Beyond the Edge (2013) Movie Script

Well, now, the Himalay as...
Well, we introduce to you this morning
Ed Hillary, a very interesting
personality in the alpine world.
- Good morning, Ed.
- Good morning.
How many attempts have been
made on Everest altogether?
Well, there have
been at least 10.
Well, why have
the others failed?
A combination of circumstances
which hasn't been right.
Well, do you think
it's possible to climb Everest?
Yes, I definitely think
it's possible to climb it
and, well, I'm sure
it will be done some day.
It's only 60 years ago, but
it was a completely different world,
and the idea that
you would be the first man
to stand on the highest
point on earth
is a quest, a romantic quest,
There was a real race on
for the world's highest peak,
And it wasn't just Britain,
There were other nations
in the queue,
This really was Britain's
last chance to grab this great prize,
Nobody knew if someone
could survive at 29,000 feet,
Like the guys going into space,
you know, you're breaking frontiers,
There is a physiologic limit
of what human beings can take,
I'm sure they didn't want to die,
but you're taking risks in which
death is one of the outcomes,
You are going into the unknown,
Could it be done?
Back in 1953, it was
a great big question mark,
I think
it's all really a matter of challenge,
Not so much challenge
only with the mountain,
but challenge with oneself,
seeing if you can force yourself
to overcome your fears
and hopefully, ultimately,
get to the top,
Members of
the British Everest expedition
have begun assembling
on the Subcontinent
where deputy leader Major Wylie
is looking forward
to the adventure to come.
We are very pleased
that the first stage
of our journey
to Mount Everest is over.
We are now off towards the hills.
If we get some fine weather
towards the end of May
just before the monsoon arrives
we should have a chance
of getting to the top.
The first time I joined up
with the expedition
was at the British Embassy
in Kathmandu,
We had 13 Western members
of the expedition,
John Hunt, a senior army officer,
was expedition leader,
I'd really never heard
of John Hunt before
and the first time I met him
was in Kathmandu,
I was very keen
to have people I knew already
so I had big
question marks about Ed,
I can only say that
from the moment I met Ed
I knew that here was somebody
who would be a dominating influence,
He was a tower of strength,
Mr Hillary,
as a matter of interest,
how long have you been climbing?
I've been climbing, I suppose,
for altogether about 10 years.
And how many trips have you done
out of New Zealand climbing?
I have already had a couple
of expeditions to the Himalay a.
You were quite strictly
brought up, weren't you?
I was brought up
during the Depression
and my family was pretty
short on cash during that period,
I was just a rough
old country boy, as it were,
A beekeeper,
A beekeeper,
I used to wander around our farm
dreaming about great adventures
and climbing mountains
and all that sort of thing,
What a contrast between
beekeeping on the one hand
and climbing mountains,
Oh, not really,
In the beekeeping, I was constantly
lugging around
80-pound boxes of honey,
And my brother was also
doing beekeeping, and we competed,
And I think the sense of competition
carried on to
my mountaineering activities,
Well, the party were first
all together as a team in Kathmandu,
Before us we had 17 days
of marches to Tengboche,
which is where we were going
to place our first base camp,
We had to cross a succession
of high ridges and deep valleys,
We could really get gradually fit
and - most important -
get to know each other as a team,
Everything had been
calculated to the last detail -
7,5 tons of material,
443 packages, all numbered,
and the contents of each listed
down to the last matchbox or needle,
It is a team expedition
and it's very much in the form
of a pyramid of effort,
13 Western members of the expedition,
30 permanent high-altitude Sherpas,
These are men who will be carrying
loads for us to great altitudes,
Some 600 Nepalese porters
carried loads across country
into our climbing regions,
Because there had been no less
than seven British
attempts on the mountain,
we felt that by right, the mountain
should be climbed by Britain
and by extension
the British Commonwealth,
The Swiss so nearly
got to the summit in 1952,
The Americans were
waiting in the wings,
And so there was huge
pressure on John Hunt
with this colossal expectation
that this quest had to succeed,
Mr Hillary,
how many New Zealanders
are in this year's expedition?
Well, only two of
us. There's George Lowe and myself.
George Lowe and my father
were great friends,
They had climbed extensively
in the Southern Alps of New Zealand,
They were very good
climbers together
and had a tremendous rapport,
We had 18 days of trekking
and during that period
of getting to know one another
there was always
a little bit of a funny edge
towards the New Zealanders,
Both Ed and I had been
to ordinary high schools,
They, of course,
the greater number of them,
had been to public schools,
We did come from a different
background, there was no doubt,
Kathmandu is only about
4,000 feet above sea level,
The foot of Everest is about 18,000,
Our 17 days approach march
was an essential part of my policy
of acclimatisation,
The whole thing
is a race against time,
There was a constant fear
that the monsoon would come,
So that's why John Hunt said,
"We want to be in a position
to climb Everest on May 15,"
The later in May, the more likely
that the monsoon would arrive,
It's always a race against time,
As we got steadily
higher, our excitement increased
and more and more great peaks
were coming into view,
And over it all towered
the summit pyramid of Everest
only 20 miles away,
but still 20,000 feet above us,
Mr Hillary, you started
climbing in New Zealand, didn't you?
Oh, yes,
I started in New Zealand.
And there's
Mount Cook, the 'Cloud Piercer',
reaching majestically skyward
for over 12,000 feet.
