Video: 50 Years on Everest – Climbers’ Candid Thoughts on the State of the World’s Tallest Peak

On this day 50 years ago, May 1, 1963, Jim Whittaker became the first American to stand atop Everest, a feat which made him a national hero. A few weeks later, May 22, Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld made the daring first ascent of the West Ridge and the first traverse of the peak, electrifying the climbing world. A true spirit of exploration and adventure thrived on that first American expedition, and their ascents are credited with sparking an interest in mountaineering and the outdoors among Americans like never before.

Fast forward 50 years and the magnificent peak still captures the imagination of the world, but much has changed in our human presence there. We had the opportunity to ask the people who know Everest best—current climbers and guides, sages from the 1963 American team, and members of the Sherpa community—for their candid thoughts on the state of the rooftop of the world.

Conrad Anker
Melissa Arnot
Brent Bishop
Dave Dingman
Norman Dyhrenfurth
Tom Hornbein
Dave Morton
Norbu Tenzing Norgay
Cory Richards
Mingmar Dorgi Sherpa
Jim Whittaker

We will continue to explore the state of Everest. Writer and climber Mark Jenkins‘s full feature story will appear in the June 2013 edition of National Geographic magazine.

A special thanks to the American Alpine Club for their support of this project.


  1. Steve
    May 1, 2013, 1:10 pm

    Too bad that recent events couldnt have been added into this vid. But understandable given time.

  2. Samuel Savard
    May 1, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Very interesting to hear those guys talk! Too bad about the dissing and negativity within the mountaineering community. I think it should only be about the passion of climbing…. times changed, and it’s more accessible now, but it should only be about enjoying the mountain before anything else….

  3. camille
    B.E.S Islands in the Dutch Caribbean
    May 4, 2013, 5:37 pm

    Enjoyed listening. These people have done so much, we still need to realize that Mount Everest is a wonder and a place to explore. Too many times we only see life as a routine and go with the flow but by exploring Mount Everest life will never be taken for granted and viewed the same again.

  4. bob carmichael
    May 7, 2013, 12:29 pm

    I thought this was great. Great to see JW and TH so lucid and alive! Conrad is always terrific. Nice three camera cutting and thank you. The recent events are indeed reflective of OUR time. Read Roger Brigg’s new 1st book of a trilogy on the evolution of our universe leading toward where this HUMAN strain is leading. Journey to Civilization: The Science of how we got here. Author portrait by yours truly.

  5. Jane A Hedin
    Salem VA
    May 7, 2013, 4:10 pm

    It was fascinating to hear each of these individuals share their observations. I’m old enough to remember when Everest was conquered by the Americans. It was an exciting time for America. And I was so thrilled when I saw the name Norgay on the screen. He and his father symbolize all that is good, beautiful and sacred that is on that mountain. I have such deep respect for each and every climber who reached the summit of the most daunting peak in the world. Kudos and Blessings to All.

  6. […] Geographic together with the American Alpine Club have posted a video just under six minutes listening to the views of Whittaker, other principals in that historic […]

  7. Nick
    Traverse city
    May 11, 2013, 11:55 am

    Excellent I can’t wait

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