination Meeting. 

First Conference of whole Party. 

Measuring of Party for clothing, etc. 
Nov. 25 Second Alpine Test Co-ordination Meeting. 
Nov. 28 Second Equipment Co-ordination Meeting. 
Dec. i- 10 Visit to Paris, and 

Alpine Test of Equipment at Jungfraujoch by Hunt, 

Wylie, Pugh and Gregory. 
Dec. 15 Third Equipment Co-ordination Meeting. 

Second Party Conference. 

1953 

ist half January 

Packing Plan organized by Evans and working party. 
2nd half January 

Packing starts at Lusk's, Wapping. 

Jan. 17-19 Oxygen frame carrying tests, at Helyg, North Wales. 
Jan. 20 Final Equipment Co-ordination Meeting. 

Trying on of clothing, etc., at Lusk's. 

Third Party Conference. 

Jan. 22 Decompression Chamber tests at Farnborough. 
Jan. 25-26 Visit to Zurich by Hunt and Evans. 
Feb. 5 Final Party Conference. 

Feb. 12 Main party and baggage sail for India on S.S. Stratheden. 
Feb. 20 Advance party, Evans and Gregory, fly to Kathmandu. 
Feb. 28 Main party arrives Bombay. 
March 8 Whole expedition and baggage assembled at Kathmandu. 

235 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

March 10 First party and 150 coolies leave Kathmandu. 
March 1 1 Second party and 200 coolies leave Kathmandu. 
March 26 First party arrives at Thyangboche. 
March 27 Second party arrives at Thyangboche. 
March 29- 

April 6 First Acclimatization period. 
April 9- 

April 1 7 Second Acclimatization period. 
April 12 Icefall party reaches Base Camp (17,900 feet). 
April 13 Icefall party starts on Icefall. 

April 15 Hillary, Band and Lowe establish Camp II (19,400 feet). 
April 17 Same party reaches ice block below Camp III site. 
April 2 1 First half main body of stores arrives at Base from Thyang- 
boche, including in party Morris of The Times. 
April 22 Second half main body of stores arrives at Base from 

Thyangboche, party including Major Roberts with the 

Assault oxygen. 

Camp III established at head of Icefall (20,200 feet). 

Base Camp established on Khumbu glacier (17,900 feet). 
April 24 Low Level Lift started to Camp III. 
April 24-25 Reconnaissance of Western Cwm as far as Swiss Camp IV 

(21,200 feet). 
April 26- 

May i High Level Lift between Camps III and IV, 
May i Camp IV established (21,200 feet) by Hunt, Bourdillon 

and Evans. 
May 2 Preliminary Reconnaissance of Lhotse Face by Hunt, 

Bourdillon and Evans. 
May 2-5 Rest period for Ferry teams. 
May 3 Reconnaissance party to Camp V (22,000 feet). 

May 4 Bourdillon and Evans, with Ward and Wylie in support, 

up to Camp VI (23,000 feet) on Lhotse Face Reconnais- 
sance. 
May 5 Bourdillon and Evans above Camp VI on reconnaissance. 

Ferry work starts again in Icefall and (on May 8) in 

Western Cwm, as far as Camp V. 

May 6 Lhotse Face Reconnaissance party returns to Base. 

May 10 Lowe and 4 Sherpas up to Camp V for Lhotse Face. 
May 1 1 Lowe and Ang Nyima, based on Camp VI, start work on 

Lhotse Face. 

Westmacott and 3 Sherpas in support at Camp V. 
May 17 Lowe and Noyce establish Camp VII (24,000 feet). Ward 

up to VII, stays with Lowe and Da Tensing. 
May 1 8 Last Low Level Lift. Advance Base established at 

Camp IV. 

236 



APPENDIX I 

May 20 Noyce and 8 Sherpas, ascending to Camp VII, meet 

Lowe, Ward and Da Tensing descending. 
May 2 1 Noyce and Annullu complete route over Geneva Spur to 

South Col. Wylie and 9 Sherpas reach Camp VII. 
May 22 Wylie with 14 Sherpas, Hillary and Tenzing ahead, to 

South Col. Dump loads, i Sherpa does not complete 

climb. 
May 24 First Assault party, consisting of Bourdillon, Evans, Hunt, 

Da Namgyal and Ang Tensing (alias Balu), reach South 

Col. 
May 25 First Assault party stays South Col. 

Second Assault party reaches Camp VII. 

May 26 FIRST ASSAULT. Bourdillon and Evans reach South Sum- 
mit. 

Hunt and Da Namgyal carry loads up S.E. ridge and 

dump at 27,350 feet. 

Hillary and Tenzing (Second Assault party), supported by 

Gregory, Lowe, Pemba, Ang Temba and Ang Nyima, 

reach South Col (Camp VIII). (Also Dawa Thondup, 

Topkie, Ang Norbu, Annullu and Da Tensing, carrying 

extra loads.) 

Ward and Noyce up to Camp VII in support. 

7 Sherpas leave South Col. 
May 27 Hunt, Evans, Bourdillon and Ang Temba down to Camp 

VII. 

Second Assault party confined on South Col by very 

strong wind. 

Evans and Ward descend to Advance Base. 
May 28 Wylie and 3 Sherpas up to Camp VII in support. 

SECOND ASSAULT. Ridge Camp (Camp IX) established at 

27,900 feet by Hillary, Tenzing, Gregory, Lowe and Ang 

Nyima. The latter 3 return to South Col. 
May 29 Hillary and Tenzing from Ridge Camp to Summit, return 

to South Col. 

Noyce and 3 Sherpas set out from Camp VII in support. 

Noyce and Pasang Phutar reach Col. 

Gregory, Pemba and Ang Nyima descend to Camp IV. 
May 30 Hillary, Tenzing, Noyce, Lowe and Pasang Phutar reach 

Camp IV. Westmacott (who has been maintaining the 

route through the Icefall) and Morris (The Times) have 

come up and return with the story. 
May 3 1 All except 5 Sahibs and a Sherpa party down to Base. 

Last Ferry party to Camp III to bring down loads. 

A.E.I7 237 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

June i All except Wylie and Sherpa party (staying at Camp III) 

down to Base. 

June 2 Party assembles at Base. 

June 3 Party reaches Lobuje. 

June 4 Party reaches Thyangboche. 

June 5 Advance party (Hunt, Bourdillon and Gregory) leaves 

Thyangboche. 

June 7 Main party leaves Thyangboche. 

June 13 Advance party reaches Kathmandu. 
June 20 Main party reaches Kathmandu. 



238 



APPENDIX II 

PREPARATIONS FOR THE EVEREST EXPEDITION, 1953 

ORGANIZATION 

(Effective from gth October, 1952) 



Alpine Club 



Royal Geographical Society 



Joint Himalayan 
Committee 



_ -^ Oxygen 
controller 



Oxygen 
Executive 



Closed 
Circuit 
research 



Medical 

"Research 

Council 



High Altitude Committee 



Oxygen 
Firms 



. I FADER - - d - 'I 6 -. Physiological Oxygen 
* ~* research development 



Organizing 
Secretary 



Party 



Equipment 
Firms 



advice 



advice 



Responsibilities 



Himalayan Committee 
General policy 
Finance 

Political matters 
Selection of Leader 



Press arrangements, publicity, 
book, lectures, film, etc. 

Provision of scientific advice to 
Leader (through Medical Re- 
search Council) 



Invitations to Members and con- Provision of oxygen equipment 



tracts 



(through Oxygen controller) 



239 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 



Leader 

Planning 

Organization of preparatory work 

Selection of the party 

Selection, trial and procurement 
of equipment, other than oxy- 
gen equipment (through the 
Secretary-Organizer, and, when 
appointed, the Equipment 
Officer) 

Press articles 

Medical Research Council 

Advice to the Leader on: 
Physiology 
Diet 



Hygiene 

Protective clothing and equip- 
ment 

Acclimatization 
Advice to Oxygen controller 

Oxygen Controller 

Development and provision of 

oxygen apparatus 
Advice to Leader on oxygen 

Organizing Secretary 

Assistance to Leader 
Co-ordination 

Provision of equipment other than 
oxygen equipment 



240 



APPENDIX III 

BELOW is reproduced the text of the Memorandum "Basis for 
Planning" which was drawn up in London before the Expedition's 
departure, and which served as a framework for the programme 
actually put into effect. Deviations from this original plan, dictated 
by conditions in the field^ are explained in the footnotes. Otherwise 
it was carried out in its original form.* 

MEMORANDUM 
EVEREST, 1953 

BASIS FOR PLANNING 

1 . The ultimate aim of the Expedition, as defined by the Sponsoring 
Authority, is the ascent of Everest during 1953 by a member or mem- 
bers of the party. This aim may appear self-evident, but it is of vital 
importance that it should be borne constantly in mind, both during 
the preparatory phase and, later, in the field. All planning and prepara- 
tion must lead us methodically towards the achievement of that aim. 

2. The purpose of this Memorandum is to provide a basis for all who 
will be working on the various aspects of the planning and preparation 
for the Expedition. It is mainly focused on the assault. The require- 
ments of the assault plan are basic and must be met in terms of 
climbers, porters, equipment and stores. 

It is stressed that this is not a firm and final plan; this can only be 
made at a much later date in the field. 

3. Planning Papers are attached as Appendices to this Memorandum 
as follows: 

Appendix A The Ascent (Build-up and Assault). 
Appendix B The Preparatory Period. 
Appendix Cf The Expedition Timetable. 

(Signed) JOHN HUNT 

5th November, 1952, 
Expedition Leader. 

Appendix 'A' to Basis for Planning 

EVEREST, 1953 

THE ASCENT 

i . From a study of the Shipton Reconnaissance, the Swiss pre-monsoon 
attempt and from a general comparison of the latter with the British 

* Other major planning papers were: (a) The theoretical Assault Plan; (b) The 
Build-Up Plan; (c) The Tent Distribution Plan. 
| Not included. 

241 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

experience on the mountain between the wars, certain factors emerge 
which must influence our planning for 1953. 

FACTORS 

2. The absolute need for a sufficient period of comparative acclima- 
tization before the assault. 

3. The psychological effects of remaining longer on the mountain than 
is really necessary to the achievement of success. 

4. The physiological deterioration which appears to take effect high 
up on the mountain. 

5. The limitations on the amount of stores and equipment which can 
justifiably be carried high on the mountain. These limitations are set 
by: 

(a) the objective dangers of the icefall; 

(b) the weight which can be carried by the porters and climbers at 
high altitudes; 

(c) the number of oxygen equipments available; 

(d) the time problem, as it affects paragraphs 3 and 5 (a) above. 

6. The importance of a suitable and acceptable diet, together with 
that of ensuring the consumption of sufficient liquid during the 
crucial assault period. 

7. The duration and period of favourable weather. This is likely to be 
very brief and to occur in the second half of May, or early in June. 

8. The importance of exploiting this favourable period to the maximum 
extent. This means: 

(a) being positioned and ready in every sense to start the assault 
from the beginning of this period. 

(b) being so organized as to be able to continue the assault, if 
necessary, so long as the weather holds ; in other words, to avoid 
the contingency of a premature retreat. 

CONCLUSIONS 

9. From these factors it is possible to establish certain conclusions 
which will form the basis of the planning. (Scientific conclusions are 
not dealt with under this heading.) 

(a) There must be an acclimatization period, which should be 
spent in an area other than Everest. 

(b) Once the Base Camp has been established, the ascent of the 
mountain must be a continuous process, carefully planned so as 
to be completed in the minimum time consistent with success. 

(c) There must be provision in the plan for a number of assaults, 
each capable of being launched consecutively at intervals of one 
day, if the weather conditions allow. A maximum potential of 
three such assaults should be assumed. 

242 



APPENDIX III 

(d) Adequate logistic support must be provided in the highest 
camp(s) to enable the summit party(ies) to make the most of 
their opportunity. 

(e) The first assault party and, as far as possible, the follow-up 
parties, must be rested and in good condition when they start. 
They must, therefore, be spared the heavy work at an early 
stage in the build-up. 

10. The Climbing Parly. 

The party must be large enough to make possible the series of 
assaults referred to above, and at the same time to allow for sickness 
and provide for supervision of the build-up behind the assault. 

On the other hand, it must not be so large as to become unwieldy. 

To achieve a potential of three assaults, a total of ten climbers 1 has 
been decided. These may be considered for planning purposes in the 
ratio of 6 (assault) to 4 (support). To the latter should be added the 
physiologist and the photographer who may be expected to take their 
share in the build-up. 

11. The Porter Requirement. 

The porters may be considered in three categories : 

(d) Those taking part in the establishment of Advance Base (Head 
ofS.W. Cwm). 

(V) Those taking part in the establishment of the Assault Camp 
(South Col). 

(c) Those taking part in the Assault. 

To some extent, these categories will overlap, e.g. all porters will be 
involved to a greater or lesser degree in establishing Advance Base; 
certain porters required to establish the Assault Camp may take part 
in the Assault. 

Taking into account a rough calculation of the load factors, the time- 
table at Appendix C and the intention to launch, if necessary, three 
assaults, it may be estimated that 25-30 Sherpas 2 will be required. Of 
these, at least i6 3 must be capable and willing to take part in the 
assaults and the establishment of a camp on the South Col ; they must, 
therefore, be equipped on this basis. 

PHASING OF THE PLAN 

For planning purposes, the overall period of the ascent will be con- 
sidered in phases, as follows: 

12. Phase I (The Build-up}. 

This includes the negotiation of the icefall, and the establishment of 

1 Tenzing was invited to join the climbing party on arrival at Kathmandu, making 
a total of 1 1 . 

2 At a later stage in the London planning we increased the number of Sherpas to 
34 (20 High Altitude; 14 Icefall.) We actually recruited a total of 36 in addition to 
2 cooks, and not counting Tenzing himself. 

3 19 Sherpas reached the South Col. Of these, 6 did so twice. 

243 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

an advance base at the head of the West Cwm, and of an assault 
camp on the South Col l . 
Phase II (The Assault). 

This includes the move of the first assault party from Advance Base 
to the South Col and thence to the summit, followed, if necessary, by 
two further assaults. 

TIMING 

13. The Expedition Time Table is set out as Appendix C.* From this 
it will be seen that Phase I should have been completed by approxi- 
mately 1 5th May; 2 the assault should be capable of being launched at 
any time after this date. 

THE BUILD-UP (ist-i5th May) 

14. This is considered in two stages: 

Stage I. Establishment of Advance Base (Head of the Cwm). 

Stage II. Establishment of the Assault Gamp (South Col). For the 
purpose of this paper, a period of 10-12 days should be assumed for 
Stage I 3 ; 4-6 days for Stage II 4 . 

The Build-up Stage I (10-12 days) 

15. The problem is the move, over a period of 10-12 days, of per- 
sonnel, equipment and stores from Base Camp, at 16,000 feet on the 
bank of the Khumbu glacier 5 , to an Advance Base at approximately 
23,000 feet 6 at the head of the Western Cwm. The principal difficulty 
is the negotiation, and use during the build-up, of the icefall descending 
from the lower edge of the Cwm, over a vertical interval of over 
2,000 feet. 

Bearing in mind the objective danger of the icefall, its relatively low 
elevation and the importance of concentrating the maximum logistic 
backing at Advance Base for the Assault, we will assume for planning 
purposes that: 

(a) only one camp will be established in the icefall. 

*Not included. 

1 This was Camp VIII in the event. 

* Casualties and the very bad weather throughout the build-up period delayed its 
completion until i8th May; this did not include the "carry" to the South Col, which 
was finished by 22nd May. 

8 At a later stage in the London planning, the period for Stage I was increased to 
3 weeks. In the event we took 23 days. 

4 The time estimated for Stage II was later changed in London to 10 days. We 
actually took 4. 

6 At the time of writing this Directive it was proposed to establish Base Camp at the 
Glacier lake (Lake Camp) at about 16,500 feet. Before leaving England, however, 
this had already been changed to the Swiss Camp I at 1 7,900 feet. 

' I had originally hoped to place Advance Base at the foot of the Lhotse Face, then 
reckoned to be 23,000 feet, but later found to be no more than 22,000 feet. After dis- 
cussion with the Swiss, however, it seemed wiser to stage our assault operations from 
lower down for reasons of safety and to avoid physical deterioration. Advance Base 
was therefore synonymous with Camp IV, 2 1 ,200 feet. 

244 



APPENDIX III 

(b) by the end of this first stage of the build-up, sufficient equip- 
ment and stores will have been carried forward to reduce move- 
ment between Base Camp and Advance Base to intermittent 
journeys only. 

