Sir Edmund Hillary
at The Hermitage July 2003
"I am very much like the ordinary New Zealander. I know I have certain abilities as most of us have, and I'm pretty determined to carry out life to the full. Among lots of people there is a basic sense of adventurer. I think we're quite adventurous people"
New Zealand's most famous person. Sir Edmund b. July 20 1919 in Auckland to Gertrude and Perceval Hillary had a rural up bringing as the family had 2.8 ha at Tuakau, 70km south of Auckland. His mother was a school teacher so encouraged Ed to attend Auckland Grammar and later two years at Auckland University. In 1944-45 he served with the RNZAF in the Pacific as a navigator but returned home injured after a boating accident in which he received severe burns.
Aoraki Mt Cook, at 3754 metres, may be short by overseas standards, but is likened to climbing far higher peaks because of its technical difficulties. Speed is also seen as critical when attempting Mt Cook because weather conditions change so rapidly. The Mount Cook National Park was an important technical training ground for Hillary prior to going to Everest, and he recalled the three seasons he spent in the area climbing with the late Harry Ayres as his teacher. In February 1949 with Harry Ayres became the first to climb the south ridge of Mt. Cook. Mt Ollivier, 6,296ft, on the Sealy Range, three miles S.E. from Mt. Sefton, was the first peak Sir Edmund ever climbed in the region. "It all started with the Sealy Range," Hillary said, recalling his first two-day trip to Mt Cook as a 20-year-old, and the "mature and portly guide" who was meant to take him on his first climb. "I scrambled upwards to the summit of my first mountain, Mt Ollivier. It was the happiest day I had ever spent." The guide turned out to be climbing far too slowly for the energetic young man. 'He credits the feeling of achievement and the magnificent view with motivating to attempt further climbs. We all know the history of just how motivated he turned out to be.'
This sculpture of Sir Edmund Hillary was commissioned by
The Hermitage Hotel to recognise the 50th anniversary of the ascent and
the influence of the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park on his early
climbing experience. In 1939 Hillary stayed at The Hermitage Hotel and
looked at the peaks beyond the hotel with a "growing feeling of
excitement" and was strangely stirred by it all. His first
climb was Mt Ollivier (near Mueller Hut) and on his return to The
Hermitage described the experience as "the happiest day I have ever
The passage of time has in no way diminished his aura. Timeline
Sir Edmund, the New Zealander of the century, unveiled the 2.3-metre-high statue on Saturday July 5 2003, outside The Hermitage, Mount Cook Village. The statue was the work of Dunedin sculptor Bryn Jones, head of art in a secondary school in Dunedin. "He captured well the younger Hillary with his craggy looks and strength of purpose." More than 2500 hours had been spent in planning, shaping, moulding, casting, welding, and finishing. Jones completed the project in seven months. "The face was the hardest part because that "really had to look like Sir Edmund". Commissioned by the Hermitage Hotel to honour Sherpa Tenzing and Ed's climb of Mt Everest in May 29 1953 as well as noting the significance of the Mt Cook region in Ed's preparation for that climb. The idea for the statue came from his son who thought there should be something at Mt Cook to honour Sir Edmund said John Davies. When Hillary unveiled it in 2003, the 50th anniversary of his historic Everest climb, Hillary shook Jones� hand and said, �You have made a great job of this, lad � and I don�t say that to many people.�
Photo taken from inside The Hermitage through window July 2003 by me.
Mt Cook is directly in front but cannot see it this day as it is snowing in the mountains. It was a cold day!
