Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary 1919-2008


Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who in 1953 became the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest, passed away Thursday at the age of 88.

Hillary, the son of a beekeeper, reached the 29,035 foot summit of Everest along with the Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay on May 29, 1953. After returning from the summit, Hillary reportedly had this to say to his old friend George Lowe, who had climbed up to the Everest base camp to meet him. "Well George, we finally knocked the bastard off."

Hillary - or 'Ed', as he preferred to be called - was a fantastic human being who lived a life defined by courage and the spirit of determination. Throughout his life, Hillary remained committed to improving the lives of the Nepalese people, traveling to the country more than 120 times and raising funds for education and environmental conservation efforts.

But what I like most about him is that he always remained humble and self-effacing, often describing himself as just an average New Zealander with ordinary abilities. But the fact remains that many climbers who have attempted to climb Everest since Hillary, even with the benefits of superior technology, never made it back from their expeditions.

This was a man whose physical and mental strength and adventurous spirit appear to have been matched only by the size of his heart.

R.I.P. Sir Ed.

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