1 6. Camps. 

These will probably be required ahead of Base Camp, during the 
first stage of the build-up as follows: 

Camp I (foot of the Icefall) 1 4 Meades 
Camp II (in the Icefall) 4 Meades 

Camp III (top of the Icefall) 4 Meades 

These camps can be reduced, probably by two Meades at the end of 
Stage I, the spare tents being carried forward to Advance Base. 

1 7. Capacity of Advance Base. 

This must be capable of housing, during a peak period: 

10 Climbers 2 (of 12) 
1 6 Porters (of 25-30) 

Of these: 

6 Europeans and 6 Porters will comprise the Assault Party. 8 

2 Europeans and 6-10 Porters will be concerned with establishing 

the Assault Camp (South Col.) 

2 Europeans will be Physiologist: Photographer, leaving a balance of 
2 Europeans and 10-15 Porters, who may be assumed to be at camps 

between (inclusive) Base Camp and Camp III. 

This requirement might be met by one 12-man Dome (or two 6-man 

Dome) and 7 to 8 Meades. 

The Build-up Stage II (4-6 days) 

1 8. In order to establish the Assault Camp, it will be necessary to 
carry tentage, equipment and stores up the Lhotse face, a vertical 
height of about 3,000 feet starting at 23,000 feet. 4 The Assault Camp 
must be capable of supporting at any one time, at or above the South 
Col, up to a total of 1 2 climbers and porters. 5 In order to economize on 
the number of oxygen equipments and cylinders the "carry" required 
to complete Stage II will probably have to be done without oxygen. 8 

1 See Footnote 5 on p. 244. 

2 Advance Base actually accommodated 12 climbers and 20 Sherpas at a peak 
period. 

3 The assault parties actually comprised 7 climbers and 5 Sherpas. 
The South Col "carry" parties consisted of 2 Europeans and 14 Sherpas. 

No allowance had been made in the London plan for a special party to prepare the 
route up the Lhotse face. 

4 See Footnote 6 on p. 244. The height of the Lhotse face proved to be 4,000 feet from 
the Cwm to the Col. 

5 During the night 26th-27th May, there were 7 climbers and 4 Sherpas together on 
the Col. 

6 We eventually gave oxygen to the leaders of the 2 South Col ferry parties, owing 
to their responsibility for ensuring the success of the "carry". 

245 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

This will entail the establishment of an intermediate camp on the 
Lhotse face (Gamp V); 1 its capacity should be for four climbers/ 
porters, 2 

THE ASSAULT (After I5th May) 

19. The general concept of the assault will be the advance of the 
assault parties from Advance Base to the summit of Everest, spending 
(if necessary) one night at Camp V 3 (Lhotse face), one night at Gamp 
VI 4 (South Col) and, (if necessary) , a third night at a Camp VII 6 to be 
established as high as possible on the S.E. Ridge. 

20. Each assault party will consist of 4 climbers 2 Europeans and 2 
Sherpas. Of these, the Europeans will be the potential summit party, 
the bulk of the load being carried by the Sherpas. 6 Depending on the 
condition of the climbers in the final stages, however, it may well be 
that the summit party may consist of i European and i porter. 

2 1 . All four climbers will use oxygen from Advance Base onwards for 
the upward journey. In calculating the oxygen requirement, it may 
be assumed that oxygen will not be used for the descent below the 
Ridge Camp (see para. 22). Sleeping oxygen will, however, be required 
at the Assault Camp and at the Ridge Camp (Gamp VII). 7 

22. Depending on the condition of the climbers, the success of the 
oxygen and the weather, it may be possible to reach the summit from 
the South Col. The first party will, however, be self-contained after 
leaving the Assault Camp (South Col), with a tent and equipment for 
the summit party (two Europeans) for one night. 8 

23. This ultimate camp will be established in any event. Should it be 
necessary, the summit party will remain there, the other pair returning 
to the Assault Camp (Camp VI). 9 

If, on the other hand, it is found possible for the summit party to 
continue to the top in one day from the South Col, then the other pair 
will set up the tent and wait to escort the summit party down to the 
South Col. 

24. In order to make possible the "carry" of the oxygen cylinders 
required for the final part of the climb, in addition to the other equip- 
ment necessary for Camp VI (South Col), 10 the site will be chosen and 

1 This was Camp VII in the event. 

2 The Lhotse face camp (Camp VII in the actual programme) contained 19 people 
on the night aist-asnd May. 

3 This was Camp VII in the event. 4 This was Camp VIII in the event. 
6 This was Camp IX in the event. 

6 During both assaults, climbers carried loads rather heavier than the Sherpas 
owing to sickness in the special Sherpa team taking part in this final phase. Loads 
varying between 50-63 Ib. were carried Jay the climbers up to 27,900 feet. 

7 Sleeping oxygen was also used at the Lhotse face camp (Camp VII in the event. 
Ridge Camp was Camp IX). 

8 The first assault was launched on this basis. 

9 This was Camp VIII in the event. 

10 This was Camp VIII in the event. 

246 



APPENDIX III 

an initial "carry" of loads will be undertaken by a party of one 
European and two Sherpas (to be known as the Support Party), who 
will have arrived at the South Col at the end of the Build-up phase. 
This will take place either on the same day that the first Assault Party 
leaves Advance Base, or on the day after (D-Day or D plus i), or both. 

This Support Party will be available to accompany the first Assault 
Party on its way up from the South Col should the load situation so 
demand. 

The Support Party will descend to Advance Base as soon as this task 
is complete. It will use oxygen for the upward journey or journeys 
above the South Col. 

25. The second Assault Party, composed as for the first party, will 
leave Advance Base one day later and will go up to Gamp VI (South 
Col) 1 on the South Col. If the first party are not successful (or in any 
case), the second party will make their attempt on exactly the same 
basis as before, with the exception that they will be able to use the 
emergency camp (Camp VII (Ridge)) 2 if this has been set up by the 
first party. 

26. A third Assault Party will leave Advance Base for the South Col 
one day after the second Assault Party 3 and will make an attempt on 
the summit if neither of the preceding parties have succeeded (or in 
any case). 

THE TENTATIVE PLAN 

27. In the eventual Plan, which will be made on the Mountain itself, 
the timing of the assaults (in terms of the vertical distances to be 
covered in one day) will depend primarily on the actual assistance 
given by oxygen. 

This paper is NOT the eventual Plan and the actual value to be 
derived from the oxygen is not proven. While taking due account of 
the need for economy and of the potential value of oxygen as an 
"Altitude reducer", we must, therefore, lay down the basis for pre- 
paratory planning on an "unfavourable case". 

28. In order to enable calculations to be made on an "unfavourable 
case" basis, it has been assumed that: 

(a) Three assaults are necessary, e.g. only the last is successful. 

(b) Two of the three Assault Parties will spend a night at Camp V 4 
(Lhotse Face) on the upward journey, the third going straight 
up to the South Col from Advance Base. 

(c) Two of the three Assault Parties will spend a night at Camp VII 5 
(Ridge Camp), the third going straight for the summit from the 
South Col. 

1 This was Camp VIII in the event. 8 This was Camp IX in the event. 

8 A possible third Assault was held over until the result of the first two attempts was 
known. 

4 This was Camp VII in the event. 8 This was Camp IX in the event. 

247 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

29. From the tentative schedule at Annex* to Appendix A, it will be 
seen that: 

(a) There may be up to 12 climbers/porters 1 at the Assault Camp 
at any one time. 

(b) 15 separate oxygen equipments will be required, 4 for each 
Assault Party and 3 for the Support Party. 2 

(c) Oxygen cylinders will be required for movement as follows: 



DAT 


CLIMBERS 


D 


7 


D plus i 


it 


D plus 2 


8 


D plus 3 


12 


D plus 4 


4 


D plus 5 


4 


Total 


46 man/sets 3 



Appendix "J3" to Basis for Planning 

EVEREST, 1953 

THE PREPARATORY PERIOD 

Introduction 

1. This period includes both the march-out to Khumbu (in principle 
the month of March), and the acclimatization period (in principle the 
month of April) preceding the actual operations on Everest itself. 

The object of this paper is to provide a forecast of the activities of 
the party during these two months, as a basis for provisioning, the 
recruiting of porters/carriers and the ordering of equipment. 

2. It is assumed that the march-out will require a period of three weeks 
from Kathmandu* and that up to four weeks will be devoted to 
acclimatizing B in the Khumbu district, making a total of seven weeks 
in all. 

These four weeks may have to be curtailed should the weather and/ 
or the conditions on Everest demand an advancement of the planned 

* Not included. 1 See Footnote 3, p. 245. 

2 12 "Assault" frames were taken, the balance being made up from our Utility 
frames. 

3 Each "set" could hold i, 2 or 3 "Assault" Light Alloy oxygen bottles, each 
weighing about ioj Ib. At a flow rate of 4 litres a minute one bottle could be expected 
to last approximately 3 hours. Thus, for a full day's climbing, 2 bottles would nor- 
mally be carried in a "set", making a requirement of 92 Light Alloy bottles. We 
actually took with us 60 "Assault" or I^ight Alloy bottles, plus 100 "Utility" bottles 
(nearly twice the capacity of the Assault bottles and almost twice as heavy). These 
were used for training experiments and also in the Assault for sleeping, and supporting 
climbers. 

4 The march-out lasted 17 days. 

6 Three weeks was spent on acclimatizing and getting fit. 

248 



APPENDIX III 

date for initiating operations on the mountain. It is unlikely that it 
will be possible to prolong the period of acclimatization prior to 
starting the build-up. 

The March-out 

3. We must bear in mind that, as an expensive sponsored expedition 
of national importance, we cannot indulge in the same liberties as a 
private party. It is of particular importance that all possible steps 
should be taken during the march-out to ensure that the health and 
the strength of the party are preserved. 

4. To this end: 

(a) The medical officer is requested before the party leaves 
Kathmandu to draw up and issue essential hygiene rules to be 
observed by everyone, and to assist by advice during the march 
itself. 

(b) The diet of the party will be basically Expedition rations, sup- 
plemented from local resources, as approved by the Medical 
Officer. A Sherpa cook will be engaged from Kathmandu 
onwards. 1 

For provisioning purposes a 75 per cent, ration scale should be 
allowed for during the march-out. 

(c) Camp sites will be chosen away from villages; local houses will 
not be used during this period. 

5. It is also important that expedition boots and other equipment 
provided expressly for the ascent of Everest should not become worn 
out during the approach march. 

Members of the Expedition are therefore requested to provide them- 
selves with light clothing and footwear for the march. Shorts and 
"rubbers" or "Chapplis" are recommended. 

The Acclimatization Period 

6. The main objectives to be attained in this period will be: 

(a) to continue and improve the acclimatization of members from 
the condition reached on arrival in Khumbu. 

(b) to familiarize everyone with the expedition equipment and 
rations, including the use of the oxygen equipment. 

(c) to enable everyone to get to know each other "on the rope". 

(d) to explore country in the general vicinity of Everest, but NOT 
the mountain itself. 

7. As regards 6 (a) and 6(d) it is important that we do not allow our- 
selves to be diverted from our main objective by undertaking ambitious 
climbing projects during this period. We must constantly bear in mind 
that this is simply a period of preparation for our real goal. 

1 Two cooks were engaged. 

249 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

8. As regards 6(&), the oxygen officer is requested to instruct, arrange 
for trials to be made, and supervise practice in the use of oxygen 
equipments. 

9. As regard 6(c), it is proposed to divide the period into two spells of, 
say, 8-10 days, with a break of 3-4 days in the middle. 1 

The party will divide into 3-4 small caravans each of 3-4 Europeans 
and 4-5 High Altitude porters: each party will carry out its own 
programme and all will reassemble at a base camp for rest and dis- 
cussions at the end of the first spell. 

The parties will then be reconstituted and move out again for the 
second acclimatization spell. 

10. As regards 6(d), particular importance is attached to the timing 
of our operations on Everest. Partly for psychological reasons and 
partly because of the probable physical conditions obtaining oil the 
mountain itself until late April, it is desirable to direct our activities 
in other areas. 

11. In principle, expedition rations will be eaten throughout the 
acclimatization period; it is hoped, however, that local fresh food 
(including meat on hoof) will be available at Base Camp. 

The Porters 

12. It is planned to recruit 25-30 porters, making an eventual total 
number on the mountain of about 40 (12 Europeans: 28 Sherpas). 2 

Of these 28 Sherpas, it is anticipated that about 16 will be required 
for high-altitude climbing (at and above Advance Base), the remainder 
being needed for the build-up as far as the top of the Icefall. 

In calculating high-altitude rations, equipment and clothing, there- 
fore, these 1 6 must be fully provided for. The balance of 12-14 
porters will require equipment, clothing and rations suitable for 
operations up to the top of the icefall. 

13. The 1 6 high- altitude porters must clearly all be men with previous 
expedition experience. They will be required throughout the pre- 
paratory period, in particular during the acclimatization period in the 
Khumbu district. 

The remaining 12-14 may be recruited later and locally; 3 they 
should join the Expedition before the main operations start on the 
mountain itself. 

1 Acclimatization parties were of 6-8 days* duration. The rest period between each 
was of 2-3 days' duration. 

The largest number on the mountain at any one time was 14 climbers and 38 
Sherpas. 

9 19 were recruited later locally. Since equipment had not been brought for 5 of these, 
5 local men were found who were willing to make use of clothing and equipment 
from earlier expeditions. 



250 



APPENDIX IV 

NOTES ON CERTAIN ITEMS OF EQUIPMENT 

By CHARLES WYLIE 
BOOTS 
(a) High Altitude Boots 

AFTER the Cho Oyu expedition it was felt that there was a real 
-/"Vneed for a special high altitude boot, especially on Everest. Pugh 
had established that in terms of physical effort, one pound's weight on 
the feet was equivalent to five pounds on the shoulders. We aimed to 
cut down weight at the expense of durability; boots to be worn only 
above, say, 20,000 feet did not need to be so durable as they would only 
have to last a few weeks. They must, however, be strong enough for the 
attachment of crampons and for kicking steps in frozen snow. At the 
same time, we wanted them to be very much warmer than normal 
boots, as cases of frostbite in the high Himalaya have been only too fre- 
quent. It was also important that they should not freeze; wet boots will 
inevitably freeze up, and so they had to be waterproof. 

After trying out in the Alps several possible answers to this problem, 
including the Army Mukluk, and special all-rubber boots, we decided 
to take boots of a revolutionary design made specially for us by The 
British Boot, Shoe and Allied Trade Research Association, of Ketter- 
ing. The design and production of these boots are described here in 
some detail, as an illustration of the care and thought given to all our 
equipment by British Industry and of the value of scientific principles 
boldly applied with confidence based on research knowledge. 

The uppers were made on the vapour-barrier principle, i.e. the 
insulating material which has to be kept dry to maintain its efficiency 
was enclosed in a waterproof envelope designed to exclude wet snow 
from the outside and perspiration from the inside. To protect the boots 
further in wet snow, a thin outer cover of rubber-coated stockinette was 
fixed to the outside edge of the sole; this cover could be removed if it 
was found to be unnecessary above a certain height. 

The production of thirty-three pairs of these boots in five weeks pro- 
vided Mr. Bradley, their conscientious designer, with many problems. 
Thirty firms of his Association were concerned in their manufacture or 
in providing materials. Special lasts had to be made for the Sherpas 
from typical diagrams and foot measurements sent by the Himalayan 
Club in Darjeeling. Some Sherpas taking size 6 boots had wider feet 
than Hillary's size 12 ! The boots had to be tested at each stage of their 

251 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

construction and finally in the cold chamber at Farnborough, where 
they were found to be satisfactory at 40 C. 

In practice, the boots were very popular, and were used constantly 
from Camp III to the Summit, i.e. for a much longer period than that for 
which they had been designed. The thin outer covers proved too weak 
over this period, and developed tears and holes through which snow 
entered and wet the boot. The Swiss system of a detachable gaiter, as 
worn by Tenzing (see frontispiece photograph), would be better. The 
boots also fitted too loosely for safe climbing on steep or difficult ground. 

(b) General Climbing Boots 

The arguments in favour of special high altitude boots applied as well, 
though to a lesser extent, to our normal climbing boots. Even at 
20,000 feet there is a risk of frostbite, and a light boot helps to prevent 
fatigue at any height. These boots would, however, have to last some 
time, although the period could be limited to some three months. 
Mr. Robert Lawrie, one of our foremost climbing-boot makers, tackled 
this problem with great energy and enthusiasm and produced boots 
weighing only 3 Ib. 12 oz. a pair, lined with opossum fur between two 
layers of leather and with a woollen felt insole and a very thin rubber 
sole. This thin vibram sole proved rather too thin and started coming 
away at the toes. However, Noyce, who was given a course in boot 
repair by Mr. Lawrie before the expedition sailed, saved the situation 
with some really professional repair work. 

