Sir Edmund Hillary, RIP
January 10, 2008 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Sir Edmund Hillary died today, aged 88. Best known as the man who "knocked the bastard off", by scaling Mt Everest, Hillary was an adventurer, activist, and all round kiwi bloke. We will miss you.
posted by pivotal (88 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by saslett at 3:01 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by william_boot at 3:02 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:02 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by Rumple at 3:02 PM on January 10, 2008


*groan*

Sorry, Sir Edmund. Godspeed, you top bloke, you.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:03 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:03 PM on January 10, 2008


Geez, Hillary is (was) the closest thing New Zealand had to common-man royalty. For a lot of us, he's respected much more for what he did *after* knocking the bastard off, and everything in his life was suffused with quiet dedication, humility, and humour. Despite the sappiness of the statement, he's my hero.
posted by Paragon at 3:05 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


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posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:06 PM on January 10, 2008


I'm glad that he managed to get through life without committing any embarrassing crimes because then what would NZ have done with all those $5 notes?
posted by dydecker at 3:07 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by The Great Big Mulp at 3:08 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by BobFrapples at 3:09 PM on January 10, 2008



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posted by phrontist at 3:09 PM on January 10, 2008 [13 favorites]


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posted by Mikey-San at 3:09 PM on January 10, 2008


oh dammit, it looked fine in preview
posted by Mikey-San at 3:10 PM on January 10, 2008


The guy was a real rarity: an honest to god hero. He will be missed.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:11 PM on January 10, 2008


What's with all the Christmas Trees?
posted by tkchrist at 3:11 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd say, "he's gone to that great base camp in the sky," but that wouldn't make much sense, now, would it.
posted by not_on_display at 3:12 PM on January 10, 2008


Then: /\

Now: \/
posted by blue_beetle at 3:13 PM on January 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Also, what paragon said. It took incredible courage to scale Mount Everest, but it took a lot more than that--I don't even know what to call it, because "goodness" sounds so trite--to do everything he did after.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:13 PM on January 10, 2008


They don't get much larger than life than Sir Edmund.

Rest in peace.
posted by blucevalo at 3:14 PM on January 10, 2008


Oh wow.

Climb on.

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posted by rtha at 3:17 PM on January 10, 2008


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I hope he's somewhere having a heck of conversation with Shackleton. There just aren't anymore explorers like them left.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:19 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


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posted by evilcolonel at 3:21 PM on January 10, 2008


Thanks paragon. Good words. I remember seeing Sir Ed last year. He was just sitting on a bench at Kohimarama beach, looking at the view. Just looking at the man gave me goosebumps. A true hero.
posted by pivotal at 3:21 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


His final resting place ought to be the top of that mountain, in a glass case so he can always see the view.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:21 PM on January 10, 2008


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A good kiwi bloke and a true hero.
posted by gaspode at 3:22 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by YoBananaBoy at 3:23 PM on January 10, 2008


Farewell, Sir Edmund. Thou wert all the awesome.

/quietly says an agnostic-type prayer for Sir Ranulph Fiennes
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:26 PM on January 10, 2008


Everest in peace, man.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:27 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Two people knocked off that bastard Chomolungma first: Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler did it without supplemental oxygen in the late-1970s. Yesterday attended a lecture analyzing oxygen usage and compensation from an O2-unassisted Everest ascent. That is pretty amazing stuff. The ability is basically down to genetics, either you have a particular combination of physiology, or you don't.
posted by meehawl at 3:28 PM on January 10, 2008


From 29,000 feet up to six feet under. What a great man, though.
posted by ardgedee at 3:29 PM on January 10, 2008


Is it disingenuous to put a "." for someone you thought died a long time ago?
posted by 45moore45 at 3:36 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by Effigy2000 at 3:40 PM on January 10, 2008


At least now he'll finally find peace.
posted by Flashman at 3:44 PM on January 10, 2008


Prime Minister Helen Clark today described Sir Edmund as the best-known New Zealander to have ever lived and said his passing was a profound loss to New Zealand.

