Edmund Hillary

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Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary, c. 1953, autograph removed.jpg
c. 1953
Edmund Percival Hillary

(1919-07-20)20 July 1919
Auckland, New Zealand
Died11 January 2008(2008-01-11) (aged 88)
Auckland City Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand
Known forWith Tenzing Norgay, first to reach summit of Mount Everest
  • Louise Mary Rose
    (m. 1953;died 1975)
  • June Mulgrew
    (m. 1989;his death 2008)
Edmund Hillary Signature.svg

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary KG ONZ KBE (20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008) was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer, and philanthropist. On 29 May 1953, Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt. From 1985 to 1988 he served as New Zealand's High Commissioner to India and Bangladesh and concurrently as Ambassador to Nepal.

Mountaineering sport of mountain climbing

Mountaineering is the set of activities that involves ascending mountains. Mountaineering-related activities include traditional outdoor climbing, hiking, skiing, and traversing via ferratas. Indoor climbing, sport climbing and bouldering are also considered mountaineering by some.

Philanthropy means the love of humanity. A conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life", which combines an original humanistic tradition with a social scientific aspect developed in the 20th century. The definition also serves to contrast philanthropy with business endeavors, which are private initiatives for private good, e.g., focusing on material gain, and with government endeavors, which are public initiatives for public good, e.g., focusing on provision of public services. A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist.

Nepal country in South Asia

Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is located mainly in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. With an estimated population of 26.4 million, it is 48th largest country by population and 93rd largest country by area. It borders China in the north and India in the south, east, and west while Bangladesh is located within only 27 km (17 mi) of its southeastern tip and Bhutan is separated from it by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and largest city. Nepal is a multiethnic nation with Nepali as the official language.


Hillary became interested in mountaineering while in secondary school. He made his first major climb in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier. [1] He served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator during World War II. Prior to the Everest expedition, Hillary had been part of the British reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1951 as well as an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition he reached the South Pole overland in 1958. He subsequently reached the North Pole, making him the first person to reach both poles and summit Everest.

Mount Ollivier mountain in New Zealand

Mount Ollivier is a 1,933 m (6,342 ft) mountain in the Canterbury Region of New Zealand. It is a peak in the Sealy Range, about 2.5 km (1.6 mi) west of Mount Cook Village. The peak is named after mountaineer Arthur Ollivier, who died in 1897.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Air force component of the New Zealand Defence Force

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) is the air force component of the New Zealand Defence Force. It was formed from New Zealand elements of the British Royal Air Force, becoming an independent force in 1923, although many RNZAF aircrew continued to serve in the Royal Air Force until the end of the 1940s. The RNZAF fought in World War II, Malaya, Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf War plus various United Nations peacekeeping missions. From a 1945 peak of over 1,000 combat aircraft the RNZAF has shrunk to a strength of around 51 aircraft in 2016, focusing on maritime patrol and transport duties in support of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the New Zealand Army. The RNZAF's air combat capability ended in 2001 with the disbanding of the A-4 Skyhawk squadrons. The Air Force is led by an air vice-marshal who holds the appointment of Chief of Air Force.

A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the ship's captain or aircraft commander of estimated timing to destinations while en route, and ensuring hazards are avoided. The navigator is in charge of maintaining the aircraft or ship's nautical charts, nautical publications, and navigational equipment, and he/she generally has responsibility for meteorological equipment and communications. With the advent of GPS, the effort required to accurately determine one's position has decreased by orders of magnitude, so the entire field has experienced a revolutionary transition since the 1990s with traditional navigation tasks being used less frequently.

Following his ascent of Everest, Hillary devoted himself to assisting the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he established. His efforts are credited with the construction of many schools and hospitals in Nepal. Hillary had numerous honours conferred upon him, including the Order of the Garter in 1995. Upon his death in 2008, he was given a state funeral in New Zealand.

Himalayan Trust

The Himalayan Trust is an international non-profit humanitarian organisation first established in the 1960s by Sir Edmund Hillary, who led the trust until his death in 2008. The Himalayan Trust aims to improve the health, education and general wellbeing of people living in the Solukhumbu District. The Himalayan Trust is headquartered in New Zealand where it is a registered charity through the Charities Commission. The Trust has charitable and donee status being a member of the Council for International Development (CID).

Order of the Garter Order of chivalry in England

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348 and regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry in England and later the United Kingdom. It is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.

