Stainless Steel on Top of the World
May 29th 2013 was the sixtieth anniversary of the first successful conquering of Mount Everest. As it is the highest mountain on Earth, peaking at 29,029ft above sea level, ascending Everest has long been seen as the pinnacle of mountain climbing. Mount Everest forms part of the Himalayas mountain chain and is located in the cold Mahalangur section.
May 1953 saw the ninth British-led expedition to Everest, under the guidance of John Hunt. Two pairs of climbers were selected by Hunt to make the attempt at reaching the summit but the first pair, Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon, ran into problems and had to retreat after coming to within 100m of the summit. On their journey they had completed extensive routefinding work and had stored caches of extra oxygen along the way, both of which were a great help to the next climbing pair. Edmund Hilary, a New Zealander, was paired with Tenzing Norgay, a sherpa climber from India. Using the South Col route up the mountain, the pair finally reached the summit at 11:30am on May 29th 1953, where they buried a small cross and some sweets in the snow before taking photographs and beginning the equally-dangerous descent.
When the news of the successful expedition reached London, it happened to be the morning of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. Both Hilary and Hunt soon learned that they had received instant knighthoods for the ascent, while Norgay was granted the George Medal by the United Kingdom as a citizen of India. Annual celebrations take place across Nepal on May 29th, commemorating the remarkable achievements of Hilary and Norgay.
An essential part of the climbing equipment used by Norgay and Hilary on their ascent of Mount Everest was extra oxygen. As the temperature on the mountain has an average temperature of between -20°C and -35°C, the containers used to store the essential gas were required to show great resistance to extremes of temperature without a loss of efficiency. Austenitic stainles steel, with its impeccable levels of performance at temperatures as low as -269°C, was the natural choice to contain the oxygen required in such a demanding environment.
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