1960 Chinese Mount Everest expedition

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1960 Chinese Mount Everest expedition was the first to successfully ascend Mount Everest via the North Ridge. Three members of the Chinese Everest Expedition Team, Wang Fuzhou, Gonpo, and Qu Yinhua reached the summit at 4:20 a.m., 25 May.


In 1955, four athletes, led by Xu Jing, went to Soviet Transcaucasia to study mountaineering with an invitation from the Soviet Union. In 1957, six mountaineers, including Shi Zhanchun and Liu Lianman, summited Minya Konka, setting a domestic mountaineering record. The same year, the Soviet Union suggested to the Chinese Government that a Sino-Soviet joint climbing team should be formed for Mount Everest. The expedition was originally set for May 1959, but had to be postponed to 1960 due to the 1959 unrest in Tibet. Meanwhile, a 380 km-long road was built from Shigatse to Everest Base Camp, and a weather station was established. By 1960, however, the Sino-Soviet split made a joint expedition impossible, and the Soviet Union team retracted all their equipment.[1] The Chinese Government allocated 700,000 US dollars to purchase mountaineering equipment from Switzerland. The total cost was comparable to that of the 1st National Games of China.[2]

At this time, summitting Mount Everest was designated as a "national task" for the upcoming China-Nepal border negotiations, as the status of Mount Everest was still disputed.[3] In February 1960, the Chinese Everest Team, with 214 members, was formed. Han Fudong, leader of the "hero regiment" from Chinese Civil War Battle of Tashan, was appointed as director. Shi Zhanchun and Xu Jing were team leader and deputy leader, respectively. The team also included geomorphologist Wang Ming Ye. [4]

Acclimatization expeditions[edit]

On 3 March 1960, the team of 192 members arrived at Everest Base Camp. They moved several tonnes of equipment to the Camp and set up Camp 1-3 at the base of East Rongbuk Glacier (5400 m), central part of the glacier (5900 m), and under the North Col (6400 m), respectively.

On 19 March, the main members of the climbing team arrived at the Base Camp. On 25 March, the first acclimatization expedition was launched. The team moved equipment to Camp 3 and found a route pass the North Col. In the second expedition of 6 April, 4th Camp at 7007 m was set up. On 29 April, a third acclimatization expedition with the task of setting an Advance Camp at 8500 m was launched. The team encountered strong winds and only arrived at 7600 m in the next evening. In the evening of 2 May, Shi Zhanchun, Xu Jing, members Lhakpa Tsering and Migmar set off to chart a route and ascended to 8100 m. However, the transport team failed to catch up. The two Tibetan members returned to 7600 m, and Lhakpa Tsering climbed back to 8100 m with three transport team members, including Gonpo. While Lhakpa Tsering left to set a camp at 8100 m, Shi Zhanchun continued to climb the Second Step, and selected a route to the summit.[5]

After the third expedition, more than 50 team members, including Shi Zhanchun, suffered from frostbite and had to quit. In Beijing, Marshal He Long was following the team's progress and instructed the team to summit despite all costs. On 17 May, the final expedition was launched. In the afternoon, 23 May, Xu Jing, Wang Fuzhou, Liu Lianman and Gonpo set up the Advance Camp at 8500 m. Qu Yinhua and the transport team also arrived at the camp.

Final expedition[edit]

The 4-member-team set off at 9 a.m., 24 May. Soon, Xu Jing was exhausted and had to be replaced by Qu Yinhua. At 12 p.m., they arrived at the Second Step. After several unsuccessful attempts to climb over the Step's last section, Liu Lianman, who was previously a fireman, suggested a "human ladder".[6] Qu Yinhua removed his mountaineering shoes, and stood on Liu Lianman's shoulder to fix ice picks and safety ropes. They climbed over the Second Step at 5 p.m. With Liu Lianman remaining at a cave under the cliff, Wang Fuzhou led the other team members to continue ascending. Their oxygen was used up at 8800 m. At 4:20 a.m., 25 May, they arrived at the summit. The three members remained at the summit for 15 minutes, and left a 20 cm tall statue of Mao Zedong, a national flag, and a paper note.[7]

The team retreated to 8500 m at 9 p.m., and then to 6400 m on 28 May. By 30 May, all members had retreated to the Base Camp. The celebration ceremony was held at the Base Camp on 1 June. Qu Yinhua lost all 10 toes and right index finger to frostbite.[8]


The expedition had no photographic evidence at summit as the team ascended at night, and as such, the team members claimed that they were only able to photographically record the final expedition for the first time at dawn, when they had already retreated to 8,700 m (28,500 ft). [7] Independent analysis of the provided photographs raised some questions about the reliability of the official expedition report, since although the report claimed the photographs were taken at dawn, the angle of the sun and shadows indicated it was taken multiple hours later in the morning than was stated. [9] Additionally, the plaster statue of Mao Zedong was gone by the time of the 1963 American expedition, and no other physical evidence remained nor was left either on or near to the mountain's summit which would prove the 1960 summit attempt was indeed successful to future climbers.

