When Edmund Hillary’s Everest expedition conquered the summit in 1953, it was considered, and still is, one of the greatest highlights of human endeavour.
But explorers 60 years on are faced with a far shorter list of possible achievements, and few “firsts” left to conquer, according to a modern-day “adventurer”.
Ed Stafford’s comments come ahead of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition on 29 May, 1953, when he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first men to reach the 29,028ft (8848 metres) summit.
Since then, an array of conquests have been achieved, from putting a man on the moon to Hollywood director James Cameron’s solo descent to the deepest place in the ocean last year.
Among the array of extraordinary achievements, the conquest of Everest remains one of the best-known “firsts” in the world of exploration and adventure, but Mr Stafford said the list is rapidly dwindling.
In 2010 the 37-year-old became the first person to walk the length of the Amazon River in an epic expedition that took two-and-a-half years.
“It was something that everybody said was impossible but I decided that I didn’t think it was and so set out to do that,” the former British army captain said.
“It took two and a half years, I got a Guinness World record for doing it, no-one’s ever done it since so that’s my foot in the door in the world of exploration.
“The amount of things left to do are certainly slimming down.
“I think things like Everest are in a group of their own now and we will be in a period where there is less and less world firsts.”
“We’ve got Google Earth and things like that so we aren’t writing maps, we aren’t exploring in that sense at all.
He said the modern equivalent of Everest would be circumnavigating the world via both poles, with no vehicles or help.
“That’s something that no-one has done before,” he added.
“People have circumnavigated the world, people have done it via both poles, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, but using Ski-Doos and motor-powered vehicles and things like that.
Mr Stafford now sits on a board of trustees that oversees money going to other expeditions, and is making a series with the Discovery Channel.
“It fits in better with family life,” said the 37-year-old, who is getting married later this year.
Despite the arduous challenge along the Amazon, including being mistakenly arrested for murder, and travelling through areas filled with drug factories, he said he had never considered giving up – sentiments probably similar to those of Hillary 60 years ago.
“I learned a lot from it. I think you come out of it being far more confident.
“That was the nice thing, I feel more constant now.”
Cool climber attempts triple-peak first across Everest’s ice-covered Western Cwm
The UK’s most successful Everest mountaineer reached its summit for the 11th time, ahead of the 60th anniversary of the first conquest by Sir Edmund Hillary.
Kenton Cool said he is the first person to attempt to reach the summit of the three mountains that form the Western Cwm of Everest – Nuptse (7,861m), Everest (8,848m) and Lhotse (8,516m) – in one climb.
The task has previously been called “the impossible climb”.
The explorer left Everest base camp on Thursday morning and arrived at the summit of Nuptse on Saturday. He sent the message back to base: “I’ve done Nuptse, I repeat I’ve done Nuptse.
“The impossible climb is a possibility, Everest number 11 is next. I’m going like a train. Tell everyone we’re OK.”
A message posted on the mountaineer’s Facebook page in the early hours of yesterday morning read: “NUPTSE AND EVEREST ARE DONE. WE’RE FEELING STRONG. WE’RE GOING FOR IT”
Mr Cool is due to reach the summit of Lhotse tomorrow and then return to base camp on Tuesday.
The explorer is undertaking the challenge with his long-time climbing partner, Sherpa Dorje Gylen. The pair have been together for six of Mr Cool’s previous ten Everest summits.
Before setting off, Mr Cool said: ““The the Western Cwm is one of the most magical places I have ever been to.
“This year, I realised that there was a chance that I may be able to make use of the weather windows to move from one peak to the next and do something that many have dreamed of but none have achieved.”