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Drawing by first man to scale Everest to reach new heights at auction

Along with Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, New Zealander Edmund Hillary entered global folklore on 29th May 1953 when they became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Everest. Now a drawing by the later knighted Sir Edmund is set to hit the heights when it is offered at Duke’s of Dorchester as part of our Art & Design post 1850 auction, held on the 19th July 2018, with a pre-sale estimate of £300-500. A simple sketch of two climbers, perhaps Hillary and Tenzing themselves atop a mountain, the drawing, signed by Hillary in the lower left-hand corner, was acquired at an art auction held to benefit the Delhi Commonwealth Women’s Association Clinic, at the Australian High Commission on the 4th December 1987.

Standing at 8,848 metres, or 29,029 feet high, it had long been questioned whether Everest could ever be climbed. The most famous attempt had taken place almost thirty years earlier, when mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew ‘Sandy’ Irvine disappeared on the treacherous mountain in 1924. When Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Everest he replied with what became the three most famous words in mountaineering: “because it’s there”. There had been a long-standing unanswered question of whether the pair had reached the summit or not before they perished, but no conclusive evidence had ever been found, not even upon the discovery of Mallory’s frozen and mummified body in 1999 some 75 years after his death.

Any lingering doubts of whether Everest could be scaled were firmly put to bed by Hillary and Tenzing, who at 11:30am on a late spring morning, reached the roof of the world