Both the High Altitude and General Climbing boots were designed 
with a low opening, to allow the foot to slip into frozen boots more 
easily, and lacing through "D" rings rather than holes, for ease 
when lacing with frozen fingers. Both these features were advanta- 
geous. 

In spite of all the designers' efforts, both types of boots got wet on 
occasions and froze during the night, unless kept inside one's sleeping- 
bag. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the advantage of light boots throughout 
the expedition, and there were no cases of frozen feet. 

TENTS 

Our different varieties of tents have already been described in 
Chapter IV. They are discussed more fully in the following para- 
graphs. 

When planning, we had considered the possibility of using a smaller 
version of our standard two-man Meade tents for the higher camps, to 
save weight. We decided, however, that the benefit of the saving in 
weight was more than counteracted by the additional discomfort of a 
cramped tent. On the mountain we were always glad of our roomy 
tents and never grudged the extra weight. This was so much the case 
that a standard Meade was eventually used at Camp IX, in spite of the 

252 



APPENDIX IV 

fact that we had brought three different types of lightweight tent for 
this highest camp. 

The Meade design, which has not altered basically since the expedi- 
tions of the igao's, again proved to be the best as well as the simplest of 
the many types we used. 

Piano-wire stiffeners were fitted to the ends of the tent entrance 
sleeves, making entry and exit very much easier. In normal weather the 
sleeves could be closed with a twist of this wire, rather than by tapes. 

Tents destined for all camps above Advance Base were provided with 
detachable nylon inners for extra warmth. These inners weighed very 
little and when tested had been found to give an extra four degrees of 
warmth. They were seldom used below Advance Base, however, and 
tended to become separated from their parent tent. 

A heavier twelve-man Dome tent was taken, designed by Colonel 
Croft as an arctic warfare tent for the Army. We also took a lighter, 
pyramid-shaped tent, similar to the Dome, with certain modifications. 
These larger Domes were always in use, the one as a mess-cum-sleeping 
tent for us, the other for the Sherpas. Both eventually were put up at 
Advance Base. In small camps a Pyramid tent was generally used as a 
cookhouse and community centre by the Sherpas. These could, if 
necessary, hold five men; one was taken to the South Col. 

We also took with us a number of waterproof sheets or tarpaulins 
10 by 15 feet, weighing only 8 Ib. each. These were very useful through- 
out the expedition, but particularly on the march, either as roofing for 
the cookhouse, or as supplementary tentage, or to protect stores from 
snow or rain. 

WINDPROOF CLOTH 

The selection of cloth for our windproof clothing, and for our tents, 
was greatly simplified for us by the help and advice of the Ministry of 
Supply research experts at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farn- 
borough. They were interested in windproof clothing for the Services, 
and had at their disposal means to test the various qualities of any 
cloth. 

Obviously the degree of windproofness was of first importance, but 
the cloth also had to be as light as possible, snag-proof, and fairly water- 
proof. We eventually chose a first-class cloth which was shown, in wind- 
tunnel tests, to be completely windproof in winds of 100 m.p.h. It 
weighed only 4f oz. per square yard and was as tear-resistant as many 
other heavier cloths. Proofed with Mystolen, the tents could be made 
quite waterproof and the clothing at least shower-proof. It was of a 
cotton warp and nylon weft, and made by John Southworth & Sons 
Ltd., of Manchester. 

We used a single thickness of cloth both for our windproofs and tents, 
and were very satisfied with its performance. 
A.E.-I8 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

WIRELESS 

The wireless plan was drawn up with the help of Brigadier Smijth- 
Windham, wireless officer of the 1933 and 1936 Expeditions, and the 
work placed in the hands of Brigadier Moppett, a Director of Pye 
Telecommunications, Cambridge. We are most indebted to this firm for 
their gift of equipment provided so speedily for us. 

The plan required "walkie-talkie" sets for communication between 
camps on the mountain up to two miles apart and a short-wave 
receiver for special meteorological bulletins and general entertainment. 
A transmitting set for contact with the outside world was not taken 
because of the extra weight; moreover, it could not contribute to the 
only object of the expedition, which was to reach the Summit. In 
addition, it would have required a wireless officer to be added to our 
already large party. This decision also meant that all our radio equip- 
ment could be operated by dry batteries. 

The equipment had to be robust, light, compact, requiring the mini- 
mum of maintenance and able to withstand rain and snow and tem- 
peratures from 40 to 100 degrees F. Climbers must be able to set up the 
equipment with gloved hands and operate it while lying in their sleep- 
ing-bags. To meet this specification, eight "walkie-talkie" sets were 
adapted by Pye from their "Walkie-phone", PTC 122, a Very High 
Frequency set with crystal control on both transmission and reception, 
with a fixed frequency of 72 megacycles. They had flexible tape aerials, 
and weighed 5 Ib. each. Dry batteries, supplied by Vidor Ltd., were 
carried in a "waistcoat" which could be worn underneath the climber's 
down clothing or stuffed inside his sleeping-bag and kept warm by 
body heat, to prevent loss of efficiency at very low temperatures. The 
high-tension batteries gave 41 hours use at 10 degrees C. An exter- 
nal aerial on a folding duralumin tripod was constructed so that sets 
could be used remotely from inside a small tent. 

The range of these sets depends greatly upon the topography of the 
intervening ground, because V.H.F. waves do not travel around large 
obstacles. There is, however, little interference and the sets are easy to 
operate. They gave very good service from camp to camp, particularly 
in a net between Camps I, II and III during the build-up phase, even 
though these camps were not in visual contact. It was not necessary to 
use them on the move. They were used up to Camp VII (24,000 feet); 
a set was also taken to the South Col but was unfortunately damaged in 
transit. 

The short-wave receivers were the normal Pye export model, 
PE7oB, with loudspeaker and dry batteries, specially boxed in a strong 
wood case. Its 1 5-foot rod aeriaj fitted on to the same tripods as the 
"walkie-talkie" sets. These receivers were used at Base Camp and 
Advance Base positions which suffered from the screening effect of 
the encircling high mountains. Even so, excellent reception was 

254 



APPENDIX IV 

obtained from All-India Radio, who from ist May broadcast special 
weather forecasts prepared by Dr. Mull of the India Meteorological 
Department. The B.B.C. also re-broadcast these bulletins for our bene- 
fit, occasionally including very welcome personal or goodwill messages. 
During the long cold evenings Ceylon Commercial proved a popular 
entertainment programme, boosting our morale with such exhorta- 
tions as, "When you're feeling low, use 's stomach powder". 

COOKERS 

From observations made on the Cho Oyu expedition, Pugh told us 
that we would each require at least eight pints of liquid per day on 
Everest. It followed that a cooker of maximum efficiency was essential. 

The most effective and economical source of heat is a paraffin 
burner and the Primus stove with a high altitude burner was the ob- 
vious choice. To conserve the heat and at the same time economize in 
fuel, a shield in sections completely surrounding the cooking-pans was 
designed for us by Mr. C. R. Copke. 

The shield directed heat to the base and sides of the pans. A lid, 
which could also be used as a frying-pan, fitted over the top of the 
shield. An extra large spirit cup was fitted to ensure the burner was 
sufficiently heated to vaporize the paraffin before it reached the jet. 

Even hard wind-packed snow is four times as bulky as the water it 
contains, so two extra large pans were fitted, of a capacity of 4 and 3! 
pints in our large stoves, and 2| and 2 pints in our smaller ones. 

An ordinary burner is unreliable above 15,000 feet, so a silent type 
of self-pricking burner was selected after tests in the Decompression 
Chamber at Farnborough, which proved it to be satisfactory at 40,000 
feet. Since cooking must often be done in a totally enclosed tent, the 
burners were also tested for the presence of poisonous carbon monoxide 
gas and found to be entirely safe. These burners were also self-cleaning; 
the jet could be cleaned by simply turning a knob. By turning the 
knob the other way, the jet could be closed against leakage of fuel. 

Four small and eighteen large cookers were taken, holding i and 2 
pints of fuel, and weighing 3^ and 4^ Ib, respectively. In addition, two 
double-burner cooking ranges were taken for Base and Advance Base 
Camp. 

In spite of the usual robust treatment, both from the Sherpas and 
from us, the cookers on the whole worked well. This was largely due to 
good maintenance by Ed Hillary. In particular, Hillary and Tenzing 
were able to provide themselves with sufficient drink at Camp IX 
at 27,900 feet before their climb to the Summit. 

In the hope that they might prove to be the answer to cooking at the 
highest camp, we also took six Butane gas cookers. Although they had 
the great advantage of simplicity to light them one merely lit a match 
and turned a tap they lacked the heating power of a Primus and did 

255 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

not work well at extreme altitudes. However, each container was also 
supplied with a mantle and could be used for lighting. In this r61e they 
gave us excellent service in the long evenings in the big Dome tent. 

BRIDGING EQUIPMENT 

The need for some means of bridging wide crevasses had been 
recognized by Shipton as a result of his reconnaissance expedition in 
1951. Something light, portable and strong was required, long enough 
to bridge a gap of 25 feet if necessary. The Swiss had used ropes, but 
we aimed at something easier for the constant stream of laden porters. 

The problem was put to Lyte Ladders Ltd., of Newport. They first 
produced a bridge made rigid by bracing underneath. Although the 
rigidity was an advantage, the bracing would have been difficult to 
assemble with cold hands, and added to the weight. Eventually one of 
the Company's standard heavy-duty parallel builder's aluminium 
alloy ladders was chosen. The sag was considerable over a 25-foot gap, 
but it held the manager, the works foreman and myself together, with- 
out signs of collapse, so simplicity won the day. 

The ladder was made up into five 6-foot sections, 14 inches wide, 
and each section was fitted with extruding sleeves to enable sections to 
be joined together. Four screws secured each junction. The whole 
ladder weighed only 57! Ib. It appears in Plates 20 and 23. 

The largest gap bridged by us was a crevasse at the entrance to the 
Cwm; it was about 16 feet wide and so needed three sections of our 
bridge. Over this distance sagging was negligible. The crevasse was 
slowly closing and the ends of the ladder, which were frozen into the 
surface of the glacier, had often to be chipped free to prevent the 
ladder buckling. 



256 



APPENDIX V 

OXYGEN EQUIPMENT 

T. D. BOURDILLON 

THREE principal types of apparatus were used: Open-Circuit, 
Closed-Circuit and Sleeping Sets. All three depended on high- 
pressure gas cylinders for oxygen storage, and both climbing sets used 
similar carrying frames. 

THE OXYGEN CYLINDERS 

Two different cylinders were used. One, which was formed from 
drawn dural tube, weighed when charged, and with a light-alloy 
reducing valve, ii Ib. This weight varied slightly from cylinder to 
cylinder. It held 800 litres of oxygen at a pressure of 3,300 p.s.i. and was 
used with a light-alloy reducing valve mounted directly on one end. 

The other was the wire- wound R.A.F. Mark VD steel cylinder. 
Charged to 3,300 p.s.i. and with a brass reducing valve this weighed 
21 Ib. and held 1,400 litres of oxygen. Some of these cylinders were 
fitted with a stop valve and connected by a copper pipe to a reducing 
valve; with others the reducing valve was mounted on the cylinder. 

THE CARRYING FRAME 

Two types of frame were used. One, made of welded aluminium 
tube, was designed to carry up to three dural cylinders. The other, of 
welded aluminium alloy, carried either one dural or one R.A.F. 
cylinder. Both frames were supported on a horizontal webbing band 
resting low on the back and kept in place by two shoulder straps. 
They were designed to carry the load high and close to the back. 

THE OPEN-CIRCUIT SET 

With this set the climber inhaled air enriched by added oxygen, and 
expired to atmosphere. 

The set is illustrated in figs, i and 2. 

Oxygen at a nominal pressure of 50 p.s.i. was led from the cylinder 
and reducing valve through a flexible pipe to an R.A.F. Mark VI dual- 
outlet manifold (shown cut away in fig. 2). This manifold contained 
two metering apertures, so that the climber had a choice of two flow 
rates. Three different manifolds gave flow rates of 2 or 4, 2 J or 5, and 
3 or 6 litres a minute. 

257 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

A modified R.A.F. Mark IV Economizer delivered oxygen during 
inspiration only, thus avoiding unnecessary waste during expiration. 
The uniform flow of oxygen from the manifold passed into a spring- 
loaded reservoir bag in the economizer. At the start of inspiration a trip 
valve in the economizer was opened by slight suction from the mask, 
permitting the bag to empty into the mask. The economizer and trip 
valve are shown in fig. 2. 

An R.A.F. "H" mask was used, fitted with a third inlet valve and a 
protective rubber snout. The warm, expired gases passed over the inlet 
valves. 

The weights of the Open-Circuit set with the lightened economizer 
were: 

with one R.A.F. cylinder 28 Ib. 

with one dural cylinder 18 Ib. 

with two dural cylinders 29^ Ib. 

with three dural cylinders 41 Ib. 

THE CLOSED-CIRCUIT SET 

In this set there was no opening to the outside air. The climber 
inhaled a high concentration of oxygen directly from a breathing bag. 
He exhaled through a soda lime canister which absorbed the expired 



LIGHT ALLOY 
MANIFOLD 




TRIP VALVE 



FIG. i. FIG. 2. 

THE OPEN-CIRCUIT APPARATUS. 



258 



APPENDIX V 

carbon dioxide and allowed the exhaled oxygen to return to the 
breathing bag. Direction of flow was ensured by two non-return valves. 
The oxygen absorbed from the circuit by the climber was replaced from 
a high-pressure cylinder through a reducing valve and a manually 
controlled supply-valve. The apparatus is illustrated in fig. 3 and more 
fully described elsewhere (Alpine Journal, 59, No. 288). 

Since high ventilation rates and intolerance of resistance to breath- 
ing were expected, special efforts were made to reduce the resistance 
to gas flow as far as possible. Thus all tubing was of ij in. or ij in. 
bore. The figures realized were very satisfactory: about 2*2 cm. water 
gauge for expiration and 0-8 cm. for inspiration at a rate of 200 litres/ 
minute and at approximately sea-level pressure. 

Great care was also taken to ensure maximum efficiency of use of the 
soda lime. To this end machine-filled replaceable canisters were used 
and the soda lime was held under a spring pressure of 60 lb., to prevent 
the granules from shifting in transit. 

THE SLEEPING SET 

A cylinder, reducing valve and outlet manifold (as used in the Open- 
Circuit climbing set) supplied 2 litres of oxygen per minute to a "T"- 
piece. This divided the oxygen equally between two light face masks 



INSULATING COVERS 
LOADING SPRINGS 
WIRE GAUZE 
DUST FILTER 
SODA LIME MATRIX 
SPACING STRIPS 




* DRAIN PLUGS 



FIG. 3. CLOSED-CIRCUIT APPARATUS. 

259 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

and economizing bladders of a type used by the British Overseas 
Airways Corporation but modified to allow a higher ventilation rate. 
The low-pressure part of the apparatus weighed only a few ounces. 

QUANTITIES OF APPARATUS 

Although the quantities were kept to an absolute minimum and in 
fact proved barely adequate, a considerable amount of apparatus was 
involved. It included : 

60 light-alloy cylinders 

100 R.A.F. cylinders 

80 soda lime canisters 

8 Closed-Circuit sets 

12 Open-Circuit sets 

1 2 training and carrying sets. 

The acclimatization period spent at intermediate heights was of 
great value. It enabled all the party to gain experience of the apparatus 
under comparatively easy conditions. A number of defects were 
revealed, which would have been more serious had they first been dis- 
covered on Everest. 

During the acclimatization period, and later above Camp VII, 
Open-Circuit apparatus was used successfully on several occasions by 
Sherpas. However, it was difficult to train Sherpas in the use of oxygen 
apparatus: their lack of previous experience with mechanical equip- 
ment threw a heavy responsibility on the Europeans in mixed parties. 
The preparation of apparatus and the supervision of its use were a 
severe burden on and above the South Col. 

It was expected that their natural acclimatization would enable 
Sherpas wearing climbing sets to carry above the South Col without 
having used sleeping sets during the previous night. Only enough 
sleeping oxygen was carried to the South Col for the Assault parties 
and for the Europeans intended to lead the carrying parties. The 
markedly superior performance of Europeans carrying above the 
South Col was probably mainly because no Sherpa other than Tenzing 
used sleeping oxygen on the Col. 