A friend and I decided
to have a short trip to Mount Cook,
The closer we got, the more impressed
I was with the magnificent mountains,
Those jagged peaks there
provide the real alpinist with some of
the best climbing outside Europe.
That night, inside
the Hermitage where I was staying,
two young men came in,
I heard the whisper go around -
"They have just climbed Mount Cook,"
These chaps were really living,
I felt, "What a hopeless life I lead,
"no great adventures,
nothing particularly exciting,"
And that's when I decided that I was
going to take up mountaineering,
Well, after 17 days
our caravans arrived at the Monastery of
Tengboche at over 12,000 feet,
Once they got up
to Tengboche Monastery
it's getting pretty cold,
The low-country porters
largely only had cotton clothes
so they get paid off
and they return to their villages
and Sherpa porters take over,
The Sherpas who stay
on the expedition
might have had previous
experience of climbing,
although not many did,
Tenzing was an exception to that
in that he did have
quite a lot of experience,
In fact, he really
had more experience
at climbing on Mount Everest
than anyone else,
Without the Sherpas
you can't climb Everest
and my father was the head man,
People respected him,
They knew that he had been climbing
Everest with foreigners since 1935,
You know, he'd been up
six times already,
I knew Tenzing by repute,
You know, he'd done
a lot of mountaineering
and I knew he was
very highly regarded,
But I wasn't able really
to communicate well with him,
His English was very limited
and my Nepali was very limited,
He had a flashing smile,
absolutely charming smile,
It was impossible not to like him,
In the next fortnight,
we had a period of training
and testing ourselves
and our equipment at altitudes,
Well, in 1953,
getting to the summit of Everest
in terms of physiologic capability
was a big unknown,
It was like sending
somebody into space,
They knew from altitude
experiments in chambers
that altitude can make you seize
and one of the ideas was that people
would haemorrhage in their brains
because their blood vessels
would be so dilated,
There were lots of reasons to think
that there might be a stroke,
Nobody knew whether or not
it could really be done,
When Ed was heading
up the mountain in 1953,
13 people had already
died on the mountain
and I think that for anyone
who would be climbing at that time
it would be something
of a daunting statistic -
13 deaths and zero summits
at that point,
Now, about
six miles up from Tengboche
looking north is the Khumbu Glacier
where we were to place
our main base camp
for the attack on the mountain,
This icefall was to be
our next great obstacle
and I sent a party to explore it,
Ed Hillary led this first party,
The Western Cwm
is guarded by a great icefall...
..a tumbled mass of ice dropping
2,500 feet to the Khumbu Glacier,
We first had to discover whether it
was possible to ascend this icefall,
The icefall was a constant hazard
and we had no alternative
but to make a route through country
which we knew to be unjustifiable
in the ordinary alpine climb,
It's like a waterfall
that's come off and has frozen,
The weight of the glacier
above them is shoving,
It's all a jumble of ice,
It is unstable objective danger
that you have no control over,
Crazy! My God, You 're dumb
to be going up a route like that,
But you just can't go any other way
but through the icefall,
In '52, the Swiss
went up the icefall
and said, "It's a thing
that's always on the move,"
And it's a dangerous place
for that reason,
More people are killed in the icefall
than anywhere else on Everest,
It's immense,
It's 2,500 feet high,
And we had to go
up the middle of it,
Ed Hillary, George Lowe,
Mike Westmacott and myself
were the four of us chosen
to make the first route through
in a week or five days if we could...
..and then of course to make it safe
by a lot of step-cutting,
a lot of fixed ropes
so that eventually
it would be possible
for loaded porters to carry
the stores safely through it,
The icefall was a dangerous place
because things did collapse
without warning
and if you were in the way,
it was a thoroughly bad thing,
You had
these great towers of ice
and great lumps and strips
the size of a row of cottages
that could slump down at any moment,
We gave names
to the more dangerous parts,
There was Mike's Horror,
Hillary's Horror,
an area called the Nutcracker,
the Atom Bomb area,
There are certain...
..what climbers call objective dangers
which basically
you can't do much about,
There's also a risk
of falling into a crevasse,
We had these light
aluminium ladders about six feet long
which we could bolt together
across the crevasses,
And there were so many crevasses
that we soon ran out
of all the ladders we had,
So we had to send down
to where the nearest trees grew,
which would be about
three days' walk away,
to cut small tree trunks
to make little log bridges,
And you balanced
as well as you could,
For us, it was clearly going to be
the only way to climb Everest,
Ed Hillary wanted to please,
He wanted to be on the summit team,
He would've known
that only a few people
would get a chance
to go for the summit
so from very early on
he wanted to impress John Hunt
and he felt there
was time pressure on him
to recce the icefall
to get it prepared,
My father
was never afraid of hard work,
but part of that was to cover
I think what Dad felt
were a lot of psychological
or emotional inadequacies,
He had been raised
with high expectations
and they sent him off
to Auckland Grammar School
two years too young,
I was only 11 years old
and I was rather terrified, really,
When lunchtime came,
I would go out
the back of the school
and there were a whole lot
of ants living there,
When I first went
to Auckland Grammar,
the only friends I really had
were the ants,
I was a dreamer
until I started climbing,
The icefall was really chaotic
and yet they forced a way
and Ed's job of route finding
was a particularly good show,
The New Zealanders
had a lot more snow
and ice climbing experience
than the average European climber
because their mountains are
very like the Himalayas in miniature,
The Southern Alps -
the great mountain tangle
which sprawls northwards
in an almost unbroken chain
of rock and ice.