However, evidence has persuaded international mountaineers that the 1960 expedition team indeed reached the summit. Most notably, features recorded in the 1960 expedition report, including details of the Third Step and terrain near the summit, matched with later summit attempts from the north side. Climbing without oxygen, which was previously regarded as impossible, is also increasingly common.[10][11] In the 1960s, Lawrence Wager compared the May 25 photograph to photos taken during the 1933 and 1953 expeditions, and concluded that the 1960 photo had indeed been taken above the Second Step,[12] although a degree of uncertainty remained due to the lack of an identifiable forground. Jochen Hemmleb [de] wrote that contemporary written accounts from the 1960 expedition "incorporate descriptions of topographical details of the final pyramid that could only have been obtained if the party had indeed reached the top." In addition, the expedition film Conquering the World's Highest Peak (1962) included a shot that showed detailed features of the Third Step and the summit pyramid. A study of the video determined that it had been taken at more than 8,700 m, demonstrating that the party had overcome the crux of the way to the summit.[10]

Overall, the validity of the 1960 ascent has been generally accepted over time,[13][14][15][16][17][18] although it remains a topic of debate amongst some members of the international mountaineering community.[19] Western mountaineers who met with their Chinese counteparts in the 1980s found the ascent credible.[11] Eric Simonson, who led the 1999 Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition, suggested that "this remarkable 1960 ascent was for years held in disbelief by Western climbers, but now is credited to have been a remarkable achievement."[20] In his Everest: A Mountaineering History (1981), Walt Unsworth stated, "there seems little doubt now that the Chinese did climb Everest in 1960."[12][21] Everest historian Audrey Salkeld, too, believed that little uncertainty remained over the 1960 ascent.[22]


  1. ^ 中国1960年攀登珠峰始末:以国家名义登顶 (in Chinese (China)). 中国新闻周刊. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  2. ^ 商业登山改变珠峰 (in Chinese (China)). Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  3. ^ Mu, Ani (2016). "China - Nepal Border Negotiation Process: A Historical Study and Enlightenment". South Asia Studies (in Chinese) (1): 106–122. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  4. ^ 1960年中国人首次登顶珠峰站在世界之巅. Beijing Times (in Chinese (China)). 20 April 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  5. ^ Chan-chun, Shi (1961). "The Conquest of Mount Everest by the Chinese Mountaineering Team". The Himalayan Journal. 23. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  6. ^ 托体同山阿——"珠峰人梯"登山英雄刘连满逝世 (in Chinese (China)). Xinhua. 27 April 2016. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  7. ^ a b Meng, Hong (2014). 梦圆“地球之巅” ———1960 年中国人首次征服珠峰纪实. 情系中华 (in Chinese (China)) (2). The United Front Work Department of CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  8. ^ 中国首次登珠峰队员屈银华去世 曾为登顶失去十根脚趾. The Beijing News (in Chinese (China)). 25 September 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  9. ^ Dyhrenfurth, G.O. (1962). "ASIA, NEPAL, OBSERVATIONS ON THE CHINESE EVEREST EXPEDITION 1960". The American Alpine Journal. 13–1. Retrieved 16 March 2024.
  10. ^ a b Hemmleb, J; Johnson, LA; Simonson, ER (1999). "No Matter of Doubt: The 1960 Chinese Accent of the North Ridge". Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine. Mountaineers Books.
  11. ^ a b Isserman, Maurice; Weaver, Stewart A.; Molenaar, Dee (2010). Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes. Yale University Press. p. 346.
  12. ^ a b Unsworth, Walt (1991). Everest: the ultimate book of the ultimate mountain. London: GraftonBooks. p. 353. It was Wager, however, who clinched the argument by using three photographs enlarged to the same scale: his own which he took in 1933 at the First Step, the Chinese picture, and one taken by Edmund Hillary from the summit in 1953. By identifying prominent features which were juxtaposed on the pictures Wager showed that the Chinese picture was taken from a point a little above the Second Step – or at 8,700 m. as the Chinese claimed.
  13. ^ Hemmleb, J; Johnson, LA; Simonson, ER (1999). Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine. Mountaineers Books. p. 192. As Tom Holzel wrote, 'The Chinese 1960 climb of Mount Everest must now certainly be ranked among the most hard-fought ascents in Himalayan history. And it must be recognized as the first proven ascent of the north side of the mountain.'
  14. ^ "Everest". Britannica. The credibility of their account was doubted at the time but later was generally accepted.
  15. ^ "Performing Socialism at Altitude: Chinese expeditions to Mount Everest, 1958–1968". Performance Research. 24 (2). 2019. The 1960 summit of Everest was one shining success in a sea of horrendous failures.
  16. ^ Gogorza, Óscar (13 June 2023). "Everest's enduring mystery: Were Mallory and Irvine first to conquer world's highest peak?". El Pais. Archived from the original on Jul 20, 2023. Retrieved 17 March 2024. Today, much more credibility is given to the claimed first ascent of Everest from Tibet
  17. ^ Agnew, Mark (25 May 2020). "The 60th anniversary of the first Chinese team to summit Mount Everest, when a climber scaled a cliff in the death zone in bare feet". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on Mar 7, 2023.
  18. ^ "Mount Everest: Chinese team summit during pandemic". BBC. 27 May 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2024. In spring 1960, only the Chinese reached the summit.
  19. ^ "Mount Everest: Timeline, Maps". ABC News. 7 January 2008.
  20. ^ "Second Step Without the Ladder". MountainZone. 16 March 1999.
  21. ^ "Everest: A Mountaineering History". American Alpine Club. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  22. ^ "The Call of Everest: The Climbers of Everest". National Geographic. 25 April 2016. Retrieved 7 March 2023.