The great benefits incurred from the use of sleeping oxygen at and 
above 21,500 feet were one of the most striking features of the expedi- 
tion. When using it one slept better, was noticeably warmer and woke 
conspicuously more rested and refreshed. 

The behaviour of the climbing apparatus depended on altitude. 

Below 22,000 feet it was found with both types of set that the increase 
in performance given by the oxygen was less marked than the great 
reduction in effort and fatigue. In a cold wind the heat generated in 
the Closed- Circuit was an advantage, but in the warm still weather 
common in the Western Cwm it was decidedly uncomfortable. At this 

260 



APPENDIX V 

height there appeared to be little difference between the performances 
given by the two sets. 

Between 22,000 feet and 26,000 feet, no strictly comparable runs 
were made, partly because the route between these altitudes varied 
greatly in difficulty from day to day, and partly because of the shortage 
of oxygen cylinders. What evidence there is suggests a major increase 
of performance with both sets, and more with the Closed-Circuit than 
the Open. Some fresh troubles occurred at these altitudes. The outlet 
manifolds of two Open-Circuit sets developed leaks (possibly due to 
low- temperature hardening of their rubber seals), and the breathing 
valves in the Closed-Circuit froze up immediately after the canisters had 
been changed. This freezing was due to the insertion of a fresh cold 
canister into a set that was already in use and therefore moist. It is 
unfortunate that this problem did not arise until the first Assault had 
begun, and the simple methods of dealing with it described elsewhere 
(Alpine Journal, 59, JVb. 288) were not used in the first Assault. 

On the South Col the first Assault party was considerably delayed 
by damage to one Closed-Circuit set. It was found that the oxygen 
supply- valve had been forced past its stop and the valve damaged in a 
mistaken, but well-meant attempt to effect greater economy when 
resting. 

Above 26,000 feet the heat generated in the Closed-Circuit and the 
fact that with it one inhaled moist gas were major advantages. Ice 
formed in the Open- Circuit masks on three occasions, and one Closed- 
Circuit set developed a fault giving a reduced performance and a high 
ventilation rate. This fault occurred at about 28,100 feet in difficult 
conditions and was not diagnosed : it may have been due to an air leak. 

Times are available for five parties climbing over the same route 
between the South Col and the Swiss 1952 Camp, on the South-East 
ridge. 

COMPARATIVE CLIMBING RATES BETWEEN 25,800 FEET AND 27,300 FEET 



Party 


Type of oxygen 
apparatus 


Rate of climb 
ft. /hour 


Gross load 
Ib. 


Snow 
conditions 


Lambert and Tenzing, 
1952 


no apparatus while 
climbing 


233 





step 
cutting 










and 


Gregory, Lowe and 


Open-Circuit at 4 


430 


40 


kicking 


Ang Nyima 


1/m 






in 


First Assault party, 1953 


Closed-Circuit 


933 


52 


unbroken 
snow. 


Hunt and Da Namgyal 


Open-Circuit at 4 


494 


50 






1/m 






steps 










already 


Second Assault party, 


Open-Circuit at 4 


621 


40 


made 


1953 


1/m 









261 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

The first three ascents in this table show clearly the great increase 
in performance given by oxygen apparatus and the very marked 
superiority of the Closed-Circuit over the Open. The last two ascents 
are not strictly comparable, since they were using steps already made ; 
as might be expected they show climbing rates higher than that of the 
other Open-Circuit party, but still markedly lower than that for the 
Closed-Circuit. 

The results of this expedition suggest that the best combination of 
oxygen apparatus for very high altitude climbing is an Open-Circuit 
sleeping set giving a comparatively low concentration of oxygen and a 
Closed-Circuit climbing set. It seems desirable to use the sleeping set 
from about 2 1 ,000 feet and the climbing set from the same or a slightly 
greater altitude. The use of a suitable peroxide offers the possibility of 
a very light climbing set if apparatus can be developed in which the 
rate of reaction is satisfactorily controlled. All apparatus should be as 
simple as possible, and in particular if compressed gas storage is used 
there should be a reducing valve and pressure gauge mounted per- 
manently in each cylinder or sphere. 

A very large number of people and organizations contributed to the 
development and production of oxygen apparatus for this expedition ; 
a reference to this has been made in Appendix IX. 



262 



APPENDIX VI 

DIET 
By GRIFFITH PUGH and GEORGE BAND 

HIMALAYAN rations usually consist of a combination of bulk 
stores taken out from England or obtained in India, and foodstuffs 
purchased locally in the Himalayas. Rice, potatoes, tsampa, dahl, ghi, 1 
eggs, chicken and meat are the chief foods available locally; fresh fruit 
and vegetables are seldom, if ever, obtainable. 

The earlier Everest expeditions took with them a great variety of 
bulk stores, which the party soon grew tired of on the mountain. Later 
expeditions have come to depend increasingly on local food supplies, 
limiting their bulk stores to essential items not procurable locally, such 
as sugar, jam, biscuits and butter. 

There was evidence on the Reconnaissance of 1951 and on the Cho 
Oyu expedition of 1952 that some members of the party deteriorated 
physically owing to inability to tolerate the strange and bulky diet, 
and it was considered that the general fitness of the 1953 Everest party 
would be improved by providing a diet conforming as closely as pos- 
sible with European diet. This could be done by making more use 
of tinned or vacuum-packed foods. 

Instead of bulk stores, the items for each day were packed together in 
man-day units or multiples thereof a system which is now widely 
used by armed forces operating in small groups in the field. The advan- 
tages of this system on a Himalayan expedition are as follows: the 
sorting and making up of loads and the distribution of rations is greatly 
simplified; shortages of essential items due to over-consumption or 
pilfering are avoided ; there is less chance of contamination of food by 
flies and in handling. These advantages are gained at the expense of 
additional weight and cost; and it is obvious that the proportion of the 
various items in the daily ration should be correct. In the latter respect 
the nutritional survey done on Cho Oyu was of great assistance. The 
organization of the packing of these rations was undertaken by the 
Army and many of the items were made available from Army stores. 
The expedition has to thank Lieut. -Colonel Kingsmill and his depart- 
ment at the War Office for their valuable help in this respect. 

The composition of the various types of ration is presented in the 
table at the end of this appendix. For purposes of rationing the present 

1 Tsampa = flour made from roasted barley; dahl = lentils; ghi = clarified 
butter. 

263 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

expedition was divided into three phases: (i) the approach and return 
marches; (2) the acclimatization and "build-up" periods; and (3) the 
period spent above 22,000 feet, including the Assault. The "Compo" 
boxes containing 14 men's rations for one day, and the beverage boxes 
containing 14 men's rations for two days were intended for phases i and 
2 .* The biscuits for consumption with these rations were taken separately 
in standard army boxes, and it was intended that the rations should be 
supplemented with rice, potatoes and eggs purchased locally. In phase 
2 it was anticipated that the party would be getting tired of "Compo" 
rations and it was planned to open some of the luxury boxes to increase 
variety at this stage, and to bring up a certain amount of fresh meat on 
the hoof. In the Western Cwm and on the Lhotse Face it was thought 
probable that a change over would have to be made to Assault rations 
in order to save weight. 

Rations for phase 3 were planned in accordance with the following 
considerations. Past experiences showed that above a certain altitude, 
depending on their state of acclimatization, climbers' appetites show 
marked deterioration. On Cho Oyu in 1952 the calorie value of 
the food eaten between 19,000 and 22,000 feet was of the order of 3,200 
Calories compared with 4,200 Calories on the approach march. Above 
24,000 feet on Everest in 1933 the calorie intake was calculated to be 
about 1,500 Calories. At high altitude a large proportion of the total 
calorie intake consists of sugar taken in tea, lemonade and other bever- 
ages. Some men become intolerant of fatty foods; some hanker after 
special foods which may not be available. High up on Everest in 1933 
Ship ton had a craving for a dozen eggs; Smythe wanted Frankfurters 
and Sauerkraut; in 1924 SomervelPs favourite diet was strawberry jam 
and condensed milk; on Cho Oyu Hillary wanted pineapple cubes and 
Secord wanted tinned salmon. In general, men prefer to eat nothing 
rather than put up with something that is distasteful to them, and if 
they do not eat they deteriorate all the more rapidly. The weight and 
bulk of the rations that can be carried high on a mountain is 
necessarily restricted, and the basic items and their packings must be 
as light as possible. It is desirable to exclude bulky items and those 
containing a high percentage of water, e.g. bread and potatoes, 
although some concession to food idiosyncrasies may have to be made. 

The plan evolved for the 1953 expedition was to pack the Assault 
rations in units consisting of one man's rations for one day. Consider- 
able economy of weight and bulk was achieved by vacuum packing. 
Each separate item as well as the composite twenty-four hour unit was 
put up in an air-tight plastic bag and sealed under a vacuum. The 
Assault ration was planned on a liberal scale to allow of individual 
selection of items and quantities. It was intended that Assault parties 
should open their rations before the Assault, reject such items as 
1 Party of 13 plus Sherpa Tenzing. 
264 



APPENDIX VI 

they felt they would not require, and substitute items selected from the 
luxury boxes, according to their own preferences. The composition of 
the luxury boxes was decided in England by the climbers themselves, 
each of whom was asked to choose certain foods which he felt he would 
like to eat at great altitude. 

RESULTS 

A detailed analysis of records of this year's experience is not available 
at the time of writing. However, all except one of the party approved 
in principle of taking packed rations as opposed to bulk. Most of the 
men wanted more local food, especially more fresh meat and less tinned 
meat. This proposal should be accepted with caution, as local supplies 
are not always adequate. It was agreed that packed rations for the 
Assault should include only basic items acceptable to all (the exact 
specification of these will not be easy!) and more use should be made of 
bulk stores, such as those contained in luxury boxes. It was found that 
the party desired normal food up to 22,000 feet, probably because they 
were better acclimatized than on Cho Oyu and other post-war expedi- 
tions. The "Compo" ration was eaten up to Advance Base Camp. In 
the Western Cwm there was a strong demand for potatoes and fresh 
meat. Potatoes were sent up, in spite of their weight, as well as a limited 
supply of mutton. 

At high altitude the cooking of fresh meat, rice and potatoes is 
extremely slow and expensive of fuel (at 21,000 feet water boils at 185 
degrees F. compared with 212 degrees F. at sea-level). The problem has 
been solved by the use of pressure cookers, which have now come to be 
regarded as an essential item on Himalayan expeditions, although 
there was considerable resistance to their use at first. The Sherpa cooks, 
this year, thought so highly of them that they were even prepared to 
improvise pressure cookers of their own. Such a cooker consisted of a 
biscuit tin with the lid forced on and a small hole stoppered with a 
stick acting as a safety valve. 

The Assault rations were eaten on the Lhotse Face and above. They 
were repacked at Base Camp. Both pemmican and Grape-nuts, which 
were acceptable the previous year on Cho Oyu, were rejected. State- 
ments obtained from the climbers on returning from the Assault show 
that between half and one modified high altitude ration was eaten 
per man per day. The items from bulk such as sardines, fruit juice 
and tinned fruit were much appreciated, as also were certain items 
of food, such as Vita-Weat, honey and cheese left behind by the Swiss 
on the South Col and discovered intact. The Sherpas in the Western 
Cwm and above received one Assault ration between two men per day 
plus three-quarters of a pound of tsampa. This amount of tsampa 
proved insufficient and had to be increased to one and a quarter 
pounds per man per day. 

265 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

By the time the party came down the Icefall for the last time "Compo" 
rations were finished, and the march back to Kathmandu was done on 
Assault rations plus local food. It was then that we came to appreciate 
the value of the "Compo" rations by contrast with the Assault rations. 
The party insisted on having as much meat and chicken as possible on 
the march back, but it was not always possible to obtain sufficient 
quantity. Local chickens are small and tough, but nevertheless 
acceptable if pressure cooked. The party wanted a chicken each for 
supper every night, but usually there were only five between a party of 
nine men. Apart from chickens, two small sheep were eaten. As is 
usual after Himalayan expeditions, the party continued to have 
enormous appetites for several weeks after getting back to Kathmandu. 



266 



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A.E. 19 



APPENDIX VII 

PHYSIOLOGY AND MEDICINE 
By GRIFFITH PUGH and MICHAEL WARD 

AS long ago as 1924, climbers on Mount Everest showed that after 
jfYnine weeks spent at intermediate altitudes men could climb to 
28,000 feet and sleep two or three nights above 27,000 feet. Unacclima- 
tized men, exposed to these altitudes, rapidly lose consciousness and 
die, as was first shown by the early balloonists in the iSyo's. When 
men in a decompression chamber at sea-level are exposed to reduced 
barometric pressure simulating conditions at high altitude, they 
become unconscious within ten minutes at a pressure equivalent to 
25,000 feet, and within three minutes at a pressure equivalent to 
27,000 feet. 

The greatest altitude at which men are known to live permanently 
is 17,500 feet. There is a Mining Settlement at Aconquilcha in the 
Andes situated at this altitude. It is said that the miners there preferred 
to climb 1,500 feet a day to their work in the mines rather than occupy 
a camp built for them by the Mining Company at 19,000 feet. 

Climbers on Everest found that their performance continued to 
improve up to 23,000 feet, but above that altitude severe and rapid 
deterioration took place, marked by progressive weakness, lethargy, 
non-recovery from fatigue and muscular wasting. Slow physical 
deterioration occurs at altitudes between 21,000 feet and 23,000 feet 
but is masked by the process of acclimatization, so that headaches and 
other altitude symptoms clear up and for a time performance improves. 
Eventually, however, there is loss of appetite, wasting of body tissues 
and a decline in energy and capacity for work. The following table 
gives the longest periods which mountaineers on Everest have spent 
at various altitudes above 20,000 feet. 

20,000 feet to 21,000 feet Four-five weeks Various expeditions 

23,000 feet Eleven days Odell, 1924 

22,000 feet to 24,600 feet Eleven days Lowe, 1953 

25,700 feet Five nights Birnie, 1933 

27,400 feet Three nights Smythe, 1933. 

The physical strain of going above 26,000 feet is such that few, if any, 
are capable of more than one such ascent in an expedition, and complete 
recovery from such an experience takes many weeks. 

270 



APPENDIX VII 

One of the remarkable things about acclimatization to high altitude 
is the great variation between individuals in their capacity to ascend 
to altitudes above 20,000 feet. Some men do not seem to be able to go 
above 21,000 feet and probably only exceptional men can go above 
27,000 feet without supplementary oxygen. There is also wide varia- 
tion in performance in any one individual from day to day, and 
climbers are described as either "going well 55 or "going badly 55 . 

There is, at present, no means of selecting men who will do well high 
up other than trial on the mountain. The reaction to simulated 
altitudes in a decompression chamber shows no correlation with sub- 
sequent performance on the mountain. Every expedition has noted, 
however, that tolerance of high altitude increases with each visit to 
the Himalayas and that the advantage gained from previous experience 
of high altitudes persists over an interval of many years. 

There has been much discussion about the most favourable age for 
Himalayan mountaineering. The majority of successful Himalayan 
climbers have been between twenty-five and forty years of age. It 
seems likely that the great powers of endurance necessary for this type 
of work are built up gradually over many years. 

The technique of acclimatizing as rapidly as possible requires 
further study. The expeditions to Everest by the Northern route had 
imposed on them a six weeks 5 period at 13,000 feet to 17,000 feet during 
their approach march through Tibet. Even so, members of the first two 
expeditions suffered from altitude sickness on the mountain. The 1933 
expedition, profiting by their experience, spent several days at each 
camp above Base Camp to allow time for acclimatization to develop. 
As a result of the extra fourteen days on the mountain, they reached 
the higher camps in better condition than the previous parties had 
done. The 1933 expedition emphasized the importance of limiting the 
time spent above 23,000 feet to a minimum on account of high-altitude 
deterioration. 

The Southern approach to the Himalayas through Nepal allows 
parties to reach high altitude after a three weeks 5 approach march at 
altitudes around 6,000 feet with passes at 10,000 feet to 12,000 feet. It has 
been usual for post-war expeditions to spend but a week in going from 
12,000 feet to 19,000 feet. Symptoms of mountain sickness (headaches, 
vomiting, disturbance of respiration) have been common between 
15,000 feet and 17,000 feet but have passed off in a few days. Physical 
performance, however, has been poor by comparison with performance 
later in the expedition. Men who have gone down to lower altitude to 
rest, whether on account of sickness or to fetch stores, have noticed 
marked improvement in their general condition on going high again, 
and have clearly benefited by the rest at lower altitude. After a rest at 
16,000 to 17,000 feet some climbers suffer from lassitude and shortness 
of breath on the climb back to 20,000 feet but the effect is transient. 

