Mount Everest StoryOn May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay completed the first confirmed ascent of Mount Everest, which stands 29,035 feet above sea level. Though the two mountaineers spent only about 15 minutes on the snow-covered summit, they managed to snap a few photos, share a celebratory hug and eat a bar of mint cake—an early version of today’s energy bars. Tenzing, a Nepalese Sherpa, also left some of the sweets as a Buddhist offering, and Hillary, a beekeeper from New Zealand, placed a cross nearby. On the 60th anniversary of their widely celebrated feat, which Hillary described as knocking “the bastard off,” here are seven things you may not know about Earth’s highest mountain.
No one knew of Everest as the roof of the world until the 19th century.
In 1802, the British launched what became known as the Great Trigonometrical Survey in order to map the Indian subcontinent. Heavy equipment, rugged terrain, monsoons, malaria and scorpions made the work exceedingly difficult. Nonetheless, the surveyors were able to take astonishingly accurate measurements. They soon proved that the Himalayas—and not the Andes, as previously believed—were the world’s highest mountain range. By 1852, they had fingered Everest, then called Peak XV, as the king of them all, and by 1856 they had calculated its height as 29,002 feet above sea level. A 1999 survey using state-of-the-art GPS technology found them off by only 33 feet.