State funeral Public funeral ceremony held to honour people of national significance

A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honour people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition. Generally, state funerals are held in order to involve the general public in a national day of mourning after the family of the deceased gives consent. A state funeral will often generate mass publicity from both national and global media outlets.

Early life

Hillary's mother Gertrude Clark, 1909 Gertrude Clark, mother of Edmund Hillary, 1909.jpg
Hillary's mother Gertrude Clark, 1909

Hillary was born to Percival Augustus and Gertrude (née Clark) Hillary in Auckland, New Zealand, on 20 July 1919. [2] [3] His father Percy had served at Gallipoli with the 15th (North Auckland) Regiment, and was discharged "medically unfit" from the Army in 1916; he had married Gertrude after his return to New Zealand. His grandparents had emigrated from Yorkshire to northern Wairoa in the mid-19th century. [4]

Auckland Metropolitan area in North Island, New Zealand

Auckland is a city in the North Island of New Zealand. The most populous urban area in the country, Auckland has an urban population of around 1,628,900. It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,695,900. Auckland is a diverse, multicultural and cosmopolitan city, home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. A Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki or Tāmaki-makau-rau, meaning "Tāmaki with a hundred lovers", in reference to the desirability of its fertile land at the hub of waterways in all directions.

Gallipoli Campaign Military campaign during World War I

The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale, was a campaign of the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Entente powers, Britain, France and the Russian Empire, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers, by taking control of the straits that provided a supply route to Russia. The invaders launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula, to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul).

Yorkshire Historic county of Northern England

Yorkshire, formally known as the County of York, is a historic county of Northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Due to its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform. Throughout these changes, Yorkshire has continued to be recognised as a geographical territory and cultural region. The name is familiar and well understood across the United Kingdom and is in common use in the media and the military, and also features in the titles of current areas of civil administration such as North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire.

His family moved to Tuakau, south of Auckland, in 1920, after Percy was allocated eight acres (3.2 ha) of land there as a returned soldier. [3] Percy had been a journalist prewar, and soon became founding editor of the weekly Tuakau District News as well as an apiarist. Ed had a sister June (born 1917) and a brother Rex (born 1920). [5]

Tuakau Place in Waikato Region, New Zealand

Tuakau is a town in the Waikato region, formerly part of the Auckland Region until 2010, when it became part of Waikato District in the North Island of New Zealand. The town serves to support local farming, and is the residence of many employees of New Zealand Steel at Glenbrook.

Hillary was educated at Tuakau Primary School and then Auckland Grammar School. [3] He finished primary school aged 11 or two years early, and at "Grammar" achieved average marks. [6] His mother wanted him to go to a "good school" and he commuted by train, cycling to Tuakau station before 7 am and returning after 6 pm for 3½ years (a one hour and 40 minutes journey each way) until the family moved to Remuera, Auckland in 1935, his last of four years at "Grammar". [7]

Auckland Grammar School state secondary school in New Zealand

Auckland Grammar School (AGS) is a state secondary school for years 9 to 13 boys in Auckland, New Zealand. It has a roll of 2577 as of March 2019, including a number of boarders who live in nearby Tibbs' House, making it New Zealand's largest single-sex school and placing it among the six largest schools in the country.

Remuera Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Remuera is an affluent inner city residential suburban area within Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand. It is located four kilometres to the southeast of the city centre. Remuera is one of Auckland's older suburbs characterised by many large houses, often Edwardian or mid 20th century. A prime example of a "leafy" suburb, Remuera is noted for its quiet tree lined streets. The suburb has numerous green spaces, most obvious of which is Ōhinerau / Mount Hobson – a volcanic cone with views from the top overlooking Waitematā Harbour and Rangitoto.

He was initially smaller than his peers and shy, and did not enjoy "Grammar", where commuting barred him from after-school activities. He grew to be 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) [8] and gained confidence after taking up boxing.

