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11 Historical Firsts on Mount Everest

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By Lauren Hansen

In 1953, adventurist Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay became the first men to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Ever since, the world's tallest mountain has been calling out to thrill-seekers of all shapes and sizes. More than 3,800 people have attempted to conquer its icy mountain face, and while at least 225 people have died trying, men and women, the blind and the handicapped, the old and the young have all reached it's 29,029-foot peak. But these intrepid folks don't just come for the climb — they also seek to make Mount Everest history. Check out these 11 Mount Everest firsts:

1. First teen with Down syndrome

Last month, 16-year-old Eli Reimer successfully climbed the 17,598 feet to Mt. Everest's Base Camp. This is impressive not only because he accomplished as a teenager what millions of adults would never even consider, but also because Reimer is the first teen with Down syndrome to achieve the feat. The Oregon teen made the 70-mile trek with his father and a team of seven to the Himalayan mountain's staging area to raise money and awareness for disabled children. "It's monumental," said the boy's father. "When everyone else was dragging, it was Eli who led the way to the base camp." While he comes close, Reimer is actually not the youngest to take on Everest. In 2010, then-13-year-old Jordan Romero became the youngest person to reach Everest's peak.

2. First 76-year-old

A 76-year-old Nepalese man named Min Bahadur Sherchan reached Everest's peak on May 25, 2008. It was Sherchan's first attempt, and he said he was determined to "climb the peak or die trying." Close behind him in both age and timing was Yuichiro Miura, a 75-year-old Japanese man who reached the summit the very next day to become the second-oldest Everest climber. In 2002, 73-year-old Tamae Watanabe — a retired office worker who lives at the foot of Japan's tallest mountain, Mount Fuji — became the oldest woman to reach the summit.

3. First under nine hours

Sometimes getting to the mountain's peak is less impressive than how quickly you do it. The harrowing climb from the foot of the base camp to the summit usually takes four days, if weather is on your side. But in 2004, stellar Sherpa guide Pem Dorjee covered the same trek in a record 8 hours and 10 minutes. This was actually the second time he earned the title for fastest ascent. In 2003, Dorjee held the record for his 12-hour-and-45-minute ascent for three days until another Sherpa beat his time by just under two hours.

4. First woman to summit

Junko Tabei may appear slight, almost fragile looking, but the Japanese mountaineer has a steely determination that helped her to become the first woman to reach Everest's apex. In 1975, Tabei was chosen as one of 15 in the first all-female team to take on the mountain. But only a few days into the journey, the expedition was hit by an avalanche. The team and its Sherpas were buried underneath, and Tabei was knocked unconscious for several minutes before a Sherpa dug her out. But the diminutive climber persevered, becoming the first of her group to reach the top on May 16, 1975. Just 11 days later, a 37-year-old Tibetan woman named Phantog became the second woman to make it to the top.

5. First-ever rock concert

In 2007, a cancer awareness group from Colorado reached the greatest of musical heights with a first-ever performance on Everest's rocky mountain face. The Love Hope Strength Foundation led a team of 40 musicians, cancer survivors, and mountaineers to the 18,600-foot peak of Kala Patthar, situated just above Everest Base Camp. After a fourteen-day trek, the "Everest Rocks" journey culminated in an acoustic concert that raised money for the Nepal Cancer Relief Society.

6. First amputees

In 1998, Tom Whittaker, a 49-year-old college instructor from Arizona, reached the world's tallest peak on his third try. Whittaker, who lost his leg in a car crash in 1979, managed the climb with a specially designed artificial leg that is lightweight and has its own crampons—claw-like boot attachments climbers use to stay secure on the icy mountain. Eight years later, Everest got its first double amputee. A New Zealand mountaineer named Mark Inglis — who lost both his legs beneath the knee from frostbite in 1982 during a climbing incident — reached the summit on May 16, 2006. "I'm not doing this to be the first double amputee," the 47-year-old said, "If I am, then it's the icing on the cake."

