Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

The two mountaineering pioneers were part of the ninth British Mount Everest expedition that had sought to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain. At the time only the Nepalese approach to Everest was open to climbers, but the government in Kathmandu only granted permission to one expedition a year.

With a British team unlikely to be granted another attempt until at least 1956, the Joint Himalayan Committee who oversaw British expeditions believed it was vital that the 1953 expedition was a success. They made the decision to appoint British Army Colonel John Hunt as the leader of the expedition, although his appointment was opposed by some other members of the team. Hillary himself was initially unhappy as he was fiercely loyal to Eric Shipton, the climber who had previously led expeditions for the Committee.

The 400-strong team of British climbers, Sherpa guides and porters set up base camp in March 1953 and established advanced camps further up the mountain throughout April and early May. A first attempt was made on the summit by Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans on 26 May, but they were defeated by problems with their oxygen equipment.

Hillary and Norgay were directed to begin their attempt the next day. Poor weather meant that they began their final ascent on the morning of 29 May, reaching the summit at 11:30 am where Hillary took a photo of Norgay, alongside a series of other shots looking down the mountain as proof that they had reached the summit. News of their achievement reached Britain on the morning of 2 June, the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

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