He became interested in climbing when he was 16 following a 1935 school trip to Mount Ruapehu, after which he showed more interest in tramping than in studying and said he "wanted to see the world". [9] He then attended Auckland University College, and joined the Tramping Club there. But in 1938 "after two notably unsuccessful years studying mathematics and science" he gave up on formal education. [10]

He then became an apiarist (beekeeper) with his father and brother Rex; with 1600 hives to attend, thousands of 90 lb (41 kg) boxes of honey comb to handle, and 12 to 100 bee-stings daily. [10] [2] [11] So he kept bees in summer, and concentrated on climbing in winter. [12] His father also edited the journal "The N.Z. Honeybee" and his mother Gertrude was famous for breeding and selling queen bees. [13] [14] [15]

In 1938 he went to hear Herbert Sutcliffe, the proponent of a life philosophy called "Radiant Living", with his family. The family all became foundation members, and his mother became its secretary in 1939. He went to Gisborne as Sutcliff’s assistant, and in 1941 sat examinations to become a teacher of Radiant Living, getting a 100% pass mark. His test lecture was on "Inferiority – cause and cure". He said of his five year association with the movement that "I learned to speak confidently from the platform; to think more freely on important topics; to mix more readily with a wide variety of people". Tenets included healthy eating (the salads that June took to university for lunch) and pacificism. He joined the Radiant Living Tramping Club, and further developed his love of the outdoors in the Waitakere Ranges. [16] [17]

In 1939 he completed his first major climb, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier, near Aoraki / Mount Cook in the Southern Alps. [3] Climbing brought new friends; Harry Ayres and George Lowe became "the first real friends I'd ever had". [18]

World War II

Hillary in Royal New Zealand Air Force uniform at Delta Camp, near Blenheim, New Zealand, during World War II Edmund Hillary at Delta Camp near Blenheim during WWII.jpg
Hillary in Royal New Zealand Air Force uniform at Delta Camp, near Blenheim, New Zealand, during World War II

At the outbreak of World War II, Hillary applied to join the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) but quickly withdrew the application, later writing that he was "harassed by my religious conscience". [19] In 1943, with the Japanese threat in the Pacific and the arrival of conscription, he joined the RNZAF as a navigator in No. 6 Squadron RNZAF and later No. 5 Squadron RNZAF on Catalina flying boats. [19] [20] In 1945, he was sent to Fiji and to the Solomon Islands, where he was badly burnt in an accident. [19]


In January 1948, Hillary and others ascended the south ridge of Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak. [21] In 1951 he was part of a British reconnaissance expedition to Everest led by Eric Shipton, [22] [lower-alpha 1] before joining the successful British attempt of 1953. In 1952, Hillary and George Lowe were part of the British team led by Shipton, that attempted Cho Oyu. [23] After that attempt failed due to the lack of route from the Nepal side, Hillary and Lowe crossed the Nup La pass into Tibet and reached the old Camp II, on the northern side, where all the previous expeditions had camped. [24]

1953 Everest expedition

External audio
Nuvola apps arts.svg Sir Edmund Hillary Scales the Heights of Literary Society, 1954, Hillary speaks 5:00–18:57, WNYC [25]

In 1949, the long-standing climbing route to the summit of Everest was closed by Chinese-controlled Tibet. For the next several years, Nepal allowed only one or two expeditions per year. [26] A Swiss expedition (in which Tenzing took part) attempted to reach the summit in 1952, but was forced back by bad weather around 800 feet (240 m) below the summit. [27] In 1952 Hillary learned that he and Lowe had been invited by the Joint Himalayan Committee for the 1953 British attempt and immediately accepted. [28] Hunt wrote that Hillary’s "testing in the Himalayas had shown that he would be a very strong contender, not only for Everest, but for an eventual summit party. When I met Shipton last autumn I well remember his prophesying this – and how right he was. Quite exceptionally strong and abounding in a restless energy, possessed of a thrusting mind which swept away all unproven obstacles, Ed Hillary’s personality had made an imprint on my mind, through his Cho Oyu and Reconnaissance friends and through his letters to me." [29] On the expedition, Hunt mentions several times discussing plans with Evans and Hillary. [30]

Shipton was named as leader but was replaced by Hunt. Hillary had objected but was immediately impressed by Hunt's energy and determination. [31] Hillary had intended to climb with Lowe, but Hunt named two teams for the ascent: Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans; and Hillary and Tenzing. [32] Hillary, therefore, made a concerted effort to forge a working friendship with Tenzing. [31] [33]

Tenzing and Hillary Tenzing and Hillary.jpg
Tenzing and Hillary

The Hunt expedition totalled over 400 people, including 362 porters, 20 Sherpa guides, and 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of baggage. [34] [35] Lowe supervised the preparation of the Lhotse Face, a huge and steep ice face, for climbing. Hillary forged a route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. [36] [37]