7. First swim across a glacial lake 

For at least one brave soul, Everest's draw is its icy waters. In 2010, 40-year-old environmentalist Lewis Pugh became the first person to swim across Everest's Pumori Lake. Situated at about 17,000 feet, the lake waters are a balmy 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Lewis is an avid "polar bear" swimmer, meaning he braves waters that could put up a good fight in hell. But the Everest swim, for which Pugh wore only swim trunks, a cap, and goggles, required a delicate balance. If he swam too quickly he could lose energy and drown; but if he moved too slowly he could succumb to hypothermia. "Because of the altitude you need to swim very slowly and deliberately," he said. "I was gasping for air and if I had swum any faster I would have gone under." In the end, Pugh breast-stroked across the 0.62-mile lake in 22 minutes and 51 seconds, which was just right.

8. First blind person

Erik Weihenmayer lost his sight because of a rare disease at the age of 13. But that didn't stop him from exploring the world. The Colorado native took up climbing at 16, and by 32 he had already climbed some of the world's tallest peaks, including Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. And in 2001, he conquered Everest, by following the sound of bells tied to the jackets of his climbing mates and Sherpa guides. Weihenmayer went on to climb two more mountains.

9. First snowboarding descent

Everest isn't exactly a welcoming snowboarding trail. But despite the distinct lack of soft powder, two snowboarders attempted in 2001 to be the first to lay down tracks on that unforgiving mountain face. The two Europeans, Stephan Gatt and Marco Siffredi, snowboarded down Everest within two days of each other. However, it was Gatt who officially earned the title as the first to swowboard down Everest. If the feat itself weren't enough, the athlete carried all of his snowboarding equipment up the mountain, and did so without the aid of oxygen. Then, after locking in his bindings, Siffredi descended down the North Face of the mountain, about 600 feet below the summit. The extreme cold broke one of his bindings, temporarily halting him in his tracks, but he continued his approximately two-hour descent after a Sherpa came to his rescue. In 2000, a Slovenian ski teacher named Davo Karnicar was the first to ski from Everest's summit to its base. The attempt was actually his second — he was first thwarted by bad weather in 1996 — which he completed in five hours. Karnicar took only a few breaks and reportedly never removed his skis.

10. First cancer survivor

Sean Swarner has battled cancer not once, but twice. At 13 years old, Swarner was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin's disease, and was given only three months to live. Swarner overcame the odds and his Hodgkin's went into remission, but tests a year later revealed a golf-ball-sized tumor on his right lung. If you can imagine it, this second prognosis — for Askin's sarcoma — was worse than the first, and he was given only two weeks to live. Swarner went through multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation over the years, and though he lost the use of one of his lungs, he came out on top. The same single-minded determination that pushed him through his illness propelled him toward Everest. On May 16, 2002, Swarner became the first cancer survivor to stand on the mountain's summit. Since that climb, Swarner has gone on to complete the "7-summits," the highest peaks in seven continents.

11. First back-to-back summits

I'm exhausted just thinking about this, but one young woman reached Everest's peak twice… in one week. Chhurim Sherpa dreamed of climbing Everest ever since she was in the fifth grade, when she saw tourists trekking their equipment through her village in northeastern Nepal. But the 29-year-old wanted to break records, and so she set out to complete back-to-back climbs. Her first ascent, made with a group of four other climbers, was on May 12, 2012. After standing on top of the world for 15 minutes, returning safely to base, and resting for two days, she made the journey again on May 17 with just her aide for company. On that second trip she climbed the steepest face while carrying more than 30 pounds of gear. Beyond her double climb, Chhurim remains in an elite group of only 21 Nepalese women who have reached Everest's peak. "I really want other Nepalese women to get involved in mountaineering," she said. "We should have a can-do attitude so that we can move forward and not be left behind simply because we're women."

SourcesAssociated Press (2), BBCCNNHuffington PostReuters (2), The Telegraph, USA TodayWBTV,The Week


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9 Mysterious Facts About Murder, She Wrote
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For 12 seasons and 264 episodes, the small coastal town of Cabot Cove, Maine, was the scene of a murder. And wherever there was a body, Jessica Fletcher wasn’t far behind. The fictional mystery author and amateur sleuth at the heart of the CBS drama Murder, She Wrote was given life by actress Angela Lansbury, who made a name for herself in the theater world and in movies like 1944’s Gaslight and 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate. Though the show was supposed to skew toward an older audience, the series is still very much alive and being discovered by new generations of audiences every year. Unravel the mystery with these facts about Murder, She Wrote.

