Mt. Everest pioneer dead at 88

On May 29, 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first known climbers to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Today, Hillary passed away in his home country of New Zealand at the age of 88.

Though his Everest feat was incredibly impressive, Hillary always thought of himself as just a regular beekeeper. The CBC’s article includes a quote from Hillary describing his feelings about the Everest climb:

“Awe, wonder, humility, pride, exaltation – these surely ought to be the confused emotions of the first men to stand on the highest peak on Earth, after so many others had failed… But my dominant reactions were relief and surprise. Relief because the long grind was over and the unattainable had been attained. And surprise, because it had happened to me, old Ed Hillary, the beekeeper, once the star pupil of the Tuakau District School, but no great shakes at Auckland Grammar [high school] and a no-hoper at university, first to the top of Everest. I just didn’t believe it.”

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark recognized Hillary’s humility in a statement released today: “Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only ‘knocked off’ Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.”

By all accounts, Hillary led an impressive life notwithstanding his Everest accomplishment. He was an outspoken conservationist and dedicated his life to the Sherpas of Nepal, donating money to help them build roads, hospitals, and schools.

More coverage here.