Karen Toms

Book: The Conquest of Everest

A new book brings together a collection of photographs taken by a member of the team who were the first to climb Everest 60 years ago this week.

‘The Conquest of Everest: Original Photographs from the Legendary First Ascent’ showcases a fascinating selection of images taken by George Lowe, a teacher and mountaineer who was instrumental to the success of the British expedition which reached the summit of Everest on May 29th 1953.

George Lowe spent 10 day carving out the Lhotse Face of the mountain, back breaking work cutting steps out a wall of ice. In effect he led the way up the south east ridge for Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to reach the summit. Lowe’s collection of photographs are a brilliant record of the climb. They illustrate the everyday activities of life at Base Camp – a place of industry but also a place to rest and recover.

For George Lowe to get a haircut and Edmund Hillary to enjoy a shave post conquest of the mountain. They illustrate the fact that these explorers had none of the sophisticated clothing and equipment of the modern age. And my favourite image is this final one which shows Hillary and Norgay toasting their achievement after scaling the summit with tea and warm lemonade.

According to George, “Just before 4pm I set out to meet them. They were moving fairly rapidly – the only tiredness showed in their slightly stiff-legged walking, I crouched, back against the wind, and poured out the Thermos as they came up. Ed unclipped his mask and grinned a tired greeting, sat on the ice and said in his matter-of-fact way – “Well, George, we knocked the bastard off!”.

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