Mountaineering & Expeditions

Everest Climbers | 15 Mountaineering Legends Who Conquered The World’s Highest Mountain

Who climbed Everest first? Who's climbed Everest the most? Who's the oldest person to have climbed Everest? All these questions, and more, answered here.

Who’s climbed Everest? Have you climbed Everest? Have I? How many people have climbed Everest? Who hasn’t climbed Everest? When it comes to discussing the climbing of Everest, which is the world’s highest mountain lest we forget, people tend to have some questions. Lots of questions, in fact.

First things first, I have never climbed Everest. I’ve climbed Snowdon, sure. I’ve climbed Toubkal (the highest mountain in North Africa, don’t you know). But, strange as it may seem, I have never, not once in my life, climbed Everest. So, who has made it to the summit then? Seeing as I’m too lazy to even try.

Since Everest’s first ascent in 1953, over 4,000 people have gone on to conquer it. Men, women, children, and people with an array of disabilities have summoned up the willpower to defeat one of the world’s truly great challenges. And we salute them for it.  In an ideal world, we’d do an in-depth 2,000 word piece on all of these mountaineering heroes. Due to time constraints, though, we’ve had to settle for picking out just a small collection of the legendary names forever associated with climbing Everest. 

1) Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary (seen here), along with Tenzing Norgay, are recognised as the first people to have climbed Everest. Image via. Getty Images.

Sir Edmund Hillary, along with teammate Tenzing Norgay, was the first person to officially climb Everest. Born in 1919, and passing away in 2008, New Zealander Hillary was named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. He’s kind of a big deal.

Speculation circulates that George Mallory actually summited Everest before dying on the way down, almost thirty years before Hillary’s climb, in 1924. However, because Mallory and his teammate Andrew Irvine disappeared from view…nobody knows for certain what happened in their final moments. Mallory’s remarkably well-preserved body was discovered above the 8,000 metres line in 1999, but the camera he took with him remains lost (a camera that could prove whether the ascent was successful or not). With research into the Mallory mystery ongoing, Hillary’s 1953 climb remains the first official climb to the top of the world’s highest mountain.

2) Tenzing Norgay

Tenzing Norgay (aka “Sir Edmund Hillary’s brother from another mother”) was the other half of the two man team that made the first the successful ascent of Everest on the 29th of May 1953. Born Namgyal Wangdi in 1914, and often referred to as Sherpa Tenzing, this Nepalese mountain legend was also named in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

3) Bear Grylls

Pictured: Bear Grylls (left) with Neil Laughton (right) on the summit of Everest.

No matter your knowledge of the outdoors, you’ll no doubt already be familiar with Bear Grylls. He’s the man who once made Michelle Rodriguez eat mouse stewed in her own urine. He’s the guy who drinks elephant poo, turns dead camels into sleeping bags, and does a whole heap of other disgusting things for television. You know who this man is. You know what Bear Grylls is about.

That being said, do you know that the man climbed Everest just 18 months after breaking his back in a parachuting accident? In 1998, Bear became one of the youngest people at the time to summit the mountain; doing so at the age of 23. Climbing Everest had been his childhood dream.

We Played Penny Farthing Polo With The Man Who Helped Bear Grylls Conquer Everest

4) Reinhold Messner

When it comes to Everest’s big hitters, there’s few more significant than Reinhold Messner. One of the all-time great mountaineers, Messner was the first person, alongside teammate Peter Habeler, to summit the mountain without the use of supplemental oxygen. He achieved this in 1978. Mesnner, who hails from the Italian province of South Tyrol, then returned two years later and became the first person to do a solo ascent of Everest; again, without supplemental oxygen. Top boy.

5) Yuichiro Miura

We’re yet to experience what it’s like to be an octogenarian male, but we imagine that when a man hits that milestone in life the body maybe doesn’t work in quite the same way it did when you were just a young scallywag running through fields of wheat. What about turning 80 and then climbing Everest? Surely, nobody has ever done that before? Step forward, Yuichiro Miura; who summited Everest at the astonishing age of 80 years and 224 days.

Japanese mountaineer Yuichiro Miura reclaimed the record in 2013 from Min Bahadur Sherchan, who had beaten Miura’s 2008 record by climbing Everest in that same year at the grand old age of 76 years 340 days. Seriously. If we’re half as active as these dudes when we’re blowing out over 70 candles on our respective birthday cakes, we’ll be pretty stoked.

