It’s 60 years today since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to scale Everest, under the scientific supervision of MRC researcher Dr Griffith Pugh. Here, as part of our series exploring the images of the MRC’s past, Katherine Nightingale looks into the research that was happening seven years later in this cigar-shaped hut on a lonely glacier south of Everest.
The ‘Silver Hut’ (Image courtesy of Jim Milledge)
This picture, taken in 1960, shows the cylindrical ‘Silver Hut’ of the Himalayan Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition of 1960–1961. The expedition was organised and led by Sir Edmund Hillary, who had been the first to scale Everest with Tenzing Norgay in 1953. The scientific leader was Dr Griffith Pugh, an MRC researcher and mountaineer.
Perched — to modern eyes at least — somewhat precariously on the Mingbo glacier 5,800 metres above sea level, and about 12 miles south of Everest, the prefabricated hut was set up in November 1960. Produced in England, it was made from silver-painted marine plywood boxed sections, filled with foam insulation. The hut contained bunks, a cooking area and lab space. Read more
Some of the research team at basecamp (Image copyright: Jules Griffin)
Apart from a spectacular view, what do researchers get out of lugging scientific equipment to Everest? It’s Everest Day, 60 years since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit, so here are Jules Griffin and Tom Ashmore from MRC Human Nutrition Research and the University of Cambridge to tell us about why they joined the recent Xtreme Everest 2 expedition, and the surreal nature of doing research in the world’s highest lab.
The aches in our legs have faded, the last of the headaches have receded and we are finally putting back on the weight we have lost during the trip. Now all that’s left to do is wait with bated breath for the samples from the expedition to arrive so our part in the scientific analysis can begin.
This Easter, along with 200 other volunteers, we took part in a trek from the airfield at Lukla in Nepal (at an elevation of 2,840m) to Everest Basecamp (5,364m) to examine how our bodies adapt to the low oxygen levels at high altitude. As part of this medical expedition we were tested at three laboratories at increasing elevations: Kathmandu (1,400m), Namche Bazaar (3,440m) and Everest Basecamp. Read more