Well, Ed,
how do the Southern Alps
compare with the Swiss Alps?
That's where the English climbers
get their training.
Here in New
Zealand, with our terrific glaciation,
a greater amount of our climbing
is done on snow and ice -
in many ways very similar
to the Himalay a.
They're rather different
from the Swiss Alps
where the predominant feature
for climbing is rock.
Aspiring, New Zealand's Matterhorn -
a shark's tooth of a mountain
whose dangerous slopes
demand skill and careful climbing.
Our New Zealand mountains
are really a wonderful
training ground for the Himalay a.
have that tough resilience
so I think that
the younger British climbers
were somewhat in awe
of these formidable Kiwis
brought in to reinforce the team,
Now, the next big doubt
was regarding the lip
of the coomb itself
at the very top of the icefall,
You see, there was
an enormous, gaping crevasse,
Could we get into the coomb?
The decision
on who would be going
all the way to the top
was very much
the leader's prerogative,
John Hunt would evaluate the team
throughout the course
of the expedition,
So there was a fair amount of
sort of posturing
and positioning going on
as people tried to put
themselves in the best light
for that sort of opportunity,
I think
amongst the British
there wasn't any particular
jockeying for position,
but I think our two New Zealanders,
Hillary and Lowe,
were perhaps rather
more straightforward
in wanting to get
as high as possible,
They were the sort of colonials
that would make good
and we were perhaps
a little bit more inhibited -
the public school type that
wouldn't push our way forward
unless Hunt had said,
"Look, you're the chap to do it,"
I'd always hoped
that George Lowe and I
would be the final summit pair,
but there was no time
that John Hunt, our leader,
wanted to have two New Zealanders
stand on top of Mount Everest,
So I had to look around
and find someone
who was as fit as I was
and who could do a good job,
Tenzing was that person,
Nobody alive had more
experience of Everest,
He really understood the value of it
and how it could change his life,
Tenzing had been very, very poor,
He had struggled,
He wanted his children
to go to good schools,
He wanted more for them
than he'd had,
Tenzing understood
what climbing Everest meant,
My father was a bit of an anomaly
as far as a Sherpa goes
because he always
wanted to climb Everest,
That's very unusual
for a poor kid from Tibet,
So unlike many other Sherpas who
actually climb just to make a living,
he was a mountaineer at heart,
His drive was to go to the top
just like Ed Hillary,
As we walked on into
the coomb, the crevasses grew fewer
and we realised that
the coomb itself was open to us,
We are now
established at Base Camp
and the first problem
is to get our supplies
up to Camp 4 high up
in the Western Cwm,
Owing to the climbing
difficulties in the icefall,
laden porters require
three days to reach Camp 4,
There was
this idea in those days
of laying siege to a mountain,
This meant you would do it
in a very systematic way -
you would set up a camp
and you would set up another camp
and get higher and higher,
You build up
this pyramid of camps
to get enough tents, food,
cooking fuel, oxygen -
to get enough of those supplies
where you can rest
before going up to the next stage,
And to do that, people have
got to go up and down the mountain,
Ideally, people go up to a camp
and then go back down again
'cause if everyone goes up to a camp
and then stays there
they then consume
all the food they've carried up,
People tried
to come up with solutions
which would help the team
to get to the top,
people from around the world
sending in madcap
suggestions on inventions,
Somebody had an ingenious device
which was a type of harpoon
with an incendiary device
on the end of it,
The idea was that it would
burn its way into the ice
and give a secure holding
so people could haul themselves up,
Most of them were
completely crazy ideas,
My method
involves the use of a hand cable
laid in advance by aircraft...
With my relay warmth
personal heating apparatus,
air could be passed through
a heating chamber
and pumped via rubber tube
to the hands, feet and head...
May I mention a Wonder Gun
for driving steel bolts
into concrete...
I suggest
that a woollen suit
be wired in much the same way
as an electric blanket...
It should be possible
to ascend the mountain
using a large helium-filled balloon.
A significant amount of helium
would be required.
Nearly all
of the technological innovations
that were used on the 1953 expedition
arose from things
developed by the military
during the Second World War,
They tested the windproof equipment
they were going to be wearing
in the wind tunnel
at Farnborough Aircraft Factory,
30 different firms, UK firms,
were involved
in designing the boots alone,
The ascent of Everest in '53 had
become a question of national pride,
When World War II ended,
Britain was completely bankrupt
and because of the austerity,
the postwar austerity in Britain,
the really awful days
that had past... was the last
great colonial project,
the last hurrah
of the British Empire,
My father and Tenzing
kept volunteering to help
in different situations
to demonstrate their competency
as being one of the summit teams,
Dad could see that there were
a whole lot of reasons
why this could be
a great combination for success,
They were very at home
in this alpine environment,
They were hungry,
They wanted the top,
There's a point
where they were partnered together
and they were racing down
the Khumbu Icefall,
trying to prove that
they could do it quickly,
But as a sort of product
of his over-exuberance, really,
he's racing through it
and something goes wrong,
Tenzing and I
headed back down to Base Camp,
When we were about
halfway down the icefall
we came to one of the crevasses,
On one side of it
there was a great chunk of ice
and we had used this
as a stepping stone
to reach the other side,
It was slightly ironic
that it was Ed Hillary,
who was such a good climber,
that it should happen to him,
People have often said to me,
"You must've been very thankful,
"Tenzing having saved
your life like that,"
but I don't think I was,
You know, I'd have been very annoyed
if he hadn't saved my life,
Camp 4
has now been established
and we have successfully carried
the three tons of supplies up here,
You don't
conquer a mountain,
If you're lucky enough,
the mountain gives you a chance
to stand on the top,
You 're trying to overcome
your own weaknesses,
Ed Hillary,
he was so kind of gung-ho
and he always
wanted to be out front,
he always wanted to be in the lead,
He wasn't brash, He was a quieter,
sort of more reserved, character,
Dad was
quite a complicated person,
I think my father
had quite a few demons
born out of being a perfectionist,
but also the sense of inferiority -
nothing is ever quite good enough,
I think it came out of a very
complicated family background,
My father
really wasn't very interested
in adventurous activities,
He was a man of very strong beliefs,
The climbing of mountains he probably
regarded as a bit of a waste of time,
I fought with my father,
And I would usually end up
being taken over to the woodshed
and being given a good thumping,
I'm rather proud of the fact
that I never actually
admitted I was wrong...
