Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay were the first humans to reach the Earth’s highest point: the summit of Mount Everest in the Himalayas. British government knighted him for his feat and in later years led expeditions to the South Pole and to the source of the Yangtze River. He subsequently reached the North Pole, making him the first person to reach both poles and summit Everest.
Edmund Hillary Early Life
- Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 20, 1919.
- His family moved to Tuakau, south of Auckland, in 1920, after government allocated Percy a eight acres (3.2 ha) of land there as a world war 1 returned soldier.
- He finished primary school aged 11 or two years early, and at “Grammar” achieved average marks.
- He was initially smaller than his peers and shy, and did not enjoy school. Later, he grew to be 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) and gained confidence after taking up boxing.
- He became interested in climbing when he was 16 following a 1935 school trip to Mount Ruapehu.
- Later, he travelled daily to the city for secondary schooling, where he was a shy and awkward boy.
- As a child, he helped in his father’s beekeeping business and eventually had to quit school to work with his father full-time.
Edmund Hillary Climbing Mountain
- In 1935, during a ski weekend on a school trip to Mount Ruapehu, Hillary discovered his joy in the mountains and it never left him.
- He would often escape to the mountains to enjoy skiing and hiking, and he developed a love of climbing. A few years later, Hillary climbed his first mountain, the 7,500 ft. Mount Oliver in New Zealand.
- In 1943, with the Japanese threat in the Pacific and the arrival of conscription, he joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as a navigator. Later, he was badly burnt in an accident.
- Despite the physical setback, determined Hillary made a full recovery and resume mountain climbing.
- During the 1940s, Hillary made many climbs in New Zealand, particularly in the Southern Alps. He quickly became recognised for his daring, strength, and reliability.
John Hunt’s expedition
- Then came climbs in Europe that brought the invitation to join Sir John Hunt’s expedition to Mount Everest, in the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal. For two years, Hillary joined Hunt in the Scottish Highlands to prepare themselves for Everest.
- The Hunt expedition totalled over 400 people, including 362 porters, 20 Sherpa guides, and 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of baggage. Hillary made a concerted effort to forge a working friendship with his sherpa Tenzing.
- The expedition set up base camp in March 1953 and, working slowly, set up its final camp at the South Col at 25,900 feet (7,890 m).
- On 26 May, Bourdillon and Evans attempted the climb but turned back when Evans’ oxygen system failed. The pair had reached the South Summit, coming within 300 vertical feet (91 m) of the summit.
- Next, Hunt chose Hillary and Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay (1914– 1986) to make an attempt. After a heroic and death-defying climb, the two reached the summit on May 29, 1953, becoming the first two people to reach the top of the world.
- Tenzing left chocolates at the summit as an offering, and Hillary left a cross given to him by John Hunt.
- They returned to Kathmandu a few days later and learned that government appointed Hillary a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Hunt a Knight Bachelor.
Life After Mount Everest
- Hillary climbed ten other peaks in the Himalayas on further visits in 1956, 1960–1961, and 1963–1965.
- He also reached the South Pole as part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
- In 1960 Hillary organized an expedition to search for the fabled abominable snowman. Hillary was with the expedition for five months, although it lasted for ten.
- He found no evidence of Yetis, instead proved footprints and tracks from other causes.
Edmund Hillary Family
- Hillary married Louise Mary Rose on 3 September 1953, soon after the ascent of Everest; he admitted he was terrified of proposing to her and relied on her mother to propose on his behalf.
- They had three children: Peter (born 1954), Sarah (born 1955) and Belinda (1959–1975).
- In 1975, he was helping to build a hospital in the village of Phaphlu. While en route to join Hillary, Plane crash killed Louise and Belinda near Kathmandu airport shortly after take-off.
Edmund Hillary Award & Legacy
- Soon People recognized Hillary’s achievements with the award of numerous decorations and honorary degrees, beginning with his knighthood in 1953.
- They reflect the rare warmth and respect in which he was held. Later on, NZ government appointed him as a New Zealand’s high commissioner to India. He was also the honorary president for New York’s Explorers Club.
- Hillary had also remained active in the region where he made his famous climb. The Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust provides funds and expertise to support reforestation, build schools and hospitals, and use technology such as solar power.
- He personally raised funds for the Nepalese people throughout the 1990s through public speaking engagements and lectures in the United States.
- The twenty-seven schools we’ve now established, the hospitals—those are the things I would like to be remembered for.”
Edmund Hillary Death
- On 22 April 2007, while on a trip to Kathmandu, Hillary suffered a fall, and doctor hospitalized him after returning to New Zealand. Later on 11 January 2008 he died of heart failure at Auckland City Hospital.
- On 21 January, Hillary’s casket was taken into Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, to lie in state.
- Government held a state funeral on 22 January 2008, after which they cremated his body.
- On 29 February 2008, most of his ashes were scattered in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf per his desire.