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.
Norbu Tenzing Norgay
Mingmar Dorgi Sherpa
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.