everest split image

Monday 29 May 2023 marked the 70th anniversary of the first confirmed summit of Everest in Nepal – the world’s highest mountain.

It was on that day back in 1953 that New Zealand’s Edmund Percival Hillary and the Nepali-Indian Tenzing Norgay reached the summit via the southeast ridge. They reached the top at 11:30 a.m. local time, and spent very little time there, lingering just long enough to bury some candy and plant a small cross, before making their descent.

The mythologies that form around achievements such as this tend to single out individuals, who understandably become household names. But this belies the truth, which is that for each famous figure you can name, there’s typically an army behind them, supporting every aspect of the trip. 

In this case, the conquest of Everest was actually led by the British military Colonel John Hunt and involved a team of about 400 men, of which about 380 were porters.

The expedition embarked from the UK on 12 February that year, and the team travelled to Mumbai by boat, rather than by air, in order for everyone to get to know one another. In Kathmandu, they met up with the sherpas, led by their sirdar, Tenzing Norgay.

mount everest

Norgay was considered the greatest climber in the world, and had made five earlier attempts to reach the summit.

By 12 April, the team had reached base camp and began a series of strikes up the mountain. The team worked in pairs, with Colonel Hunt deciding which pairs would take on each leg of the climb.

It very nearly wasn’t Hillary and Norgay who first made the summit. It was two Brits, Thomas Bourdillon and Charles Evans who were given the first crack at it, but they were forced to turn back, leaving Hillary and Norgay next in line to tackle the final leg.

Luck – and experience – was on their side, and the pair finally reached the summit at 11.30 a.m.

An interesting footnote to this story is that in order to get the news to London in time for Queen Elizabeth's coronation on 2 June 1953, a runner was sent from base camp. The team otherwise had no means of communication, because no one wanted to carry a heavy wireless up the mountain, nor add a wireless operator to the already large team. As Hunt explains in his account of the expedition, this was probably the last major news story communicated by a runner.

Everest has become something of a symbol of record-breaking. Indeed, Guinness World Records itself was born just a year after the mountain was conquered, and the very first record in our first edition is Everest, pictured in the book’s one and only colour photograph.

Edmund Percival Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on Everest

Sky Goddess

Known locally as Qomolangma (aka Chomolungma; Tibetan: “Goddess Mother of the World”) or Sagarmāthā (Nepali, translated variously as “Head in the Great Blue Sky”, “Goddess of the Valley” and “Peak of Heaven”), the snow-capped mountain rises to 8,848.86 m (29,028 ft 8.3 in), making it the highest point in the world.

First identified as Peak XV on the Tibet–Nepal border, it was discovered to be the world's highest mountain in 1856 by the Survey Department of the Government of India, from theodolite readings taken in 1849 and 1850. Its height was calculated to be 8,840m (29,002 ft).

The mountain was named after Colonel Sir George Everest (UK), who was Surveyor-General of India from 1830 to 1843, and who, in fact, pronounced his name 'EVE-rest' as opposed to 'Ever-est'. 

Many human triumphs and tragedies have been played out on Everest's slopes. George Mallory (UK) was one of the first to lead an expedition to climb the peak, in 1921. He perished not far from the summit on his 1924 expedition and his body was discovered in 1999. The challenge to climb the highest mountain has not waned since the peak was first conquered in 1953 by Hillary and Norgay.

Despite being the highest peak on earth, Everest is not the tallest mountain? Everest is the highest mountain on Earth – in that it reaches the highest altitude – but the tallest is actually Mauna Kea in Hawaii, USA. You can only see 4,205 m (13,796 ft) of it (the rest is underwater), but from its submarine base in the Hawaiian Trough, it reaches up for a total of 10,205 m (33,480 ft).

Everest Fact File


English: Mount Everest; Tibetan: Chomolungma (“Goddess Mother of Mountains”); Nepalese: Sagarmāthā (“Head in the Great Blue Sky”).


8,848.86 m (29,029 ft 8.3 in) above sea level.

On 29 May 1953, Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Hillary took the famous photo of Tenzing posing with his ice-axe, according to Tenzing's autobiography Man of Everest, when Tenzing offered to take Hillary's photograph, Hillary declined.


Himalayas, Nepal-China border.


27°58'60N, 86°55'60E.

Summit temperature 

-20°C to -35°C (-4°F to -31°F).

Summit wind speed 

Up to 280 km/h (174 mi/h); average of one hurricane every four days.

Everest timeline

29 May 1953 – Everest is first climbed, when the summit is reached by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The successful expedition was led by Col. (later Hon. Brigadier) Henry Cecil John Hunt.

20 May 1965 – Nawang Gombu becomes the first person to climb Everest twice, having first made an ascent in 1963 as a guide on an American expedition

16 May 1975 – Junko Tabei (Japan) – the 38th person to climb the mountain successfully – becomes the first female to reach the summit of Everest

8 May 1978 – Reinhold Messner (Italy) and Peter Habeler (Austria) make the first successful ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen on 8 May 1978. This feat is regarded by some purist mountaineers as the first “true” ascent of Everest, since overcoming the effects of altitude (i.e., the low oxygen content of the air) is the greatest challenge facing high-altitude climbers.