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. [35] [38] Hunt then directed Hillary and Tenzing to attempt the summit. [38]

Snow and wind delayed them at the South Col for two days. They set out on 28 May with the support of Lowe, Alfred Gregory, and Ang Nyima. [39] The two pitched a tent at 27,900 feet (8,500 m) on 28 May, while their support group returned down the mountain. [40] On the following morning Hillary discovered that his boots had frozen solid outside the tent. He spent two hours warming them over a stove before he and Tenzing, wearing 30-pound (14 kg) packs, attempted the final ascent. [41] The final obstacle was the 40-foot (12 m) rock face now called "Hillary Step"; Hillary later wrote:

I noticed a crack between the rock and the snow sticking to the East Face. I crawled inside and wriggled and jammed my way to the top ... Tenzing slowly joined me and we moved on. I chopped steps over bump after bump, wondering a little desperately where the top could be. Then I saw the ridge ahead dropped away to the north and above me on the right was a rounded snow dome. A few more whacks with my ice-axe and Tenzing and I stood on top of Everest. [42]

Hillary and Tenzing on return from the summit of Everest Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.jpg
Hillary and Tenzing on return from the summit of Everest

Tenzing later wrote that Hillary took the first step onto the summit and he followed. They reached Everest's 29,028 ft (8,848 m) summit the highest point on earth at 11:30 am. [2] [43]

They spent about 15 minutes at the summit. Hillary took a photo of Tenzing posing with his ice-axe, but there is no photo of Hillary. BBC News attributed this to Tenzing's having never used a camera; [44] [45] Tenzing's autobiography says that Hillary simply declined to have his picture taken. They also took photos looking down the mountain. [45]

Hillary (left) and George Lowe (right) with Governor-General Sir Willoughby Norrie at Government House, Wellington, 20 August 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Willoughby Norrie, and George Lowe at Government House, Wellington, 1953.jpg
Hillary (left) and George Lowe (right) with Governor-General Sir Willoughby Norrie at Government House, Wellington, 20 August 1953

Tenzing left chocolates at the summit as an offering, and Hillary left a cross given to him by John Hunt. [46] Their descent was complicated by drifting snow which had covered their tracks. The first person they met was Lowe; Hillary said, "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off." [8]

They returned to Kathmandu a few days later and learned that Hillary had already been appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Hunt a Knight Bachelor. [47] News reached Britain on the day of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, and the press called it a coronation gift. [48] The 37 members of the party later received the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal with mount everest expedition engraved along the rim. [49] In addition to the knighting of Hillary and Hunt, Tenzing ineligible for knighthood as a Nepalese citizen received the George Medal. [50] [51] [52] Tenzing also received the Star of Nepal from King Tribhuvan. [53]

After Everest

In the cockpit of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition's DHC-2, 1956 Sir Edmund Hillary in the cockpit of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition's aeroplane, Rongotai, Wellington, 1956.jpg
In the cockpit of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition's DHC-2, 1956

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, for which he led the New Zealand section, on 4 January 1958. His party was the first to reach the Pole overland since Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912, and the first ever to do so using motor vehicles. [54]

In 1960 Hillary organized an expedition to search for the fabled abominable snowman. [55] Hillary was with the expedition for five months, although it lasted for ten. [56] No evidence of Yetis was found, instead footprints and tracks were proven to be from other causes. During the expedition, Hillary travelled to remote temples which contained "Yeti scalps"; however after bringing back three relics, two were shown to be from bears and one from a goat antelope. [57] [58] Hillary said after the expedition: "The yeti is not a strange, superhuman creature as has been imagined. We have found rational explanations for most yeti phenomena". [59]

Hillary in 1957 after accompanying the first plane to land at the Marble Point ground air strip, Antarctica Edmund-Hillary.web.jpg
Hillary in 1957 after ac­com­pa­nying the first plane to land at the Marble Point ground air strip, Antarctica

In 1962 he was a guest on the television game show What's My Line? ; he stumped the panel, comprising Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf, and Merv Griffin. [60] In 1977, he led a jetboat expedition, titled "Ocean to Sky", from the mouth of the Ganges River to its source. [61] From 1977 to 1979 he commentated aboard Antarctic sightseeing flights operated by Air New Zealand. [62] In 1985, he accompanied Neil Armstrong in a small twin-engined ski plane over the Arctic Ocean and landed at the North Pole. Hillary thus became the first man to stand at both poles and on the summit of Everest. [63] [64] [65] [66] This accomplishment inspired generations of explorers to compete over what later was defined as Three Poles Challenge. In January 2007, Hillary travelled to Antarctica as part of a delegation commemorating the 50th anniversary of the founding of Scott Base. [67] [68] [69]

