• Mayan Smith-Gobat: What I've Learned
  • Josh Lowell: What I've Learned
  • Steve Hong: What I've Learned
  • Steve House: What I've Learned
  • Daniel Woods: What I've Learned
  • Steph Davis: What I've Learned
  • Nick Duttle: What I've Learned
  • Thomas Huber: What I've Learned
  • Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtyka
  • Alex Megos: The Hatchling
  • Ryan Vachon: Top Ice Climber and Climate Scientist
  • John Long: What I've Learned
  • Topropers Unite!
  • Steep Learning Curve: Alex Honnold On His Early Free-Soloing Days
  • Andy Kirkpatrick - Words Like Morphine
  • Margo Hayes and the Power of the Mind
  • Snapshot: Michaela Kiersch - The Chicago Hustle
  • Out of Nowhere - Nathaniel Coleman Jumps Onto the Podium
  • Jeff Lowe: What I've Learned
  • The Cheater - Learning to Climb for Myself, the Hard Way
  • John Bachar: What I've Learned
  • Art of the First Ascent: The Bold Climbs of Marcus Garcia
  • The Professional: Hilaree O'Neill
  • The Inventor: Alan Douglas
  • The Advocate: Nicholas Rothenbush
  • The Guide: Kris Erickson
  • The Craftsman: Jimmy Chin
  • Curious Case: Brette Harrington Breaks New Ground
  • Stefano Ghisolfi - One of The World's Best Makes Time For Fun
  • Dean Potter: What I've Learned
  • The Great Unknown - Graham Hunt
  • The Wizard - Dean Potter
  • Kai Lightner Reflects on Competitions, Bouldering and the Future
  • The Locomotive: Roy McMurtrey – 87 and Still Climbing
  • No Expectations: Joe Kinder Sends 6 5.14c's in Spain
  • Spotlight: Megan Mascarenas - The Logician
  • Alpine Warriors - History of Alpinists in Yugoslavia
  • Q&A: The Willpower of Mar Álvarez
  • Q&A: Ethan Pringle on Thor's Hammer (5.15a)
  • A Youth Wasted Climbing
  • Bouldering Bub - Isaac Caldiero
  • Spotlight: Alexander Ruchkin - Russian Locomotive
  • Alex Johnson - The Pro Life and Growing Up as a Climber
  • Rock Climbing Saved My Life: A Veteran’s Struggle with PTSD
  • The Beatnik of the Alps: A tale of FA's, Rescues, Love, and Suicide
  • Kev Shields – High Solace: Demons, Depression and Solo Climbing
  • Dean Potter On Laws, Modern America and Soloing Delicate Arch
  • Climbers We Lost in 2014
  • Spotlight: The Double Life of Chris Webb Parsons
  • What I've Learned: Sonnie Trotter
  • What I've Learned: Mark Udall
  • Heinz Mariacher: What I've Learned
  • The Sasha DiGiulian Profile
  • Chris Sharma: What I've Learned
  • The Seeker: Said Belhaj
  • Tommy Caldwell: What I've Learned
  • Reinhold Messner: What I've Learned
  • Sonnie Trotter's Favorite 5.10: Exasperator (5.10c)
  • Unbroken: The Alex Johnson Profile
  • Listening for the Echo: The Klem Loskot Profile
  • Climbers We Lost in 2013
  • Kilian Jornet Breaks Speed Record on Mont Blanc
  • Layton Kor Dies
  • Climbers We Lost in 2012
  • Life on Hold: The Ian Powell Story
  • Rope Jumping with Dan Osman
  • The Centurian: Ricardo Cassin
  • Mike Foley: Never Enough
  • Naomi Guy: What I've Learned
  • Hayden Kennedy: Superballistic
  • Dave Macleod: What I've Learned
  • Q&A: V15 Maestro Nacho Sanchez Unleashed
  • Francesca Metcalf: Meant to Compete
  • Maurice Herzog Dies
  • Mason Earle: Crack Ropegun
  • Kurt Albert: Free Wheel
  • Mayan Smith-Gobat: Climber for all Seasons
  • A Close Encounter With Dean Potter
  • Nik Berry: Obsessive Crusher
  • TNB: Tony Scott, Climber, Movie Maker, Lived and Died Large
  • Charlie Fowler - American Alpinist