..even if I had been,
Well, of course it was
of tremendous interest to all of us
who would be chosen
for the final push,
In those days,
the leader's word was absolute...
..particularly for men who had
all been in the armed forces,
Hunt had to make the decision,
He would say who were
going to be the lucky ones
who were going to have
a crack at the summit,
It was at our Base Camp
and John Hunt got everybody round
and outlined his plans
for the rest of the expedition,
The crucial thing, of course,
was the attempts for the summit,
At that meeting,
that extraordinary
meeting with this team
totally isolated
from the rest of the world,
thousands of miles from home...
..those men, each thinking,
"Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful
"if I was one of the lucky ones,"
You 're all chosen
as basic climbers to go to the top,
but there are all these
other jobs to be done as well,
My father
was absolutely determined
that he was going to have an opportunity
to climb this mountain,
One of the conditions
for my father to go
with the English team
was that he'd have a chance
to go to the top,
There was no other climber
quite as accomplished,
All of us would have
liked to have a crack at the top,
but the first attempt on the summit
was to be made by
Tom Bourdillon with Charles Evans...
..and, "If needed,
the second attempt," he said,
"is going to be made
by Ed Hillary and Tenzing,"
I'm sure my father
would have loved to have
been in the first team,
Tenzing was probably
quite conflicted by it,
The next stage,
and the really crucial one,
is up the Lhotse Face
to the South Col,
John Hunt said, "OK,
Tom Bourdillon with Charles Evans,
"We'll send the two
of them up first,
"They can do a huge leap
from the South Col
"right to the summit in a day,"
The first major task
in this plan fell to George Lowe,
He was to make a route up
the Lhotse Face and prepare the way
for the high-carrying parties
to reach the col,
This was to be finished by 15 May,
Basically what he said was,
"We want to be in a position
to climb Everest on May 15,"
because there was a constant fear
in the back of Hunt's mind that
"The monsoon would come
and end all our hopes,"
But they had to get up this thing
called the Lhotse Face,
This is a vast
4,000-foot snow-and-ice face
leading up steeply
to the South Col at 26,000 feet,
George Lowe, my fellow New Zealander,
spent much time and energy
bashing a route
up this difficult problem,
Well, the work on
the face was very difficult
and made more difficult
and atrocious
by the weather and daily falls
of snow which covered the tracks,
I shared my high perch
for a long time with Ang Nyima,
a splendid little Sherpa,
George Lowe
worked on the Lhotse Face
without oxygen for over a week
up to about 24,500 feet,
The cold was terrific
and the wind was bad
and all the time I was hoping
to get the traverse complete
and the route right through
to the South Col,
But I was thrashed by the weather
and the altitude was affecting me,
We didn't seem to be able to make
the last 1,000 feet to the col,
John Hunt's big mistake
was that he underestimated
the Lhotse Face,
It's just so big,
He didn't give enough
support to George Lowe,
It really was
myself and Ang Nyima,
Whenever they did send up support,
within 24 hours, they were
not able to carry on,
Being at high altitude,
you never feel very well,
Each breath of air
we take in at high altitude
has fewer oxygen molecules
so we need more breaths in order
to get the same amount of oxygen,
Put a pillow
over your mouth
and try and breath through it
as you're running,
You just suck in air,
you're trying to get enough air
and the oxygen debt builds up
until you just can't go any...
You have to stop,
Take three, four breaths to a step,
five breaths to a step,
six breaths to a step,
15 breaths to a step,
You 're just not getting the air,
Up there, your mind
somehow gradually accepts slowness,
I thought I was going
extremely well,
but in fact we were staggering about
like men in a dream,
We had spent
10 days on the Lhotse Face -
considerably more
than I'd reckoned on -
but we had still not broken through
to the South Col,
The time factor
was becoming critical,
Watching the progress
on the Lhotse Face,
there was no doubt that
the momentum of the attack
seemed to be winding down,
and the first inklings of the monsoon
were building up
in the Bay of Bengal,
It was
a very, very critical time,
You could imagine Hunt
feeling that this whole great enterprise
was just unravelling
and, "If we don't get
a grip on this thing soon
"we're going to lose our chance,
"The monsoon will arrive
"and we won't even have reached
the South Col, let alone the summit,"
This is London calling
the British Mount Everest expedition.
