Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The incredible first Everesters
I have just found this photo in the gallery of National Geographic. Of course, it became my new background image immediately. It is so much motivating to look at the faces of these extraordinary people, standing on the snow at the base camp of Everest, back in 1924, wearing baize coats and weave trousers, with no doubt in their eyes, ready to try the ascent again and again, until they succeed... Sometimes I even say hello to them when they appear on my screen
Andrew Irvine, George Leigh Mallory - they story is widely known. But have you heard about Edward Felix Norton or Theodore Howard Somervell?
After two unsuccessful trials in 1921 and 1922, Charles Granville Bruce organized the third expedition, but finally he could not participate, since he got malaria while hunting for tigers in India. Norton took over the leadership, and together with Mallory, Irvine, Somervell, and some more great climbers they returned to the North-ridge of Everest.
From the summit camp, the first trial begun with Norton and Somervell, whose throat was so much ill that he could hardly breath. They made a traverse across the North-face and climbed along the Great Culoire - the recent name of which is Messner-culoire. At about 8500 meters over the sealevel, higher then anyone sofar, Somervell's throat allowed no more steps, he sat down to let Norton finish the job. Unfortunately, it was too dangerous to climb alone, so from approximately 8580 meters Norton decided to turn back. On the way down Somervell was so sick that he nearly lost control, but suddenly he could cough up the phlegm and suddenly he felt much better. If only it happened before leaving for the summit... Next day Mallory and Irvine set out, along the ridge, using Oxygen. After a couple of hours they disappeared, and it is still not calrified wether they managed to summit or not. Mallory's body was found in 1999, but not his camera
Anyway, the altitude Norton and Somervell achieved has not been reached for 29 years, and both of them returned home successfully, and lived a great life after the great adventure. From alpinistic point if view, the last 300 meters of elevation does not count too much, and considering that they climbed without oxygen, wearing very poor clothes, their performance is simply incredible