Sir Edmund Hilary was a rugged New Zealander who in 1953 stepped onto the top of the world, the 29,028-foot summit of Mount Everest.
Many climbers had attempted to climb Mount Everest. But the high altitude was treacherous. The weather could change quickly. A clear sky could suddenly fill with clouds and 100-mile-per-hour winds.
The air was so thin that climbers needed to carry oxygen tanks, or else the lack of oxygen to their brains would cause climbers to become disoriented and possibly black out.
Muscles, which also needed oxygen, exhausted quickly. Two men, George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Irvine, had approached the summit in 1924, but they were never seen again. In 1953, a British-organized expedition of ten men tried again.
Hillary, an enormous man who exuded confidence, was among them. 13,500 feet above sea level, the monastery became the expedition’s first base camp. From there, Hillary and the other men took hikes into the surrounding mountains to become acclimatized to the high altitude before the attempt would be made on Mount Everest.
Hillary quickly formed a partnership with Tenzing Norgay, a member of the Sherpa tribe who lived in the Himalayas and who was a veteran of five trips to Mount Everest. During their first climb together, Hillary slipped into a crevasse. Tenzing quickly maneuvered the rope that connected them and pulled Hillary out of the crevasse.
“Without Tenzing, I would have been finished today,” Hillary said back at camp. The two men became fast friends.