Here is the latest weather bulletin.
Western disturbance
apparently moving eastwards
across the extreme north of Nepal
is likely to cause
cloudy to overcast skies
with occasional thunderstorms...
The later in May it was,
the more likely
that the monsoon would arrive,
When the monsoon comes,
you get huge dumps of snow and they
make climbing much more difficult,
You don't want to be climbing through
large amounts of soft snow,
wading your way through it,
The British expeditions
of the 1930s had all failed
because the monsoon had come early,
And so all of this was
piling on the pressure, you know?
So even though the route
hadn't actually been made
all the way to the South Col
John Hunt had to make
a sort of crucial decision
to start sending up
the team of 14 Sherpas
to carry all the stores we needed,
Nothing must endanger
the getting of our stores to the col
in time for our
attempts on the summit,
On 21 May,
Tenzing and myself
led a band of 14 high-altitude Sherpas
up the Lhotse Face,
13 Sherpas struggled up to
the col that day, without oxygen,
The 14th only just failed to make it,
and his load was carried on,
We were proud of them, and grateful,
It was a 10,5-hour day,
They carried 30 pounds each,
and their only nourishment
was a single cup of tea apiece
for breakfast,
And so we were able
to equip the camp properly
with tents, sleeping bags,
oxygen equipment and food,
and that was one of
the biggest achievements,
The South Col is probably
the most barren spot in the world,
The continual strong wind
is always blowing over
the dreary waste of rock and ice,
Adding an air of desolation
are the remnants of the Swiss tents
of the previous year,
with pieces of tattered cloth
still clinging to them,
1952, the Swiss
had invited my father to climb Everest,
and he had been up
where no human had been before,
but bad weather turned them back,
I remember Andr Roch,
of the Swiss party, said,
"On the col
there's a smell of death,"
We thought that was
Continental dramatics,
but when we'd been there,
we understood,
I'm telling you, the cold,
you can feel it
coming up the extremities,
You know you're gonna freeze
your hands and toes,
and you just feel the cold
creeping up,
It's a race between the body
and what you hope you can do,
You know that you're dying
a little bit up there,
A major step
had been achieved,
and we then returned
once more to the Western Cwm,
Without wasting any time,
we brought into action our assault plan,
Hunt wanted to have
two attempts on the summit,
but he realised
that he couldn't have two attempts
which were using
open-circuit oxygen sets,
In the open-circuit,
when you breathe out, the
expired air goes to the atmosphere,
and when you breathe in,
the atmospheric air comes with
an addition of a puff of oxygen
from your oxygen set,
The thing about
open-circuit oxygen sets
is that they use a lot of oxygen,
so he would have to get
an awful lot of oxygen
up onto the South Col
and to the Southeast Ridge,
so he sort of thought,
"Well, no, we're not gonna
be able to do this,"
But there was an alternative form
of oxygen set,
which was called a closed circuit,
The closed-circuit,
when you breathe out
the carbon dioxide
goes through a canister
of something called soda lime,
which extracts the carbon dioxide
and gives you back the oxygen
into the set,
and you're completely insulated
from the outside air,
Now, if it works, the closed system
can be more efficient
than the open-circuit system,
The people who are using
the closed-circuit set
can start from lower down,
But the thing about
a closed-circuit set
was that the only person
who really knew how to use them
was the person who had
designed them, Tom Bourdillon,
And the first attempt on the summit,
using the closed-circuit oxygen,
was to be made by Tom Bourdillon
with Charles Evans,
John Hunt went ahead
to the South Col in support,
Evans and Bourdillon
left Advanced Base
down in the Western Cwm
and climbed up the South Col
to camp,
Tom and Charles
were to go all the way
from the South Col to the top,
I thought at the time
they had a chance,
but it was a hell of a long way,
If Bourdillon
and Evans reach the summit,
John Hunt might go, "Job done,
"We're all going home,
Everyone's safe,"
But the weather closed in and
everyone got stuck for two days,
including Bourdillon and Evans
on the South Col,
My father and Tenzing
left Advanced Base
down on the Western Cwm
to come up to the South Col
to be the second summit team,
Well, we left
Base Camp in the Western Cwm,
There was our support party -
George Lowe, Alf Gregory
and several Sherpas,
And then Tenzing and myself,
who were the actual assault party,
with the open-circuit,
As my father and
Tenzing were departing from Camp 4,
Bourdillon and Evans were
making their summit bid,
we went up the Lhotse Face
and across the long traverse
that leads up to the South Col,
And we're just about
up to the South Col
when we notice the support party,
George started shouting
and jumping around,
And we looked up
and we saw Evans and Bourdillon
going up the tiny little peak
far above us,
onto the top of the South Summit,
I think it was somewhere
around about 12:00 in the morning,
and we thought, "Ooh, they've...
South Summit, 12:00,
"They've time to get to the top,
"They're going to climb it,"
You know, when
Bourdillon and Evans went out of sight,
there would've been
very high emotions,
because these guys wanted
to be up there,
We crossed over
and reached the South Col,
A little later in the day,
we kept an eye out
for the clouds that
come over the mountain,
and we were a bit worried
about Evans and Bourdillon,
But, uh, I think
it was about 3:30,
George once again
caught sight of them
coming down the couloir
from the Southeast Ridge,
down towards the South Col,
And it was a long time
before they actually started
to come down,
And when they were coming down,
they were clearly very, very tired,
When Bourdillon
and Evans came down,
Dad walked out to meet them,
People tend to see it in terms of
this really good guy going out
to meet them and help them back,
and there was that, absolutely,
But there was another part,
which was inside, where he...
