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Spring 2012: Climbing Season Kicks off on “Big E”

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Spring is coming to the Nepal and the Himalayas, and with it arrives the annual pilgrimage of Sherpas, porters, and mountain climbers trekking to a base camp below the highest peak on Earth. To cover this year’s spring climbing season on Mount Everest, National Geographic Adventure this week launched a microsite, “Everest 2012,” which includes articles, photos, a blog, and even fun touches like an Everest quiz and a virtual jigsaw puzzle.

Base camp below the highest peak in the world

The microsite will cover a National Geographic-sponsored expedition led by Conrad Anker and with Cory Richards (he of the epic short film “Cold” fame) behind the camera and doing the shooting. The pair will attempt the West Ridge route carrying all their own food, shelter, and equipment. Respect!

Everest’s 29,035-foot pyramid in the night

On the gear side, as a part of the micro-site, GearJunkie contributed a multi-page breakdown on the gear used on Mount Everest, though with a twist. The article, “Everest Climbing Gear—Then and Now,” reveals a peek at the equipment it took on the mountain’s first ascent in 1953 and how the equipment has changed and been updated for 2012. This excerpt provides the gist. . .

Frozen boots. A high-camp tent exposed near 28,000 feet. An oxygen apparatus prone to icing up. Those were among the equipment concerns on the morning of May 29, 1953, a day when on the flank of Mount Everest a young duo, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, would kick steps and climb their way into history as the first people to summit the highest point on Earth. This spring, 59 years and a full three generations of climbers later, another “Hillary” is gearing up for an Everest ascent. Hilaree O’Neill, age 39, a ski-mountaineer from Colorado and a North Face athlete, will trek the same valleys and work up to base camp on Everest like Edmund and Tenzing did long ago. But on the mountain, Hilaree’s apparel and gear will differ vastly from the heavy and now-antiquated equipment that Hillary hauled.

Radio communication on Everest in 1953

From woolen “jumper suits” and wood-handled ice axes, to today’s tech fabrics and ultra-light gear, the “Then and Now” article is an insightful look at the gear, apparel, food, and “tech” equipment it takes, respectively in 1953 and 2012, to climb to the top on Everest’s high face.

—Stephen Regenold is editor of GearJunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.

1953: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay near the top

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