This makes me feel guilty for having had no idea he was from New Zealand. Or that he was still alive. Or that he had been alive within, like, my lifetime... I think I thought he was british and died a long time ago.
posted by mdn at 3:45 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by never used baby shoes at 3:51 PM on January 10, 2008


Imagine for a second what a great life he had. Almost makes it worth dying.

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*snif*
posted by Skygazer at 3:59 PM on January 10, 2008


You know, people actual worshiped Tenzing Norgay as a reborn Buddha. He's barely known here in the U.S. Everest was his and Hillary's achievement. So:

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posted by Astro Zombie at 4:00 PM on January 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


well - it's all downhill from here, right?

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posted by pyramid termite at 4:01 PM on January 10, 2008


Tenzing Norgay died first.
posted by Falconetti at 4:07 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:08 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by lundman at 4:15 PM on January 10, 2008


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Geez, Hillary is (was) the closest thing New Zealand had to common-man royalty. For a lot of us, he's respected much more for what he did *after* knocking the bastard off.

I always thought he'd have made a great choice as our first President, if we had decided to go that route. (Wikipedia says he missed out on being offered the Governor-Generalship by National because he had been involved in the 1975 election campaign on the Labour side).

I'm ashamed to say I didn't know whether Tenzing Norgay was still alive or not - he died in 1986. He certainly deserves equal credit with Sir Ed for the Everest climb.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:16 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by kalimac at 4:17 PM on January 10, 2008


Was sad to hear this news about an hour ago, everything I've read suggest Hillery was quite the chap.



I went to school (college) with Jamling Tenzing Norgay (Tenzing the elder's's son), didn't know him well, but when he got drunk he had the propensity to climb the walls in the dorms.
posted by edgeways at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


The other Hillary.

A good name for a climber. He had a rugged looking face and a gentle, likable speaking style.

Stock footage of his first climb up Everest
in May 1953. Pretty amazing to see the simplicity of their gear.

"Because it's there." was Mallory, not Hillary.

Mount Everest is named after Sir George Everest the British Surveyor-General of India from 1830 to 1843.

Tsering Gyaltsen, the grandson of the only surviving Sherpa to have accompanied Hillary on that famed climb, is planning to build the world's highest Internet cafe at base camp.


Sir Edmund, happy trails, you're beyond the clouds now.
posted by nickyskye at 4:27 PM on January 10, 2008


Oh! Sir Edmund, my at-least-50%-namesake! Best wishes; I hope you are enjoying a fabulous view.

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--Your freakish one-L-ed, constantly-misspelled fan.
posted by hilatron at 4:42 PM on January 10, 2008


Well, if we're going to tone down his achievement, it really took over 100 people to put Hillary and Tenzig on top.

I don't know where I saw it (National Geographic, maybe?) but there's a great info-graphic timeline charting the dozens of supply runs up and down, from base camp to camp 1, camp 2, camp 3, etc. It forms a jagged sawtooth shape, slowly ascending until at the far right is one little spike, the summit run.
posted by anthill at 4:45 PM on January 10, 2008


Off belay...

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posted by speug at 4:55 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by The Monkey at 5:02 PM on January 10, 2008


Dead or Alive?

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posted by ersatz at 5:02 PM on January 10, 2008


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My very first. For all the important things he did, and the inspiration he provided to others. Not just the Everest climb, which was just one of many mountains he climbed, but for his untiring activism on behalf of the sherpas and the people living in the Himalayas.
posted by gemmy at 5:33 PM on January 10, 2008


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yeah.
posted by notsnot at 6:12 PM on January 10, 2008


Obituary from The Telegraph

2003 interview from The Guardian

Guardian archives: 1.

Facsimile
of Times 1953 coverage (pdf)
posted by Rumple at 6:16 PM on January 10, 2008


More than half a century after his most famous feat, his fame remained undimmed.

In today's world of Celebrity Scandal, how many people can we say that about? But then, he never did court celebrity, did he.

His name has become a byword for courage and endurance.

