" Even a future legend needs a starter mountain, "
February 8, 2018 3:01 PM   Subscribe

How New Zealand made Edmund Hillary, the man who conquered Everest, by Spencer Hall
There is another sign here: “POWERFUL CURRENTS: SWIMMING ALONE HERE IS DANGEROUS!!! DO NOT SWIM HERE ALONE!!!” And right past that sign, on the far, far edge of a city built on a ring of volcanoes, walks a lone morning swimmer in a bikini, toweling off and heading to the parking lot. It all seems very safe and also sort of not safe at all.
posted by the man of twists and turns (10 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
While I think Hillary is amazing, and I appreciate what this article is doing, it feels so LOL NZ that it kind of makes me angry. I know it's poking gentle fun at the country, which I don't mind in itself, but it feels like it's talking to an audience that wouldn't believe how tiny and weird and naive and out of the way New Zealand is. As a NZer myself, I feel completely excluded from its anticipated audience. Reading it is like standing awkwardly in a room where people are having a conversation about how adorable you are - not offensive exactly, because they are being nice, but kind of like you shouldn't be there in the first place.

It's a good reminder to me of how othering many pieces Western writers write about Japan, or African countries, or other places that often get this 'those crazy foreigners' treatment must feel to some readers.
posted by lollusc at 7:22 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


This is interesting to me because I enjoy Spencer Hall’s writing, and I’m actually in Auckland right now. (Hi, lollusc, I’m enjoying your lovely country!)
posted by wintermind at 9:32 PM on February 8


One of two men who conquered Everest. Tenzing Norgay was the other. It’s criminal how Sherpa are overlooked as climbers. If you made a list of the n greatest high altitude climbers, it’d be populated almost entirely by Sherpa. They get little glory because they’re not rich Westerners and are busy doing (quite literally) the heavy lifting for them.

Of course if you ask any serious climber they’ll tell you the exact same thing. And Hillary himself was an amazing climber. But we should remember the Sherpa when we’re talking about the best climbers.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:30 AM on February 9 [8 favorites]


I can recommend "Everest" by Walt Unsworth as a good and thorough modern history of the mountain.

Tenzing Norgay certainly had his share of sudden and overwhelming fame - he returned from the summit to find he was a national hero in India (where he lived, despite growing up in Nepal), and there are quite a few more Indians than Kiwis, and also many nationalistic ones who were happy to ignore or downplay Hillary in wild propaganda.

By all accounts from the expedition itself, it sounded like the two were quick and firm friends, and far and away the two fittest climbers, literally running rings around the rest of the team, and racing up and down the Icefall for fun.

A climbing team is naturally two people (one for each end of the rope) and often leads to a strong bond and Heterosexual or Platonic Life Partners, aka a "belaysonship". Tenzing and Hillary's partnership must go down as one of the all-time classics.
posted by other barry at 2:55 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Llousc, I kind of feel the same .... After all we're perfectly good at making fun of ourselves, there was all that stuff in Flight of the Conchords that went over everyone else's head .....

Growing up in NZ we were always taught about Hillary and Tenzing ... (But never 'Tenzing and Hillary') ... Because we're so small we're incredibly proud of anyone who succeeds on the world stage, sometimes to the point of embarrassment.
posted by mbo at 6:18 AM on February 9


But, lollusc, it's LOL NZ in a good way:
Radio PSAs warn against the dangers of frying drunk. Don’t laugh. Apparently, in a country with no danger of gun violence, it’s a priority to warn against getting hammered, putting on an entire greasy pan full of sausages, and then passing out on the couch while they burn an apartment block to the ground. Mention this to a Kiwi, and they will get a thoughtful and concerned look on their face like someone who isn’t from a hellworld where people eat Tide pods and toddlers kill people with poorly kept firearms. No, it’s a real problem.
I know that we've already had the thing where tons of Americans were ready to decamp antipodalwise after we ruined our own country, but honestly.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:04 AM on February 9


He certainly has a point about the signs.

It is a very WHITE New Zealand he's writing about though, the nod to multicultural Auckland notwithstanding. The 1950s white NZ of Hillary, ancestor to but no longer very much like the one I live in now.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:13 AM on February 9


But, lollusc, it's LOL NZ in a good way:

meet

Reading it is like standing awkwardly in a room where people are having a conversation about how adorable you are - not offensive exactly, because they are being nice, but kind of like you shouldn't be there in the first place.
posted by kenko at 12:40 PM on February 9


Related: the Hillary Step is gone.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:46 PM on February 9


New Zealand’s largest city is all built on a huge volcanic field that was active as recently as 550 years ago or so and could theoretically blow up one day and be buried in a hellstorm of magma and rock.
Please don't get my hopes up like that
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:26 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


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