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Sir Edmund Hillary (left), from New Zealand, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (right), from Nepal, the first men to reach Mount Everest’s 29,032-foot summit
Sir Edmund Hillary, from New Zealand, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, from Nepal, became the first people to ever to summit Mount Everest when they completed the mountain’s harrowing 29,032-foot climb on May 29, 1953.
Hillary, who was a 33-year-old beekeeper at the time, was paired up with Norgay as part of a British expedition to reach the summit.
The British wanted to beat Sweden to the top of the mountain after Swiss climber Raymond Lambert – also accompanied by Norgay – reached 28,210 feet before turning back due to lack of supplies just a year earlier.
Hillary was selected out of the British Commonwealth and Norgay was chosen as one of the most experienced Sherpas in Nepal.
It took the duo seven weeks to reach the summit of Mount Everest – the highest point in the world.
At the time, Norgay was one of the most widely-known citizens of his Indian hill town of Darjeeling, which was home to many Sherpas, who made their living helping Westerners climb the Himalayas, according to The New Yorker.
Norgay’s accomplishment earned him a retirement from his decades-long career as a climber and catapulted him into stardom.
In hindsight, the popular mountaineer said that he would never have made the historic climb had he known what would come out of it, the New Yorker reported in an article published in 1954.
Hillary and Norgay pictured approaching 28,000 feet on May 28, 1953
It took the duo seven weeks to reach the summit – the highest point in the world
But he still made a living off of the fame, even turning his Darjeeling home into a museum that was open daily from 10am to 4.30pm and was complete with his climbing gear, trophies and photographs of his adventures.
Norgay, who held Indian and Nepalese passports, identified himself as a Sherpa – or Tibetan – by trade. Sherpas so often helped Westerners to the Himalayan summits that the word became a name for mountain guides.
They are known to quickly adapt to higher altitudes, where oxygen levels are low.
Norgay was just that – a mountain guide who was described as ‘astonishingly excellent in courage and determination’ – when he ventured to the top of Mount Everest with Hillary.
After making the trek to the top of the mountain – and back down – Hillary was knighted and Norgay received the George Medal, which rewards acts of bravery in the UK.