Sir Edmund HillaryExplorer, Diplomat and Philanthropist

One of the greatest adventurers of our century, a conqueror of Everest, Antarctic explorer and friend of the Sherpas. A man whose triumphant achievements has a permanent place in the records of human endeavor.

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary (20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008) was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer, and philanthropist, who on 29 May, 1953 with Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to have reached the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. The news reached London on Queen Elizabeth II coronation day, a great coronation gift.

During his career Sir Edmund Hillary ascended 16 of New Zealand’s 34 peaks over 3,000 metres. After Everest, he never forgot the small mountainous country of Nepal that propelled him to worldwide fame. He devoted much of his life in helping the Sherpas of Nepal’s Khumbu region. He assisting in pouring energy and resources from his own fund-raising efforts into Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded in 1960. The Trust has built schools, airfields, bridges, hospitals and clinics in Nepal. He was made an honorary Nepalese citizen in 2003.

In 1995, Sir Edmund Hillary was appointed as a Knight of the Order of the Garter. He was also made a Companion of the Order of New Zealand and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.


Name   Details  Edmund  Percival Hillary

Gender   Male

Citizenship   New Zealander

Location  New Zealand



As a teenager, Hillary took up boxing., but was also interested in climbing. Following a 1935 school trip to Mount Ruapehu, North Island of New Zealand, Hillary showed more interest in tramping.


Hillary then became an apiarist (beekeeper) with his father and brother Rex; with 1600 hives to attend. He kept bees in during the summer, and concentrated on climbing in the winter.


1935 - 1938

Grammar and University

Hilary attended Auckland Boys Grammar School, then attended Auckland University College. At University, he joined the Tramping Club. In 1938, 'after two notably unsuccessful years studying mathematics and science', he gave up on formal education


Radiant Living

In 1941, Hillary sat examinations to become a teacher of Radiant Living, getting a 100% pass mark. He joined the Radiant Living Tramping Club, and further developed his love of the outdoors in the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland.



Honors and Awards

In 1995, Sir Edmund Hillary was appointed as a Knight of the Order of the Garter. He was also made a Companion of the Order of New Zealand and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.



Mount Ollivier

In 1939, Hillary completed his first major climb, reaching the summit of Mount Olivier, near Aoraki / Mount Cook in the Southern Alps. Hillary climbed mountains in New Zealand, then in the Alps, and finally in the Himalayas, where he climbed 11 different peaks of over 20,000 feet.

1943 - 1945

World War II - RNZAF

In 1943, with the Japanese threat in the Pacific and the arrival of conscription, Hillary joined the RNZAF as a navigator in the No. 6 Squadron RNZAF and later No. 5 Squadron RNZAF on Catalina flying boats. In 1945, he was sent to Fiji then to the Solomon Islands, where he was badly burnt in an accident.


Mt Cook

After the war, Hillary returned to New Zealand. He climbed his first 3,000-metre peaks – Mts Malte Brun and Hamilton in the Southern Alps. Over three summers, Hillary climbed several peaks including New Zealand’s three highest – Aoraki/Mt Cook, Mt Tasman and Mt Dampier.

1949 - 1951


In 1949, Hillary climbed the Swiss Alps and in 1951 and 1952, he participated in a reconnaissance expedition to Everest. These exploits brought Hillary to the attention of Sir John Hunt, the expedition leader, that was sponsored by the Joint Himalayan Committee of the Alpine Club of Great Britain and the Royal Geographic Society. Their mission was to make the assault on Everest in 1953.


Everest Summit

In the 1953, Hilary joined the British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt. The climbers were broken up into teams and Hillary paired with Tenzing Norgay, a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips. Hillary and Norgay, were the only members of the party that were able to make the final assault on the summit. At 11:30 on the morning of May 29, 1953, Hillary and Norgay reached the summit, of Mt Everest - 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on Earth.



Conquest of Everest

By coincidence, the conquest of Everest was announced to the British public on the eve of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Edmund Hillary returned to Britain with the other climbers and was knighted by the queen.

1955 - 1958

Antarctic Exploration

From 1955 to 1958, Sir Edmund Hillary turned to Antarctic exploration and led the New Zealand section of the Trans-Antarctic expedition. In 1958 he participated in the first mechanized expedition to the South Pole. Hillary went on to organize further mountain-climbing expeditions. However, as the years passed, he became more and more concerned with the welfare of the Nepalese people.


The Himalayan Trust

Sir Edmund Hillary returned to Nepal, and established the Himalayan Trust, set up to battle poverty in the mountain villages of Nepal. The Trust built three hospitals, 13 health clinics, more than 30 schools, and bridges and roads. To facilitate these projects, two airstrips were built. Hillary concerned about the degradation of the environment of the Himalayas, persuaded the Nepalese government to pass laws protecting the forest and to declare the area around Everest a national park. Hillary also used his great prestige to persuade the New Zealand Government to provide the necessary aid.

1975 - 1979


After the successful Everest expedition, Hillary and Sir John Hunt published their account of the expedition in the book - 'The Ascent of Everest.' In 1975, it was published in the U.S. as 'The Conquest of Everest'. Sir Edmund Hillary’s autobiography, 'Nothing Venture, Nothing Win' was also published. In 1979, Hillary published 'From the Ocean to the Sky,' an account of his 1977 expedition on the Ganges River.


High Commissioner to India

In 1984, Sir Edmund Hillary took up the position of High Commissioner to India, a post he held until 1989. During his time in India, Hillary also worked on educating the Nepalese about the need for conservation.

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