The expedition established camps at higher and higher altitudes-19,400 feet, 20,200 feet, 23,000 feet, and 24,000 feet. On May 26, two members of the team climbed to 28,700 feet and pushed on almost to the summit. But the sun set, and the exhausted, frozen pair stumbled back to camp.
The next day, Hillary and Tenzing made an attempt. They climbed to 27,900 feet and pitched a tent to spend the night and recoup their strength for a final push the next morning. Though the wind died down that night, Hillary’s boots were frozen solid in the morning.
After a breakfast of sardines, biscuits, and lemon juice, the two men set off up a steep slope covered in snow. They hacked steps into the crust, finally making their way to a boulder 40 feet high that blocked their way to the crest.
The rock was too smooth to climb and blocked on the left. But on the right, Hillary and Tenzing climbed a narrow crack that Hillary compared to a narrow chimney. At the top, Hillary, with Tenzing close behind, climbed a snowy ridge and stood at last at the top of Mount Everest.
The two men hugged each other with joy and beheld the staggering view that stretched before them. They remained at the summit about 15 minutes before picking their way back down the mountain’s face to the camp, where their companions waited in excitement.