Who are the greatest Mount Everest climbers? So many great climbers have ascended Everest, the highest mountain in the world. They've had great adventures and done great new routes. Some have died on its snow and rock flanks, but most have returned to the everyday world. I posted a new article -- The Five Greatest Mount Everest Climbers -- that details some of the greatest climbers to visit Mount Everest.
It's almost impossible to put together a list of the five greatest Everest alpinists but folks like lists so I came up with my five -- George Mallory, Reinhold Messner, Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, and Eric Shipton. But for almost every one of those great moutaineers, another could be substituted. Perhaps I should group climbers from a team together, like Hillary and Tenzing.
If I did that, then who should be added to the list. Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld perhaps. The pair did the first ascent of the West Ridge alpine style in 1963 while the rest of the American expedition did the big expedition thing to place Jim Whitaker on top as the first American. Continuing their climb after the West Ridge, Hornbein and Unsoeld descended the Southeast Ridge, doing the first traverse of Mount Everest.
Jochen Hemmleb, an Everest veteran and member of the 1999 team that found Mallory's body on the North Face, suggested on my Facebook page that Edward Felix Norton should be considered for the top five. Jochen wrote that Norton, on the 1924 expedition with Mallory, climbed with "no specialized training, no oxygen, 8572 m in gaberdine and nailed boots, and still bright enough in his head to realize that he would not make the top until dark and thus decided to turn around (and lived to tell the tale)."
Then there are other great climbers, like the expedition with Stephen Venables and Ed Webster that climbed the Kangshang Face; Junko Takei, the first woman to climb Everest; and, of course, Apa Sherpa, who climbed Everest this past spring for the 21st time. I guess I'll have to revise the list and put together a top ten of the greatest Mount Everest climbers.
Photographs above: Mount Everest (top) is the arena that attracts some of the world's great climbers, including George Mallory (bottom), one of Britain's best climbers in the early 1920s. Photographs © Getty Images.