15 amazing records set on Mount Everest
The summit of Mount Everest has been reached 8,306 times since it was first climbed 65 years ago. Here are the stories behind some of the most amazing records set in that time.
The 8,848m summit of Mount Everest – known as Sagarmatha in Nepal or Chomolungma in Tibet, both meaning ‘Goddess of the Sky’ – is a mega draw for adventurers of all kinds.
With so many summits, these days everyone wants to bag a ‘first’ on top of the world, so the list of achievements up there is starting to become more and more bizarre. This has included one person climbing in shorts, another going topless and one couple getting married there. (For the record, the Nepali government has since began vetting ascents to make sure they are respectful.)
Here we take a look at the stories behind some of the most amazing Everest moments that made the record books.
New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Nelpalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were fuelled on sardines and biscuits on their final push to the summit. They braved high winds, a mammoth snowstorm and temperatures of -28ºCelsius to reach the top on May 29, 1953.
It is not widely known, though, that before joining the British-run expedition, Sherpa Tenzing had come within 150m of the summit the previous year, when he climbed with Raymond Lambert of Switzerland.
The successful ascent of 1953 came just three years after Nepal opened its borders to an ‘easier’ route than Tibet’s North Face. Only one ascent per year was allowed, however, and France and Switzerland had it booked for the next two – so they may have planted their flag had the British expedition failed.
First female ascent
Twenty-two years after the first ascent, Japan’s Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the top as part of an all-female team taking the same route as Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing.
Amazingly, she was buried unconscious for six minutes in an avalanche during the climb but was pulled out alive and continued on up to the top. She went on to become the first woman to climb the Seven Summits – the highest peak on each continent.
Most times at the top
Reaching the top once is incredible – but three men have each summited 21 times. Apa Sherpa was the first in 2011 and Phurba Tashi Sherpa and Kami Rita Sherpa joined him on 21 in 2013. Dave Hahn has the most summits for someone who isn't from Nepal – the American mountain guide hit the top for the 15th time in 2013.
The climb from base camp to the summit – a vertical ascent of almost 3.5km - is rarely attempted in one go as most climbers go up and down between different camps to acclimatise before the final push.
In total, the entire route would take a fit and acclimatised person about 34-38 hours, with four six-hour legs from basecamp to Camp 1, Camp 1 to 2, 2 to 3 and 3 to 4, with plenty of stops in between, and then a final summit ascent of 10-14 hours.
But in 2004, Pemba Dorje Sherpa did it in one single run and took just 8hrs 10mins from base camp to summit. Last year, Kilian Jornet climbed from base camp without fixed ropes or extra oxygen in 26 hours.
Marco Siffredi took a fast-track down when he snowboarded from the summit to advance base camp, at 6,400m, in two-and-a-half hours in 2001 – but he wasn’t the first to slide down the mountain.
Slovenian Davo Karničar skied from the summit to base camp in 2000. He was the first to go all the way, just missing the frozen body of a climber on his five-hour run down. Compared to that, his ski descents of Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, the Eiger and Annapurna were a piece of cake.
Neither were the fastest descent though – because in 1988 Frenchman Jean-Marc Boivin had paraglided off, bravely running down a 40-metre slope at the top of the mountain to get the speed to take off then flying down to Camp 2 at 5,900m in 11-12 minutes.
Most summiters only stay for a few minutes. But Neplal’s Bhakta Kumar Rai – also known as ‘Supreme Master Godangel’ of the Heavenly Path sect – spent 32 hours on the top in 2011, 27 of which were in meditation and 11 without any artificial oxygen.
In 2011, British mountaineer Kenton Cool sent the first summit ‘tweet’ as part of a marketing campaign. On his Twitter account, he wrote, “Everest summit no 9! 1st tweet from the top of the world thanks to a weak 3G signal.”
Not content with five shuttle missions and 47 hours of spacewalks, American Scott Parazynski became the only astronaut to reach the summit in 2009, on his third attempt. “It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison,” he said after. “I’d never trade either.”
Yuichiro Miura of Japan became the oldest summiter in 2013 aged 80 – four months after having heart surgery. But he was so tired he had to be airlifted from 6,500m to basecamp. In 1970, he became the first to ski on Everest and he plans to summit again at 90 in 2022 if he’s still alive. Japan’s Tamae Watanabe set the record for the oldest woman to summit aged 73 in 2012.
At the opposite end of the scale, American mountain climber Jordan Romero became the youngest person to reach the top aged just 13 years and 10 months in 2010. In 2014, Poorna Malavath of India became the youngest female to summit – she was just one month older at 13 years and 11 months.
11. Doing it differently
A joint team from China, Japan and Nepal did a full traverse of Everest in 1988 – reaching the top from the North and the South simultaneously, and crossing over to descend from the opposite sides.
Kushang Sherpa is the first person to reach the summit from three different routes – climbing the South Col 1993, the North Face in 1996 and Khangshung Face in 1999.
Australian Tim Macartney-Snape became the first to walk and climb from sea level to the top in 1990 on a 1,200km journey that began in Ganga Sagar on the Bay of Bengal. He summited solo, weak with nausea and diarrhea, and nearly fell when he stopped to adjust his camera.
Briton Pauline Sanderson went one step further in 2006. She launched her expedition at the Dead Sea – from 420m below sea level. The total ascent of 9,269m took her almost six months and she made it to the top with husband, Phil, making them the first married couple to reach summit.
On the May 25, 2003, just four days before the 50th anniversary of the first ascent by Sir Edmund Hillary, the climbing legend’s son Peter phoned his dad via satellite phone from the summit.