Priest's crucifix buried on Everest
Written by Ben Hewes.
Used by permission of ©Newsquest Digital Media.

Photo by Alfred Gregory.
Sherpas carry expedition equipment to climb Everest.
Photo by Alfred Gregory / ©RGS


(May 2003)  NEXT week marks the 50th anniversary of the conquering of Everest, and a Leyland monk has a very special reason to remember the date.

On May 29, 1953, climber Sir Edmund Hillary buried a tiny crucifix at the summit of the mountain.

The cross was part of a rosary sent to the mountaineering hero all those years ago by Father Martin Haigh, of St Mary's Catholic Church, Broadfield Drive, Leyland.

Father Haigh, now 81, said: "The important thing isn't celebrating the ascent of Everest by human achievement. What we are celebrating is the fact that 50 years ago the cross was put on the summit of Everest and that meant an immense amount to Hillary and to me, and to all Christians."

The men taking part in the 29,000ft trek agreed to take the cross after Father Haigh contacted the leader of the Everest expedition, Colonel John Hunt.

The tiny crucifix was originally attached to a rosary given to Mr Haigh's father by Pope Pius XII, after the Second World War. When he came up with the idea, he contacted Colonel Hunt, asking him to take the cross up the mountain, and leave it at the highest point.

And Colonel Hunt passed it to Edmund Hillary for the final leg of the climb, with Tenzing, his guide.

In a letter dated June 1 from Base Camp, Mount Everest, Colonel Hunt revealed that it had been left at the very top.

He wrote: "This little note goes via my wife, to tell you that your little crucifix was left on the summit of Mount Everest on May 29, by Edmund Hillary at my request."

Father Haigh, a Benedictine monk from the Amplethorpe Abbey, North Yorkshire, eventually met up with Edmund Hillary in 1993.

He said: "Tenzing left his gifts for the Gods -- some sweets from his daughters.

"Hillary saw that and it reminded him he had the cross on him, so he knelt down and buried it."


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"Priest's crucifix buried on Everest," by Ben Hewes, © Copyright 2003 Newsquest Media Group Ltd - A Gannett Company.  Article used by permission of Craig McGinty, Website Editor -; article may not be reproduced without prior written permission of Newsquest Digital Media.

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"Sherpas carry expedition equipment to climb Everest, photo by Alfred Gregory / © Royal Geographical Society; used by permission of Justin Hobson, RGS Picture Library Sales Manager.  This photo may not be reproduced without the written permission of The Royal Geographical Society Picture Library.

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