271 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

Certain experienced Himalayan climbers hold the view that at the 
beginning of an expedition not more than a few days should be spent 
between 12,000 feet and 14,000 feet, a longer period being of little assis- 
tance in securing acclimatization above 18,000 feet. In support of this 
view is the fact that Sherpas residing at Namche (about 12,000 feet) 
often complain of headaches and shortness of breath in crossing the 
Nangpa La at 19,000 feet. Physiological observations made on Cho 
Oyu, however, suggest that if men go straight to 18,000 feet and 
above, and stay there, they deteriorate physically during the first two 
weeks. 

In view of the great variation between individuals in their reaction 
to altitude it is impossible to lay down hard and fast rules about the 
best procedure in order to acclimatize most rapidly. A wise principle 
seems to be that camps in the early stages of an expedition should be 
placed at altitudes such that all members of the party are able to eat 
and sleep well. During the day they may climb without harm as high 
as they can. After the acclimatization period, when the party has 
established camps at higher altitude in preparation for their final 
assault, experience has shown that men who become exhausted from 
over-exertion, or who become ill from some other cause, should be 
sent down to rest at lower altitude. Unless this is done, they may 
not recover quickly enough to be effective when they are needed 
later on. 

This plan of going down to lower altitude for rests was adopted with 
great success on the present expedition. The height reached by parties 
on their first period of acclimatization was about 20,000 feet, with two 
or more nights spent between 17,000 feet and 18,000 feet. After five 
days' absence they returned to Thyangboche (under 13,000 feet) for 
three days' rest before going up again to 20,000 feet. There was a 
further period of rest at Thyangboche before going to Base Camp 
(nearly 18,000 feet). Altogether, three weeks were allotted to pre- 
liminary acclimatization before serious work on the Icefall began. 
After the "Build-up" period of transporting stores to the head of the 
Cwm, the party went down in groups for three days' rest at Lobuje 
(16,500 feet). Although all members of the expedition lost weight they 
remained fit, so that there was always sufficient man-power to main- 
tain die pace of preparations for the Assault. The observation that 
repeated visits to the Himalayas increased tolerance of high altitude 
was again confirmed. Apart from Tenzing, the five climbers who went 
highest had all been on Cho Oyu the previous year. This does not 
prove that others in the party could not have gone as high as some of 
these if they had had the opportunity, but it is possibly significant that 
the only men who did not go well at high altitude were the two "first 
timers". They recovered, however, with rest at a lower altitude, and 
played an important rdle later on. 

272 



APPENDIX VII 

Physiological Changes at High Altitude 

The adaptation of the body to a low atmospheric pressure has 
interested physiologists for over eighty years. 

The first discovered and best known adaptive change is an increase 
in the number and concentration of the red cells of the blood which 
contain the oxygen-carrying pigment, haemoglobin. This was dis- 
covered by Viault in 1871. There is reason to suppose that this effect 
is not as important as was once thought, among other reasons because 
some men with relatively low haemoglobin levels have good physical 
performance at high altitude. 

Of much greater importance is the increase in volume of air breathed 
per minute (ventilation rate). In this way the decreased density of the 
air is compensated by passing more air through the lungs per minute. 
The increased ventilation is regulated by stimulation of receptor 
organs situated along the aorta and carotid arteries which are sensitive 
to a fall in the oxygen tension of the arterial blood. The respiratory 
centre in the brain, which controls the movements of breathing, 
responds normally under sea-level conditions not to the oxygen tension 
of the blood, which is constant except during extreme physical exertion, 
but to the direct effect of carbon-dioxide tension of the arterial blood. 
At high altitude the increased ventilation causes a fall in the carbon- 
dioxide pressure in the lungs which is reflected in a corresponding fall 
in the tension of carbon-dioxide in the arterial blood. Thus, at high 
altitude, the respiratory centre in the brain lacks its normal stimulus 
and is responding to stimuli reaching it from peripheral receptor organs 
sensitive to oxygen tension. This change in the regulation of breathing 
is not easily accomplished, and at first there is "hunting", like that 
occurring in any mechanical self-regulating device which is not 
functioning with sufficient sensitivity. This shows itself in the periodic, 
or so-called Cheyne-Stokes, breathing which is commonly noticed at 
high altitude and which may be very unpleasant. It is not yet known 
for certain whether the sensitivity of the respiratory centre eventually 
becomes adjusted to the low arterial carbon-dioxide tension at high 
altitude, or whether the peripheral stimulus of oxygen lack continues 
to be the chief stimulus to respiration at high altitude. In the first few 
days after going to high altitude before ventilation and other compen- 
satory changes in the body have become established, the tissues suffer 
from oxygen lack; and the effect of this on the brain is responsible for 
the symptoms of mountain sickness, which are weakness, nausea, 
vomiting, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, headache. Other adaptive 
changes taking place in the body are the following: 

(a) Increase in the output of the heart at rest; this has been shown 
to pass off after a few days at an altitude of 14,000 feet, but 
experiments on animals suggest that it persists above 20,000 feet. 

273 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

(b) The disturbance of the acid-alkali balance of the blood due to 
lowering of CO 2 tension is compensated by excretion of alkaline 
urine. 

(c) Increase in the myohaemoglobin content of the muscles. 
Myohaemoglobin is an oxygen-carrying pigment similar to 
haemoglobin. This effect has been demonstrated in animals but 
not as yet in man. 

All these changes tend to maintain as closely as possible to sea-level 
value the oxygen tension in the tissues upon which the chemical pro- 
cesses of metabolism depend. Probably other, as yet unknown, changes 
occur in the tissues themselves, which permit them to function normally 
at reduced oxygen tension. The combined action of all these changes 
results in a remarkable degree of compensation, so that up to 20,000 
feet or 2 1 ,000 feet a man can feel perfectly fit and well and engage in 
moderately hard physical work. Compensation is, however, incom- 
plete : both the maximum rate of climbing, and the number of hours 
of climbing that can be done in a day, are decreased at high altitude, 
being about half their sea-level value at 2 1 ,000 feet even in acclima- 
tized men. Above 21,000 feet there is loss of weight and muscular 
wasting, leading eventually to a decline in physical performance, 
increasing disinclination for exercise and loss of appetite. Animals 
kept in an atmosphere corresponding to an altitude of 20,000 feet show 
degenerative changes in the liver and other organs, and it is probable 
that similar changes occur in man. Thus although a measure of com- 
pensation occurs which renders a man going to high altitude more effi- 
cient and comfortable as he becomes acclimatized, at the same time there 
are degenerative changes which ultimately force him to go down. 

COLD 

Protection against cold is one of the chief problems at very high 
altitude. In addition to low air temperatures, heat loss from lungs in 
warming and humidifying the inspired air is greatly increased, owing 
to the considerable rise in the breathing rate both at rest and at work. It 
was anticipated that temperatures of minus 40 degrees C. might be en- 
countered high up on Everest. This prediction was made in the light of 
balloon data from Indian Hill Stations in 1933, although no temperature 
records were available for altitudes greater than 24,000 feet on Everest. 
It seems likely, however, that the weather just before the monsoon 
is exceptionally warm: otherwise former parties, with the equipment 
then available, would have suffered more severely than they did from 
cold. 

A survey of equipment problems was made in 1952 on the Cho Oyu 
expedition, and it was clear that many improvements, based on 
scientific developments in cold-weather protective clothing used by 

274 



APPENDIX VII 

the Allied Services in the War and afterwards, could be made use of. 
The protective clothing was designed to be adequate for temperatures 
down to minus 40 degrees C. and weighed, including boots and gloves, 
1 7 Ib. compared with 23 Ib. for the equivalent Arctic equipment, though 
giving comparable protection. Sleeping-bags and air mattresses were 
designed to secure the maximum physical comfort at night, the need 
for which was stressed by Norton as long ago as 1924 toughness, if it 
implies neglecting to take measures to reduce fatigue and strain, has 
no place in Himalayan planning. 



FLUID REQUIREMENTS 

Knowledge of the fluid intake of climbers at high altitude is impor- 
tant. Unless the fluid requirement of the body is met, a considerable 
water deficiency may build up over the course of a few days, causing 
lassitude and weakness over and above that due to the effect of 
altitude. It seems likely that this happened to the Swiss party on the 
South Col of Everest in May 1952, when over a period of three days 
their water intake was less than a pint per man per day. 

Since all water on high mountains has to be obtained by melting 
snow or ice, an adequate water supply depends on the provision of 
reliable stores and sufficient fuel. Estimates of the daily fluid intake of 
men on Gho Oyu in 1952, and on the present expedition based on the 
number of mugfuls of soup, lemonade or tea drunk per day yield a 
figure of 5 to 7 pints per day, to which must be added about half a pint 
for the fluid content of cooked food. 

At this level of fluid consumption, evidence was obtained that the 
output of urine was normal, which means that the fluid intake was 
adequate. Nor was there any evidence on the Assault that fluid intake 
was inadequate. 

The large fluid intake of men at high altitude is explained by the 
high rate of water loss from the lungs due to the dryness of the air and 
the increase in the rate and depth of breathing. Loss of fluid in the 
form of sweat may also be considerable in men climbing on glaciers 
during the heat of the day. The heating effect of the sun's radiation 
in the Himalayas is intense: on Cho Oyu, for example, in May 1952 
sun temperatures of 156 degrees F. were recorded at 19,000 feet. 

The question has been asked whether salt deficiency may play a part 
in high-altitude deterioration. It is well known to dwellers in hot 
climates that profuse and long-continued sweating may lead to a state 
of weakness and exhaustion due to salt deficiency, if the salt lost in 
sweating is not balanced by a sufficient intake of salt in the food. The 
large fluid intake of climbers at great altitude has suggested the pos- 
sibility that sweating may be sufficiently profuse to cause a drain on 
the salt reserve of the body. It seems unlikely, however, that such a 

275 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

condition can arise in climbers since their large fluid requirement is 
explained by loss of moisture from the lungs which contains no salt, 
rather than by sweating. Direct measurements made on the present 
expedition suggest that between 2 J and 3 J pints of fluid per day are 
lost in this way. This accounts for half the daily fluid intake and is three 
or four times the corresponding value at sea-level in a temperate 
climate. 

OXYGEN 

Whereas it is certainly true that knowledge of man's power of 
acclimatization to extreme altitude has been largely contributed by 
climbers on Everest, the futile controversy over the ethics of using 
oxygen, and the failure to accept the findings of pioneers in its appli- 
cation, handicapped for thirty years the introduction of a method which 
promises to revolutionize high-altitude mountaineering. Apart from 
the question of whether mountains over 27,000 feet can be successfully 
climbed without its use, oxygen undoubtedly reduces the moun- 
taineering hazards and greatly increases subjective appreciation of the 
surroundings, which, after all, is one of the chief reasons for climbing. 

Oxygen apparatus was taken on all the past Everest expeditions 
except the 1921 reconnaissance. Until the Swiss expedition last year, 
the only serious attempts to use it were those of Finch and Bruce in 
1922, Mallory and Irvine in 1924 and Lloyd in 1938. Finch used an 
open-circuit apparatus weighing 25 Ib. and supplying 2-25 litres of 
oxygen per minute. He wore the apparatus constantly while climbing 
between 2 1,000 feet and 27,000 feet and slept with it on the night before 
his final climb to 27,300 feet. He claimed subjective benefit from its use, 
and stated that his climbing power was improved compared with that 
of the porters. Odell's experience of oxygen in 1924 did much to 
increase the then existing prejudice of mountaineers against the use of 
oxygen. He failed to derive significant benefit from his apparatus in 
climbing between 21,000 feet and 23,000 feet, and later on between 
25,000 feet and 27,000 feet. The rate of oxygen flow used was, however, 
only i litre per minute except during the last minute or two at 27,000 
feet, when it was increased to 2 litres per minute. In 1938 both Lloyd 
and Warren used open-circuit oxygen. The apparatus weighed 25 Ib. 
and gave a flow of 2*25 litres of oxygen per minute. Lloyd used it up to 
27,000 feet and claimed subjective benefit and increased climbing 
power on easy ground, although there was less improvement on 
difficult stretches. Shipton, however, was not convinced that Lloyd's 
performance was significantly different from that of his companion 
Tilman. A closed-circuit apparatus was also tried, but was abandoned 
on account of the sensation of suffocation which developed after a short 
period of use. The conclusions drawn from experience in the use of 
oxygen on Everest up to 1952 were that although subjective benefit 

276 



APPENDIX VII 

might be obtained, the weight of the oxygen apparatus counter- 
balanced whatever favourable effect the oxygen might have on per- 
formance. 

Experiments carried out at 20,000 feet on Menlung La during the 
1952 expedition to Cho Oyu provided a certain basic information on 
which the oxygen equipment for this year's expedition was planned. 
The principal findings were as follows: 

1. The more oxygen one breathed the greater the subjective benefit. 

2. The weight of the apparatus to a large extent offset the increased 
physical performance. 

3. A flow rate of 4 litres per minute was the minimum required 
to achieve satisfactory effects. 

4. There was great reduction in pulmonary ventilation. 

5. There was great relief in the feeling of heaviness and fatigue in the 
legs during exercise. In view of this it seemed likely that endurance 
would be improved although this was not tested at the time. 

Bourdillon, who superintended the oxygen sets and acted as one of 
the subjects in these experiments, returned home convinced that closed- 
circuit oxygen which would permit the climber to breathe an atmos- 
phere of pure oxygen was the answer to the oxygen problem. 

The Medical Research Council High Altitude Committee, under the 
chairmanship of Sir Bryan Matthews, which was appointed to advise on 
all matters connected with oxygen equipment decided, however, that first 
priority should be given to open-circuit apparatus on the grounds that 
this would satisfy the physiological requirement, while being simple, 
easy to operate and unlikely to break down. It was felt that although 
closed-circuit apparatus was desirable, not only because it gave oxygen 
at sea-level pressure but also because it would reduce the loss of heat 
and moisture from the lungs, it might not be possible to produce a 
sufficiently reliable set in the time available. Nevertheless, it was re- 
commended that the development of closed-circuit apparatus should 
be undertaken for trial purposes. The scale and description of the 
equipment taken on Everest in 1953 is described in Appendix V as 
well as details of its use. 

The physiological effects of supplementary oxygen fully confirmed 
the predictions based on the 1952 work. Performance was somewhat 
better than had been anticipated. There was some improvement in 
the rate of climbing at high altitude; but the principal effect was 
increase in the amount of work that could be done in a day without 
serious fatigue. Oxygen during sleep permitted recovery from fatigue 
and greatly reduced high-altitude deterioration. The climbers also 
reported great improvement in their subjective state, so that they 
were able to appreciate their surroundings, and climbing once more 
became a pleasure. Hillary, on the final stretch above the South summit 

277 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 

was able to do mental arithmetic and calculate accurately the flow 
rate of oxygen necessary to ensure that the supply did not run out. He 
removed his oxygen mask on the summit of Everest and spent ten 
minutes taking photographs without supplementary oxygen, thus 
showing that man does not immediately become unconscious when 
deprived of his oxygen supply at 29,000 feet. The possibility of this 
happening had always been a source of anxiety, although there was 
evidence from Finch and Lloyd's experience that the risk was not too 
great to accept. Another effect of oxygen was that the sense of 
well-being due to oxygen persisted for an hour or more after the 
oxygen was discontinued. 

MEDICINE 

The pre-war Everest expeditions paid careful attention to hygiene 
during the march across Tibet, but in spite of this they suffered a good 
deal from respiratory and bowel infections, both during the march and 
on the mountain. The Tibetan plateau is a notoriously windy and 
dust-ridden place and this was thought to account for the high incidence 
of these conditions. On the mountain colds and sore throats were 
troublesome. They were attributed to the rapid breathing of cold dry 
air and the resulting breakdown of the defences of the upper res- 
piratory tract. Somervell in 1924 described how a portion of the 
epithelial lining of his throat sloughed off and nearly choked him on 
the upper slopes of the mountain. 

Since the War expeditions have had the advantages of antibiotics, 
and have tended to neglect the rules of hygiene. On the present 
expedition, because of the high incidence of sickness on Cho Oyu the 
previous year, a careful plan of hygiene was adopted and followed 
where possible. The chief measures were as follows: 

1 . No camping in or near villages, or sleeping in local houses. 

