The Himalaya were mapped for the first time at the behest of the court of Moghul emperor Akbar but it wasn’t until 1856 that a British surveying team established a Himalayan peak of 29,028 feet, known only as Peak XV, as the highest point on the planet. That peak was later named Mt.Everest after the surveyor Sir George Everest.

Two decades later, the magazine Nineteenth Century asked the question: "Can Mount Everest Be Climbed?" The answer was unknown, but the question was enough to inspire those who would test the very limits of human potential. It became a symbol for the unattainable, and thus, for dreams.

Politics and logistics foiled several early attempts at an Everest expedition. The first organized attempts to reach the summit were made in the early 1920s from the Tibetan side. Those first expeditionees had to trek 400 miles across Tibet just to reach the foot of the mountain! In 1924, the third major British expedition to attempt the summit ended in mystery. Two climbers -- George Mallory (who answered queries about why he chose to climb Everest with the famous, "because it is there.") and Andrew Irvine -- set out from high camp for the summit and were last seen disappearing into swirling mist. Did one or both make the top? No one knows.
Twenty-nine years later, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay proved that the impossible could be achieved. Departing from the southern, Nepalese side of the mountain, they summited on the 29th of May, 1953 via the South Col route, using bottled oxygen in the upper reaches of altitude. The world welcomed them back as heroes.
Since that time, climbers from around the world have reached the apex. As of Spring 1997, there have been a total of 992 known ascents of the mountain. Some seek new and more challenging ways to attempt the peak. The Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner became the first to climb Everest without oxygen - and repeated that feat in the first solo ascent. Others have pioneered new and more challenging routes -- and some have even attempted such daring exploits as para-gliding from the top.
Yet, Everest remains a place of savage power and unpredictable chaos. Some 150 people have died on the mountain and each year the numbers rise. To climb Mount Everest is still to enter the forbidden realm of the heavens -- and only those willing to accept the consequence should venture there.
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