An introduction to Mount Everest
A thrill seeker and die-hard adrenalin junkie, ex-submariner Satyabrata Dam has too many accomplishments to summarize. He’s scaled over 350 peaks worldwide (including multiple expeditions to the top of Mt Everest), walked across continents, plumbed the depths of oceans, rafted down rivers and hacked through dense jungles. He shows no signs of slowing down.
On April 18th 2014, 16 people died on Everest, making this the worst accident in the history of the peak which shut down the climbing season completely. In this tragic year it is necessary to understand how Everest is climbed by the traditional South Col Nepal route. In this series of articles I will endeavour to be your personal guide all the way up to the summit, and back. May is the most popular month to climb Everest and let this be the beginning of a virtual journey for you. Let’s begin with a bit of history.
In 1852 a Bengali surveyor with Grand Trigonometrical Survey of India, figured out that what till then was called Peak XV was indeed the highest mountain in the world. It was a landmark discovery for mankind, the quest for the third pole was finally over.
Typical of those days, the mountain was named after Sir George Everest, the predecessor to the current Surveyor General of India. And that’s how most of us know it today. Though it has two other names; Chomolungma as the Tibetans call it ‘the goddess mother of earth’ and Sagarmatha in Nepal, ‘forehead of the sky.’
Once it was discovered naturally everyone wanted to climb it. The attempts started as early as 1920 and all of them were via Tibet (Nepal was closed to the world back then). People came, died or returned disappointed and the summit continued to elude them. First and foremost no one had any idea how the human body and mind would react to such extreme altitude.
Those early attempts were pioneering efforts paving the way for the next generation. The most remarkable expedition of that era was led by George Mallory in 1924 when he left for the summit from the North side along with his partner Sandy Irvine. They were last seen at an unbelievable altitude of 27000 ft after which they disappeared forever.
It is still debated whether they did, in fact reach Everest’s summit. Mallory’s life has spurned voluminous works of fiction, research, movies and media frenzy, and when another expedition found his body in 1999, the storm resurfaced.