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First American Conquered Everest 50 Years Ago

Jim Whittaker is interviewed for 50th Anniversary Celebration of the First American Ascent of Mount Everest, in Berkeley, California, February 2013.
Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the first American to reach the top of the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest.

On May 1, 1963, Jim Whittaker reached the summit of the 8,850-meter tall mountain, just 10 years after New Zealand's Edmund Hillary and Nepal's Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to conquer it.

Talking to U.S. media about that day, Whittaker remembers waking up to a blizzard with freezing temperatures and brutal winds.

The now 84-year-old Whittaker was last on Everest in 2012, reaching 5,200 meters before turning back. Over the decades, he has made several other major climbs, including the first American ascent of K2 - the world's second highest peak - and a climb to Everest's top along with colleagues from Russia and China in 1990.

Since 1953, climbing Mount Everest has become a major tourism draw for the Himalayan country of Nepal. More than 3,000 people have climbed it.

Meanwhile, Nepalese authorities are still investigating reports of a fight between three European climbers and a group of local Sherpa guides at a high altitude on Everest several days ago. The experienced climbers from Britain, Italy and Switzerland were about 2,000 meters below the summit when disagreements began between the two sides. Both sides accuse the other of starting the brawl.

Sherpas are locals around the world's highest peak, who are known for their climbing skills and knowledge of the region. They are responsible for fixing ropes up the mountain, and they accompany most foreign climbers to the summit.