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MAY 29, 1953: New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Nepalese sherpa Tenzing Norgay become the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Mountaineers had tried to conquer the towering 29,035-foot peak for more than three decades — spurred on, in George Mallory’s famous quip, “Because it’s there” — but had been turned back by the imposing terrain, harsh weather, and low oxygen. A beekeeper by trade, Hillary was part of an aggressive British push to reach the summit spurred on by a Swiss expedition that had nearly accomplished the feat the year before, and a separate British team had come within 300 feet of the peak just two days before Hillary and Norgay got there.