Mountaineer and explorer Sir Edmund Percival Hillary died in 2008, nearly five and a half decades after his historical climb to the top of Mt Everest that gave him and his climbing partner Tenzing Norgay worldwide acclaim. Originally a beekeeper and an amateur mountaineer from New Zealand, he continued to explore the Himalayas and Antarctica. Not only making accomplishments in the world of climbing, continued his humanitarian work for the Sherpas of Nepal for four decades.
Born on July 20, 1919 grew up in Tuakau, New Zealand a small town located approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Auckland. At 16 years old he became interested in mountain climbing on a school trip to Mount Ruapehu. He attended the University of Auckland and studied mathematics and science. The year 1939 marked his first major climb when he reached the summit of Mount Olivier in the Southern Alps. By profession, he was a beekeeper, along with his brother Rex. He would work throughout the summer as a beekeeper to explore the mountains in the winter. He climbed mountains in New Zealand, in the Alps. In the Himalayas he climbed 11 different peaks of over 20,000 feet. By then, he was ready to climb Mount Everest.
Between 1920 and 1952, seven major expeditions failed to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which was 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth. Edmund Hillary joined an expedition to make the assault on Everest in 1953 led by Sir John Hunt. Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese climber, were the only members of the expedition to make the final assault. At 11:30am on May 29, 1953, Hillary and Norgay made history by reaching the summit.
After the success of reaching the summit of Mount Everest, Hillary and Hunt published, The Ascent of Everest, their account of the expedition (published in the U.S as The Conquest of Everest) Hillary’s autobiography Nothing Venture, Nothing Win was published in 1975 and in 1979, he published From the Ocean to the Sky, an account of his 1977 expedition on the Ganges river to its source in the Himalayas.
Hillary was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1953, member of the Order of New Zealand in 1987 and Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1995. In 1992 Hillary appeared on the New Zealand five dollar bank note and streets, schools and organizations around New Zealand and internationally are named in his honor.
His favorite charity was the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand of which he supported as a Patron for 35 years. The organization introduced young New Zealanders to the outdoors similar to his first experience at Mt Ruapehu.
In 1962 he started began working with the Sherpas in Nepal who had often helped him as a debt of gratitude. He raised money through his Himalayan Trust, and helped install bridges and pipes. Almost 30 schools, 2 hospitals, 12 medical clinics and 2 mountaineering clinics were built. There were monasteries restored and a million seedlings planted in and around the towns of the rural poverty-stricken Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal. While in his 70s, Hillary would spend 5 months away from New Zealand per year to raise money by giving lectures and to visit these projects in Nepal.