  • Jimmie Dunn
  • The Upstart - Colin Haley
  • Who's Next?
  • Tom Patey: The Tiger of Yesterday
  • Todd Skinner: The Renegade
  • The Stonemasters Climb at Pirates Cove
  • Patxi Usobiaga: The Bionic Man
  • Michael Reardon
  • Max Turgeon and Louis-Philippe Ménard: Alpinists and Ice Climbers
  • Kurt Albert: The Climber Who Invented Redpointing
  • Josh Wharton: The Alpinist
  • John Rosholt: Climber and Gambler Disappears in Las Vegas
  • John Bachar's Last Interview
  • John Bachar Remembers Michael Reardon
  • John Bachar Remembered by Duane Raleigh
  • John Bachar by Henry Barber
  • John Bachar by Doug Robinson
  • John Bachar and the Bachar-Yerian First Ascent
  • Colin Kirkus: Climbing's Greatest Unknown
  • Alex Puccio
  • The Prophet
  • The Guy Whose Nuts Revolutionized Climbing: R.P.
  • Randy Leavitt
  • Galen Rowell: The Vertical World
  • Brian Kim Spotlight
  • Rob Raker
  • Ueli Steck - The Swiss Machine
  • Kemple and Lindner Almost Free El Nino
  • Crack Attack
  • Climbing World Mourns Todd Skinner
  • Ammon McKneely
  • A Tour of Magic and Mystery
  • Tanja Grmovsek
  • Rob Miller
  • Climber Hugh Herr Honored by Esquire Magazine
  • Climber Eric Brand Dies
  • Chuck Fryberger, Climber and Filmmaker
  • Chris Schulte Profile
  • Beth Rodden: What I've Learned
  • Joe Kinder
  • Hazel Findlay
  • To the BASE Layer
  • Pete Ward
  • Mad Max
  • Chris Boskoff
  • Bradford Washburn
  • Revenge of the Nerd
  • Chris Lindner
  • Tim Clifford: Escaping the Quantum Hole
  • Renan Ozturk
  • One-Track Mind
  • Traveling Light
  • Colette McInerney
  • The Banner Years
  • Pakistan: The Big and Free
  • Kris Hampton
  • Jules Cho
  • Extreme Eleven and Beyond
  • Bob Bates, 96, Takes His Final Journey
  • Jody Hansen
  • Home Girl
  • An Encounter with Fred
  • The Average Hero Sir Edmund Hillary, 88
  • More Than One Trick
  • Dave Graham
  • Red River Sugar Mama
  • Phillip Schaal
  • An Advanced Beginner
  • The Last Samurai:
  • Sonnie in Scotland
  • Offwidth Hombre
  • Moonlight Solo-Nata
  • Jasmin Caton
  • Crag Clown
  • Unlikely Candidate
  • Lone Star
  • The Calculator: Alex Kordick
  • Rise of the Machines
  • Dave Waggoner 1955-2009
  • Blood Spider
  • The Audacious Legacy of Tomaz Humar
  • The Original Desert Rat: Kyle Copeland | 51
  • J-Star
  • Italian Legend: Lino Lacedelli | 83
  • Committed: Matt McCormick
  • Cold Justice Paul Cormier
  • The Suffer King
  • The Need for Speed
  • Nick Martino Gives All
  • G-Money
  • Climbing Out of Academic Trouble
  • Charles Houston, 96
  • Bobby Model, 36
  • "Open Bivy" Willy
  • The Genius - Jeff Lowe
  • The Gamer
  • Shock Rock
  • Ryan Triplett | 31
  • John Bachar and the Cosmic Surfboard
  • Hand Crafted
  • Return of the Verm
  • Amped
  • Regime Change
  • Man vs. Snake
  • Living Legend
  • Layton Kor honored by AAC
  • Cold Justice
  • Cowboy Anguish
  • The Rock Jester
  • Mixed Rehab
  • Laura Fletcher
  • Bill Stall
  • Benjamin Strohmeier
  • Joe Six-Pack
  • Freedom Path
  • Manboy
  • Up and Down
  • The Duelist
  • A for Achiever
  • Paul A. Duval
  • Kelly S. Bell
  • Close But No Cigar
  • Video Spotlight
    Nick Bullock and Paul Ramsden Make First Ascent of Nyainqentangla South East
    Nick Bullock and Paul Ramsden Make First Ascent of Nyainqentangla South East
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    The Average Hero Sir Edmund Hillary, 88


    Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary were honored by Queen Elizabeth after Everest.
    As a student, my mother was in the streets of London on the Queen’s coronation day 55 years ago when the news broke across the top of the crowds that Britain had conquered Everest. She has always said it was unimaginably thrilling, and that neither she nor anyone could say which event was more so. A nation disheartened by years of war and postwar hardship exulted.

    The summiteer Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand beekeeper who had joined the British expedition, instantly became the world’s best-known climber. He took his lauded achievement and put it to greater use, working for humanitarian and ecological causes for the Sherpa people in Nepal into his 80s. 

    Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary were honored by Queen Elizabeth after Everest.

    Tom Frost, a respected American climber, worked with Hillary in Nepal on the 1963 Himalayan Schoolhouse Expedition: “He was a real, down-to-earth, swell guy. He could spin a yarn better than anybody, and everybody loved having him around.” 

    One of the first acts of the young Queen Elizabeth II was to knight Hillary and the expedition’s leader, John Hunt. The other summiteer, the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, received the prestigious but lesser British Empire Medal.

    Hunt and Hillary declined to say who had stepped atop the world’s tallest peak first, averring that the climbers had been a team. Hillary broke his silence only after Tenzing’s death, in 1986. Lesser-known is that Tenzing, in his coauthored 1955 book, Tiger of the Snows, disclosed that Hillary was a few steps ahead. 

    Tenzing posed on the summit, and Hillary snapped the famous photo of him. 

    Hillary was later quoted as saying, “As far as I knew, [Tenzing] had never taken a photograph before, and the summit of Everest was hardly the place to show him how.”

    John Hunt had invited Hillary on the British expedition to Everest, which eventually swelled to encompass 400 people including all porters, after Hillary had accompanied reconnaissance expeditions to the mountain in 1951 and 1952. Previously, from 1920 to 1952, seven major attempts had failed to climb Everest, then considered one of the last great adventures on earth.

    “We didn’t know if it was humanly possible to reach the top of Mount Everest,” Hillary was quoted as saying. “And even using oxygen as we were ... we weren’t sure whether we wouldn’t drop dead if we did get to the top.”

    Hillary’s achievement brought great pride to New Zealand, and his self-effacing attitude—he referred to himself as an “average bloke” of “modest abilities”—made him a Kiwi archetype. In 1985 he was named his country’s ambassador to India. He was the first living New Zealander to be featured on currency: the $5 bill.

    Born in 1919, Edmund Percival Hillary grew up in Tuakau, a small town in the vicinity of New Zealand’s capital, Auckland. Edmund commuted two hours each way to the Auckland Grammar School, and was younger and smaller than most of his class. He was “inferior” at sport, perhaps one reason he was attracted to mountaineering. At 16, he climbed his first mountain, Mount Ruapehu, discovering that while not a natural athlete, he possessed great endurance. 

    “I was a shy boy with a deep sense of inferiority that I still have,” Hillary said. In 1953, Hillary was supposedly so reserved that he was unable to ask Louise Mary Rose to marry him, so his future mother-in-law asked for him. 
    Hillary went on to climb other peaks in the Himalaya, and led the New Zealand chapter of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, reaching the South Pole overland in 1958. He would later reach the North Pole, becoming the first person to reach Everest’s summit and both poles. 
    Hillary’s life’s work, however, was for the Nepalese people. A few years after the expedition, Hillary recalled a Sherpa from Khumjung telling him, “Our children lack education. They are not prepared for the future. What we need more than anything is a school in Khumjung.” In the 1960s he built schools, clinics and hospitals in that country, and he founded the nonprofit Himalayan Trust in 1961. He was also honorary president of the philanthropic American Himalayan Foundation.

    In 2000 Hillary said, “Nothing in life can be more satisfying than being the first, but what I’m proudest of is my work in the Himalayas.”
    His 13 books (some co-written) include The Ascent of Everest; Crossing of Antarctica; Nothing Venture, Nothing Win; From the Ocean to the Sky; and Ecology: The Changing Face of Earth.

    Edmund Hillary’s own life was marked by profound loss. His wife and daughter, Louise Mary Rose and Belinda, 16, were killed in a plane crash in 1975. In 1979 his friend and fellow mountaineer Peter Mulgrew took Hillary’s place as commentator on an Antarctic sightseeing flight, which then crashed. Ten years later Hillary married Peter’s widow, June Mulgrew.

    Edmund’s son, Peter, born in 1954, is a mountaineer and a survivor of the famous K2 tragedy of 1995. Peter climbed Everest in 1990, and again, with Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Tenzing, on the 50th anniversary of his father’s landmark ascent. Hillary also has another daughter, Sarah, born in 1955, and six grandchildren.

    The respected Hillary became an outspoken critic of today’s crowded Everest. After the death of the British climber David Sharp in 2006, he was quoted as saying, “I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems … just to lift your hat, say good morning and pass on by.”

    His friend Nick Clinch of the American Himalayan Foundation muses, “The mountaineering community was very lucky that the three most famous members of the 1953 Everest expedition, all different, were wonderful people. Hillary, Tenzing and Hunt used their unexpected and really unwanted fame to help others.” 

    Hillary died January 11 in New Zealand.

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article: