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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Edmund Hilary makes his Final Ascent

Sir Edmund Hilary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, has died at age 88. The mountaineer had been in frail heath for several years. He is survived by his wife,Lady June, and children, Peter and Sarah.

In 1953,The route to Everest was closed by Chinese-controlled Tibet, and Nepal only allowed one expedition per year. A Swiss expedition had attempted to reach the summit in 1952, but was turned back by bad weather 800 feet 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:

The expedition set up base camp in March 1953. Working slowly, it set up its final camp at the South Col, 25,900 ft. On May 26, Bourdillon and Evans attempted the climb, but turned back when Evans's oxygen system failed. The pair had reached the South Summit, coming within 300 ft of the summit. Hunt then directed Hillary and Tenzing to go for the summit.

Snow and wind held up the pair 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 27,900 ft on 28 May while their support group returned down the mountain. On the following morning, Hillary discovered 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 packs. The crucial move of the last part of the ascent was the 40-foot 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 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."

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.

The two had to take care on the descent, 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.

Hilary devoted all of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan trust, which he founded and to which he had given much of his time and energy. Through his efforts he succeeded in building many schools and hospitals in this remote region of the Himalayas. He was the Honorary President of the American Himalayan Foundation, a United States non-profit body that helps improve the ecology and living conditions in the Himalayas.

Hillary often spoke of his disdain for the attitudes displayed by many modern mountaineers. In particular he publicly criticized New Zealander Mark Inglis and 40 other climbers who, in various groups, left British climber David Sharp to die in May 2006. He said:

"I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top, it was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say good morning and pass on by"

He also told the New Zealand Herald that he was horrified by the callous attitude of today's climbers:

"They don’t give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress and it doesn’t impress me at all that they leave someone lying under a rock to die"

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Blogger People- said...


We have created a memorial page to pay tribute to those loved ones who have passed away and to pay tribute and remembrance to those who have touched our lives. A special page has been created for Sir Edmund Hillary at http://www.people-to-remember.com/wiki/index.php/Sir_Edmund_Hillary


title="comment permalink">January 11, 2008 3:24 AM  

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