The next day, Sunday, July 6, 2003, Sir Edmund Hillary and his wife, Lady June Hillary, were flown by helicopter to the new $400,000-plus, 28 bed, Mueller Hut in the Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park to officially declare the hut open. The hut perched on the top of the ridge behind the Hermitage. Sir Edmund had spent many nights in the previous Mueller Huts. Glacial recession made the old hut unstable. The hut is the fifth Mueller Hut to be built in the last 90 years, and is situated just below Mt Ollivier on the Sealy Range. Kea Point, at the spur of which Mt Olliver is the terminal point, 1� mile S.E. of Mt Sefton. The first hut was built in 1915, remodeled in 1949 with materials dropped from an Air Force Dakota. The hut was never used, as in August 1950 it was hit by a wet snow avalanche and slide on to the Mueller Glacier. Haast named the glacier after Ferdinand von Mueller, the Danish-born scientist/explorer and a Director of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. The third hut was erected from recovered materials. The fourth was completed fifty years ago in 1953.
Mueller Hut, Xmas Day, 2011. Note the snowman.
"The new hut � a few hundred metres from its predecessor � did not feature the previous hut's warning sign that it was on the top of an unstable gully and an earthquake had the potential to make it a new and unscheduled neighbour of the Hermitage far below. The old hut had character and atmosphere, which means it was drafty and cold, but the new hut was warmed by the sun and none of the howling winds made their way inside. The windows provided a magnificent view, ranging from Barron Saddle to the extreme left, around a panorama of the Mueller and Hooker valleys, across to where the meltwater from the Tasman Glacier approaches Lake Pukaki. There was the formidable Mount Sefton, which features in a million tourists' photos as Aoraki-Mount Cook because it looks more impressive from the village. And there was Aoraki-Mount Cook itself, looking absolutely commanding." wrote J. Henzell in 2008. The Three Johns Hut, which was on Barron Saddle until savage nor'wester blew it off the ridge into the Dobson Valley, killing the three occupants including Fenella Druce in 30th January 1977. After this, mountain huts began to sport huge cables spread across their roofs and bolted to colossal rocks. Aoraki Mt-Cook National Park was created 1953. The park spans 70,696ha, and includes the New Zealand's highest mountain and largest glaciers.
U shaped valley on the 5.2k Mueller Hut Track, 25th Dec. 2011. Mueller and Hooker Glaciers. Hooker Lake.
This new hut was built in Gore, dismantled, and re-erected on site with a viewing deck. The view is stunning. Took 130 flights with a heavy lift helicopter to get the building material up there. While the earlier huts were a base for climbers and skiing parties, in recent years it has become popular with those taking the day walk to the site. In recent years upwards of 1300, bed nights have been chalked up annually. The Mueller Hut is the most accessible hut in the park. The route that starts gently, but suddenly goes straight up the side of a classic glaciated U-shaped valley to Sealy Tarns. It's less steep from there. You need the weather to be on your side as it is a fair weather trip for a long summer's day otherwise a nightmare in bad weather. Obtain the forecast provided by the DOC office. It is a relentless slope, a "grunt" to the hut, only a four-hour tramp, in a harsh alpine environment so adequate clothing and emergency gear is essential. Helen Clark said New Zealand's network of backcountry and mountain huts is giving "access to some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness areas in the world", is a very worthwhile investment.
Sir Edmund only has to present a $5 note for ID
The first living New Zealander to be featured on a banknote, he helped raise nearly $530,000 for the Himalayan Trust by signing 1,000 of the sparkling new five-dollar bills sold at a charity auction in 1982. They were snapped up by collectors round the world. As a young adult, Hillary grew to resemble a mountain himself -- craggy, sinewy, almost 6-foot-5.
Hillary said his achievements are those of an �ordinary man� with an ambition to take part in adventure.