2. Protection of food and utensils from flies. 

3. Boiling of all drinking water, and, failing this, the use of water- 
sterilizing tablets. 

4. Supervision of Sherpa cooks to ensure cleanliness in the prepara- 
tion of food. 

5. The use of bellows for the inflation of air mattresses. 

Paludrine was issued to Sahibs, Sherpas and coolies. The risk of 
malaria is, however, small before the monsoon. Although mosquitoes 
were few, D.M.P. anti-mosquito cream was valuable against other 
insects. Anti-insect powder proved an essential item of equipment since 
lice, fleas and bed-bugs were encountered. 

The following were outstanding features of the expedition from the 
medical point of view. The inevitable minor bowel and respiratory 
complaints associated with the coming together in one party of Sherpas 

278 



APPENDIX VII 

and Europeans from many different places were over before the middle 
of May. Diarrhoea and sore throats were controlled by antibiotics. 
Only two out of eleven climbers were unwell during the preparation of 
the route on the Lhotse Face and the Assault period. Above Advance 
Base (Gamp IV, 21,200 feet) most people had irritative coughs which 
disappeared very quickly on going down. Severe sore throats were not 
experienced, as in the case of former expeditions; this was due, possibly, 
to the use of oxygen. The party was remarkably fit at all stages of the 
expedition, especially after the long period in the Western Gwm and 
above. The profound exhaustion and deterioration found in previous 
parties was not seen those who had been very high were tired but 
recovered quickly. Members of the Alpine Club meeting the party on 
its return to England were impressed by their healthy appearance 
in comparison with that of previous Everest parties. 

PHYSIOLOGICAL STUDIES 

A programme of physiological work was carried out on the present 
expedition in continuation of studies carried out on Cho Oyu in 
1952. This work was made possible by the generosity of the Royal 
Society and the Medical Research Council. The effects of high altitude 
on respiration, on the haemoglobin content of the blood and on nutri- 
tion were studied, as well as the effect of supplementary oxygen on men 
asleep and while climbing. The results of this work, as well as a detailed 
account of the medical aspects of the expedition, will be published in 
scientific journals. 



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113 



APPENDIX IX 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OF ASSISTANCE IN LAUNCHING 
THE EXPEDITION 

IN addition to those mentioned in the text of this book, we desire to 
express our particular gratitude to the following, who gave us 
exceptional assistance in various ways: 

A. INDIVIDUALS 

Officials of H.M. Customs and Excise 

Mr. Simpson of the Board of Trade 

Mr. Anderson of the Ministry of Supply 

Wing Commander Roxburgh, Institute of Aviation Medicine 

Mr. Kenchington, Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough 

Dr. Renbourne, Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough 

Mr. London, Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough 

Sir Harold Himsworth, Secretary of the Medical Research Council 

Dr. Edholm of the Medical Research Council 

Mr. Winfield of the Physiological Department, Cambridge 

Brigadier Smijth-Windham of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in 

Europe 

Lt. Col. Finch of the War Office 
Colonel Kingsmill of the War Office 
Major d'Avigdor of the War Office 
Group Captain Wiseman-Clarke of the Air Ministry 
Squadron Leader Gall of the Air Ministry 
Squadron Officer Ravenhill of the Air Ministry 
Dr. R. B. Bourdillon of the Electro-Medical Research Unit, Stoke 

Mandeville 
Mr. Grosvenor of the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit, H.M.S. 

Vernon, Portsmouth 

The Council and Staff of the Royal Geographical Society 
Mr. Blakeney, Assistant Secretary, The Alpine Club 
Dr. Raymond Greene, Member of the 1933 Everest Expedition 
Brigadier Moppett of Pye Telecommunications Ltd. 
Mr. Lawrie, Alpine Equipment Specialist 
Commander Harris of the Medical Research Council 
Mr. Barrett of Siebe Gorman & % Co. Ltd. 
Mr. Green, Chief Designer, Reynolds Tube Co., Birmingham 
Mr. Taunton of Wilts United Dairies Ltd. 
Captain Forrest and Ship's Company, S.S. Stratheden 

282 



APPENDIX IX 

Mr. Mann, David Harcourt Ltd., Birmingham 

Mr. Timings, David Harcourt Ltd., Birmingham 

Mr. Widgery of Normalair 

Nurse Waijiwright of the Quarry Hill Nursing Home, Shrewsbury 

The Commander-in-Chief and Officers, Indian Army 
The Commander-in-Chief and Officers, Indian Air Force 
Major-General Williams, Chief Engineer Indian Army, and All Ranks of 
the Indian Engineers working on the new road to the Valley of Nepal 
The Commander and Officers of the Indian Military Mission to Nepal 
The Commander-in-Chief and Officers, Nepalese Army 
Major General Commanding and Officers, Brigade of Gurkhas 
The Staff of Mackinnon and Mackenzie's, Bombay 
Dr. Mull of the Observatory, Alipore 
The Doon School, Dehra Dun 
Mr. Hotz, Hotel Cecil, Delhi 
Mr. Leyden, Himalayan Club, Bombay 

The Postmaster and Staff, Kathmandu Indian Sub-Post Office 
Some Members of the London Stock Exchange 

B. FIRMS AND OTHER BODIES 

(a) General Equipment 



Agfa Ltd. 

Bill, W., Ltd. 

Black, Thomas, & Sons Ltd. 

Braemar Knitwear Ltd. 

British Boot, Shoe & Allied 

Trades Research Association 
British Nylon Spinners 
British Ropes Ltd. 
Carreras Ltd. 
Condrup Ltd. 

Courtaulds Ltd. 

Cow, P. B., & Co. Ltd. 

D.E.O.M., Societe, France 
Dunlop Rubber Co. Ltd. 

Edgington, Benjamin, Ltd. 

Ellis, Arthur, & Co., New Zealand 
Fair Deal Supplies 

283 



Photographic material 
Shetland pullovers 
Kitchen and feeding equipment 
Cashmere pullovers and 
woollen underwear 

High Altitude boots 

Windproof cloth 

Climbing rope 

Cigarettes 

Primus stoves, shields for pres- 
sure cookers 

Rayon string vests 

Air mattresses, rubberized 
cloth for breathing-bags 

Butane gas cookers 

Micro-cellular boot soles, tent 
floors 

Tents, tarpaulins, sleeping- 
bags, marker flags 

Sleeping-bags 

Nylon shirts 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 



Flint, Howard, Ltd. 

Frankenstein & Sons Ltd. 

Herts Pharmaceuticals 

Howard's Bedding, Canada 

I.G.I. (Plastics Division) 

Ilford Ltd. 

Indian Aluminium Co., India 

Indian Army 

Imperial Tobacco (Ogden Branch] 

Jaeger Ltd. 

Kenyon, Wm., & Sons Ltd. 

Kodak Ltd. 

Lawrie, Robert, Ltd. 

Lillywhites Ltd. 

Lloyd, Richard, Ltd. 

Lyte Ladders Ltd. 

Meteorological Office 

Mitchell, Stephen, & Son 

Morland Ltd. 

Paul Laboratories, Canada 

Pautry et Cie., France 

Perret, E. W., Ltd. 

Platers & Stampers Ltd. 

Player, John, & Sons 

Pye Telecommunications Ltd. 

Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. 

Royal Geographical Society 

Simond, France 

Smiths Clocks Ltd. 
Smith, W. H., & Son 
Southworth, John, & Sons Ltd. 
Spatz, Switzerland 
Time-Life Magazine, U.S.A. 
Unilevers Ltd. 
Vidor Ltd. 
War Office 
West & Partners 
Westcliff Engineering Co. Ltd. 
Wills, W. D. & H. O. 
Wico-Zelt, Switzerland 
Yorkshire Ramblers Club 



Windproof clothing, mitts 

Double-layer air mattresses 

Adhesive tape 

Sleeping-bags 

Polythene bags 

Photographic materials 

Hurricane lamps 

2 -inch mortar bombs 

Tobacco 

Woollen mitts 

Climbing rope 

Photographic material 

Mountaineering equipment 

Goggles 

Tobacco 

Sectional ladder 

Altimeters, anemometer 

Tobacco 

Camp boots 

Snow cream 

Aluminium containers, 

utensils and snow shovels 
Flags 

Pressure cookers 
Tobacco and cigarettes 
Radio equipment 
Watches 
Aneroids, compasses, photo 

theodolite 
Ice-axes, crampons, pi tons and 

snow cream 
Alarm clocks, watches 
Stationery 
Windproof cloth 
Down mitts 

Contax cameras, Biogon lenses 
Soap, lipsalve 
Batteries, torches 
1 2 -man tent, 2 -inch mortar 
Photostat copies of maps 
Cookers 
Cigarettes 
2 -man tent 
Rope ladder 



284 



APPENDIX IX 

(b) Rations and Ration Packing 



Bird, Alfred, Ltd. 

Bonded Fibre Fabrics Ltd. 

Bovril Ltd. 

Compagnie Generate du Lait, France 

Costa, G., & Co. 

Crawfords Biscuits 

Duche & Knight Ltd. 

Glaxo Laboratories 

Heinz, J. H., & Co. Ltd. 

Huntley & Palmer Ltd. 

Indian Army 

Knorr-Swiss, Switzerland 

Mapletons Nut Food 

Nestles Ltd. 

Oxo Ltd. 

Pollit, John, & Co. 

Quaker Oats Ltd. 

Ready Mixes Co. 

Robinson, E. S. & A., Ltd. 

Romney, George, Ltd. 

Rowntree Ltd. 

Simpkin, A. L. 5 & Co. Ltd. 

Societe d'Alimentation de Provence, 

France 

Tate & Lyle Ltd. 
Thompson & Norris 
Three Cooks Ltd. 
Typhoo Tea 
Unilevers Ltd. 
Wander, A., Ltd. 
Wilts United Dairies Ltd. 



Grape-nuts and coffee 

Fabric for ration boxes 

Pemmican 

Condensed milk tubes 

Soups 

Biscuits 

Waterproof adhesive for 

packaging 
Milk powder 
Self-heating soups 
Canned rich cake 
Rum 
Soups 

Nut bars, fruit bars 
Nescafe and soups 
Oxo cubes 
Tea 

Porridge oats 
Scone-mix 

Material for vacuum packing 
Kendal mint cake 
Chocolate 
Glucose tablets 

Saucissons 
Sugar 

Fibreboard cases 
Soups 
Tea 
Soups 

Ovosport blocks 
Vacuum packing of Assault 
rations and beverage boxes 



(c) Oxygen Equipment 

Admiralty (H.M.S. Vernon] Dural cylinders 

Air Ministry Gas Factory, Cardington Oxygen 



Barnet Instruments Ltd. 

B.O.A.C. 

British Oxygen Co. Ltd. 

Chemical Defence Experimental 

Establishment, The 
Dunlop Rubber Co. Ltd. 

A.E. 20 



285 



Pressure gauges 
Oxygen equipment 
Oxygen 

Help with oxygen apparatus 
Breathing tubes and special 
respiratory apparatus 



THE ASCENT OF EVEREST 



Electro-Medical Research Unit 
Gatehouse & Sons 
Harcourt, David, Ltd. 
Johnson & Johnson 

Ministry of Supply 
Normalair Ltd. 



Reynolds Tube Co. 



Rocket Propulsion Department, 
Royal Aircraft Establishment 
Rolls Razors 
Siebe Gorman & Co., Ltd. 



SutclifTe, Speakman & Co. 
Veedip Ltd. 



Closed-Circuit apparatus 

Webbing for carrying frames 

Special pressure gauges 

Filter material for soda lime 
canisters 

Service equipment 

Main contractors for Assault 
sets; manufacture of light- 
weight economizers, light- 
alloy carrying frames and 
adaptors for Swiss Drager 
cylinders; modification of 
dual outlets; assembly and 
testing of complete equip- 
ment 

Manufacture of Dural Cylin- 
ders for Assault sets; light- 
alloy tubing for carrying 
frames 

Development of oxygen equip- 
ment 

Dry shavers 

Main contractors for training 
sets, manufacture of utility 
carrying frames, supply of 
light-alloy regulators, mani- 
fold plugs; machining of 
Base Plugs for Assault cylin- 
ders; assembly and testing of 
complete equipment 

Soda lime 

Masks 



(d) Medical Supplies 



Allen & Hanbury Ltd. 

Boots Ltd. 

British Drug Houses 

Burroughs Wellcome & Co. 

Ciba Laboratories Ltd. 

Cooper, McDougal & Robertson 

Christian, P., Switzerland 



Lederle Laboratories 
286 



Department of Army Health 

and Hygiene 
Duff, D. G., Esq., F.R.C.S. 

(loan of stretcher) 
Duncan Flockhart & Co. Ltd. 
Geigy Laboratories 
I.C.I. (Pharmaceuticals) Ltd. 



APPENDIX IX 



C. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE 

Donations from Individuals 

Mrs. Garlile 

Mrs. D. Chapman 

Mr. J. O. M. Clark 

Mr. G. Holtby-Walker 

Dr. J. W. A. Hunter 

Mrs. M. E. Leadbeater 

Mr. Charles Lehmann 

Mr. Lipscomb 

Mr. R. W. Lloyd 

Sir E. R. Peacock 

Staff, Savoy Hotel, Blackpool 



Firms and Societies 

Bird, Alfred, & Son Ltd. 
Christie, Manson & Woods Ltd. 
Dunlop Rubber Co. Ltd. 
Imperial Chemical Industries 

Ltd. 

Mowlem, John, & Co. Ltd. 
Nestle & Co. Ltd. 
Oxo Ltd. 

Reckitt & Colman Ltd. 
Rowntree & Co. Ltd. 
Royal Society of Medicine 
Tomatin Distillers & Co. Ltd. 
Unilever Ltd. 
Western Heritable Investment 

Co. 



Banks 

Barclays Bank Ltd. 
Coutts & Co. 
District Bank Ltd. 
Glyn Mills & Co. 
Hambros Bank Ltd. 
Lloyds Bank Ltd. 
Martins Bank Ltd. 
Mercantile Bank of India Ltd. 
Midland Bank Ltd. 
National Bank of India Ltd. 
National Provincial Bank Ltd. 
Westminster Bank Ltd. 
Williams Deacon's Bank Ltd. 

Insurance Companies 

Alliance Assurance Co. 

Atlas Assurance Co. Ltd. 

Commercial Union Assurance Co. 

Lambert Brothers (Insurance) Ltd. 

Lloyd's 

London Assurance Co. 

The London & Lancashire Insur- 
ance Co. Ltd. 

North British & Mercantile 
Insurance Co. Ltd. 

Phoenix Assurance Co. Ltd. 

Royal Exchange Assurance 

Royal Insurance Co. Ltd. 

Sun Insurance Co. 



287 



GLOSSARY 

artte a narrow ridge. 

belay to secure the climber to a projection with the rope; the 

projection itself. 

bergschrund a large crevasse separating the upper slopes of a glacier 
from the steeper slopes of ice or rock above. 

chang a beer brewed from rice. 

chimney a narrow vertical gully in rock or ice. 

col depression in a mountain chain, a pass. 

cornice overhanging mass of snow or ice along a ridge, shaped like 

the curling crest of a wave and generally formed by the 
prevailing wind. 

couloir gully or furrow in a mountainside. 

crampon metal frame with spikes, fitting the sole of the boot, for use 
on hard snow or ice; to move wearing such spikes. 

crevasse a fissure in a glacier, often of great depth. 
cwm an enclosed valley on the flank of a hill. 

icefall a frozen cascade of ice, often on a gigantic scale, created 

when a glacier passes over a change of angle or direction in 
the slope of the ground beneath. 

monsoon a wind in South Asia which blows from the S.W. in sum- 
mer, the wet monsoon, and from the N.E. in winter, the 
dry monsoon. 

moraine accumulation of stones and debris brought down by the 
glacier. 

pitch a stretch of difficult ice or rock between ledges. 

piton metal spike with a ring or hole in the head, which can be 

driven into rock or ice and which is used in conjunction 
with a snap-link (or Karabiner or Mousqueton) to secure 
the rope passing between two climbers. 

rakshi a spirit distilled in Nepal from rice. 

rope links members of a party for safety; a party may be 

referred to as "a rope". 

sangar low wall serving as a windbreak. 
scree slope of small loose stones. 

289 



GLOSSARY 

strac tower or pinnacle of ice. 

Sherpas hillmen of Tibetan stock from Eastern Nepal. 

Sherpanis Sherpa women. 

snap-link large metal spring-loaded clip which can be fixed to the 
rope or piton. 

snow-bridge a layer of snow bridging a crevasse. 

spur a rib of rock running down from a main ridge or arete. 

step a vertical or steep rise on a glacier or mountain slope. 