6) Jordan Romero

At the completely opposite end of the age scale to Yuichiro Miura is young Jordan Romero. The fresh faced American climber Romero climbed to the top of Everest in 2010 and, believe it or not, achieved the feat when he was just 13 years, 10 months and 10 days old. There’s a lot of things we were doing when were just 13; climbing the world’s highest mountain was not one of these things.

7) Malavarth Purna

Malavarth Purna became the youngest female to climb Everest when she summited it in 2014. Purna achieved the feat when she was just 13 years and 11 months old. A bit of an old timer compared with the one month younger Jordan Romero, but still…not a bad effort all things considered.

8) Junko Tabei

In 1975, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the top of Mount Everest. Born in 1939, Tabei, who died in 2016, was also the first woman to ascend all Seven Summits when she successfully climbed the highest mountain on every continent.

9) Apa Sherpa

Climbing Everest once is impressive. Climbing Everest twice is even more impressive. Climbing Everest 21 times, like Apa Sherpa has, boggles the mind with its impressiveness. 21 climbs of Everest is a level of impressiveness where infinity gets multiplied by infinity. 21 ascents of the world’s highest mountain is just, well, complete and utter madness. 21 times?!

Nicknamed “Super Sherpa”, Apa is a Nepalese mountaineer born in 1960 who jointly holds the record with Phurba Tashi for most successful Everest ascents. When asked about going for a 22nd ascent, the man replied: “Everyone says 21 is a good number. I have to make my family happy. Every time I go, they worry because Everest is very risky.”

10) Anshu Jamsenpa

Earlier this year, Indian mountaineer Anshu Jamsenpa was the talk of the town after becoming the first woman to make a dual ascent of Everest in the same season. Remarkably, she did both climbs in the space of just five days. Up, down, and then back up again. Fair play, Anshu Jamsenpa. Fair play to you.

11) Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Pictured: Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who climbed Everest at the age of 65. Credit: Mpora – Instagram.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, or to give him his full title ‘Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE’, is one of the world’s most greatest adventurers. And with good reason. Fiennes has done a lot of incredibly adventurous stuff. Among his list of achievements include being the first person to visit both the North and South pole by surface means, as well as the first to cross all of Antarctica on foot. In 2009, at the age of 65, Englishman Fiennes climbed to the summit of Everest.

12) Tamae Watanabe

Tamae Watanabe is an absolute legend in mountaineering circles. In 2002, she became the oldest woman to climb Everest at the age of 63 years and 177 days. 10 years later, in 2012, Japanese climber Watanabe broke her own record by summiting Everest again at the age of 73 years and 180 days. Will she go for another Everest attempt in 2022? Don’t bet against her. For Tamae, age really is just a number.

13) Sir Chris Bonington

Speaking of absolute mountaineering legends, knight of the realm Sir Chris Bonington is right up there in the Everest stakes. In April 1985, the British Bonington, who originates from London, became the first man over the age of 50 to summit the world’s highest mountain. For a very brief time, he was officially the oldest man on the planet to conquer Everest. Bonington’s Everest record was surpassed in the same year by, then 55 year old, American mountaineer Richard Bass. Bass then held that record until 1993 when 60 year old Ramon Blanco made it to the top.

14) Mark Inglis

In May 2006, New Zealander Mark Inglis became the first double leg amputee to summit Everest. The climb took 40 days. One of the most remarkable aspects, of a truly remarkable ascent, was when a fall from a fixed-line anchor at 6,400 metres resulted in one of Inglis’s prosthetic legs breaking in half. The prosthetic leg was fixed up with duct tape, while a spare one could be brought up from base camp.

The climb was criticised by none other than Sir Edmund Hillary as it coincided with the death of English mountaineer David Sharp. Inglis’s climbing group came across Sharp, who was in a bad way, at 8,500 metres but a decision was made to carry on to the summit rather than assist Sharp.

Help was offered on the descent but by then it was too late, and Sharp went on to became another one of the bodies on Everest. Inglis defended this controversy, and comments made by Hillary, stating that the decision was made by expedition leader Russell Brice and that the “trouble is at 8,500 metres it’s extremely difficult to keep yourself alive, let alone anyone else alive.”

Inglis lost both his legs to frostbite on a 1982 climb of Aoraki/Mount Cook.

15) Kenton Cool

Pictured: Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Kenton Cool. Credit: Kenton Cool

British climber Kenton Cool has summited Mount Everest an incredible 12 times. He has conquered the mountain more times than any other Brit in history.  As well as this, and the fact that his name is literally one of the raddest names imaginable, Cool, who was born in 1973, is also notable for being the first person to climb Nuptse, Everest and Lhotse consecutively without returning to base camp.

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