Hillary and Tenzing became the first men to stand on top of Mount Everest (29,028 feet) (8,850-metre ) with bottled oxygen just before noon on May 29 1953 as part of a British expedition. "Hillary is regarded as a national treasure; his craggy visage even stares out from the face of a New Zealand five dollar bill." wrote Jon Krakauer in "Into Thin Air" the story of the Everest climb with Hall's party. Everest was first visited by a British expedition in 1921 - there is approximately one death for every four climbers who make it to the top including Rob Hall, age 35, a full time professional climber, and Andy Harris, age 31, of Queenstown, Kiwi mountaineers, on May 11 1996, Doug Hansen also died that day. The Everest Memorial in Nepal. Hillary's other great adventures included leading the first mechanised dash, on a modified farm tractor, a Massey Fergusson, to the South Pole in January 1958, 3,200-kilometre tractor trip and taking a jet boat up the Ganges River, "Ocean to the Sky" expedition traveled the Ganges by jetboat to within 130 miles of its source in 1977. The last segment was by foot, and two mountain peaks near Badranath, where the Ganges rises, were also climbed. Hillary didn't place himself among top mountaineers. "I don't regard myself as a cracking good climber. I'm just strong in the back. I have a lot of enthusiasm and I'm good on ice," he said. A small airport Hillary built in the 1960s at Lukla, the gateway to Everest, has already been named after him and Tenzing. Besides conservation work, Hillary helped build schools, hospitals, water supply schemes and trails in the Everest region.
Antarctic Beaver NZ6001 Ski Plane, Mount Cook Airfield, Mt Cook NP 24 Aug 1956, a high wing aircraft, note the plane has skis. L to R, Harry Wigley, Edmund Hillary, John Claydon and W J Cranfield (pilots), Harry Ayers, W Tarr (RNZAF), John Hunter Weston. Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library. The Beaver was bought by public subscription and named City of Auckland. NZ6001 was delivered 17/05/56 for the Trans Antarctic Expedition. Radio call letters ZM-ZTB, was attached to RNZAF Antarctic Flight with Auster NZ1707. Number was changed to NZ6010. photos
Sir Edmund Hillary in pullover (centre) and Harry Wigley (left) inspecting undercarriage of Antarctic Beaver Ski Plane. The bracket under the wing is for a sled. The RNZAF purchased a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver Mk.1 in July 1956 for the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Originally given the serial number NZ6001, it was changed to NZ6010 in 1959 when it was discovered that the RNZAF's sole Gloster Meteor had already been allocated NZ6001. In December 1956, the aircraft went to Antarctica and operated without any problems throughout the Antarctic winter before returning to New Zealand in early 1958 and being put into storage. It went back to Antarctica for the 1959 - 1960 summer season but crashed on 15/01/60 at 3p.m. on the Beardmore Glacier during whiteout conditions and was written off and abandoned at the crash site. Two crew unhurt but not rescued until 20 January by Auster NZ1707. c/n 911 info.
At the Summit of Everest - by Edmund P. Hillary
29 May 1953. At first glance was certainly impressive and even rather frightening. We moved one at a time. I would cut a 40ft. line of steps, Tensing belaying me while I worked. Then, in turn, I would sink my shaft and put a few loops of the rope around it, and Tensing, protected against a breaking step, would move up to me. After an hour's steady step cutting we reached the foot of the most formidable looking problem on the ridge - a 40ft. vertical rock step. On its east side was another great cornice, and running up the full 40ft. of this step was a narrow crack between the cornice and the rock. Leaving Tensing to belay me as best he could, I moved into this crack; then kicking backwards with my crampons gained a purchase on the frozen snow behind me and levered myself off the ground. Taking advantage of every little rock hold and all the friction of knee, shoulders, and arms I could muster, I literally cramponed backwards up the crack, with a fervent prayer that the cornice would remain attached to the rock. I finally reached over the top of the rock and drag myself out of the crack on to a wide ledge. For a few moments, I lay regaining my breath, and for the first time really felt nothing now could stop us reaching the top. Tensing, in his turn, wiggled his way up the crack and collapsed exhausted. I checked our remaining oxygen and roughly calculated our flow rates (3L/min). I went on cutting steps. We had no idea where the top was. A few more whacks of the ice-axe in the firm snow and we stood on the summit. My initial feeling was relief - relief that there were no more steps to cut, no more ridges to traverse, and no more humps to tantalize us with hopes of success. We shook hands and thumped each other on the back. I glanced at my watch: 11:30 am. The ridge had taken us two hours and a half, but it seemed like five. I turned off my oxygen and removed my set. I then produced my camera and set to work to photograph everything in sight. First, some photographs of Tensing waving a string of flags. Tensing made a little hole in the snow, and in it placed various articles of food - a bar of chocolate, a packet of biscuits, and a handful of lollies - small offerings - a token offering to the gods that all devout Buddhists believe have their home on this lofty summit. After 15 minutes we turned to go down. The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map.
