On Tuesday 13th November the Tom Avery Society Committee, accompanied by other members of the VIth form, visited the Alpine Club in London to hear a lecture on the epic story of the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 given by Mick Conefrey, the author of ‘Everest 1953’.
The lecture encompassed detailed background knowledge about the build-up to the event and the nationalistic rivalry between British, Swiss and German mountaineers to reach the summit first. This nationalism was inflamed by the jingoistic British newspapers of the time. With two failed Swiss attempts and one failed German attempt to reach the summit, it was unclear during the summer of 1952 whether the British team lead by John Hunt would even be going to Mount Everest the following summer because the success of a rival country reaching the summit first would mean nobody would fund the expedition as it would be less significant.
On top of this, political tensions arose between Britain and India as to who actually reached the summit first. Was it Sherpa Tenzing or Edmund Hillary? This question somewhat tarnished the success of the event even though both Tenzing and Hillary were dismissive about this controversy. However, it is believed that Edmund Hillary did actually reach the top first having been photographed climbing up to the summit in front of Tenzing. Mick Conefrey also went into great detail about the final days of the expedition and the circumstances that meant that Edmund Hillary reached the top first due to a faulty oxygen canister the previous day resulting in an unsuccessful summit attempt by Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans.
Overall, this was an educational and interesting night, providing a great insight into the complexities of the first ascent of Everest in 1953.
Ed Roberts (UVI, Loveday)