Heroic mountaineers on the team that conquered Everest gasped for cigarettes and oxygen, a writer discovered.
Stocks for the 1953 triumphant expedition included 15,000 cigarettes.
While Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first climbers to climb the highest mountain in the world, do not smoke.
Others in the team liked to cheat. Expedition leader John Hunt and climber Charles Evans smoked pipes, but Wilfred Noyce was a cigarette man.
Noyce reached the 26,000 ft South Col, between Everest and Lhotse Mountain, on May 21, 1953.
Eight days later, Hillary was at the top of the world at 29,035ft. News of the success was announced on the day of the Queen’s coronation.
But smoking during mountaineering wasn’t limited to the Everest journey, as writer Mick Conefrey discovered for his book The Last Great Mountain.
He spoke to the British climber Joe Brown who climbed the Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, in 1955. The expedition to the mighty 28,169-foot Himalayan peak cost 25,000 cigarettes and 16 pounds of tobacco.
Many of the cigarettes were for wearers and sherpas, but about 5,000 were Western brands intended for the two smokers on the climbing team.
Brown is said to have smoked 2,000 cigarettes and smuggled 1,000 to Britain during the trip.
Unfortunately, Brown died last month, aged 89. He told Conefrey he smoked five cigarettes in the tent he shared with his non-smoking climbing partner, George Band.
He regretted his actions. He told Conefrey, “I have since thought,” What a terrible thing to impose on George, “because he was in the tent too, and I thought,” What ab ***** d. ” ‘
Despite Brown’s enthusiasm for nicotine, even at high altitudes with dangerously low oxygen, Conefrey notes that he outperformed Band in the successful push to the top.
Brown made no health claims for his smoking habit.
But George Finch, the scientist who first persuaded the committee in 1922 to organize attempts at Everest that bottled oxygen was essential to their success, believed that high altitude smoking could improve a mountaineer’s performance.