National Geographic : 1963 Oct
Lengthening shadows of Everest and fel low giants warn Hornbein and Unsoeld, who reached the summit after 6 p.m., that they will have to go down the mountain in dark ness. Everest's shadow appears at far left; Lhotse's falls on the slopes of Makalu near the center. Most distant shadow belongs to Makalu itself. where the summit should be, we could see the ridges converging from north and south on a little snow dome up above. I kept telling my self, as I looked at it, that can't be the summit, it's too near. The summit is still off behind a little way. Yet it can't be very far, I reminded myself, because now we've looked over and seen the South Summit, and we're higher than it is. We're getting very close. And then Willi, up ahead, stopped, coiled the rope, and stood there holding up his fist. I wondered why, and I came climbing up to him, moving faster. There, some 40 feet ahead, was the American flag, shining in the slanting rays of the sun and flapping wildly in the wind. This was the top of Mount Everest. We threw our arms around each other. I don't remember saying anything. We were beyond words. Bishop's and Jerstad's Tracks Show Way The wind was vicious enough now that we didn't care to tarry. Besides, it was already 6:15. Pausing probably 15 minutes, we took pictures of the sunset, Makalu, Lhotse, and the valley. We left a few mementos, including a cruci fix wrapped inside Gombu's friendship scarf, and two prayer flags given Willi by one of our Sherpas. Then we headed down to a little patch of gravel about 50 feet below, where we took out our radio and raised Camp II. We told them that we were heading down the col route. Willi's last words to camp were from Robert Frost: ... I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep... We were gratified to find the tracks of Lute Jerstad and Barry Bishop who had preceded us, as we later learned, by about three hours, and we made haste after that down the ridge, traversing to the South Summit in about 45 minutes. At one point we came to a great gaping hole in the cornice. We could see straight down the enormous Kangshung face. Look 512 ing through the gap we could see under the cornices for the first time. They seemed like ghostly arms, shadowed and misty, arching out over the abyss. Down Hillary's Chimney we went, Willi going first. I secured him because he was be ginning to feel tired, finally, after the tremen dous amount of energy he had expended lead ing on the way up. Going up had been pretty much his chore; getting down was mine.