1. ANGELA LANSBURY WAS “PISSED OFF” AT THE TV ROLES BEING OFFERED TO HER BEFORE MURDER.

After years of high-profile parts and critical acclaim in the theater, Angela Lansbury was in her late fifties and ready to tackle a steady television role. Unfortunately, instead of being flooded with interesting lead roles on big series, she said she was constantly looked at to play “the maid or the housekeeper in some ensemble piece,” leaving her to get—in the Dame’s own words—“really pissed off.”

After voicing her displeasure, she was soon approached with two potential solo series, one being Murder, She Wrote, which grabbed her attention because of its focus on a normal country woman becoming an amateur detective. After meeting with the producers and writers, it was only a matter of time before Lansbury agreed to the role and began the 12-season run.

2. THE SHOW TOOK A SHOT AT FRIENDS IN ITS FINAL SEASON.

In 1995, CBS made a bold move: After airing on Sundays since 1984, Murder, She Wrote moved to Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. for its twelfth and final season, going head-to-head against Mad About You and Friends over at NBC. On a night dominated by younger viewers, Lansbury was at a loss.

"I'm shattered," she told the Los Angeles Times. "What can I say? I really feel very emotional about it. I just felt so disappointed that after all the years we had Sunday night at 8, suddenly it didn't mean anything. It was like gone with the wind."

Maybe not so coincidentally, during that last season of the series there was an episode titled “Murder Among Friends,” where a TV producer is killed in her office after planning to get rid of a member of the cast of a fictional television show called Buds. Complete with its coffee shop setting and snarky repartee, Buds was a not-so-subtle stab at Friends, coming at a time when Murder, She Wrote was placed right against the hip ratings juggernaut.

Putting the murder mystery aside for a moment, Fletcher takes plenty of jabs at Buds throughout, literally rolling her eyes at the thought of six twentysomethings becoming a hit because they sat around talking about their sexuality in every episode. The writing was on the wall as Murder, She Wrote was being phased out by CBS by the end of 1996, but Lansbury made sure to go down swinging.

3. JESSICA FLETCHER HOLDS A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD.

Here’s one for any self-respecting trivia junkie: Jessica Fletcher holds a Guinness World Record for Most Prolific Amateur Sleuth. Though Guinness recognizes that Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple has been on and off screen longer—since 1956—Fletcher has actually gotten to the bottom of more cases with 264 episodes and four TV movies under her belt.

4. THE SHOW’S FICTIONAL TOWN WOULD HAVE BEEN THE MURDER CAPITAL OF THE PLANET.

Quiet, upper-class New England coastal towns aren’t usually known for their murder count, but Cabot Cove, Maine, is a grisly destination indeed. In fact, if you look at the amount of murders per the population, it would have the highest rate on the planet, according to BBC Radio 4.

With 3560 people living in the town, and 5.3 murders occurring every year, that comes out to 1490 murders per million, which is 60 percent higher than that of Honduras, which only recently lost its title as the murder capital of the world. It’s also estimated that in total, about two percent of the folks in Cabot Cove end up murdered. 

5. SOME FANS THINK FLETCHER WAS A SERIAL KILLER THE WHOLE TIME.

That statistic leads us right into our next thought: Isn’t it a little suspicious that Fletcher keeps stumbling upon all these murders? We know that Cabot Cove is a fairly sleepy town, but the murder rate rivals a Scorsese movie. And this one person—a suspicious novelist and amateur detective—always seems to get herself mixed up in the juiciest cases. Some people think there’s something sinister about the wealth of cases Fletcher writes about in her books: It’s because she’s the one doing the killing all along.

This theory has gained traction with fans over the years, and it helps explain the coincidental nature of the show. Murders aren’t just exclusive to Fletcher and Cabot Cove; they follow her around when she’s on book tours, on trips out of town, or while writing the script to a VR video game for a company whose owner just so happens to get killed while Fletcher is around.