Kami Rita reaches the summit of Everest on 23 May 2023

17 February 1980 – Polish climbers Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy make the first winter ascent of Everest, and indeed the first winter ascent of an 8,000er (the 14 peaks over 8,000 m (26,246 ft).

20 August 1980 – Reinhold Messner becomes the first to climb Everest solo, reaching the summit via the north route on 20 August 1980. It takes him three days to make the ascent from his base camp at 6,500 m (21,325 ft), and the climb is made all the more difficult by the fact that he does not used bottled oxygen.

9 May 1986 – Tenzing Norgay dies, having been awarded the George Medal, the Tiger Medal and the Most Refulgent Order of the Star of Nepal; the sherpa, born Namgyal Wangdi, is celebrated as one of the most accomplished climbers and ambassadors for India and Nepal, and his name is given to India’s Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award, the minor planet 6481 Tenzing, and the Tenzing Montes ice peak on the surface of Pluto. 

14 October 1988 – Lydia Bradey of New Zealand is reported to be the first woman to climb Everest without supplementary oxygen, although her ascent is called into question, and the lack of a climbing permit from the Nepalese authorities means Bradey cannot defend her position; the first undisputed alpine-style climb by a woman is later credited to Alison Hargreaves (UK) for her ascent on 13 May 1995.

11 May 1990 – Tim Macartney-Snape (Australia) is the first person to climb Everest from sea level and fully under his own steam; he starts in the Bay of Bengal in India and treks to the peak in three months. He completes the trip solo, without sherpas and without bottled oxygen.

7 October 1990 – Marija and Andrej Štremfelj (ugoslavia/Slovenia) become the first married couple to reach the summit.

27 May 1998 – Tom Whittaker (UK), who, in 1979 lost his foot following a car accident, reaches the summit from the south side at about 7 a.m. local time, becoming the first person with an amputation to climb Everest.

May 1999 – Babu Chhiri Sherpa of Nepal completes the longest stay on the summit of Everest, spending 21 hours at the peak, notably without the use of bottled oxygen.

25 May 2001 – Erik Weihenmayer (Hong Kong) was born with retinoschisis, an eye condition that left him totally blind by the age of 13. Despite this, on 25 May 2001, he reaches the summit of Everest, the first blind man ever to have done so. Erik’s other notable feats include his 2002 completion of the Seven Summits – climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents of the world. Erik is also an accomplished rock climber, skier and paraglider.

11 January 2008 – Sir Edmund Hillary dies, having been awarded the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the Order of New Zealand and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. To mark his passing, Lukla Airport in Nepal is renamed Tenzing-Hillary Airport; in New Zealand, his name is also lent to the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre, the Hillary Trail in Auckland, the Hillary Ridge on Mount Cook, and the Edmund Hillary Fellowships; the Nepalese create the Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal; and the Hillary Montes mountain range is named in his honour on Pluto.

19 May 2012 – Tamae Watanabe (Japan, b. 21 November 1938) summits the world’s highest mountain (for the second time) at the age of 73 years 180 days, breaking her own record from 2002 for oldest woman to climb Everest.

23 May 2013 – Yuichiro Miura (Japan, b. 12 October 1932 reaches the summit at the age of 80 years 223 days, making him the oldest man (and person) to climb Everest.

18 April 2014 – An avalanche near Everest’s base camp kills 17 Sherpa guides, the most deaths on Everest on one day. The record stands for just one year before…

25 April 2015 – Tragically, a 7.8 MW earthquake in Nepal triggers a major avalanche that rips through base camp, taking the most deaths on Everest on one day to 18. Within a few days, the death toll from the disaster rises to at least 22.

28 April 2019 – Victor Vescovo becomes the first person to visit Earth’s highest and lowest points when he reaches the Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench; 8 years 168 days earlier, on 24 May 2010, he had climbed Everest, meaning that he has covered the most vertical distance of any other person without leaving our planet.

14–29 May 2019 – A total of 10,386 kg (22,897 lb) of garbage is collected on Everest – the largest Everest clear-up. The initiative, led by the Nepalese Government's Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, sees 12 Sherpas conducting the physical clean-up operation, removing approximately 5,700 kg (12,560 lb) of the total litter from base camp and nearby settlements, while the remainder is picked up from the higher-altitude camps (I to IV) and along the old Khumbu Icefall route.

23 May 2019 – A total of 354 climbers reach the top of the mountain, the most people on Everest in one day. The unprecedented – and some would say alarming – number of climbers during the 2019 spring season was highlighted in a photograph taken on 22 May by Nirmal “Nims” Purja showing a solid line of climbers all the way along the Hillary Step, with some 100 people attempting to descend as around 150 pushed forward up the narrow ridge.

12 May 2022 – Lhakpa Sherpa (Nepal) reaches the top for the 10th time, breaking her own record for the most ascents of Everest by a woman.

23 May 2023 – Kami Rita Sherpa, aka “Topke” (Nepal), makes his 28th successful climb: the most ascents of Everest; Kami Rita completed his first climb of Everest on 13 May 1994, aged 24, and has scaled it nearly every year since.

Want more? Follow us across our social media channels to stay up-to-date with all things Guinness World Records! You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Snapchat Discover– including our new Guinness World Records Extreme channel.

Don’t forget, we’re also on YouTube!

Still not had enough? Follow the link here to buy our latest book, filled to the brim with stories about our amazing record breakers.