Public recognition

Hillary on the New Zealand five-dollar note Nz5d.jpg
Hillary on the New Zealand five-dollar note

On 6 June 1953 Hillary was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and received the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal the same year. [70] On 6 February 1987, he was the fourth appointee to the Order of New Zealand. [71] He was also awarded the Polar Medal in 1958 for his part in the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, [72] [73] the Order of Gorkha Dakshina Bahu, 1st Class of the Kingdom of Nepal in 1953, and the Coronation Medal in 1975. [74] On 22 April 1995 Hillary was appointed Knight Companion of The Most Noble Order of the Garter. [75] [76] On 17 June 2004 Hillary was awarded Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. [77] The Government of India conferred on him its second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, posthumously, in 2008. [78]

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Everest, the Nepalese government conferred honorary citizenship upon Hillary at a special Golden Jubilee celebration in Kathmandu, Nepal. He was the first foreign national to receive that honour. [79] [15]

Since 1992, New Zealand's $5 note has featured Hillary's portrait, making him the only living person not a current head of state ever to appear on a New Zealand banknote. In giving his permission, Hillary insisted that Aoraki / Mount Cook rather than Mount Everest be used as the backdrop. [80] [81]

Statue of Hillary gazing towards Aoraki / Mount Cook, one of his favourite peaks Hillary statue and Mount Cook.jpg
Statue of Hillary gazing towards Aoraki / Mount Cook, one of his favourite peaks

Annual Reader's Digest polls from 2005 to 2007 named Hillary as "New Zealand's most trusted individual". [83] [84]

Hillary's favoured New Zealand charity was the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre, of which he was patron for 35 years. [85] He was particularly keen on how this organisation introduced young New Zealanders to the outdoors in a very similar way to his first experience of a school trip to Mt Ruapehu at the age of 16. A 2.3-metre (7.5 ft) bronze statue of Hillary was erected outside The Hermitage Hotel at Mount Cook Village; it was unveiled by Hillary himself in 2003. [86] Various streets, institutions and organisations around New Zealand and abroad are named after him – for example, the Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otara, which was established by Hillary in 2001. [87]

Two Antarctic features are named after Hillary. The Hillary Coast is a section of coastline south of Ross Island and north of the Shackleton Coast. [88] The Hillary Canyon, an undersea feature in the Ross Sea, appears on the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, published by the International Hydrographic Organization. [89]

Personal life

Hillary, with first wife, Louise, and son, Peter, 1955 Sir Edmund and Lady Louise Hillary with their son Peter, 1955.jpg
Hillary, with first wife, Louise, and son, Peter, 1955
Sir Edmund with his second wife, Lady Hillary, 2000 Sir Edmund Hillary with Lady Hillary.jpg
Sir Edmund with his second wife, Lady Hillary, 2000

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. [11] [12] [90] They had three children: Peter (born 1954), Sarah (born 1955) and Belinda (19591975). [2] [38] In 1975 while en route to join Hillary in the village of Phaphlu, where he was helping to build a hospital, Louise and Belinda were killed in a plane crash near Kathmandu airport shortly after take-off. [11] In 1989 he married June Mulgrew, the widow of his close friend Peter Mulgrew, who died on Air New Zealand Flight 901 in 1979. [12] [91]

His son Peter Hillary also became a climber, summiting Everest in 1990. In May 2002 Peter climbed Everest as part of a 50th anniversary celebration; Jamling Tenzing Norgay (son of Tenzing who had died in 1986) was also part of the expedition. [92]

Hillary's home for most of his life was a property on Remuera Road in Auckland City, [93] where he enjoyed reading adventure and science fiction novels in his retirement. [93] He also built a bach at Whites Beach, [94] one of Auckland's west coast beaches in the former Waitakere City, between Anawhata and North Piha; [95] [96] a friend called it Hillary's place of solace, where he could escape media attention. [94]

