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These images from our collection document attempts to reach the summit of the world’s most unforgiving mountain.

Climbing Mount Everest is the ultimate challenge. The first expedition took place in 1921, but it wasn’t until 1953, and the ninth major attempt on the mountain, that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to stand on the roof of the world. Over the years, many lives have been lost in the quest to conquer the highest peak on Earth.

To mark the release of the gripping new IMAX film, Everest, based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, we’ve selected images from our collection which document attempts to reach the summit of the world’s most unforgiving mountain.

Group shot of members of the expedition at the 17300ft camp
Group shot of members of the expedition at the 17300ft camp. George Mallory is standing on the right (Mount Everest Expedition, 1921) © Royal Photographic Society
Members of the expedition photographed outside the Mount Everest Hotel in Darjeeling
Members of the expedition photographed outside the Mount Everest Hotel in Darjeeling. The leader of the expedition was General Charles Bruce, seated in the centre (Mount Everest Expedition, 1922) © Royal Photographic Society
George Finch wearing primitive oxygen apparatus.
The 1922 expedition was the first time climbers used bottled oxygen. This photograph shows expedition member George Finch wearing the primitive oxygen apparatus (Mount Everest Expedition, 1922) © Royal Photographic Society
George Mallory and E.F.Morton approaching the highest point reached on the 1922 expedition
George Mallory and E.F.Morton approaching the highest point reached on the 1922 expedition. Mallory died, together with Andrew Irvine, on an expedition held two years later. It’s unknown whether the pair succeeded in reaching the summit before tragedy struck (Mount Everest Expedition, 1922) © Royal Photographic Society
Crossing a crevasse on a ladder
A member of the expedition crossing a crevasse on a ladder while marking the route to Camp II (Mount Everest Expedition, 1953) © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
The final ridge of Everest seen from the South Summit
The final ridge of Everest seen from the South Summit. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed the west side of this ridge on their way to the summit (Mount Everest Expedition, 1953) © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon exhausted after their attempt on the summit.
Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon exhausted after their attempt on the summit. They had climbed higher than anyone before, reaching within 500ft of the summit (Mount Everest Expedition, 1953) © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Two of the 34 Sherpas on the expedition attaching crampons to their boots.
Two of the 34 Sherpas on the expedition attaching crampons to their boots (Mount Everest Expedition, 1953) © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Edmund Hillary, with Alfred Gregory and Tom Bourdillon, at base camp following his successful ascent of Everest.
Edmund Hillary (left), with Alfred Gregory and Tom Bourdillon, at base camp following his successful ascent (Mount Everest Expedition, 1953) © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay back in camp following their successful attempt on the summit.
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay back in camp following their successful attempt on the summit (Mount Everest Expedition, 1953) © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary drink a celebratory cup of tea
Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary drink a celebratory cup of tea at Camp IV in the Western Cwm after their successful ascent (Mount Everest Expedition, 1953) © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Tenzing Norgay photographed by Edmund Hillary on the summit of Mount Everest
Tenzing Norgay photographed by Edmund Hillary on the summit of Mount Everest at 11:30 on Friday 29 May 1953. Tenzing’s ice-axe carries the flags of Britain, Nepal, the United Nations and India (Mount Everest Expedition, 1953) © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

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