Mount Everest Committee - Formation


Although Mount Everest as a mountaineering objective had been on the horizon of British alpinists for some time – Clinton Thomas Dent writing in 1885, had sketched the idea of an ascent and Dr A. M. Kellas's study 'A Consideration of the Possibility of Ascending the Loftier Himalaya' of 1916 had asserted that it was certainly possible physiologically – the initiative to form the Mount Everest Committee came from a talk given to the Royal Geographical Society in 1919 by Captain J. B. L. Noel about his travels in the Everest region, and the discussions that arose out of it.

In 1920, at the behest of Sir Francis Younghusband (the first Chairman of the Committee), Colonel Charles Howard-Bury – the leader of the 1921 expedition – persuaded Sir Charles Bell to use his considerable influence with Tibetan officials to negotiate permission for a passage to Mount Everest from the northern side (the Nepalese approaches from the south were closed to foreign entry). Permission was granted by the Tibetan government for the British to proceed in the following year, 1921.

To co-ordinate and finance the reconnaissance expedition, a joint body – the Mount Everest Committee – was formed, composed of high-ranking members of the two interested parties – the Alpine Club and the Royal Geographical Society.

According to Sir Francis Younghusband:

Diplomacy having achieved its object and human obstacles being overcome it was possible to go full steam ahead organizing an Expedition. And climbing Mount Everest was a matter which interested both the Royal Geographical Society and the Alpine Club. It interested the former because the Society will not admit that there is any spot on the earth’s surface on which man should not at least try to set his foot. And it interested the latter because climbing mountains is their especial province. It was decided, therefore, to make the Expedition a joint effort of the two societies. And this was the more desirable because the Geographical Society had greater facilities for organizing exploring expeditions, while the Alpine Club had better means of choosing the personnel. A joint Committee, called the Mount Everest Committee, was therefore formed, composed of three members each of the two societies. And it was arranged that during the first phase, while the mountain was being reconnoitred, the President of the Royal Geographical Society should be Chairman; and in the second phase, when the mountain was to be climbed, the President of the Alpine Club should preside. —.

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