60 years on, Everest retains its otherworldly allure
Sixty years ago today, two men stood on the very top step of the heavens and gazed down into history. On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were on top of the world—literally and figuratively—having tamed all 8,848 meters (29,028 feet) of Everest, the tallest mountain of them all. What’s more, they did it not for money or glory, but because, as celebrated mountaineer George Mallory so eloquently put it, “because it’s there.” The conquest of Everest redefined the limits of what was possible, and over the next 20 years, limits once believed unreachable—the Challenger Deep, the four-minute mile and even the moon itself—had fallen within the grasp of the daring and the bold.
The roof of the world
Today, more than 30,000 hikers test their mettle in Nepal’s Everest region a year. A lucky—and incredibly wealthy—few will spend anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 on a summit attempt. For most, though, the closest they’ll get is Base Camp, still a respectable 5,364 meters (17,598 feet) up and an accomplishment in its own right. (And if you’d like to go, we know of a cool little travel company that’d be happy to get you there.)
Everest Base Camp (or ‘EBC’ for short) has changed a lot in the six decades since Hillary and Tenzing were first here. In the summer and winter, when the mountain is pummelled by hurricane-force winds, the place is a veritable wasteland. But when the climbers return in the spring and fall, this rocky strip of glacial moraine transforms into one of the most unique communities on the planet.
Hungry for a taste of immortality
The main trail becomes a human highway of trekkers, porters and mule caravans delivering supplies to the ad hoc city. Hundreds of Sherpas mingle with climbers from all walks of life and from all over the world, each one hungry for a taste of immortality. (Weirdly, the teahouses and lodges that line the route boast some of the most dependable wi-fi in the world, thanks to the solar-powered 3G cell network installed here in 2010.)
Mountaineering attracts a unique breed of person, and EBC has seen more than its fair share of heroes and eccentrics come and go over the years. Among the more colourful characters to reach the top are:
Interested in a hiking or trekking trip? Check out these!