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On this day…

Posted by Richard on May 29, 2005

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people known to have reached the summit of Mt. Everest, 29,028 ft. above sea level. It was one of the greatest accomplishments in mountaineering history.

I say "known to have reached the summit" because I’m one of those incurable romantics who likes to believe that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine reached the summit in 1924 and died on the descent. Mallory’s body was found in 1999, and it’s clear he fell while descending. What’s unknown is how high he and Irvine went before descending.

OTOH, we know Hillary and Tenzing summitted. And both returned alive.

So, why does this matter to me? Well, I’ve been fascinated by mountaineering since childhood and have read countless books on the subject. Must be the Austrian genes. I’ve climbed 25 of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners (peaks of 14,000 ft. plus), learned all the basic mountaineering skills — technical (roped) climbing, belaying, use of ice axe, crampons, etc. When I was younger, I entertained notions of one day climbing Aconcagua, the highest peak in the western hemisphere, which is not technically difficult. Sigh. I’m still too poor, and now I’m too old and out of shape as well.

Speaking of mountaineering, just last night I watched "Touching the Void." I can’t recommend it highly enough. You don’t have to be into mountaineering to watch this entire movie on the edge of your seat. It’s a simply astonishing story of human perseverance against incredible obstacles. Based on Joe Simpson’s book of the same name.

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