A young Kiwi beekeeper-turned-mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary, who became the first person to climb Mount Everest along with Nepali Tenzing Norgay Sherpa on May 29, 1953, died yesterday at an Auckland hospital. He was 88.
Hillary and Sherpa became heroes, both in their native countries and in the international arena after successfully conquering Everest.
Here's a brief excerpt from the Associated Press article about Hillary and his life:
"The gangling 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.'"
Hillary is widely respected in Nepal for his service and generosity. He has helped raise funds for higher education of Sherpa families and funded and helped build hospitals, health posts, airstrips and schools.
The Telegraph writes about how Sherpas mourn the loss of Hillary.
Sir Edmund Hillary has been mourned in Nepal as a "second father" to the Sherpa people and an honorary son of their mountains and valleys.<snip>
In 2003, when the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of his achievement, he was driven like a king through cheering crowds in Kathmandu in a horse-drawn carriage.
He was made an honorary citizen. His bond with the people was deep.
When I was growing up in Nepal, there was a rumor about how Tenzing Norgay Sherpa actually carried Edmund Hillary on his back and stepped on the summit. The rumor probably suggests the discontent among many Nepalis and Indians (Sherpa later lived in Darjeeling, India) because Sherpa was sidelined in the coverage of Everest's conquest. Virtually all media outlets to date report Hillary as the first man on Everest.
A letter written by Sherpa, published after his death, said that Hillary was the first person to set foot on Mount Everest. But this photograph of the conquest, which was taken by Hillary, shows Sherpa standing on the top. Hillary was never photographed on the top of the mountain.
Sir Edmund's explanation for that was that Sherpa did not know how to use a camera and there was no time to teach him how to operate a camera on the top of a mountain.
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