Hillary and Norgay were part of a Royal Geographical Society-Alpine Club expedition led by Col. Henry Cecil John Hunt -- a siege group that included a dozen climbers, 35 Sherpa guides and 350 porters carrying 18 tons of food and equipment. Their route was the treacherous South Tor, facing Nepal. Hunt declared, "They reached it together, as a team."
Only one hour back from the top! Every step down was a step nearer safety. When we finally moved off the slope on to the ridge below, we looked at each other and almost visibly shrugged off the sense of fear that had been with us all day. We reached the two partly filled oxygen cylinders on the ridge and loaded the cylinders on to our frames, continued down our tracks and reached our tent on its crazy platform at 2 p.m. We were very thirsty, and still had to get down to the South Col. Tensing lit the paraffin stove and began to make a lemonade drink, heavily sweetened with sugar. We slowly packed up our sleeping bags and air mattress and strapped them on to our frames. We turned downwards with dragging feet down into the great couloir. With numbed faculties, the time seemed to pass as in a dream. The strong wind that was now blowing had completely wiped out all steps. There was nothing to do but start cutting steps again. We stumped down the col and slowly ground our way up the short rise to camp. Off came our oxygen, into the tent we crawled and collapsed into our sleeping bags while the tent flapped and shook under the perpetual South Col gale. Yes, South Col might be the worst spot in the world, but to us at the moment, with the paraffin stove humming and our friends Lowe and Noyce fussing about us, it was home.
All the photographs of the occasion showed only Tenzing on the summit. Asked why there were no pictures featuring him, Hillary replied, 'Tenzing did not know how to operate the camera and the top of Everest was no place to start teaching him how to use it.' Hillary wrote of the pair's final steps to the top of the world: "Another few weary steps and there was nothing above us but the sky. There was no false cornice, no final pinnacle. We were standing together on the summit. There was enough space for about six people. We had conquered Everest. "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," Hillary noted. "I removed my oxygen mask to take some pictures. It wasn't enough just to get to the top. We had to get back with the evidence. Fifteen minutes later we began the descent." Then, upon arriving back at base camp, he took an irreverent view: "We knocked the bastard off."
Scott Base webcam.
Scott Base 50 years ago.
The Press | 13 January 2007
John Claydon and Hillary were on the ship, that dropped the British party off at the Weddell Sea, on the far side of Antarctica from where Scott Base would be established, and Claydon was alarmed to see that some members seemed never to have been camping before they were put on an ice shelf to create their base to spend the winter. Hillary, leading the New Zealand group, returned home and took his contingent to familiar ground to prepare themselves for Antarctica. "The whole expedition went to Mount Cook and set up a base on the Tasman Glacier. You've got to give Ed credit for this � he made sure the expedition was prepared for working and living on the Ice before we went down south," Claydon recalls. "We used a lot of our field rations so we knew what we were in for. We operated Beaver aircraft from there and we flew in these big ungainly dog sledges using bomb racks under the wings. Everyone learned how to use dog teams � even Ed, because we couldn't get tractors onto the glacier. "We all had our different roles and we all had our different interests but we all worked perfectly well together. "A lot of this came from the relationships we developed at Mount Cook. We all knew each other before we went.
