BLACK NARCISSUS – THE CONQUEST OF EVEREST 1953-2013

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May 29th marked the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s historic ascent of Everest in 1953. The expedition’s physical achievements are well-known and well documented, no more so than in a beautiful new book The Conquest of Everest : Original Photographs From The Legendary First Ascent by expedition photographer George Lowe, capturing every stage of the attempt on the summit in detail, and notably in colour. In fashion and design terms these photographs are an amazing archive that still serves to inspire in a remarkably contemporary way. The army surplus, Norwegian knit patterns, Sherpa’s traditional garb, and the revolutionary, at the time, new technology of the cotton/nylon windproof suits and oxygen equipment, in sharp contrast with the primitive tweeds worn on the doomed earlier 1924 expedition led by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine.

EVEREST RECONNAISANCE EXPEDITION 1951 SUPPLEMENT + YETIS

Everest pictures and Yetis, what more could you want from a post! Some two years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first (confirmed for all you Mallory enthusiasts) climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, a small team including Hillary in the party made a Reconnaisance Expedition to Everest. Captured here in this recent find from a Times Special Supplement in 1951 we thought we should share…

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Autumn 1951, The Himalayan Committee of The Royal Geographical Society and the Alpine Club sent a small party to investigate the south-western aspect of Mount Everest. As a side of the mountains that can only be approached through Nepal, this had meant rare privilege for the team to be granted access by the government.

Whilst the idea of looking for a way to approach to south-western face was not new, how far it had been entertained by the earlier expeditions of the 1920s is unclear but after the discovery in 1921 by Mallory and his companions of what appeared to be a relatively straight forward route to the summit from the East Rongbuk glacier, little serious thought seems to have been recorded in finding another line of approach. Step by step, as the Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition thrust and cut it its way towards the ramparts of the most impregnable fortress on earth, Mr Eric Shipton, the leader, sent back his progress reports for publication in The Times.

It was never the intention of Shipton’s party, of four English climbers and two New Zealanders, to attempt to climb the great peak itself. Everest is the ‘inner keep’, or donjon, of a gigantic system of fortifications, in which each ward beyond ward, has to be successfully overcome. Even the outermost ramparts have to be approached through many miles of rugged and trackless country, so that any attack must be planned with strategic elaboration parallel to a great  military operation – and with the same impossibility of precision since the opponents dispositions are imperfectly unknown. Victory cannot be expected in a single campaign…

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MOUNTAIN RESEARCH

Rockall is an extremely small, uninhabited and remote rocky islet in the North Atlantic Ocean of which we had never heard. Until, that is, a little spot of research into a recently found climbing smock and mountaineering boots led us to this interesting rock known possibly only now to sailors, Scottish Nationalists and fans of the shipping forecast. Though still proudly standing some 240 miles off the Orkneys, this 25 meter, at its widest point, rock was once the inspiration for a sailing cum climbing brand which now appears to be sadly lost.

ROLEX EXPLORER ‘SHAKEN NOT STIRRED’

The Rolex Explorer is significant in the world of wristwatches. It’s pared down simplicity hides it’s unique design details; the clean readable dial, no date indicator, ‘Mercedes’ style hands, Arabic numerals and markers, the 36mm case, non-hacking* movement and 18,000 beats per hour.