The protagonist of the greatest adventure of the twentieth century was a modest, humble, and generous personality. For almost sixty years, his association has helped to build schools, hospitals, and roads in Nepal.
Auckland (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The first man in the world to scale the 8,850 metres of Everest died this morning in the hospital of Auckland, at the age of 88. The New Zealand hero, viewed by all as the man who lived out the greatest adventure of the twentieth century, will be remembered for his dedication to the people of Nepal. The association that he founded, the Himalayan Trust, has helped to build hospitals, dispensaries, bridges, and air strips in Nepal. On account of his generous work, Sir Edmund was granted honorary Nepalese citizenship in 2003.
Born in Auckland on July 19, 1919, after training on the mountains of his own country he attempted to scale Everest in 1953, together with a group guided by the Englishman John Hunt. Seven other groups had failed before them. During the ascent, all of the participants were stopped by a lack of oxygen, weariness, and bad weather. Only Sir Edmund and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay succeeded in reaching the summit, on May 29, 1953.
Before Tenzing's death, in 1986, Hillary, a blunt and modest type, had never admitted to being the first to reach the summit, affirming always that both men had made the ascent together.
In a book he wrote, published in 1999, he recounted the last steps of the conquest: "Next moment I had moved onto a flattish exposed area of snow with nothing but space in every direction. Tenzing quickly joined me and we looked round in wonder. To our immense satisfaction we realized we had reached the top of the world".
Sir Edward - who was knighted for his adventure, receiving the Order of the Garter from Queen Elizabeth II - never forgot Nepal. Through the association he founded in 1962, he provided about 250,000 dollars a year for projects for education, health, and the environment. Bhoomi Lama of the Nepal Mountaneering Association, a Sherpa group, remembers him this way: "''He was a hero and a leader for us. He had done a lot for the people of Everest region and will always remain in our hearts".
Sir Edmund also participated in expeditions to the Antarctic. To understand his character, it is worth remember his criticism in 2006, at the news that Everest climber David Sharp had been left to die on the mountain while his companions continued the expedition. "Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain".
The New Zealand government is preparing a state funeral for him. In Nepal, the Sherpas want to dedicate a museum and a statue to him.