"Tiger" proficiency badge awarded by Himalayan Club to Sherpas 
on the Club's rolls. 

traverse to cross a mountain slope horizontally or diagonally; such 
a crossing. 

tsampa flour of roasted and ground barley: staple food of Sherpas. 

yeti an unidentified creature believed to dwell in the Himalayan 

mountains and has been nicknamed the "Abominable 
Snowman". 



290 



INDEX 



INDEX 



"Abominable Snowman," see Yeti 

Accidents, no, 129, 142, 143, 192 

Acclimatization, 10, 76, 78, 79, 82, 90, 
242, 249-50,260,270-2, 274; routes, 85 

Advance Base Camp, 33, 107, 114, 134, 
I37 I53 '54> 163, 169; life at, 154-7; 
planning for, 244, 245 ; see also Camp IV 

Adventure, need for, 231-2 

Age, of climbers, 24, 271 

Agriculture, 67, 72, 81-2 

Air lift, proposed, 46 

Air-mattresses, 43, 275 

All-India Radio, 37, 132, 218, 255 

Alpine Club, 22, 279 

Alps, 8, 16, 23, 25, 27, 81; test in, 47-9, 
251 

Altitude, effects of, 9-11, 12, 107, 150, 
264, 270-5 

Ama Dablam, 75, 81 

Ambu Gyabjen, 88 

Andes, 272 

Ang Dawa II, 128 

AngDorji, 213 

Anglo-American expedition, 1950, 4 

Ang Namgyal, 62, 93, 95, 147, 148, 149 

Ang Norbu, 96, 193, 217 

AngNyima, 103, 147, 148, 149, 150, 192, 
194, 195, 198, 199, 213 

AngTemba, 87, 128, 130, 194, 195, 197, 
222, 225 

Ang Tensing, see Balu 

Ang Tharke, 1 16 

Ang Tsering, 223-4 

Annapurna, 16, 27, 41, 173 

Annullu, 61, 62, 109, 162, 163, 165, 166, 
193-4, 221 

Anoxia, 51, 127, 177 

Assault, first, Closed-Circuit, 138-9, 164, 
172, 184, 189-93, 261; second, Open- 
Circuit, 139, 188-9, *93> 197-209, 213- 
16, 261 

Assaults, choice of men for, 116, 229; 
loads for, 136, 137, 280-1 ; parties, 245, 
246-7; planning of, 32, 34, 107, 134- 
4'' !53, 169, 242-3, 245, 246-7; ra- 
tions, 155, 264, 265, 268; rehearsal for, 
1 2 1-2 



"Atom Bomb" area, 95, no, 143, 217 
Avalanches, u, 39, 93, 99, 100, 101, 113, 
128 



Baggage, transport of, n, 32-4, 40, 63, 
64, 76, 107 

Bain, Stuart, 50 

Balu, Ang Tensing, 170, 175, 178, 179, 
182, 183, 193, 217 

Band, George, biographical note, 29; 
falls sick, 117, 142; and Icefall, 93, 95, 
98, 10 1, 1 08; and food, 78, 118, 152-3, 
263-9; and Lhotse, 140, 150, 151; 
and wireless equipment, 36, 77, 133, 
172; mentioned, 49, 60, 70, 78, 80, 84, 
86, 102, 132, 134, 155, 217, 218 

Banepa, 224 

Barrett, of Siebe Gorman, 38, 280 

Base Camp, first, 63, 75, 76, 84, 2178; 
second, 86, 89, 96, 97, 102, 117-18, 
132, 244 n. 

Basis for Planning, 33, 108, 131, 241-50 

B.B.C., 37, 58, 120, 132, 255 

Bengal, 60, 225 

Benzedrine, 147 

Bhadgaon, 59, 63, 65 

Bhote Kosi, 73 

Birds, 67, 180-1, 222 

Boots, 41, 48, 122-3, 251-2 

Bourdillon, Dr. R. B., 44, 280 

Bourdillon, Tom, biographical note, 27; 
and Assault, 138, 141, 169, 170, 173, 
i75 *77> !78, 181, 183-6, 189-93, 
194, 195, 200, 202; and Lhotse, 121, 
123, 127, 150, 151, 155, 156; and 
oxygen equipment, 37, 44, 49, 57, 77, 
80, 122, 129-30, 136, 162, 173, 257-62, 
277; mentioned, 58, 70, 83, 87, 88, 99, 
1 02, 1 08, 146, 1 66, 220, 221 

Bradley boots, 122, 251 

Bridge, Alfred, 38, 51 

Bridging, 94, 99, 101, 109-10, ill, 112, 
143; equipment, 38-9, 77, 256 

Britain, and Everest, 6, 26 

British Boot, Shoe and Allied Trade Re- 
search Association, 251 



INDEX 



British Overseas Airways Corporation, 

58; oxygen masks, 147, 260 
Bruce, 13 

Buckingham Palace, 53 
Buddhism, 78, 79, 201, 206 
Build-up, 34, 108-9, *34 *45 '4^, 161; 

completion of, 169; plan for, 243-6 
Burma Shell, 58 
Butane cookers, 157, 255-6 

Calcutta, 60, 225 

Camps, n, 34, 124, 130, 137, 139, 180, 

245, 246, 249 

Camp II, 93, 95, 98, in, 143, 144, 217 
Camp III, 98, 101, 108, in, 115, 116, 

122, 134, 140, 144, 146, 217, 218 
Camp IV, 108, 116, 123, 134, 137, 140, 

145, 146, 150, 153, 203, 208; see also 

Advance Base 
Camp V, 108, 126, 128, 131, 134, 137, 

140, 145, 147, 148, 150, 170, 217 
Camp VI, 129, 130, 146, 148, 149, 171 
Camp VII, 148, 150, 151, 155, 156, 157, 

161, 162, 163, 166, 167, 168, 170, 171- 

3> 195, 196, 208, 213, 214, 216, 217, 246 
Camp VIII, 177-82, 194, 195, 208 
Camp IX, Ridge, 35, 194, 198, 199, 200, 

201, 207, 230, 247, 252, 255 
Catapult, proposed, 39 
Ceylon Commercial Radio Station, 255 
Chang, 73 

Changjiu, 170, 171 
Changtse, 89 (see North Peak) 
Chasms, see Bridging 
Chevalley, Dr. Gabriel, 49, 51, 226 
Cheyne Stokes breathing, 83, 273 
Chola Khola, 81, 84 
Chomolungma, 3-4, 220 
Cho Oyu, 174, 206 
Cho Oyu expedition, 1952, 5, 22, 23, 27, 

28, 30, 61, 251, 255, 263, 264, 265, 

272, 274, 275, 277, 278 
Chukhung, 88; Peak, 82, 165 
Climbing Party, achievements of, 229; 

choosing of, 23-31, 243, 271, 272; 

conference of, on Assault, 134, 138-41 ; 

Meet of, N. Wales, 49-50; unity of, 

co-operation of, 57, 63, 68, 70, 84, 209, 

229; sailing of, 58-9 
Closed-Circuit oxygen equipment, 37, 44, 

49, 57, 88, 121, 122, 123, 128, 130, 

i35> *3 6 > *3ft> *72, 189, 191, 258-9, 

260, 261, 262, 277; Assault party, 138- 

9, 164, 172, 261; see also Assault, first 



Clothing, 36, 40-1, 48, 77, 249, 253, 

274-5 
Cold, effects of, protection from, 40, 274 

5 
Compo rations, 43, 152, 156, 264, 265, 

266, 267 

Cooke, C. R., 37, 43, 77, 255 
Cooking equipment, 37, 43, 77, 255-6, 

265 

Coolies, 63, 71, 76, 90, 96, 219, 221 
Coronation, and the ascent, 215, 218 
Cosmic rays, 1 79-80 
Cotes, Dr. John, 38, 51, 71 
Couloir, 1 88, 192, 207 
Countryman Films Ltd., 29 
Crampons, 49; breakage of, 116 
Crawford, Charles, 60 
Croft, Col., 253 
Czechoslovakia, 27 

Dalai Lama, 3 

Da Namgyal, mentioned, 62, 101, 102, 

123, 146, 155, 193; and South Col, 

170, 175, 176, 179, 181-2, 183-8 
Darjeeling, 60, 6 1 ; proposed training 

school near, 232 
Da Tensing, 61, 128, 147, 148, 149, 151, 

170, 171, 193, 194, 221 
Davis, Sir Robert, 38 
Dawa Thondup, 102-3, *4 2 > 169, 193, 

221 

Debenham, Ann, 52 

Delhi, 225, 226 

Dhaulagiri, Swiss expedition to, 132 

Diet, 32, 37, 43, 229, 249, 250, 255, 263- 

9; see also Food 
Dingboche, 81, 87, 96 
Drager, of Liibeck, 51 
Drink, need for plenty of, 275 
Dudh Kosi, 72, 75, 222, 223 

Edinburgh, Duke of, 53, 216, 221 
Eperon des Genevois, see Geneva Spur 
Equipment, 28, 36, 38-40, 251-6; ex- 
cellence of, 228; ordering of, 47, 49; 
packing of, 50; testing of, 48; see also 
Bridging, Cooking, etc. 
Eugster, Prof., 179 

Evans, Charles, biographical note, 27; 
and Assault, 138, 141, 169, 170, 172, 
'73> 175, i77> 178, 181, 183-6, 189- 
93> I95> '96, 200, 202; and clothing, 
36, 77; invited to be deputy leader, 



294 



log; leaves expedition, 221; and 
Lhotse, 121, 122, 123, 127, 134; men- 
tioned, 50, 51, 58, 62, 63, 70, 86, 97, 
146, I53> ! 55J nearly drowned, 67; 
and planning, 68, 107; as Quarter- 
master, 116; and reconnaissance of 
Lhotse Face, 128-30, 134; sickness of, 
152; his training climbs, 80, 81, 83, 87, 
90, 96; and Western Cwm, no, 112, 
113, 114 

Everest, draining river of, 72 ; final ridge 
of, 191, 202, 203, 204, 205; leaving of, 
217; mapping of, 221; previous ex- 
peditions to, 3-8, 12, 22, 35, 58-9, 60, 
89, 216, 226, 227, 263, 270, 271, 276; 
summit of, 205-6; topography of, 14- 
17; views of, 68, 73, 74, 115, 172 

Everest, ascent of, factors in, 230-1, 242; 
news reaches England, 218; as a relay 
race, 6; value of, 7-8, 231-2 

Everest, Reconnaissance Expedition, 
i95i 4-5> 6, 22, 23, 27, 96, 102 

Ewigschneefeld, 48 

Farnborough, 50-1, 252, 253, 255 
Ferry, 108, 117, 140-1; reverse, 217 
Feuz, Dr., 51, 226 
Filming, 30, 70, 133-4, X 495 see also 

Photography 

Finance, 22, 30, 47, 57, 64, 79 
Finch, Prof. George, 13, 44, 58, 226, 276, 

278 

Fitness, 31, 82-3; see also Health 
Fitt, Peter, 52 

Flags, marker, 94, 95, 98, 217 
Food, 70, 83, 118, 153-4* *55 156, I57 

167-8, 1 80, 200, 222, 229; crisis over, 

152-3; Swiss, 115, 1 66, 179, 1 80, 265; 

see also Diet 

Foundation for Alpine Research, 51, 226 
French expedition, 226 
Frostbite, 187, 251 

Gaps, see Bridging 

Garhwal, 28, 29 

Gauri Sankar peaks, 67-8 

Geneva Spur, 124, 125, 165, 168, 171, 

176, 177, 195,216 
German expedition, 1934, 103 
Glacier lassitude, 116 
Gloves, 41-2 
Gompu, 62, 115, 142 
Goodfellow, B. R., 22, 60 
Goodfellow, Mrs., 50 



Grandes Courses, 25 

Granite, white, 81, 82 

Gregory, Alfred, biographical note, 27; 
and Low Level Ferry, 114, 115, 140, 
143, 146; mentioned, 47, 58, 70, 81, 82, 
86, 96, 154, 155, 217, 219, 220, 221, 
225; and photography, 37, 67; and 
postal arrangements, 78; and support 
of Assault, 139, 164, 183, 192, 195, 197, 
198, I99> 213 

Grindelwald, 49 

Gurkhas, 62, 63, 71 

Gyachung Kang, 174 

Gyaljen, 128, 147, 149 

Hardie, Norman, 52 

Hargrove, Mr., 57 

Health, 228-9, 272, 274, 278-9; see also 

, Fitness, Sickness 

"Hell-fire Alley," 94, 143, 144, 217 

Helyg, 49 

Henderson, Mrs. Jill, 62 

Herbert, Sir Edwin, 219 

Herzog, Maurice, 132 

High-Altitude Committee, 23, 34, 38, 

277 

High Altitude diet, 83 

High Level Ferry, ill, 112, 115, 116, 
117, 134 

Hillary, Sir Edmund, biographical note, 
26, 28; and Assault, 139, 173, 188-9, 
197-209, 213-16, 277-8; and cooking 
equipment, 37, 77, 255; and food, 70, 
264; and Icefall, 93, 95, 98, 101, 102, 
in; and Lhotse Face, 150, 151 ; men- 
tioned, 58, 67, 71, 108, 140, 146, 155; 
narrow escape of, no; and planning, 
68, 107, 121, 134; and return, 219, 
221, 224, 225; and South Col "carry", 
164-5, !66, 167, 169; and Tenzing, 
114, 115, 127-8, 139; his training 
climbs, 80, 81, 84, 86, 90; and Western 
Cwm, 112 

"Hillary's Horror," 94, 98 

Himalaya mountains, 5, 6, 7-8, 12, 58, 66 

Himalayan Club, India, 58, 60, 62, 103, 
117,225,251 

Himalayan Committee, see Joint Himal- 
ayan Committee 

Hindi language, 62 

Hitler, Adolf, 103 

Horder, Lord, 31 

Houston, Charles, 4 
I Hukse, 224 



295 



INDEX 



Hunt, Sir John, biographical note, 29; 
invited to lead expedition, 22; and 
Basis for Planning, 241; chooses party, 
23-7; ascends to Camp II, 93-5; at 
Advance Base, 154; and assault plans, 
138-41 ; visits Camp VI, 149; and the 
ascent, 209; bathing, 67; and route up 
Cwm, no; and descent, 217; descent 
from Col, 195, 197; his diary, 157, 
194-5; establishes Camp IV, 123; 
flies to India, 58; reconnaissance of 
Lhotse Face, 125-7; anc * return, 221, 
222, 223, 224, 225, 226; sickness of, 
57, 88, 1 1 1 ; tries sleeping oxygen, 
147; and South Col, 170-82; and 
South-East ridge, 184-9; in Switzer- 
land, 47-9; his training climbs, 81-3, 
86-9; as treasurer, 64, 77 

Hunt, Lady, 37, 50, 219, 224, 225 

"Hunt's Gully," 113, 142 

Hygiene, 97, 117, 249, 278; see also Sani- 
tation 



Ice caves, 102, 118 

Icefall, 4, 14-16, 32, 34, 38; carrying up, 
33, 108, 116, 145, 244; changes in, 
143-4, 2I 4 217; descriptions of, 
1 6, 92-3, 98-100; first ascent of, 102; 
reconnaissance of, 86, 92-6, 102; route 
up, 97-102 ; Sherpas for, 62 ; and West- 
macott, 218 

Icefalls, minor, 114 

Imja Khola, river, 73, 74; glacier, 79, 81, 

87,96 

India, 3, 6, 57, 58, 59, 226 
Indian Air Force, 51, 223 
Indian Army, Sappers, 59, 219 
Indian Meteorological Service, 37, 255, 

274 
Indian wireless station, Namche, 73, 80, 

116, 120, 219, 220, 221 
Inventory, 52 
Irvine, 8, 206 
"Island Peak," 96 

Jackson, John, 31 

Japanese expedition to Manaslu, 132 

Johnson, Elizabeth, 52 

Joint Himalayan Committee, 22, 24, 26, 

27,30,37,52, 219 
Jones, J. H. Emlyn, 31, 36, 37, 53 
Jones, Ralph, 36, 37, 50 
Jungfraujoch, 47-9 



Kaiser, General, 64 

Kancha, 115-16 

Kangchenjunga, 181, 186, 206 

Kang Cho, 84 

Kangshung Face, glacier, 177, 202, 207; 

valley, 181, 191 
Kangtega, 75 
Karakoram, 75, 103, 173 
Kasturi, 79 
Kathmandu, 51, 58, 59, 80, 218, 219, 

221, 223, 224, 225, 266 
Kenya, mountaineers from, 26 
Khumbila, 73 

Khumbu glacier, 14, 86, 88-9, 91, 92, 96 
Khumbu Icefall, see Icefall 
Khumjung, 74 
Kingsmill, Lieut.-Col., 263 
Kirken, 61 
Kirwan, L. P., 23 
Koirala, M. P., 225 
Kulu mountains, 27 
Kwangde, 75 

Lake Camp, 89, 93, 96 

Lama Dance, 79, 220 

Lambert, Raymond, 5, 9, 16, 49, 51, 61, 

226; and Tenzing, 185, 189, 198 
Language, 62 
Lawrie, Robert, 252 
Leadership, 109 
LhoLa, 89, 91, 92, 119 
Lhotse, 15, 16, 33, 38, 39, 40, 73, 92, 113, 

"5, '99 

Lhotse Face, 108, 109, 123-5, J 7 2 > 180, 
208, 213, 214; height of, 245 .; recon- 
naissance of, 121, 125-31, 134; route 
up, 138, 140, 147-51, 153, J55-6, 165, 
170, 171, 174, 245 n. 

