Friday, 11 January 2008

Sir Edmund Hilary Died

The first conqueror of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, has died yesterday. He had conquered mount Everest for the first time with Tenzing Norge of Nepal in 29th May, 1953.
Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, (20 July 191911 January 2008) was a New Zealand mountaineer and explorer. On 29 May 1953, he and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt.
Hillary was part of a British reconnaissance expedition to Everest in 1951 led by Eric Shipton before joining the successful British attempt of 1953.
In 1952 Hillary and George Lowe were part of the British team led by Eric Shipton that attempted Cho Oyu. After that attempt failed due to the lack of route from the Nepal side, Hillary and Lowe crossed the Lho-La into Tibet and reached the old Camp II, on the northern side, where all the pre-war expeditions camped.

1953 Everest Expedition:
The route to Everest was closed by Chinese-controlled Tibet and Nepal only allowed one expedition per year. A Swiss expedition (in which Tenzing took part) had attempted to reach the summit in 1952 but was turned back by bad weather 800 feet (260 m) from the summit. During a 1952 trip in the Alps Hillary discovered he and his friend George Lowe had been invited for the approved British 1953 attempt and immediately accepted. Shipton was named as leader but was replaced by Hunt. Hillary considered pulling out but both Hunt and Shipton talked him into remaining. Hillary was intending to climb with Lowe but Hunt named two teams for the assault: Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans; and Hillary and Tenzing. Hillary therefore made a concerted effort to forge a working friendship with Tenzing.
The Hunt expedition, like many such expeditions, was a team effort. Lowe supervised the preparation of the Lhotse Face, a huge and steep ice face, for climbing. Hillary forged a route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall.
The expedition set up base camp in March 1953. Working slowly it set up its final camp at the South Col at 7,900 metres (25,900 ft). On 26 May Bourdillon and Evans attempted the climb but turned back when Evans's oxygen system failed. The pair had reached the South Summit, coming within 100 metres (330 ft) of the summit. Hunt then directed Hillary and Tenzing to go for the summit.
Snow and wind held the pair up at the South Col for two days. They set out on 28 May with a support trio of Lowe, Alfred Gregory and Ang Nyima. The two pitched a tent at 8,500 metres (27,900 ft) on 28 May while their support group returned down the mountain. On the following morning Hillary discovered that his boots had frozen solid outside the tent. He spent two hours warming them before he and Tenzing attempted the final ascent wearing 30-pound (10 kg) packs.The crucial move of the last part of the ascent was the 40-foot (12 m) rock face later named the "Hillary Step". Hillary saw a means to wedge his way up a crack in the face between the rock wall and the ice and Tenzing followed.From there the following effort was relatively simple. They reached the summit at 11.30 am. As Hillary put it, "A few more whacks of the ice axe in the firm snow, and we stood on top."

Tenzing Norgay on the summit of Mt Everest. Photograph taken by Hillary, 29 May 1953
They spent only about 15 minutes at the summit. They unsuccessfully looked for evidence of the earlier Mallory expedition. Hillary took Tenzing's photo, Tenzing left chocolates in the snow as an offering, and Hillary left a cross that he had been given. Because Tenzing did not know how to use a camera, there are no pictures of Hillary there.
The two had to take care on the descent after discovering that drifting snow had covered their tracks to complicate the task. The first person they met was Lowe, who had climbed up to meet them with hot soup.
Public recognition:

Edmund Hillary on the New Zealand five-dollar note
Hillary was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) on 16 July 1953; a member of the Order of New Zealand (ONZ) in 1987; and a Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG) on 23 April 1995. Various streets, schools and organisations around New Zealand and abroad are named after him. A few examples are Hillary College (Otara), Edmund Hillary Primary School (Papakura) and the Hillary Commission (now SPARC).
In 1992 Hillary appeared on the updated New Zealand $5 note; Hillary was the only living New Zealander to appear on a banknote.
To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Everest the Nepalese Government conferred honorary citizenship upon Hillary at a special Golden Jubilee celebration in Kathmandu. He was the first foreign national to receive such an honour from the Nepalese.
A 2.3-metre (7.5 ft) bronze statue of Sir Ed was installed outside The Hermitage hotel at Mt Cook village, New Zealand, in 2003

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