This is taken from the story of the ascent of Everest, as told by the Sherpa Ten zing Norgay. The expedition has come very near to the top of the mountain. It is time for Ten Zing and Hillary to make their attempt on the summit.
At six-thirty, when we crawled from the tent, it was still clear and windless. We had pulled three pairs of gloves on to our hands silk, wool, and windproof and now we fastened our crampons to our boots, and on to our backs slung the forty pounds of oxygen apparatus that would be the whole load for each of us during the climb.
“Ah chah. Ready.”
We went up from the campsite to the southeast ridge, and then on along the ridge towards the south summit.
Just below the south summit, the ridge broadened out into a sort of snow-face, so that we were climbing up an almost vertical white wall. The worst part of it was that the snow was not firm, but kept sliding down, sliding down-and we with it until I thought, “Next time it will keep sliding, and we will go all the way to the bottom of the mountain.”
For me this was the one really bad place on the whole climb, because it was not only a matter of what you yourself did, but what the snow under you did, and this you could not control. It was one of the most dangerous places I had ever been on a mountain.
At nine o’ clock, we were on the south summit. There was not much farther too go-only about three hundred feet of ridge-but it would certainly not be easy. If we were to get to the top, it would have to be along a narrow twisting line between precipices and cornices-never too far to the left, never too far to the right, or it would be the end of us.
“Everything all right?”
“Ah chah. All right.”
From the south summit, we first had to go down a little. Then up, up, up. All the time the danger was that the snow would slip, or that we would get too far out on a cornice that would then break away. We moved just one at a time, taking turns at going ahead, while the second one wrapped the rope round his axe and fixed the axe in the snow as an anchor.
The weather was still fine. We were not too tired. But ever so often, as had happened all the way, we would have trouble breathing, and have to stop and clear away the ice that kept forming in the tubes of our oxygen sets.
At last, we came to the last big obstacle below the top. This was a cliff of rock rising straight up out of the ridge and blocking of it off. Now it was a question of how to get over or round it, and we could find only one possible way. This was along a steep, narrow gap between one side of the rock and the inner side of an adjoining cornice, and Hillary, now going first, worked his way up it, slowly and carefully, to a sort of platform above. There was great danger of the ice giving way, but luckily, it did not. Hillary got up safely to the top of the rock, and then held the rope while I came after.
On top of the rock cliff, we rested again. Then we were on our way. The ridge was now less steep. It was only a row of snowy humps, one beyond the other, one higher than the other.
Finally, we reached a place where we could see past the humps. Beyond them was the great open sky and brown plains. We were looking down the far side of the mountain upon Tibet. Ahead of us now was only one more hump-the last one.
A little below the summit Hillary and I stopped. We looked up, and then we went on.
We stepped up. We were there. The dream had come true.
Adapted From MAN OF EVEREST,
The Autobiography of Sherpa Ten Zing Norgay
As told to James Ramsay Ullman