Likhu Khola, 67 

Lingtren, 89, 91, 113, 118 

Lloyd, Peter, 37-8, 276, 278 

Lloyd, R. W., 47, 53 

Loads, weight of, 161, 280-1 

Lobuje, 96, 97, 1 19-20, 133, 219, 272 

Lobuje Khola, 219 

Longstaff, 35, 139, 230 

Lowe, George, biographical note, 28; 
and support of Assault, 163, 173, 192, 
194, !95 W-9, 208, 214, 215; as 
butcher, 78, 118; his icecraft, 86; and 
Lhotse Face, 134, 140-2, 144-52, 153, 
! 54, *55, '57-8, 172; mentioned, 58, 
70, 8 1, 82, 95, 96; as a photographer, 
133; sickness of, 93, 98, 108, 117 



296 



INDEX 



Low Level Ferry, 108, 1 1 1, 1 12, 1 13, I 15- 

16, 117, 134, 140, 146, 164 
Liibeck, 51, 52 
Lucknow, 225 
Lusk, Messrs. Andrew, 50 
Lyte Ladders Ltd., 256 

Magnolias, 66-7, 72 

Makalu, 181, 186, 206 

Mallory, George, 4, 8, 14, 206, 226, 232 

Manaslu, Japanese expedition to, 132 

March out, 248, 249 

Matthews, Sir Bryan, 38, 277 

Maximum work test, 71, 78 

Meade tents, 42, 252, 253 

Medical Research Council, 23, 29, 57, 

277. 279 

Menlung La, 277 
Menlungtse, 68 
Mensforth, Eric, 38, 51-2 
Mera Col, 83 
Middle East School of Mountain and 

Snow Warfare, 30 
Middleton, George, 225 
"Mike's Horror," 94 
Mingma, 61, 122, 223 
Mingma Dorji, 62 
Monch, 48 
Monsoon, 12, 52, 107, 132; sec also 

Weather 

Mookherjee, Srimati, 225 
Moppett, Brigadier, 254 
Morris, James, 97, 132, 138, 146, 155, 

173, 181, 214, 215, 218, 224 
Mortar, for avalanches, 39, 219 
Mountain sickness, 271, 273 
Mowbray-Green, Mrs., 50 
Mull, Dr., 60, 255 
Murray, W. H., 4 
Mustagh Tower, 75 

Namche Bazar, 73,80, 117, 120, 219, 

221, 223, 272 

Nanda Devi expedition, 60 
Nanga Parbat, 103 
Nangpa La, 272 

National Chemical Laboratory, India, 59 
Nehru, Sri Jawaharlal, 225 
Nepal, 4, 52, 57, 58, 59; British Embassy 

in, 59, 64, 80 ; Indian Embassy in, 64, 

73; King of, 64, 224; Valley of, 64-5, 

66, 224 
Nepalese Army, 59 



Nepali coinage, 64; language, 63 

Nepal Peak, 181 

New Zealand, Expedition, 1951, 61 ; 
mountaineers from, 26, 28 

Nicol, Hamish, 31 

Night oxygen, see Sleeping oxygen 

Nimmi, 153 

Normalair, 38, 51-2 

North Col, Face, 89, 91, 205, 206, 232 

North-East ridge, 8 

North Peak (see Changtse), 89, 91 

Norton, 5, 7, 9, 35, 139, 230, 275 

Noyce, Wilfrid, biographical note, 29; 
and support of Assault, 157, 161, 163- 
6, 213-14, 215-16; and boot re- 
pairing, 252; diary of expedition, 235- 
8; and equipment, 36, 50, 77; and 
High Level Ferry, 99, in, 112, 
114, 115, 144, 146; and Lhotse Face, 
140, 149, 150-1, 153, 195, 196; men- 
tioned, 62, 63, 70, 81, 87, 88, 97, 141, 
155, 216; and oxygen bottles, 162; and 
Sherpa food, 153 

Nuptse, 14, 73, 74, 81, 82, 91, 92, 117, 
120, 123, 172 

"Nutcracker," 100, in 

Odell, 276 

Open-Circuit oxygen equipment, 37, 44, 

77, 88, 121, 127, 128, 136, 191, 257- 

8, 260, 261, 262, 277; Assault party, 

139; see also Assault, second 
Organization, 21-2, 239-40; see also 

Planning 
Oxygen bottles, cylinders, 248/1., 257; 

leakage of, 80- 1, 162-3; Swiss, 51-2, 

130, I37> 173 

Oxygen equipment, 5, 14, 37-8, 43-5, 
257-62; amount needed, 248, 260; and 
Assaults, 135-7, 138, 179, 200, 201, 
203, 206; difficulties with, 129, 168, 
173-4, 183-4, l88 *9 !9i> 203; ex- 
cellence of, 228; and Sherpas, 86, 87, 
96, 260; testing of, 49, 50-1, 121, 122, 
127-30; training with, 79, 80, 82, 83, 
84, 88, 250; transport of, 51 

Oxygen masks, 50-1, 71; for sleeping, 
'47, 259-60 

Oxygen, use of, 32, 34, 126, 131, 137, 
2 1 6, 245, 246, 247-8; and Assault, 200, 
201, 202, 203, 206; advantages of, 277- 
8; need for, 13; in the past, 225, 276; 
performance with, 260-2; see also 
Sleeping oxygen 



297 



INDEX 



Packard, Bill, 52 

Packing, 50, 52 

P. & O. Company, 58 

Pasang Dawa, 116, 222, 225 

Pasang Dorji, 109-10 

Pasang Phutar II, 62, 214, 215, 216 

Pauhunri, 29 

Pemba Norbu, 70-1, 116, 130, 194, 198, 
213, 221 

Photography, 37, 67, 78, 83-4, 133-4, 
I49> 156, 1 68, 172, 198, 205-6, 214; 
see also Filming 

Phu Dorji, 116, 213 

Physiology, 30, 270-9 

Physique, of climbers, 25 

Planning, 32-3, 52-3, 227-8; see also 
Organization 

Pneumoconiosis Research Unit, 38 

Pokalde, 88 

Polar Research Institute, 401 

Postal arrangements, 78, 96, 132 

Prasad, Sri Rajendra, 225 

Pressurized suits, suggested, 46 

Proud, Colonel, 59, 65, 80 

Public interest, 57-8 

Pugh, Dr. L. G. C., 23, 29, 57, 58, 65, 
90, 132, 133, 146, 147, 224; and 
anoxia, 50-1; and boots, 251; and 
food, 36, 37, 43, 47, 83, 1 18, 255, 263- 
9; and Mingma, 122; and physi- 
ology, 71, 78, 121, 152, 270-9 

Pumori, 88, 89, 113, 118, 126, 174, 180 

Pye Telecommunications, 254 

Quarry Hill Nursing Home, Shrewsbury, 

57 

Rashtrapati Bhavan, 225 
Rawlinson, Anthony, 31, 36 
Rebuflat, Gaston, 47 
Reserves, for expedition, 30-1 
Rhododendrons, 65, 66, 72, 74, 222 
Ridge Camp, 198-201 ; see also Camp IX 
Roberts, Major J., 51, 80, 86, 96, 102 
Rock-climbing, 25 
Rongbuk Glacier, 205 
Rongbuk Monastery, 4 
Roy, Sri, B. C., 232 

Royal Aircraft Establishment, 50-1, 253 
Royal Air Force, 51 
Royal Geographical Society, 22, 39 
Royal Society, 279 

Sahib, 70 

Salt-deficiency, 275-6 
Saltoro Kangri, 103, 173 



Sanitation, 97, 117, 217; see also 

Hygiene 
Scenery, descriptions of, 64-5, 67-8, 72, 

73, 74-5 81, 82, 88-9, 9', "3 *74> 

l8o, l8l, 222 

Secord, C., 4, 42, 264 

Shannon, Deputy High Commissioner, 
225 

Shaving, 77 

Sheopuri, 64 

Sherap, 77 

Sherpas, and ascent, 214, 215, 216; bag- 
gage of, 161-2; and Benzedrine, 147; 
boots for, 251 ; carrying teams, 108, 109, 
no; and celebration, 218, 219, 221-2, 
224; elite, High Altitude, 121, 123, 
130-1, 139, 140, 147,250; excellence of, 
230; food for, 153,265; language of, 62; 
land of, 72; mentioned, 32, 42, 70, 77, 
93, 98, 101, 117, 142, 145, 171 ; mothers, 
223-4; number needed, 33, 243, 250; 
and oxygen, 86, 87, 96, 203, 260; the 
people, 602 ; selection of, 60, 77 ; sick- 
ness among, 132-3; and South Col, 
163, 166-7, '68, 175, 178, 193-4,208, 
243 n., 245 .; toughness of, 90; train- 
ing of, 88 ; and training-school project. 
232; trouble among, 87; and wireless, 
146 

Shcrpanis, 62-3, 68, 76-7, 219 

Shipton, Eric, 4, 5, 6, 16, 23, 27, 28, 96, 

102, 126, 2l6, 264, 276 

Sickness, 34, 93, 11 6, 117, 123, 132-3*279 
Siebe Gorman, 38 
Sleeping-bags, 37, 43, 216, 275 
Sleeping oxygen, 137-8, 147, 173, 179, 

198, 200, 246, 259, 260, 262, 277 
Sleeping-pills, 83, 150 
Smijth-Windhani, Brigadier, 254 
Smythe, Frank, 7, 9, 264 
Snow, season of, 93, 117 
Snow-blindness, 90 
Snowdon, 49 

Snow Shoulder, 183, 186, 187, 189 
Soda-lime canisters, 189-90, 258-9 
Sola Khumbu, 62, 71-2 
Solar heat, 91, 275 
Somervell, 264, 278 
South Col, 16-17, !I 3> U 5> 12 i> 125, 

*37 J 39 l88 J cam P n, i77-&>> 208; 

described, 176-7; first reached, 166; 

ill-repute of, 163; "lift" to, 32, 34, 40, 

108-9, 140, 150, 151, 153, 155, 157, 

161-9, 171, 230, 245 n., 247 



298 



INDEX 



South-East ridge, 17, 139, 172, 176, 184- 
9> *97 198, I99> 207 

South Peak, 17, 35, 139, 176; ascent of, 
189-92, 20 1, 202, 206 

Southworth & Sons Ltd., 253 

Steps, 114, 125, 126 

Stobart, Tom, 30, 60, 70, 90, 93, 102, 
15 ,; as photographer, 67, 77, 156, 
214; sickness of, 133 

Stores, transport of, see Baggage 

Strathcden, S.S., 57, 62 

Structural equipment, 36, 86 

Summerhayes, Christopher, 59, 223 

Support Parties, for Assaults, 137, 247 

Swiss expedition, 3, 5, 6, 16, 17, 33, 38, 
47, 49, 52, 60-1, 62, 89, 102, 113, 115, 
125, 163, 275; autumn attempt, 12, 
128; meeting with, 51, 226; traces of, 
9> 9i> 93 94 97> IJ 4> 126, 129-30, 
165, 1 66, 174, 177, 185-6 

Swiss stores, food, 115, 166, 179, 180, 265 

Switzerland, test in, 47-9 

Tashi Phutar, 116 

Taweche peaks, 81, 84 

Teamwork, i, 21, 229-30, 231 

Temperament, of climbers, 24 

Tents, 34, 36, 40, 42-3; capacity of, 96; 
design of, 252-3; distribution of, 146, 
154; first pitching of, 76; number 
needed, 245 

Tenzing, biographical note, 60- 1 ; and 
Assault, 138, 139, 173, 188-9, 197- 
209, 213-16; character of, 164-5; n * s 
fitness, 83; and Hillary, no, 114, 115, 
127-8, 139; invited to join climbing 
party, 30, 243 n.; and Lambert, 5, 9, 
1 6, 49, 185, 189, 198; mentioned, 62, 
71, 76,77, 78,81,82,86, 108, 112, 116, 
132, I33> *53> *6i, 194, 219; and 
Nepal, 224; and return, 219, 225, 226; 
as leader of Sherpas, 65, 87, 109, 140, 
141, 146, 154, 155, 230; and South 
Col "carry", 164-5, '66, 167, 169 

Terrain, 9, 14-17 

Thamserku, 75 

Thondup, 61, 68, 76', 102, 118, 153, 154, 
I57 225 

Thyangboche, 51, 63, 74, 76, 84, 86, 96, 

220-1, 272 

Thyangboche Monastery, 74, 78-9, 201, 

220 

Tibet, 3-4, 79, 91, 278 
Tiger badge, 60 



Tilbury, 58 

Tilman, 4, 26, 37, 276 

Times, The, 23, 47, 58, 77, 97, 226 

Timing, 32, 242, 244, 250 

Tiwari, Mr., 73 

Topkie, 123, 142, 193 

Training, 31, 34-5, 76, 79, 80-9; see also 

Acclimatization 

Traverse, 125, 128, 157-8, 165, 175 
Tsampa, 81, 265 
Tucker, Jack, 31, 52 

United Kingdom High Commission in 

India, 58, 225 
United States of America, 42 

Viault, 273 
Vidor Ltd., 254 

Wager, 9 

Ward, Michael, biographical note, 29; 
and expedition's health, 34, 37, 71, 83, 
88, 117, 141, 147, 187; and Lhotse 
Face, 121, 128-9, 130, 142, 150, 151, 
J ^5> J 57-8; and local cases, 78; men- 
tioned, 4, 77, 81, 86, 97, 108, 149, 172, 
!95> !9 6 > 225; and physiology and 
medicine, 270-9 

Warren, 276 

Water, importance of plenty of, 275 

Weather, 11-12, 31, 73, 90, 93, 96, 107, 
114, 116, 117, 128, 130, 140, 141, 145, 

147, 222, 230, 274 

Weather forecasts, 36-7, 60, 107, 132, 
i45> 156 

Western Cwm, 14-16, 32, 33, 92, 123, 
125, 126, 133, 217; reconnaissance of, 
93> 95~ 6 > 99 IOI > 109-15; route up, 
107, 108, 131, 145 

VVestmacott, Michael, biographical note, 
28-9; and Icefall, 94, 98, 99, 102, 108, 
2i4,2i5,2i8;and Lhotse, 140, 144, 145, 
146; mentioned, 62, 70, 80, 84, 132, 
215; his sickness, 93, 97, 117, 134, 144, 

148, 149; and structural equipment, 
36, 77, 86 

Wild Wales (Borrow), 181 

Williams, Major-General, 225 

Wind, effects of, 40 

Wireless contact, in, 133, 146, 151, 162, 

172-3, 181, 254 
Wireless equipment, 36, 43, 77, 254-5 



299 



INDEX 



Wylic, Charles, biographical note, 28; 
birth of his son, 120; and co-ordina- 
tion, 36; and equipment, 251-6; and 
Lhotse Face, 121, 129, 130, 140; and 
Low Level Ferry, 108, 109, 145, 146; 
mentioned, 39, 47, 52, 53, 58, 8 1 , 97 ; and 
return, 217, 218; and Sherpas, 37, 62, 
65, 77-8, 86, 87, 96, 141, 147, 230; and 
South Col "carry", 153, 166-7, 168, 
171* 1 96 ; and support of Assaul t, 1 6 1 , 



162, 166-7, 208, 214, 215-16; as 
Transport Officer, 60, 63, 71, 217, 218, 

22I-2, 225 . 

Wyn, Harris, 9 

Yaks, 75, 118 
Yeti, 78-9 

Zatopek, 27 
Zurich, 51, 226