Sir Edmund Hillary, the legendary mountaineer, and explorer is best known for his historic achievement as the first person, along with Tenzing Norgay, to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Born on July 20, 1919, in Auckland, New Zealand, Hillary’s extraordinary journey from a humble background to becoming one of the most revered figures in mountaineering and humanitarian work is an inspiring tale of determination, courage, and selflessness.
14 Notable Quotes by Sir Edmund Hillary
- “People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.”
- “I think it all comes down to motivation. If you really want to do something, you will work hard for it.”
- “It is not the size of life, but the amount of life that matters.”
- “I have had some wonderful adventures, and I have not been handicapped by my physical limitations.”
- “I have enjoyed life a lot more by saying ‘yes’ than by saying ‘no’.”
- “I am just a poor boy from a poor family, and what I have done has come from hard work.”
- “Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain.”
- “Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb toward it.”
- “I think the most important thing in life is to have a sense of humor.”
- “I have no regrets. I have done what I could.”
- “You don’t have to be a hero to accomplish great things. You can just be an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.”
- “Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.”
- “It’s a strange thing that when you’re dreading something and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up.”
- “The people who criticize you usually have never accomplished anywhere near what you have. And it’s important to remember that.”
This biography will delve into the life and accomplishments of Sir Edmund Hillary, highlighting his triumphs, philanthropic endeavors, and lasting impact on both the world of mountaineering and the people of Nepal.
Early Life and Education
Edmund Percival Hillary was born to Percival Augustus Hillary and Gertrude Hillary in Auckland, New Zealand. His father was a journalist and his mother was a notable Social Worker. Edmund grew up in the suburb of Tuakau, where he developed a love for outdoor activities and adventure from an early age. He was an avid reader and drew inspiration from the tales of exploration and adventure in books.
Hillary attended Tuakau Primary School and later Auckland Grammar School, where he displayed a talent for mathematics and science. Despite struggling with shyness and a stutter, he excelled academically and developed a keen interest in climbing. During his school years, he joined the school’s hiking club and made his first attempts at mountaineering in the nearby Waitakere Ranges.
Early Mountaineering Expeditions
In 1939, at the age of 20, Hillary joined a New Zealand Alpine Club expedition to Mount Ollivier, his first experience with high-altitude climbing. This adventure ignited his passion for mountaineering and set him on a path to conquer some of the world’s highest peaks. However, the outbreak of World War II interrupted his pursuits, and Hillary joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator.
During his service in the war, Hillary honed his skills as a climber and explorer. After the war, he returned to New Zealand and resumed his mountaineering endeavors. He played a crucial role in several expeditions, including those to the Southern Alps, where he gained valuable experience in challenging alpine environments.
The Conquest of Everest
In 1951, the British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition, led by Eric Shipton, set out to explore possible routes to the summit of Mount Everest. Hillary was selected as a member of the expedition, marking his first step toward the pinnacle of mountaineering achievement.
The following year, Hillary joined the British-led Swiss Mount Everest Expedition. Although the team did not reach the summit, Hillary established himself as a skilled climber and made it to a record-breaking altitude of 8,500 meters (27,887 ft) without the use of supplemental oxygen. This accomplishment caught the attention of Sir John Hunt, who was planning a British expedition to conquer Everest in 1953.
In 1953, Hillary was chosen as a member of the British Mount Everest expedition, led by Sir John Hunt. Alongside Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa mountaineer, Hillary embarked on the treacherous journey to conquer the world’s highest peak. Battling extreme weather conditions, altitude sickness, and technical challenges, Hillary and Norgay set out for the summit on May 28, 1953.
After weeks of climbing, they reached the South Summit of Everest, a mere 98 vertical meters from the summit. With unwavering determination, Hillary and Norgay pressed forward and finally stood on the summit of Mount Everest at 11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953. The news of their triumph spread across the globe, and Hillary and Norgay instantly became international heroes. Their successful ascent of Everest was not only a remarkable feat of human endurance and skill but also a testament to the indomitable spirit of exploration.
Post-Everest Achievements and Exploration
Following his historic achievement on Everest, Hillary continued to explore and climb some of the world’s most challenging peaks. He participated in numerous expeditions, including those to Makalu in 1954 and the Barun Valley in 1956. In 1958, Hillary led the New Zealand section of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, becoming the first person to reach the South Pole overland since the expeditions of Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen.
In addition to his mountaineering pursuits, Hillary had a deep passion for exploring remote regions. He embarked on expeditions to the Arctic, engaging in scientific and exploratory endeavors. These adventures demonstrated his insatiable curiosity and his commitment to pushing the boundaries of human exploration.
Philanthropy and Humanitarian Work
While Hillary’s mountaineering accomplishments were extraordinary, it was his commitment to helping others that truly defined his legacy. Inspired by the warmth and friendship he experienced with the Sherpa people during his Everest expeditions, Hillary dedicated himself to improving the lives of the Nepalese people.
In 1960, Hillary established the Himalayan Trust, a charitable organization focused on providing education, healthcare, and infrastructure support to the Sherpa communities in the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal. The trust built schools, hospitals, bridges, and airstrips, and it continues to support the people of the region to this day. Hillary’s efforts transformed the lives of countless individuals, providing them with opportunities for education and better healthcare.
Later Years and Legacy
As the years passed, Sir Edmund Hillary’s reputation as an explorer, philanthropist, and national hero grew. He received numerous accolades and honors for his contributions to mountaineering and humanitarian work. In 1975, he was appointed New Zealand’s High Commissioner to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, allowing him to deepen his connection with the Sherpa people and further support the Himalayan Trust’s initiatives.
Despite his fame and achievements, Hillary remained a humble and down-to-earth individual. He continued to advocate for environmental conservation and spoke out against the commercialization of Everest, emphasizing the need to preserve the mountain’s integrity and respect its sacred significance to the Sherpa people.
On January 11, 2008, Sir Edmund Hillary passed away at the age of 88, leaving behind a lasting legacy of adventure, philanthropy, and the spirit of exploration. His contributions to mountaineering and his dedication to improving the lives of the Nepalese people continue to inspire generations around the world.
Sir Edmund Hillary’s name will forever be intertwined with the triumph of the human spirit and the pursuit of excellence. His conquering of Mount Everest and his unwavering commitment to helping others serve as a powerful reminder that ordinary individuals can achieve extraordinary feats and make a lasting impact on the world. Sir Edmund Hillary will always be remembered as a true hero and a symbol of courage, compassion, and the relentless pursuit of one’s dreams.