..he wanted to climb this mountain,
He needed to know,
"Where did they get to?"
And they told us
that they'd reached
the South Summit alright,
had a look at the summit ridge,
but hadn't had sufficient time or oxygen
or energy to go any further,
They were in a terrible state,
Most of the day Charles Evans
had been climbing with an oxygen set
which didn't work properly,
so he'd been inhaling
carbon dioxide as well as oxygen,
But I think also Tom Bourdillon was
very... emotionally in a bad state,
because it really meant
a lot to him, you know,
He had designed this oxygen set
which had failed,
So they were in a bad way,
physically and emotionally as well,
Tom Bourdillon kept saying,
"We should've had a go,
"We should've gone on,"
you know,
"We should've gone on,"
Evans and Bourdillon
were very strong,
very experienced climbers,
Having climbed higher than any
human beings had ever been before...
..having got to the South Summit
and looked across at this final,
almost knife-edged ridge,
Charles Evans did say to Ed Hillary
something like,
"That last ridge looks really hard,
I don't know if you can do it,"
Above 26,000 feet
is what we call the death zone,
because you are slowly dying,
It's not a place for humans,
John Hunt was a leader
leading from the front,
And as the front now
was up above the South Col,
that's why he wanted to stay,
and we realised that he really
wasn't strong enough to stay,
It was a classic case
of someone having been
too high too long,
He'd gone beyond the limit,
like Tom Bourdillon
and Charles Evans,
And he was eventually persuaded
to go down with them,
They were exhausted
and we were worried about them
and we dug out some oxygen
to help them,
Well, I hated
to leave the col,
but after a certain amount
of discussion,
I saw that I could not weaken
the second party,
So I left Ed with the parting
instruction not to give in,
This was a great moment
on the expedition
in which the leader sacrifices
his own personal ambition,
and Ed Hillary says,
"Never at any moment
"have I respected John Hunt more,"
You know,
it was touch and go,
because the monsoon comes
in the first week of June,
and it was tight,
on the last days of May,
For Hillary and Tenzing
to make an attempt on the summit,
they couldn't go from the South Col,
because they would have to carry
too much oxygen,
So the only way was to start from
higher up, then go for the summit,
The following day
was extremely windy and cold,
and no movement upwards
was possible,
We spent the day preparing
the oxygen and gear,
with the hope that the following day
would prove clear and fine,
They would use oxygen
at night, flowing at a very low rate,
because it would help them sleep
and make them feel
slightly warmer as well,
Night-time is a tough time,
You lay there
listening to the mountain...
..listening to the wind,
listening to the avalanche,
Thinking, "Oh, my God," you know,
Demons come,
The original plan was
that Gregory and three Sherpas
would carry the high camp,
One Sherpa had collapsed on the col
and gone down previously,
leaving us two Sherpas,
On the morning of the day
we intended to do the carry,
we poked our head
into the pyramid tent
and found Sherpa Pemba
in a very bad condition,
It was obvious
that he wouldn't carry,
and so we had the job
of sharing the load,
First of all,
early in the day
we knew that we'd have to reorganise
the loads and take more,
George Lowe and I and Ang Nyima
left about a quarter to nine,
Ed and Tenzing left
the South Col an hour behind us
to conserve their energy
and to go faster through our steps
and so conserve their oxygen,
And we took off carrying
between 50 and 60 pounds,
and Ed, I think we estimated his
at 63 pounds,
which is quite an enormous load
for that altitude,
The wind was very strong
on the col,
We had very difficult conditions,
We moved up this ridge
looking for a flat spot,
For a long time
we couldn't find a camp site...
..until at last Tenzing found one,
a nearly flat spot
underneath a rocky bluff,
They helped us
to the highest camp
ever put up on Everest
or any other mountain,
at 27,900 feet,
No-one had ever camped
this high before,
George Lowe and Alf Gregory
take a few pictures
and then shake hands and say,
"Well, 'bye now, Good luck,
"We'd better be off down,"
And then there's
a wonderfully poignant moment,
Ang Nyima
is very tired, he should go down,
But he said to Dad
that he wanted to stay
so he could make some tea when
they came down, and help them,
I know Dad was
very touched by that,
But eventually they start
back down again,
Leaving Hillary and Tenzing
completely alone,
It was with
certain feelings of sorrow
that we saw George and Greg
and Sherpa Ang Nyima
descending down the mountain,
leaving us up there all alone,
We'd have much preferred to have
a bit of company for the night,
However, they had to get down -
our oxygen was running short,
You 're totally
on your own, really out on a limb,
There's no radio contact
with anyone,
You could disappear
and everyone will just wonder,
"Whatever happened to them?"