The Hillary family has had a connection with the west coast of Auckland since 1925, when Louise's father built a bach at Anawhata. [97] The family donated land at Whites Beach that is now crossed by trampers on the Hillary Trail, named for Edmund. [98] Hillary said of the area: "That is the thing that international travel brings home to me – it's always good to be going home. This is the only place I want to live in; this is the place I want to see out my days." [99]


Following his ascent of Everest he devoted himself to assisting the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he established in 1960 [100] and led until his death in 2008. His efforts are credited with the construction of many schools and hospitals in this remote region of the Himalayas. He was the Honorary President of the American Himalayan Foundation, a United States non-profit body that helps improve the ecology and living conditions in the Himalayas. He was also the Honorary President of Mountain Wilderness, an international NGO dedicated to the worldwide protection of mountains. [101]

Political involvement

Hillary supported the Labour Party in the 1975 New Zealand general election, as a member of the "Citizens for Rowling" campaign. His involvement in this campaign was seen as precluding his nomination as Governor-General; [102] the position was offered to Keith Holyoake in 1977. In 1985, Hillary was appointed New Zealand High Commissioner to India (concurrently High Commissioner to Bangladesh and Ambassador to Nepal) and spent four and a half years based in New Delhi. [103]

In 1975, Hillary served as a vice president for the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, [104] a national pro-choice advocacy group. [105] He was also a patron of REPEAL, an organization seeking repeal of the restrictive Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977. [104]


People draped in the Flag of New Zealand as Hillary's hearse passes Edmund Hillary State Funeral.jpg
People draped in the Flag of New Zealand as Hillary's hearse passes

On 22 April 2007, while on a trip to Kathmandu, Hillary suffered a fall, and was hospitalised after returning to New Zealand. [106] On 11 January 2008 he died of heart failure at Auckland City Hospital. [107] Flags were lowered to half-mast on New Zealand public buildings and at Scott Base in Antarctica, [108] and Prime Minister Helen Clark called Hillary's death a "profound loss to New Zealand". [109]

On 21 January, Hillary's casket was taken into Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, to lie in state. [110] A state funeral was held on 22 January 2008, [111] after which his body was cremated. On 29 February 2008 most of his ashes were scattered in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf per his desire. [112] The remainder went to a Nepalese monastery near Everest; a plan to scatter them on the summit was cancelled in 2010. [113]

Posthumous tributes

In January 2008, Lukla Airport, in Lukla, Nepal, was renamed to Tenzing–Hillary Airport in recognition of their promotion of its construction. [114] [115] On 2 April 2008, a service of thanksgiving in Hillary's honour at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was attended by Queen Elizabeth II, New Zealand dignitaries including Prime Minister Helen Clark, and members of Hillary's and Norgay's families; Gurkha soldiers from Nepal stood guard outside the ceremony. [116] [117] In October 2008, it was announced that future rugby test matches between England and New Zealand would be played for the Hillary Shield. [118] In 2009 the Duke of Edinburgh's Award in New Zealand formerly the Young New Zealanders' Challenge was renamed "The Duke of Edinburgh's Hillary Award". [119] On 5 November 2008, a commemorative set of five stamps was issued by New Zealand Post. [120] [121]

There have been many calls for lasting tributes to Hillary. The first major public tribute has been by way of the "Summits for Ed" tribute tour organised by the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation. [122] This tribute tour went from Bluff at the bottom of the South Island to Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island, visiting 39 towns and cities along the way. In each venue, school children and members of the public were invited to join together to climb a significant hill or site in their area to show their respect for Hillary. The public were also invited to bring small rocks or pebbles that had special significance to them, that would be included in a memorial to Hillary at the base of Mt Ruapehu, in the grounds of the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre. Funds donated during the tour are used by the foundation to sponsor young New Zealanders on outdoor courses. Over 8,000 persons attended these "Summit" climbs between March and May 2008. [123]

View from the Hillary Trail Mercer Bay.jpg
View from the Hillary Trail

The tribute song "Hillary 88", by the New Zealand duo The Kiwis, is the official world memorial song for Hillary, with the endorsement of Lady Hillary. [124]

A four-day track in the Waitakere Ranges, along Auckland's west coast, is named the Hillary Trail, [125] in honour of Hillary. [98] Hillary's father-in-law, Jim Rose, who had built a bach at Anawhata in 1925, wrote in his 1982 history of Anawhata Beach, "My family look forward to the time when we will be able to walk from Huia to Muriwai on public walking tracks like the old-time Maori could do". [97] [126] Hillary loved the area, and had his own bach near Anawhata. The track was opened on 11 January 2010, the second anniversary of Hillary's death. [107] [127] Rose Track, descending from Anawhata Road to Whites Beach, is named after the Rose family. [99] [128]