"Perhaps the most important thing was Ed Hillary's leadership. He was a chap who was never demanding, he let things just run quietly without any interference. It was quite remarkable. You had differences of opinion but no huge clashes of personality because we worked together as a team and depended on one another so much." The New Zealand team completely revised the location for Scott Base, which was originally planned for Butter Point on the continental coastline near the bottom of the Ferrar Glacier and well away from McMurdo Station, the United States base built on Ross Island the year before.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Jan. 11 2008 � Sir Edmund Hillary (1919- 2008), the unassuming beekeeper who conquered Mount Everest in 1953 and was renowned as one of the 20th century's greatest adventurers, has died. He was 88. Hillary died Friday at Auckland Hospital from a heart attack, said a statement from the Auckland District Health Board. The New Zealander devoted much of his life to aiding the mountain people of Nepal and took his fame in stride, preferring to be called Ed and considering himself an "ordinary person with ordinary qualities." The climbing accomplishment, part of a British climbing expedition, even added luster to the coronation of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II four days later, and she knighted Hillary as one of her first acts. But he was more proud of his decades-long campaign to set up schools and health clinics in Nepal, the homeland of his climbing companion Tenzing Norgay, the mountain guide with whom he stood arm in arm on the summit of Everest on May 29, 1953.
Hillary remains the only nonpolitical person outside Britain honored as a member of the Britain's Order of the Garter, bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II on just 24 knights and ladies living worldwide at any time. Honored by the United Nations as one of its Global 500 conservationists in 1987, he was also awarded numerous honorary doctorates from universities in several parts of the world. One of his accolades was the Smithsonian Institution's James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for his "monumental explorations and humanitarian achievements," awarded in 1998.
'Sir Edmund Hillary, founder Khumjung School 1961'
The white silk scarves, khata, a sign of recognition of one�s respect for another. These may be blessed and become sacred. This statue is in front of the school at Khumjung, a Sherpa village (alt. 3970 m). They are very proud of Sir Ed and his Himalaya Trust which has differently made an improvement in the lives of some of the Sherpa people.
May 2009. Norman Hardie, b. 1924, in Timaru, now retired to CHCH, was one of the group that made the first ascent of Kangchenjunga third-highest mountain in the world, at 8586m, it only lags behind its Himalayan neighbours Everest and K2 measure only another 260m and 25m respectively. He spent 22 years as a director of Hillary's Himalayan Trust, helping to build schools and set up the Sagarmatha/Everest National Park. Hardie climbed in the Southern Alps and first encountered Hillary there in 1948. In 1948, as a young Ministry of Works civil engineer at Lake Pukaki Hardie gave Hillary a job for a few months on the dam project until a decent snow came. Together they went off on outings to the nearby mountains climbing and skiing. In 1948 Hardie had a brainwave. If the west coast of the South Island is wet, and the east coast is dry, why not pipe water from one side to the other? It's entirely feasible, he believes, to put 25 kilometres of tunnels through the Alps and pipe the river water into Lake Pukaki.
It is no accident that it was a New Zealander who first scaled Mt Everest. We have a �can do� spirit and a record of innovative commercial enterprise - a fertile ground for new ideas. NZ Immig.
By Michael Field - Fairfax Media | Friday, 11 January 2008
In the early 1960s the Hillary family began building schools and hospitals for the Sherpas, beginning with re-roofing a monastery and research and treatment of goitre among the Sherpas. Before the Hillary schools, the Sherpas were illiterate. By 1965 Hillary had raised funds for the building and equipping of seven schools. He also built bridges and an airstrip. His work extracted a terrible price when, in April 1975 an air crash at Katmandu airport killed his wife and youngest daughter, Belinda, 16. In October 1984 new Prime Minister David Lange named Hillary high commissioner to India. When he returned to settle in New Zealand, Hillary continued fundraising, and became a special ambassador for UNICEF to promote Nepalese aid. He was also outspoken about the environmental damage in the Himalayas, calling for the Nepalese to close Everest to climbers for several years. His death removes a towering mountain from the New Zealand landscape.