I think it would've been
very exciting,
very lonely and very scary,
It took us two
hours of solid work to set up the tent
on two strips of ground
a yard wide and 10 feet long,
Towards the top of Everest,
you get these
very, very powerful winds,
and they were very precariously
attached to this slope
and all the time they're worried
they're gonna be
blown off the mountain,
When the wind
gets up in the evening
you're in
quite a dangerous position
because you're pinned
to the mountain,
The noise is really frightening,
That night was the coldest
ever recorded on the expedition,
It's such
a dehydrating environment,
and there's only one way
to make water,
and that is you have to melt
snow or ice,
You 're breathing eight times more
than you are at sea level,
You can lose more than a litre a day
just from the heavy breathing
at high altitude,
In addition, the air is so dry
that it sucks the moisture
right from your skin,
I made myself
as comfortable as possible,
half sitting and half reclining
on the upper shelf,
It wasn't comfortable, but I could
at least brace my feet and shoulders
to help our meagre anchors
hold the tent in the gusts of wind,
High-altitude climbing
is all about being comfortable
in uncomfortable places,
He was very good at basic
day-to-day survival, as was Tenzing,
and I think that's where
they really scored,
Early in the night,
the wind dropped,
We had some oxygen,
which we used for sleeping purposes
for about four hours
out of the 16 hours we spent there,
For the four hours, at least,
we did doze,
but as soon as the oxygen cut out
we'd immediately wake up
and start feeling cold,
He's all the time thinking,
"I don't want to use
tomorrow's oxygen,"
There's just little things go wrong,
They've lugged up an enormous
black oxygen cylinder
which they planned to use
for sleeping oxygen,
But, unfortunately,
having lugged this bottle up,
they discovered that somebody has
gone back with the adaptor for it,
so the bottle is useless,
I didn't have the complete conviction
that we were going to be
I was very aware of the fact
that very good expeditions
had attempted the mountain
and had got very high
but had not succeeded,
At 6:30am we started off
from our tent,
We wasted no time in preparing
the oxygen apparatus and equipment,
It's all about oxygen
at this point,
Hillary is constantly
thinking about this,
"How much oxygen do I need?
"What should the flow rate
of the oxygen be?" You know?
"If I have it flowing at
a higher rate, then I feel better,
"but I use up the bottle
more quickly,"
It's very, very cold,
They measure it at below -25,
And that kind of profound,
bone-chilling cold
is almost like an assault, you know?
It's just grim,
The team physiologist had
said, "When you get to high altitude,
"you've got to climb
using your oxygen sets
"at a rate of four litres per minute,
"Anything less than that, you're not
gonna get real benefit from it,"
Our progress
at first was pretty steady,
However, we examined
the oxygen supplies
and found we couldn't go on
our estimated four litres a minute
and have a chance
of getting to the top,
Had to cut it down to three,
A fairly simple
calculation about the oxygen flow rate
is unbelievably difficult up there
because you've got an addled,
oxygen-deprived mind,
After going for some time,
we reached the bottom
of a 400-foot slope
which led up to the South Summit,
and this slope
was a tremendously steep one,
We felt that this snow
could easily avalanche,
There was a bit of a crust,
so you'd think you were
standing on firm ground
and then it would give way -
it would be powdery underneath,
So Hillary is anxious about that,
And also fear of avalanche,
And they have this exchange,
I remember
turning to Tenzing and saying to him,
"Well, what do you think
about it, Tenzing?"
He said he didn't like it at all,
thought it was
decidedly dangerous,
Then I said,
"Well, what do you think?
"Do you think we should go on?"
And he said, "Just as you like,"
We climbed up it with a good deal
of fear and trepidation,
I think this is the first time
I've ever had to make a decision
as to whether something
was justifiable or not,
decided it wasn't justifiable,
but we still went on,
You 're right on the edge
of what's possible
and every step you take is
putting you more into danger,
so the temptation to turn round
and go down is strong,
I'm frightened
a great deal of the time
when I'm in dangerous country,
But I think being afraid
is one of the important factors,
It's a stimulating factor,
Of course, if you just get
petrified with fear,
then it would be hopeless,
The crux of it is
whether or not you're gonna survive,
You know,
none of that is guaranteed,
If anything goes wrong up there,
even a relatively minor accident
can very rapidly slide
into a fatal one,
It was a great relief
when we reached
the South Summit at 9am,
Oxygen was running short,
so we wasted no time
and set off along the ridge,
But we were moving slowly
and time was against us,
Evans and Bourdillon
had gone to the South Summit
and had had reservations
about the route ahead,
Evans had pointed out that there was
a very difficult knife-edged ridge,
It's serrated,
it's got these just horrifying drops
on both sides,
They must've had concerns about
whether or not they could climb it,
On the left you've got
the immense Southwest Face
of Everest,
and if you fell down that,
you'd probably fall all the way
back down to the Western Cwm,
8,000 feet below,
And then to your right
is the even bigger precipice
of the Kangshung Face,
and that really concentrates
the mind,
For the mountaineer,
the thought of the process of dying
is more unpleasant
than the actual fact that
you may be dead at the end of it,
In the meantime,
watching from below down at Camp 4,
we were all waiting most anxiously,
Obviously we'd hoped
to have our little walkie-talkies going
right up to at least the South Col,
but the one that was taken
to the South Col didn't work,
So in fact we realised
we wouldn't actually know
whether Hillary and Tenzing
had been successful
until they actually came down
and told us,
No-one had any idea
where they were, how they were going,
would they be successful,
or, indeed, would they come back?