The South Ridge of Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, was renamed Hillary Ridge on 18 August 2011. Hillary and three other climbers were the first party to successfully climb the ridge in 1948. [129] In September 2013 the Government of Nepal proposed naming a 7,681 metres (25,200 ft) mountain in Nepal Hillary Peak in his honour. [130] After the New Horizons mission discovered a mountain range on Pluto on 14 July 2015, it was informally named Hillary Montes (Hillary Mountains) by NASA. [131]

The Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal, awarded by the Nepalese NGO Mountain Legacy "for remarkable service in the conservation of culture and nature in mountainous regions" was inaugurated in 2003, with the approval of Sir Edmund Hillary. A bronze bust of Hillary (circa 1953) by Ophelia Gordon Bell is in the Te Papa museum in Wellington, New Zealand. [132] The Sir Edmund Hillary Archive was added to the UNESCO Memory of the world archive in 2013, [133] it is currently held by Auckland War Memorial Museum. [134]



Books written by Edmund Hillary
High Adventure [lower-alpha 2] 1955Hodder & Stoughton [lower-alpha 3] ISBN   1-932302-02-6 [lower-alpha 4] n/a [135] [55]
East of Everest — An Account of the New Zealand Alpine Club Himalayan Expedition to the Barun Valley in 19541956E. P. Dutton ASIN   B000EW84UM George Lowe [135]
No Latitude for Error1961Hodder & Stoughton. ASIN   B000H6UVP6 n/a [135] [55]
The New Zealand Antarctic Expedition1959R.W. Stiles, printers. ASIN   B0007K6D72 n/a
The Crossing of Antarctica: The Commonwealth Transantarctic Expedition, 1955–19581958Cassell ASIN   B000HJGZ08 Vivian Fuchs [135]
High in the thin cold air [lower-alpha 5] 1962Doubleday ASIN   B00005W121 Desmond Doig [135]
Schoolhouse in the Clouds1965Hodder & Stoughton ASIN   B00005WRBB n/a [135]
Nothing Venture, Nothing Win1975Hodder & Stoughton ISBN   0-340-21296-9 n/a [135]
From the Ocean to the Sky: Jet Boating Up the Ganges1979Viking ISBN   0-7089-0587-0 n/a [135]
Two Generations [lower-alpha 6] 1984Hodder & Stoughton ISBN   0-340-35420-8 Peter Hillary [lower-alpha 7] [135]
View from the Summit: The Remarkable Memoir by the First Person to Conquer Everest2000Pocket ISBN   0-7434-0067-4 n/a


    1. Shipton had met Dan Bryant on the 1935 British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition and had formed a positive view of New Zealand climbers
    2. Also High Adventure: The True Story of the First Ascent of Everest
    3. (reprinted Oxford University Press (paperback)
    4. and ISBN   0-19-516734-1
    5. the story of the Himalayan Expedition, led by Sir Edmund Hillary, sponsored by World Book Encyclopedia
    6. reissued as Ascent: Two Lives Explored: The Autobiographies of Sir Edmund and Peter Hillary
    7. (1992) Paragon House Publishers ISBN   1-55778-408-6.

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    • Elish, Dan (2007). Edmund Hillary: First to the Top. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN   978-0-761-42224-2.
    • Hillary, Edmund (1955). High Adventure. 649. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-195-16734-4.
    • Johnston, Alexa; Larsen, David (2005). Reaching the Summit: Sir Edmund Hillary's Life of Adventure. DK Publishing. ISBN   978-0-756-61527-7.
    • Johnston, Alexa (2013). Sir Edmund Hillary: An Extraordinary Life. Penguin Random House New Zealand Limited. ISBN   978-0143006466.
    • Little, Paul (2012). After Everest: Inside the private world of Edmund Hillary. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin. ISBN   978-1-877505-20-1.
    • Tuckey, Harriet (2013). Everest: The First Ascent — How a Champion of Science Helped to Conquer the Mountain. Lyons Press. p. 424. ISBN   978-0-762-79192-7.
    • Hunt, John (1953). The Ascent of Everest. London: Hodder & Stoughton. (The Summit (Chapter 16, pp 197-209) is by Hillary)