Towering humility

The dramatic photograph of Tenzing Norgay on the summit of Everest went around the world. Later people wondered why there was no similar picture of Hillary. The explorer wrote that he had not asked the Sherpa to reciprocate because “as far as I knew, he had never taken a photograph before, and the summit of Everest was hardly the place to show him how.”

Biographical Note: 

Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008) was a New Zealand explorer and mountaineer. On May 29, 1953, he and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, became the first men to climb Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. Hillary climbed 11 summits in the Himalaya, all above 6,000 metres.

Hillary’s comment about his Everest adventure: “We didn’t know if it was humanly possible to reach the top of Mt. Everest. And even using oxygen as we were, if we did get to the top, we weren’t at all sure whether we wouldn’t drop dead or something of that nature.”

In the later fifties, Hillary was invited to participate in the first mechanised expedition to the South Pole. On January 4, 1958, he reached the Pole with just enough petrol for another 20 miles.

His son Peter Hillary, inspired by his father, has become a well-known climber in his own right. In 1990 he stood on the summit of Mount Everest with the same view his father had seen 37 years earlier.

When he died of heart failure, on 11 January 2008, his death was recognised by the lowering of flags to half-mast on all government and public buildings in New Zealand and at Scott Base in Antarctica.