Greetings from New Zealand tiny flesh snacks, today I’m talking about Sir Edmund Hillary, our proud mountain man. While he passed away back in 2008, I see his face almost every day. Not because I’m a ghost whisperer but because he is on our five dollar note, he’s worthy enough to be on the hundred – but then again how many of us see the hundy note regularly? This way we see him in our change every time we go shopping.
We should all know he climbed Mt Everest a.k.a The Tallest Freaking Mountain in the World, but what else do we really know about him?
Well, his middle name was Percival, which makes him sound like one of King Arthurs knights and that’s pretty cool.
But there is a whole lot of things about Sir Ed that you don’t know about. For example he was born waaay back in 1919, and followed his father’s footsteps after school and became a beekeeper. This summer job allowed him time to climb mountains in the winter.
As Hillary trekked away from his successful expedition up Nepal’s Mount Everest in 1953, a runner arrived bearing a letter addressed to “Sir Edmund Hillary KBE”. Hillary was reported to be somewhat peeved that someone had accepted a knighthood from Britain’s new queen on his behalf.
Many Kiwis affectionately call Hillary “Sir Ed” and believe his earthy directness and dry humour epitomised the best in their countrymen. On announcing news of Hillary’s death New Zealand Prime Minister described him as a “quintessential Kiwi”. Hillary became the first living New Zealander to appear a bank note in 1990. The five dollar note pictures Hillary alongside Mount Cook/Aoraki, the highest mountain in New Zealand, and a Massey Ferguson tractor, the model he used, with minor adjustments, in his 1958 trek to the South Pole, the world’s first by motorised vehicle.
After Everest, Hillary led a number of expeditions. He and son Peter, also a mountaineer, became the first to introduce jetboats to India’s Ganges river during a 1977 expedition to find the great river’s source in the Himalayas. He returned many times to Nepal, dedicating his later years to improving life for people living in the mountains.
Edmund Hillary married Louise Mary Rose, in 1953. They had three children. He lost his wife in 1975. In 1989, he wedded June Mulgrew, the widow of his friend Peter Mulgrew. Peter Hillary, son of Edmund followed the footsteps of his father to reach Mount Everest in 1990.
Facts about the Everest Expedition.
He breasted Mount Ollivier in 1939, thus completing his first major climb. In 1951, he joined the British reconnaissance expedition to Everest. The expedition was led by Eric Shipton. British team led again by Eric Shipton attempted an expedition to mount Cho Oyu, which lies in the Himalayas and is 20 km west of Mount Everest, at the border between China and Nepal. Edmund Hillary accompanied by George Lowe was a part of that team. That expedition failed. Later, Hillary and Lowe were invited for the approved British summit to the Everest in 1953.
Hillary strongly wanted to climb with his friend Lowe, but the two teams selected were one of Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans and other of Hillary and Tensing. The expedition began in March 1953 at the base camp. Its final camp was set up at South Col, at 25,900 feet.. Once a mountaineer is on the South Col, he is said to have entered the ‘death zone’. Edmund Hillary and Tensing were detained there for two days due to harsh weather conditions. They reached a height of 27,900 feet on May 28.
On the next day, the pair set off for their final ascension to mount Everest! They reached Everest at 11.30 a.m. They were on top of the world at a height of 29,028 feet, feeling ‘on top of the world’ indeed! There they spent only 15 minutes. Hillary took Tensing’s picture. Tensing, not knowing how to use a camera, could not take Hillary’s photograph. It a little ironic that there exists no photograph of Hillary on mount Everest!
There descent on the snow-covered track had to be made carefully. After meeting Lowe, Edmund exclaimed, “Well, George, we knocked the bastard off”.
Feats of Edmund Hillary after the Everest Summit.
Hillary surmounted ten other Himalayan peaks. He headed a team to the South Pole. It was for the first time ever that a team of people had reached the South Pole on motorcycles. Later, he led a jet boat journey from the mouth of the Ganges River to its source. It was called ‘Ocean to Sky’.
He participated in the 1975 General Elections. He was appointed as the New Zealand High Commissioner to India in 1985. He, along with Neil Armstrong, landed on the North Pole in 1985. He boasts of being the first man to reach both the poles and also conquer Mount Everest. Many organizations and streets in New Zealand have been named after Edmund Hillary. In 1992, he was featured on the $5 note. He urged to have mount Cook on the background of his picture on the note. He was the first person who was showcased on a note when alive. Nepalese Government awarded Hillary, their citizenship. Again he was a first foreigner receiving this honor from the Nepal Government. ‘Padma Vibhushan’ is the second highest civilian honor of India. Hillary was given this honor by the Indian Government, in 2008.
Edmund Hillary’s Demise.
Hillary expired on 11th January 2008 at the Auckland City Hospital. New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark called Hillary a ‘quintessential Kiwi’ described his death as a profound loss to New Zealand. In a tribute to Hillary, Claire Harvey wrote, “Sir Ed was everything a good bastard ought to be – modest and humorous, brave and compassionate, and just grouchy enough to remind us he never sought, nor particularly enjoyed, adulation”.
So man of mountains, our icon, we salute thee.
This is the closest Pony equivalent I could find.
- Everest film makes NZ premiere (radionz.co.nz)
- What you don’t get to read about Edmund Hillary (philosophybank.org)