Shoreditch exhibition celebrates 100 years of Everest expedition

Everest at 20,000 feet above sea level on the last day of the 1921 expedition. 

Everest at 20,000 feet above sea level on the last day of the 1921 expedition. - Credit: Sandy Wollaston

To mark a hundred years since the first expedition to Mount Everest, a landmark exhibition is being held in Shoreditch. 

The Alpine Club is commemorating some of the first expeditions to attempt the highest peak on planet earth in the 1920s, well before Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first explorers to reach the mountain's summit, 29,035 feet above sea level, in 1953.

The exhibition uses the words of expedition members from 1921, 1922 and 1924 and includes diary entries, hand-written notes, art works and photographs produced on Everest.

It will also showcase the clothing and equipment used to climb it.

Renowned mountaineer, former Alpine Club president and current Head of Exhibitions John Porter said: ‘These men lived in the true age of exploration.


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"Driven by the need to escape the horrors of the Great War and a desire to see Britain first atop the 'third pole', they achieved the remarkable."

Explorers from the first expedition up Mount Everest. 

Explorers from the first 1921 expedition up Mount Everest. - Credit: Sandy Wollaston

Founded in 1857, The Alpine Club is the world's oldest mountaineering club. It has been based at Charlotte Road in Shoreditch since 1991 and helped organise the three 1920s expeditions with the Royal Geographical Society. 

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Today every detail of Everest, from its precise dimensions to the exact wind speed on its summit, can be accessed at the click of a button.

But for the men of early Everest expeditions, it was an entirely different prospect.

In 1921, explorers got lost and took a 200-mile detour across Tibet in search of Everest, having "walked off the map" as mountaineer George Mallory said at the time. 

Despite rudimentary equipment and very little understanding of the effects of extreme altitudes the early expeditions saw many achievements.

In 1924, explorers climbed above the mountain's North Col, with Edward Norton setting a world altitude record, reaching more than 28,000 feet above sea level.

Everest base camp in 1922.

Everest base camp in 1922. - Credit: George Finch

However, early attempts also met with tragedy, when, on June 6 that same year climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared. Mallory's body was later found in 1999 but Irvine's has never been recovered. 

The Alpine Club's exhibition, Everest: By Those Who Were There, opens on June 21 until October.

It can be visited on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 12 and 5.30pm at the Alpine Club at 55 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch.

Learn more at www.alpine-club.org.uk/


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