J. Morris covered the expedition for The Times 54 years ago said a special atmosphere surrounded Sir Ed. "It was a culture that he represented." Said the most moving aspect of his "wonderful life" was his humanitarian contribution. "In the end, he repaid a debt to the country that made him famous by all those things he did in Nepal. I think he will be more remembered for that than for climbing Everest." In 1953, Morris described Hillary as: "Huge and cheerful, his movement not so much graceful as unshakably assured, his energy almost demonic. He had a tremendous, bursting, elemental, infectious, glorious vitality about him, like some bright, burly diesel express pounding across America." Yesterday said that lanky Kiwi quality had made him distinctive when they first met in early 1953, shortly before the expedition. "He struck me as a nice person. A nice breezy, lanky fellow a New Zealand sort of character." Morris said "He represented something simple and straight and honest... we're right, aren't we? He was as good as we think he was."
Sir Ed's ashes were scattered on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour after he said in his book, View from the Summit, he never had any real desire to end his days at the bottom of a crevasse on a mountain. He said he wanted to die peacefully and wanted his ashes "spread on the beautiful waters of the Hauraki Gulf to be washed gently ashore maybe on the many pleasant beaches near the place where I was born". "Then the full circle of my life will be complete," he wrote. Peter said his father spoke to him by telephone at the top of Everest when he (Peter) climbed the world's highest peak in 1990 to become the first son to follow his father to the top. "He said 'look after yourself. You're not done until you're down'." Peter recounted two anecdotes showing Hillary's modesty. The first was when a reporter suggested that K2 was a bigger mountain than Everest. Sir Edmund said: "Oh well, I've had 40 good years out of it."
St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, 2 April 2008 a service of thanksgiving.
Sir Edmund was made a Knight of the Garter, his highest formal honour, in 1995. The order consists of 25 Knights who are personally selected by the reigning monarch.Whenever a Knight of the Garter dies his banner is presented at the altar before returning it to the family. On Wednesday, the Military Knights of Windsor, dressed in their finery, paraded Hillary's Garter Banner through the Chapel before it was presented at the altar, to be handed over privately to his family later. Hillary's son, Peter, gave an address, in which he fondly remembered his father's pro-active nature and sense of humour. "'Peter, you can't just sit around and wait for things to happen, you've just got to get on with the job,' how I remember those words," he recalled. Hillary was created Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG) on 22 April 1995.
Hillary was a model for other climbers to try to follow. It took decades for others to catch up to his class act. Where many climbers left behind trash, Hillary left a legacy of education, health care and bonds of friendship.
South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project
The South Island Maori tribe, Ngai Tahu, as a sign of respect, ask climbers not to stand on the summit of Mount Cook "Because Aoraki is an ancestor, and the sacred part of the body is the head, it is tapu to stand on the top of the mountain. "Aoraki and his three brothers were sons of Rakinui (the Sky Father) and were on a voyage when they became stranded on a reef. They climbed on the top side of the canoe and the south wind froze them and turned them into stone. Their canoe became the South Island and Aoraki who was the tallest brother became Aoraki (Mount Cook) with the Southern Alps, "the Snowy Range" as his brothers and other crew members.
In 2009 the Sir Edmund Hillary statue has now been moved to a small courtyard outside the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Mount Cook Museum at the Hermitage. Edmund had been among a group of four that made the first successful ascent of the South Ridge in February 1948. In 2011 the South Ridge of Aoraki/Mt Cook was renamed Hillary Ridge in recognition of Sir Ed's contribution to New Zealand and overseas.
"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." ~ Sir Edmond Hillary
Hillary died in 2008 at age 88 and Tenzing died in 1986 at age 72. Climbers in their time lacked the specialised equipment taken for granted today and the heavy oxygen tanks the two men carried made mountaineering more challenging than it is now. The Everest region that is home to the ethnic sherpas without whose help climbers would find it difficult to make it to the top.
Met Norgay once, he was shy, as expected to be. Ed was a very pleasant chap, quiet, wouldn't have thought him to be famous. He was fit.