When the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India published a description of a mountain “most probably the highest in the world” in 1856, no local name could be found—it was simply “Peak XV.” (Later the Tibetan and Nepali names—Chomolungma and Sagarmatha—became well known.) Andrew Waugh, the surveyor general of India, proposed “to perpetuate the memory of that illustrious master of geographical research,” Sir George Everest, by naming the peak for him. (Everest had preceded Waugh as surveyor general.) The gesture was soon endorsed in London by the secretary of state for India and the Royal Geographical Society.
When Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach the summit of that illustrious peak, at 11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953, it was a culmination of over thirty years of British expeditions to the mountain. Beginning with the first British assault on the summit in 1922, when George Finch and Geoffrey Bruce reached 27,300 feet, the expeditions continued in spite of a tragic setback in 1924 when climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine perished, through Eric Shipton’s efforts in the 1930s, to the heroic images of the successful 1953 expedition led by John Hunt.
The collection of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) records the key moments in British mountaineering history with more than twenty thousand photographs, as well as maps, archival documents, and artifacts relating to the nine British expeditions. Everest, which stands at 8,848 meters (29,028 feet), continues to be a massive draw to mountaineers from all over the world who wish to share in the achievement of reaching the summit.