Swiss Everest 50th Anniversary Expedition 1952-2002

"Geneva – Everest 1952 – 2002"

Wonderful Pictures

Update 5/28/2002: Fiftieth anniversary of the conquest of Everest

28 May 1952

50 years ago to the day, a team from Geneva climbed to within 200 meters of the summit of Mount Everest for the first time

Geneva, 28 May 2002 – Exactly 50 years ago, Raymond Lambert and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, members of an all-Geneva expedition, climbed to within 200 meters of the summit of Everest without the aid of oxygen, for the first time. One year later, drawing on the Geneva team’s experience, a British expedition led by John Hunt, with Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay again, succeeded in reaching the roof of the world via the famous South Col discovered by their Swiss predecessors. Upon their return and amidst worldwide acclaim, they sent this message to the Geneva team: “A good half of the glory is yours”. 

28 May 1952…

Raymond Lambert and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay could hardly have chosen worse conditions for their attempt on the summit when they set out at around 6 o’clock in the morning of 28 May 1952. Progress was slow. The oxygen equipment, simple devices designed for use by miners, did not work properly. Every twenty meters, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Raymond Lambert took turns as leader. Lambert wrote: “When the slope steepens, we advance like dogs following a scent, sometimes on all fours. What ridiculous hopefuls we are, crawling humbly, slobbering like beasts of burden…” It was taking them five hours to cover a vertical height of around two hundred meters. It was impossible to go on. Worn out, Raymond Lambert and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay finally had to give up a little above 8600 meters, with only another 200 meters to go to the summit. While the two men failed to achieve their goal, they did establish a new altitude record. It was a remarkable feat, which the British expedition would build on to reach the summit of Everest in 1953. 

A moving homage 50 years on

Reaching the summit 50 years afterwards to pay homage to these pioneers is a dream that has become reality for a group of Swiss mountaineers. Some of them are related to members of the 1952 expedition, and one was even in the original team. Having returned to Katmandu in fine fettle, the climbers can finally savour their victory. To a man, they say: “There are no words to describe our feelings and our joy. We need time to realize just what we have achieved, to let it all sink in.”

Rolex, the expedition’s main sponsor, feels strongly that the “expedition has allowed us to live and relive some indelible moments. The members of the team deserve all our respect, recognition and acclaim”.

A story of friendship between the team and the Sherpas

Apart from the sporting and scientific aspects involved, the Geneva climbers’ attempt on Everest in 1952 is above all a story of friendship between the members of the expedition and the Sherpas. Filled with admiration for their trusty Nepalese companions, the team had agreed that the Sherpas should join with them in their assault on the still inviolate summit. Perhaps this is the very essence of that stirring adventure: the exemplary journey of a group of men united in the idea of sharing and solidarity, of discovering a people and its “Mother God of the Winds”, Chomolungma, the true name of Mount Everest.

The members of the 1952 expedition...

The 1952 expedition was led by Dr E. Wyss-Dunant and counted the greatest Geneva climbers of the time: 

-                     René Dittert (chief technician)

-                     Jean-Jacques Asper

-                     René Aubert

-                     Gabriel Chevalley

-                     Léon Flory

-                     Ernest Hoffstetter

-                     Raymond Lambert

-                     André Roch

-                     Sherpa Tenzing Norgay

...and the 2002 expedition

-          Stéphane Schaffter (born 2 February 1953), organizer, expedition leader and cameraman specializing in high-altitude photography

-          Yves Lambert (5 January 1961), son of Raymond Lambert

-          Jean-Jacques Asper (7 September 1926), member of the 1952 expedition

-          Tashi Tenzing (30 November 1965), grandson of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and the film’s narrator

-          Apa Sherpa (20 January 1957), has taken part in 11 ascents of Everest

-          Jean Troillet (10 March 1948), Swiss climber and Himalayas expert

-          Philippe Arvis (15 June 1962), doctor

-     Guillaume Vallot (10 June 1970), photographer and mountaineer

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