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There has been a lot of gushing editorial written recently to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Everest in 1963. When they announced they had made the first successful ascent of Everest from the north, the Chinese were greeted with scepticism in the West.
The four climbers who set out on summit day were Wang Fu-chou (a geologist), Chu Yin-hua (a lumberjack), Liu Lien-man (a fireman), all loyal members of the Chinese Communist Party, and Konbu (a Tibetan peasant). They started out from a high camp at 8500m, which puts them firmly on the Northeast Ridge, probably on the slabs just beneath the First Step, although Mushroom Rock between the First and Second Steps is a possible location for a small campsite. When Liu collapsed from exhaustion 100m beyond the Second Step, the three communists held an emergency meeting. They left a Chinese flag and a small plaster bust of Chairman Mao on the summit, together with a pencilled note containing their signatures under a small heap of stones.
The pompous Communist language probably didn’t aid the veracity of their story in the eyes of Western climbers, and there was doubtless some incredulity that the Chinese might succeed with novice climbers where seven earlier expeditions containing the cream of British mountaineering had failed. Although they were novices they had followed an extremely rigorous fitness training programme, and their climbing experience included ascents of 6177m Nyenchin Tangla and 7546m Muztag Ata. Their statement about reaching the summit in darkness after running out of oxygen was perhaps the claim that seemed most implausible to people at the time. Chu Yin-hua’s story about taking his shoes and socks off to climb the Second Step suddenly became more believable to American climbers who went to question him when he took them off again to reveal ten little stumps where his toes had once been. Chris Bonington questioned expedition leader Shih Chan-Chun at length and professed himself to be in no doubt about the ascent. When they completed the second ascent of Everest from the north in 1975, another Chinese team left a six foot metal tripod there which Doug Scott and Dougal Haston found when they completed the first British ascent four months later.


What convinces me most the Chinese ascent of 1960 must have been genuine was the route description in their official expedition account. They describe confronting a sheer ice cliff at the top of the slope and having to circle around it in a westward direction.
They describe being overjoyed to reach a false summit, only to discover another peak a few metres higher on the other side. We should remember that apart from George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, who may also have reached the summit along this route in 1924 but did not return to tell the tale, nobody had ever been that way before.
So, sorry America, great as your 1963 expedition was, you have Everest’s 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th summiteers, but the Chinese got there first.
The two were unsuccessful in getting up the second step and after staying out the night returned to the camp. Hi Alec, slightly confused, but are you suggesting that before falling to his death George Mallory stopped on the Northeast Ridge to jot down the summit route in his diary? The three Chinese left at the high camp during their first attempt at the second step would surely have found Mallory. I’m puzzled why you prefer to invent a far-fetched conspiracy theory to explain the Chinese ascent, rather than accept the perfectly reasonable explanation that their route description is accurate because they did in fact reach the summit.
There’s some talk of Russians going high in the early ‘50s, but my research into that has shown that that’s unlikely. It was an old camera, and they told me that they took the camera back to Beijing and developed the film and there were no images on the film. Heehee, perhaps Maurice Wilson was the first person to climb a Himalayan peak in stiletto heels!
Everest climber Xu Jing claim that he found an old body high up on Everest during the 1960 expedition, if true, then it could have been none other than the body of Andrew Irvine.
Why did Xu Jing not take a photograph of this body to back up evidence of his claimed sighting. The conspiracy theory that the Chinese stole Irvine’s camera to pass off its photos as their own is not plausible.
Well,some people questioned that the Chinese people didn’t reach the top, perhaps because bias? I hope Concordia supply's mission is to equip churches and ministry leaders with quality christian resources that transform lives for christ serving you and your ministry.
Most official lists of Everest summiteers state that three climbers, Wang Fu-chou and Chu Yin-hua from the People’s Republic of China, and a Tibetan called variously Konbu or Gonpa (or perhaps Gombu), reached the summit from the north side in 1960.
Many of the incidents described in the report of their ascent seemed unlikely, even a little bizarre. Most expeditions these days set out from between 8200m and 8300m, well below the summit ridge where there is much more room for a campsite. They decided Liu would wait with an oxygen cylinder while the others continued to the summit. By then their oxygen had run out and they completed the final stretch along the summit ridge on all fours with Konbu leading.
But despite the curious incidents that took place on summit day, members of the Chinese expedition were very open about their climb, and answered many questions about it in following years. While sometimes a little vague about the details it contains enough of them to prove they must have actually been there.
Although the Third Step is higher than this in total, it consists of a number of obstacles which could fit this description to an exhausted climber ascending in the dark. Their description matches that of the lower part of the summit pyramid immediately above the Third Step.
The final part of the summit ridge does indeed undulate in this way, and although the true summit can be seen from some distance away, this description is consistent with climbers approaching the summit in the dark. If Wang and Chu had been making their story up it would have been a remarkable coincidence for them to describe features on the route in sequence without having seen them.


