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History of Himalayan Mountaineering

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Mountaineering in the Himalaya is no longer just for experts with years of experience and numerous ascents of lesser peaks. While the competition for permits to climb Mount Everest and the other 8000 meter peaks is intense, there are hundreds of smaller challenging mountains available to be climbed.

With the opening of many areas in Tibet, Pakistan, India and Nepal are previously forbidden to westerners, there are many peaks awaiting a first ascent. Finding new, more difficult routes up very high peaks, climbing in better style and traversing 8000 m peaks, are currently pre- occupations of the leading climbers from all over the world who flock to the region.

In the course of 130 years of Himalayan mountaineering there have been many glorious achievements and advances in technique and style.

Climbing Mountains for pleasure has been part of the human experience for less than 300 years. The development of this pursuit also parallels the growth of western interest in the Himalaya. So it is hardly surprising that the earliest notable ascents of the region were by explorers and mapmakers.

The Surveyors

By 1850 the Great Trigonometical Survey of India, an ambitious scheme to map the Indian subcontinent, had pushed into the foothills of the Himalaya. This survey enabled the heights and position of mountains to be accurately determined without actually setting foot on them.

In the course of this work, armed with plane-tables and theodolites, dedicated surveyors established observation posts and spent days stop remote peaks taking measurements. According to Kenneth Mason in his history of Himalayan climbing, Abode of the Snow, the height record belongs to a local surveyor who is 1860 reputedly climbed Shill, at 7030 m to erect a survey pole.

In 1852 the highest mountain in the world was determined by and later named after Sir George Everest. As the previous Surveyor-General of India, he had been behind described as ‘perhaps the greatest geographical achievement on any continent in any age.

 As the surveyors were pushing into the Himalaya they were in many instances following in the footsteps of trophy hunters on leave from the British and Indian armies.

On the heels of the explorers and surveyors came scientists, seeking knowledge about the formation and nature of mountains and those who were interested in conquering unclimbed peaks. Combining these interests of science and sport established a pattern of dual expedition objectives that was to continue for many decades.

Hidden Facts,

Australian, George Ingle Finch was the first mountaineer to use oxygen apparatus. As a member of the General Bruce’s 1992 expedition, he reached the record height of 8250 m on the north face of Mount Everest.

Mountain Everest (Sagarmatha) was the first successfully climbed via treacherous Khumbu ice fall sneaking up the right of the mountain and the Western Cwm. The border between Nepal and China lies along the west ridge of Everest.

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