The other night your Heroine and scribe went to a talk at the Royal Geographic Society where the speaker was George Band.
George Band was the youngest of the group of 13 mountaineers (excluding sherpas), 14 after they asked Tenzing Norgay to officially join the mountaineering expedition, that were supported in the 1953 Royal Geographic Society Expedition to Mt. Everest, via Nepal, led by John Hunt.
Previous expeditions had tried, and failed from the Tibetan (Chinese) side, but in 1951, Nepal indicated that they would allow foreigners to apply for permits for the first time.
The Swiss snagged the permit for 1952. The British snagged the permit for 1953.
The British expedition that George Brown was a member of ultimately met success when the kiwi Sir Edmund Hillary, as he would later be known, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, summitted Mount Everest on behalf of the RGS team, and as a result of the team's combined efforts, on May 29, 1953.
It was a marvellous talk.
George Band, Sir George Band as he will be known after the New Year Honours List is announced, is a treat as a speaker. He is 79, and I do not know how much longer he will be giving talks, but should he give one at a mountaineering or alpine club or a geographic society near you, go.
Two years later, in 1955, the soon to be Sir Band summitted Mt. Kangchengjunga with Joe Brown, 80 miles from Mt. Everest, on another Royal Geographic Society sponsored expedition.
Officially, the 1955 trip to Mt. Kangchengjunga was simply a reconnaissance expedition.
George Band and his partner Joe Brown, however, were very diligent; they reconnoitered all the way to the top.
(Well, all the way to the top barring the last 10 meters, or 30 feet, as they had promised the authorities in Sikkim, India, that they would not step on the very top, should it be possible, as the mountain top was revered as the home of some important Gods in the Hindu pantheon.
Your Heroine and I saw Mt. Everest from the back side, in Tibet, as proved here, in a valley by base camp...
We also surprised a yak. (We were wandering in the dark waiting for the sun to rise, and I was freezing, a la Venice, as I was in "fashionable" clothing that your Heroine had lovingly bought for me, rather than the warm jacket that your Heroine had lovingly bought for herself...)
But we never summitted. We did not have the 100,000 USD per person which is the current price of admission for a permit to attempt the summit.
Summitting would still be a magnificent experience, but not the same as George Band's. On his expedition to Everest, his group were the only people on the mountain, none had summitted before, and there was much less garbage around than there is now.
The Swiss had attempted to summit Everest from the Nepalese side in 1952, the year before the RGS society was successful, trying from the same Nepalese side, but the Swiss had not made it up to what they thought their ultimate camp, before the assault on the summit, would be. The British team learned a lot from the experience of the Swiss team.
Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had also accompanied the lead Swiss mountaineer, Raymond Lambert, to the highest point that the Swiss expedition reached in 1952.
The British team ended up with their penultimate camp, camp eight, where the ultimate Swiss camp was meant to be.
Two British two-man teams took two separate routes on behalf of the whole team.
The successful Hillary/Norgay pair went to a final camp, camp nine, at 8503 meters or 27,900 feet, to recuperate for a few days, and have a shorter final route. They were plan B.
Plan A was a summit assault team of Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans that were trying out a new, experimental, 100% oxygen system and were going to try to make one mammoth assault on the summit using the 100% oxygen system.
Bourdillon and Evans managed to summit the South Peak of Everest (approx. 8,748 meters or approx. 28,729 feet) on a Herculean effort from Camp 8, but they did not feel it was safe that day to ascend to the highest summit of Mt. Everest on May 26, 1953 as they were tired, their oxygen was low, and the weather was not good.
Three days later, Hillary and Norgay would find ultimate success and reach the highest earthly point on our planet, 8,848 meters or 29,029 feet above where the sea greets the land with her unending hello.
Normally, when I have listened to climbers and mountaineers give talks, ego has shone through, though I hasten to add that these have been fine, entertaining talks by fine men and women.
George Band's talk emphasized the role of the team, and how everyone was critical for success.
I understand how he rose through the echelons of Royal Dutch Shell after he left climbing and why he held such positions of authority within the British climbing fraternity.