Our oxygen equipment
was not all that sophisticated,
It only had a pressure gauge on it,
so I never really knew
just how much oxygen still remained,
My brain was working
fairly energetically
working out
just how much time we had left,
One of the problems
with extreme altitude climbing
is failure of oxygen systems,
And people die on a regular basis
when their oxygen packs up,
And then
there's a bit of a problem,
Tenzing is really struggling,
where before he was
following Hillary quite nicely,
I suddenly noticed
that Tenzing seemed to be
in some distress,
And when I looked at him closely,
I saw that he was breathing
very quickly indeed,
I immediately examined
his oxygen set
and found that the outlet
from his oxygen mask
was almost completely
blocked up with ice,
Fortunately I was able
to release this ice,
you're suddenly hypoxic
and you're not
thinking straight,
you may not immediately think,
"Oh, this is because my oxygen
equipment isn't working right,"
You just think, "Oh, my God,
I'm incredibly tired all of a sudden,"
You have this strange,
slightly surreal blur
of images and thoughts and ideas
going through your head,
So you have to watch yourself
and watch each other very closely,
Well, after about an hour
we had made quite a distance
along the ridge,
and then we came to a rock bluff
which barred the way
along the ridge,
Now, I really thought that perhaps
this was as far as we were going,
I took photographs
because the actual rock itself
was very steep
and we knew that it could stop us,
Was that step even climbable?
And was it climbable
at 29,000 feet?
No-one had ever gone there before,
It's a hell of a step,
You look at that and you think,
"Oh, my God, What a decision,"
But Sir Ed took the gamble
and thought,
"What the hell,
I'm gonna go for it,"
The only way
to climb it seemed to me a crack
where the ice was
sticking to the rock,
and I wasn't at all sure
that the ice would remain in place
when I was wriggling my way up,
I was scared stiff,
He just set forth
up this nearly vertical step
and wedged himself in this chimney
more or less with his feet,
his cramponed feet pressing
against the rocks on the left
and his back pushing out
against the snow on the right,
and just hoping
the snow wouldn't give way
and catapult him 11,000 feet
down the Kangshung Face,
Because it's doubtful whether
Norgay could've held him on the rope
if he'd come off,
Little slabs were breaking off
and Dad was not really
enjoying the conditions,
You know, if he was back
in the Southern Alps,
he'd probably turn around
and try it another day,
And then, um, that little
internal voice going,
"Ed, my boy, this is Everest,
"You've got to go
the extra distance,"
By jamming back
on the ice with my crampons,
or ice spikes on my boots,
and scrambling on the rock in front,
I was able to wriggle and push my way
up the crack and onto the top,
After recovering my breath,
I took the rope in
and, with many a heave,
and old Tenzing wriggling
and scrambling the same,
got him onto the top
of the rock too,
There are times in life,
you know,
when you have to be
bold and decisive,
So much hung on Hillary's ability
to pull out all the stops,
and he was able to give it
that little extra,
When Hunt had to
go down from the South Col
he turned to Ed and he said,
"Look, you know,
this is our last chance,
"You 're carrying a lot
of people's hopes on your back,"
What would we do
if they failed?
Because that was a feeling,
particularly in John Hunt's mind,
I don't think anybody dared
express an opinion,
We continued on
and we were getting distinctly tired
and rather desperate,
for the summit seemed to be
continually eluding us,
Beyond the Hillary Step,
it's still a fair distance horizontally
to the summit
and you're going over
three or four broad hummocks,
And as you get to the crest
of one of these hummocks,
there's another one beyond,
and you think, "Is this ridge
ever gonna end?"
There's just
certain human beings
able to put one foot
in front of the other,
you know, relentlessly,
psychologically able to do it,
whereas other people would fail,
We cut steps
along the top, round bump after bump,
keeping looking for the top,
And finally we actually reached
the summit itself,
I looked at Tenzing,
and even underneath his oxygen mask
and balaclava
I could see his infectious grin
of sheer pleasure,
We shook hands,
To Tenzing this was not enough,
And we thumped each other
on the back
until we had no breath left,
I glanced at my watch,
It was 11:30,
On top we only spent
quarter of an hour,
We were conscious all the time
that our oxygen was running short
and that we had no time to waste
and we must get down again,
I took my oxygen off
in order to take photographs,
Tenzing dug a little hole
in the snow
and in that he put
a gift to the gods,
Had a good look round at the view,
and also I took photographs
down all the main ridges
of the mountain
just to have some proof
that we'd been on top,
And photographed Tenzing waving his
ice axe with four flags tied to it,
It was a tremendous moment
for both of us,
Only to be
I live in expectancy
No wonder it feels
Like this wasn't meant for me
But, girl, my mind is
so confined
That there ain't no point
in reasoning
Now that it's clear to see
It was all in front of me
And I'm right where
I'm supposed to be
Yeah, yeah
I'm left just turning pages
Well, I know
that it's worth the ride
Ain't it good to be alive?
So what will it be?
My dreams or my company
To lose what is me
Or follow the path I see
Boy, my mind is so confined
That I don't even know
where to begin
But it took me so long to find
That I could leave it all behind
'Cause I've got
everything I'd ever need
Yeah, yeah
I'm left just turning pages
Well, I know
that it's worth the ride
Ain't it good to be alive?
'Cause only to be
Was all that you got from me
You told me it's real
And nothing comes easily
'Cause that was the truth
I was losing all my youth
To a world
that's fit for someone else
I'll live just turning pages
Well, I know
that it's worth the ride
Oh, whoa, whoa
Yeah, yeah
I'm left just turning pages
Yeah, yeah
But I know it was worth the ride
Ain't it good to be alive?
Ain't it good to be alive?