The 1953 Everest Expedition assembled in Kathmandu in early March, the largest and most prepared Expedition ever to attempt the mountain. With 11 climbers, a doctor and a cameraman, it was supported by a team of 20 climbing Sherpa's.
The expedition leader was John Hunt and in charge of the Sherpa's was Tensing Norgay. Norgay already had experience of Everest, having come to within a few hundred metres of the summit the previous year with a Swiss Expedition.
Its army of porters - over 350 of them- who were carrying the food and equipment, left for the mountain in two caravans a day apart, their numbers too great to travel together. 10 of the porters carried just money with which to pay the other porters!
The Times Newspaper of London had bought the exclusive rights to the climb and were allowed to send a journalist with the Expedition. The young reporter James (now Jan) Morris was selected and despite having no climbing experience he climbed high on the mountain to get the news. He was supported in Kathmandu by Arthur Hutchinson, the Times' India correspondent, who was responsible to replaying the reports from Morris on the mountain, sent by runner. Unfortunately, during the climb, he developed Glandular Fever and was bed-ridden.
Other papers - notably Ralph Izzard from the Mail and Colin Reid from the Telegraph, were dispatched to try to intercept news and scoop the story. In Sacred Mountain the fictitious character Phillip Armitage is send out by the Times to assist their two employees to deliver these dispatches securely.
The expedition brought with them state-of-the-art equipment, including two types of breathing apparatus to use high on the mountain. Every member of the team had their assigned role, from Michael Westmacott who maintained the route through the treacherous Khumbu Glacier, to George Lowe who pioneered much of the Lhotse face.
There were two summit teams. The first, Tom Bourdillion and Charles Evans, almost made the summit on the 26th but turned back exhausted after problems with their breathing apparatus. The second, as history records, of Hillary and Norgay successfully stood on the summit 3 days later.