You can console yourselves that we in Britain had many more expeditions, but we had to wait until Doug Scott, Dougal Haston and Pete Boardman became the 50th, 51st and 52nd summiteers in 1975. If only you had posted a few hours earlier I could have said hello to a few old friends of yours. During this time Mallory’s body must have been found it has been admitted that his ax was picked up.
But if they didn’t summit it may be the only way they could have produced the descriptions of reaching the summit, although the descriptions are sketchy. I think worth comparing this with pictures taken in the Chinese expedition and from the 1924 expedition. He was fighting for his life to get down; it would have been the only case in history of a mountaineer prioritising his memoirs over safe descent. He had fallen to his death down steep slabs above a 3000m drop, after all, and it was 75 years and numerous expeditions before he was eventually found and identified.
So these guys were walking into an archeological minefield of things that had been lying there for all those years. It is extremely difficult to believe that Xu Jing did not realize the significance of this claimed sighting. Surely any individual with even a modicum of rational thought and insight would arrive at the same conclusion. As you point out, at the top of the slope there is a wall and you have to skirt to the right along rock ledges. The expedition had been concentrating its resources on ascending by the normal route and three weeks earlier Jim Whittaker had become the first American to climb Everest, when he reached the top with Nawang Gombu Sherpa.
One of the posts I read last week, 50 things about the 50th anniversary of the 1963 American Everest Expedition, lists many fascinating facts, like there were 909 porters, 10 tons of food packed into 416 boxes, the team members had 15 wives and 26 children between them and five had PhDs. Chu Yin-hua then took his cramponned boots and thick woollen socks off to have a go, but also fell. These days their ascent is generally considered to be genuine and appears in official records. In 1960 nobody believed Everest could be climbed without oxygen, but many other climbers have done it since.
The high winds and extreme temperatures on the Northeast Ridge don’t lend themselves to producing a paper and pen and writing an essay.
This is one of the points that persuaded me the Chinese description of the climb is authentic, as I had to do the same thing when I got there.
As I was slowly drifting into a deep sleep one of the statistics caught my attention and made me sit upright in my chair, as I’m sure many of you have done in meetings. Did they mean only six climbers had reached the summit from the south side, or are they making a conscious decision to erase the Chinese expedition of 1960 from history?
I climbed the route myself last year, and sketchy as their account is on some of the details, there’s no doubt in my mind they were describing the route to the summit along the Northeast Ridge.
As well as Robert obviously (who was presenting but I didn’t speak to) I bumped into three more of your old Cho team mates, Matt, Mark P and Richard S, out of the blue in the bar beforehand.
Xu Jing did in fact discover the body of Andrew Irvine, and may or may not have taken photos.
Its a great pity these feats do not have photographic evidence in order to document the seemingly impossible physical challenges that would be difficult even at sea level. With a great effort he then stood up and enabled them to reach above and haul themselves on top. They returned and tried to conquered the summit maybe they were unsuccessful or maybe, as they said they did but were delayed and reached the summit at night and had no photographic proof.



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