Could Jessica Fletcher have such an obsession with murder mysteries that she began to create her own? Was life in Cabot Cove too boring for a violent sociopath? Did she decide to take matters into her own hands after failing to think of original book ideas? We’ll never know, but it puts the whole series into a very different light.

6. LANSBURY WAS NOT HAPPY ABOUT A PROPOSED REBOOT.

Despite its inimitable style, Murder, She Wrote isn’t immune to Hollywood’s insatiable reboot itch, and in 2013 plans were put in motion to modernize the show for a new generation. NBC’s idea was to cast Octavia Spencer as a hospital administrator who self-publishes her first mystery novel and starts investigating real cases. Lansbury was none too pleased by the news.

"I think it's a mistake to call it Murder, She Wrote," she told The Hollywood Reporter in November 2013, "because Murder, She Wrote will always be about Cabot Cove and this wonderful little group of people who told those lovely stories and enjoyed a piece of that place, and also enjoyed Jessica Fletcher, who is a rare and very individual kind of person ... So I'm sorry that they have to use the title Murder, She Wrote, even though they have access to it and it's their right."

When the plug was pulled on the series, Lansbury said she was "terribly pleased and relieved” by the news, adding that, "I knew it was a terrible mistake."

7. JEAN STAPLETON TURNED DOWN THE LEAD ROLE OF JESSICA FLETCHER.

It’s impossible to separate Angela Lansbury from her role as Jessica Fletcher now, but she wasn’t the network’s first choice for the role. All in the Family’s Edith Bunker, actress Jean Stapleton, was originally approached about playing Fletcher, but she turned it down.

Stapleton cited a combination of wanting a break after All in the Family’s lengthy run and the fact that she wasn’t exactly thrilled with how the part was written, and the changes she wanted to make weren’t welcome. Despite not being enthralled by the original ideas for Fletcher, Stapleton agreed that Lansbury was “just right” for the part.

8. FLETCHER’S ESCAPADES HAVE LIVED ON IN BOOKS AND VIDEO GAMES.

For anyone who didn’t get enough of Fletcher during Murder, She Wrote’s original run, there are more—plenty more—dead bodies to make your way through. Author Donald Bain has written 45 murder mystery novels starring Fletcher, all of which credit Fletcher as the "co-author." The books sport such titles as Killer in the Kitchen, Murder on Parade, and Margaritas & Murder. Not even cancellation can keep Cabot Cove safe, apparently.

On top of that, two point-and-click computer games were released based on the show in 2009 and 2012. Both games feature Fletcher solving multiple murders just like on the show, but don’t expect to hear the comforting voice of Angela Lansbury as you wade through the dead bodies. Only her likeness appears in the game; not her voice.

9. LANSBURY WOULD BE GAME TO REPRISE THE ROLE.

When recently asked about her iconic role by the Sunday Post, Lansbury admitted that she'd be into seeing Murder, She Wrote come back in some form. "I was in genuine tears doing my last scene," Lansbury said. "Jessica Fletcher has become so much a part of my life, it was difficult to come to terms with it being all over ... Having said that, there have been some two-hour specials since we stopped in 1996 and I wouldn’t be surprised if we got together just one more time."

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10 Things You Should Know About Ray Bradbury
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For such a visionary futurist whose predictions for the future often came true, Ray Bradbury was rather old-fashioned in many ways. In honor of what would be Bradbury's 97th birthday, check out a few fascinating facts about the literary genius. 

1. HE SCORED HIS FIRST WRITING GIG WHEN HE WAS STILL A TEEN. 

Most teenagers get a first job bagging groceries or slinging burgers. At the age of 14, Ray Bradbury landed himself a gig writing for George Burns and Gracie Allen’s radio show.

“I went down on Figueroa Street in front of the Figueroa Playhouse,” Bradbury later recalled. “I saw George Burns outside the front of the theater. I went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Burns, you got your broadcast tonight don’t you?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘You don’t have an audience in there do you?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Will you take me in and let me be your audience?’ So he took me in and put me in the front row, and the curtain went up, and I was in the audience for Burns and Allen. I went every Wednesday for the broadcast and then I wrote shows and gave them to George Burns. They only used one—but they did use it, it was for the end of the show.”

