(Left: Hillary and Norgay on the South Col prior to the summit push — Photo property of the Royal Geographic Society)
Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who — along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay — was the first man to top out on Mount Everest, died today in 2008. He was 88 years old.
Hillary and Norgay (who died in 1986), conquered the 29,035 foot (8,850 meter) summit on May 29, 1953. His experiences and love of the mountains and affection for Nepal's Sherpa people developed into a lifelong effort to raise money for schools, hospitals and airfields in the region.
In recent years, Hillary criticized today's climbers and the environmental damage they were causing to Everest. He also despised the change in the mountaineering ethic.
“The whole attitude to Mount Everest has become rather horrifying,” Hillary told New Zealand's Otago Daily Times,. “People just want to get to the top. They don't give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress and it doesn't impress me at all that they leave someone lying under a rock to die.”
Hillary had three children with first wife Louise Mary Rose, who died in a plane crash in Nepal with their daughter Belinda in 1975. Fourteen years later, he married June Mulgrew. He died of “too many years of old age,” Graeme Dingle, an Everest veteran, said.
Hillary died in Auckland City Hospital today. He is survived by son Peter, who has also climbed Everest, and his daughter from his first marriage, Sarah.
Sir Edmund was one of the reasons I became interested in climbing and the reason I became a climber. He was a true hero … in every sense of the word.
“Without doubt, the most important things have never been standing on a summit, or reaching a Pole. Unquestionably, it has been the work we have done in cooperation with the mountain people, establishing schools, medical clinics and hospitals. Those are the things I will always remember.” — Sir Edmund Hillary.
“What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.” — George Leigh Mallory who died on Everest.