How Climbing Mount Everest Works

Everest Expeditions

One of the first Everest expeditions included British nationals George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Irvine. Their 1924 expedition was Mallory's third trip to the mountain. In a 1922 attempt, climbers reached record altitudes before deteriorating weather conditions forced them to turn back. During that attempt, an avalanche killed seven Sherpas.

On the morning of June 8th 1924, Mallory and Irvine left the highest camp on Everest bound for the summit. At 1 p.m. they were seen climbing the mountain, behind schedule but still making progress towards the top. After that, they were never seen again. In 1999, a team of investigators located Mallory's body on the north face of Everest around 27,000 feet. There is some debate over whether Mallory and Irvine made it to the top, but most believe that they did not.


In 1949, the political situation around Everest reversed and Nepal opened its borders, one year before the Chinese government closed Tibet. Climbers shifted their approach to the south and in 1953, someone finally made it to the top. Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand mountain climber and beekeeper, and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa, are the first people credited with reaching the Mountain's summit. Theirs would be the first of many notable firsts on Everest:

  • In 1963, James Whittaker became the first American to reach the summit of Everest.
  • In 1975, a Japanese woman named Junko Tabei became the first woman to summit.
  • In a truly incredible first, American Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to scale Everest in 2001. Click here to read more about his amazing journey.

Next, we'll look at all of the gear that Everest climbers take with them to understand what it takes to get to the top.