2. IT TOOK HIM 22 YEARS TO ASK A GIRL OUT.

At the age of 22, Bradbury finally summoned up the courage to ask a girl out for the first time ever. She was a bookstore clerk named Maggie, who thought he was stealing from the bookstore because he had a long trench coat on. They went out for coffee, which turned into cocktails, which turned into dinner, which turned into marriage, which turned into 56 anniversaries and four children. She was the only girl Bradbury ever dated. Maggie held down a full-time job while Ray stayed at home and wrote, something that was virtually unheard of in the 1940s.

3. HE IMPRESSED TRUMAN CAPOTE.

George Burns isn’t the only famous eye Bradbury caught. In 1947, an editor at Mademoiselle read Bradbury’s short story, “Homecoming,” about the only human boy in a family of supernatural beings. The editor decided to run the piece, and Bradbury won a place in the O. Henry Prize Stories for one of the best short stories of 1947. That young editor who helped Bradbury out by grabbing his story out of the unsolicited materials pile? Truman Capote.

4. HE HAD AN AVERSION TO CARS.

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Not only did Bradbury never get a driver’s license, he didn’t believe in cars for anyone. His own personal aversion came from seeing a fatal car accident when he was just 16. In 1996, he told Playboy, “I saw six people die horribly in an accident. I walked home holding on to walls and trees. It took me months to begin to function again. So I don't drive. But whether I drive or not is irrelevant. The automobile is the most dangerous weapon in our society—cars kill more than wars do.”

5. HE WROTE FAHRENHEIT 451 IN JUST OVER A WEEK.

It took Bradbury just nine days to write Fahrenheit 451—and he did it in the basement of the UCLA library on a rented typewriter. (The title of his classic novel, by the way, comes from the temperature at which paper burns without being exposed to flame.)

6. HE DIDN'T ATTEND COLLEGE.

Though he wrote Fahrenheit 451 at UCLA, he wasn't a student there. In fact, he didn’t believe in college. “I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money,” Bradbury told The New York Times in 2009. “When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

7. HE LOATHED COMPUTERS.

Despite his writings about all things futuristic, Bradbury loathed computers. “We are being flimflammed by Bill Gates and his partners,” he told Playboy in 1996. “Look at Windows '95. That's a lot of flimflam, you know.” He also stated that computers were nothing more than typewriters to him, and he certainly didn’t need another one of those. He also called the Internet “old-fashioned": “They type a question to you. You type an answer back. That’s 30 years ago. Why not do it on the telephone, which is immediate? Why not do it on TV, which is immediate? Why are they so excited with something that is so backward?”

8. HE WAS PALS WITH WALT DISNEY.

Not only was Bradbury good friends with Walt Disney (and even urged him to run for mayor of Los Angeles), he helped contribute to the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot, submitting a story treatment that they built the ride around.

He was a big fan of the Disney parks, saying, “Everyone in the world will come to these gates. Why? Because they want to look at the world of the future. They want to see how to make better human beings. That’s what the whole thing is about. The cynics are already here and they’re terrifying one another. What Disney is doing is showing the world that there are alternative ways to do things that can make us all happy. If we can borrow some of the concepts of Disneyland and Disney World and Epcot, then indeed the world can be a better place.”

9. HE WANTED HIS ASHES TO BE SENT TO MARS IN A SOUP CAN.

He once said that when he died, he planned to have his ashes placed in a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can and planted on Mars. Then he decided that he wanted to have a place his fans could visit, and thought he’d design his own gravestone that included the names of his books. As a final touch, a sign at his gravesite would say Place dandelions here, “as a tribute to Dandelion Wine, because so many people love it.” In the end, he ended up going with something a whole lot simpler—a plain headstone bearing his name and “Author of Fahrenheit 451.” Go take him some dandelions the next time you’re in L.A.—he’s buried at Westwood Memorial Park.

10. NASA PAID TRIBUTE TO HIM.

Perhaps a more fitting memorial is the one NASA gave him when they landed a rover on Mars a few months after Bradbury’s death in 2012: They named the site where Mars Curiosity touched down "Bradbury Landing."

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