Norman Dyhrenfurth, the explorer who led the first American expedition to the summit of Mount Everest in 1963, passed away on Sunday, Sept. 24 at the age of 99.

According to The New York Times, “A climber since his childhood in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, Mr. Dyhrenfurth was the financial and organizational catalyst behind the expedition that enabled James W. Whittaker to climb 29,028 feet and plant a flag on the summit of Everest on May 1, 1963.”

Mr. Dyhrenfurth did not reach the summit himself on that expedition in 1963, but he was seen as the leader of the historic American crew. He was recognized for the feat on the cover of Life and National Geographic magazines, and was also honored by President John F. Kennedy.

The 1963 expedition was not Dyhrenfurth’s first attempt of Mount Everest, as he had failed multiple times before. And the successful mission was also not without its fair share of trouble, as two of the 19 members died during the climb and many of the surviving members suffered frostbite.

Born on May 7, 1918, in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) to two accomplished climbers, Dyhrenfurth began climbing at a very early age. His family emigrated to the United States in the 1930s where he worked as a ski instructor and mountain guide. Dyhrenfurth also served in the U.S. Army during World War II, eventually becoming an American citizen. He was also a Fullbright scholar, taught film at the University of Southern California and was a technical advisor for climbing movies.

He is survived by his longtime partner, Maria Sernetz.

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