Published:  03:11 PM, 20 July 2017 Last Update: 03:19 PM, 20 July 2017

Remembering Edmund Hillary on his 98th birthday

Remembering Edmund Hillary on his 98th birthday
Edmund Hillary was an explorer and mountaineer  and  he was the first to reach the peak of Mount Everest, along with fellow climber Tenzing Norgay.

Edmund Hillary was born on July 20, 1919, in Auckland, New Zealand, and took up mountain climbing. 

From an early age, Hillary was interested in having a life of adventure and when he was 16, he became attracted to mountain climbing after a school trip to Mount Ruapehu, located on the North Island of New Zealand.

After high school, he went on to study math and science at Auckland University. In 1939, Hillary put his climbing interests to the test by summiting the 6,342 ft (1,933 m) Mount Ollivier in the Southern Alps.

Upon entering the workforce, Edmund Hillary decided to become a beekeeper with his brother Rex, since it was a seasonal job that allowed him the freedom to climb when he was not working. During his time off, Hillary climbed numerous mountains in New Zealand, the Alps, and eventually the Himalayas, where he confronted 11 peaks over 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in elevation.

After climbing these various other peaks, Edmund Hillary began to set his sights on the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest. In 1951 and 1952, he joined two surveying expeditions and was recognized by Sir John Hunt, leader of the planned 1953 expedition sponsored by the Joint Himalayan Committee of the Alpine Club of Great Britain and the Royal Geographic Society.

Since the North Col route on the Tibetan side of the mountain was closed by the Chinese government, the 1953 expedition attempted to reach the summit via the South Col route in Nepal.

As the climb progressed, all but two climbers were forced to descend the mountain due to fatigue and the effects of the high altitude.

The two climbers left were Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. After the final push for the ascent, the pair climbed atop the 29,035 foot (8,849 m) summit of Mount Everest at 11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953.

At the time, Hillary was the first non-Sherpa to reach the summit and as a result became famous around the world but most notably in the United Kingdom because the expedition was British-led. As a result, Hillary was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II when he and the rest of the climbers returned to the country.

After his success on Mount Everest, Edmund Hillary continued climbing in the Himalayas. However, he also turned his interests toward Antarctica and exploration there. From 1955-1958, he led the New Zealand section of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition and in 1958, he was a part of the first mechanized expedition to the South Pole.

In 1985, Hillary and Neil Armstrong flew over the Arctic Ocean and landed at the North Pole, making him the first person to reach both poles and the summit of Everest.

Sir Edmund Hillary died in Auckland on 11 January 2008, aged 88. 


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