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posted by hadjiboy at 6:22 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by crossoverman at 6:29 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:44 PM on January 10, 2008


I have to admit that I assumed he was long dead. The age of (terrestrial) exploration seems so much more remote than 1953.
posted by Horselover Fat at 6:47 PM on January 10, 2008


I hope he's somewhere having a heck of conversation with Shackleton.

"Because it's there." was Mallory, not Hillary.


Perhaps Sir Edmund now knows if he was really the first.

Even if not,
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posted by TedW at 6:47 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by lapolla at 7:01 PM on January 10, 2008


I vaguely recall Hillary making a much-ballyhooed appearance on-set during the filming of the LOTR trilogy. Not that I learned that from watching the bonus footage that came with the DVDs or anything. I had no idea he was that highly thought of down under until I saw Peter Jackson's semi-awed response to meeting him in person. I guess all Tolkien fans can appreciate a story about a rag-tag group of friends scaling a mountain or something.

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posted by joe lisboa at 7:07 PM on January 10, 2008


Here's a post from today's crikey:

RIP Sir Edmund Hillary

Ex-mountaineer Ben Sandilands writes:

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to set foot atop Mt Everest, Chomolungma or Goddess Mother of the Snows, is dead at 88.

He was to climbers, even to the least of climbers like myself, a generous but blunt and straight-talking man. He was blunt in recounting that he stood first on that apex of the world against the dark cobalt blue of space and that Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was second.

Yet he was so untouched by notions of self importance that he never had himself photographed on the summit, with the plume of wind-blown snow beneath the upraised ice axe carrying the Union Jack and the Nepalese flag.

The man in the goggles holding the flags is Tenzing who just happened to be second to step on the highest point above sea level after they had taken turns making their way along the final ridge.

“It was no bloody place to teach him how to use a camera”, Hillary said. But it never occurred to him that he should teach him either. Hillary never saw fame coming, nor sought it, but he used it for immense good, building schools in Sherpa communities, and lending himself to practical things that made a difference.

So it isn’t Hillary but the second man to reach the top of Everest that is in a picture that is as iconic as that of Buzz Aldrin, second man to step on the moon, and taken by the first man Neil Armstrong.

Hillary was personally generous to those of us on the ANU Mountaineering Club expedition to Dunagiri in 1978, which was climbed by future Everest climber Tim Macartney-Snape, supported by Lincoln Hall. He pulled strings for us to ensure a frostbitten Lincoln was given swift and comfortable retrieval by an India Air Force chopper from base camp, and a first class seat back home on Air-India.

And while he has said of the mystery of whether George Leigh Mallory and Sandy Irvine ever reached the summit before they disappeared in 1924 that it was "coming back alive" that counted, he was generous in acknowledging that they might, just might, have made it.

Indeed, one of the first things he did on the summit back on May 29, 1953, was to stare down the Tibetan face and ridge line that they were to climb and look for "any trace".

Around his beloved Mt Cook this evening the news will reach climbers in the huts and bivvys. Those who knew or know of Hillary will most likely set off on the routes to its summit before dawn, inspired by his comment on returning from Everest, which was "We knocked the bastard off."

Even today climbers talk about "doing a Hillary". It means, don’t bugger around, just do it.

posted by wilful at 7:10 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I couldn't find a citation for it, but I read somewhere neither he or Tenzig ever said who actually first stepped to the top of Everest.
posted by marxchivist at 7:17 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by Rancid Badger at 7:24 PM on January 10, 2008


Marxchivist, apparently they both refused to say for years, but Sir Edmund did finally admit to being the first long after Norgay himself died.

Reading about them both does make you realize what it is to really be a hero. It's not so much what you do that makes you one - it's what you do after that.
posted by yhbc at 7:26 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by vac2003 at 7:37 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:47 PM on January 10, 2008


I will admit that I thought he was a Victorian figure and had no idea that he didn't die around a hundred years ago.

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posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 PM on January 10, 2008


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posted by brandz at 8:12 PM on January 10, 2008


it really took over 100 people to put Hillary and Tenzig on top.

It took several thousand people to assemble the device with which you typed those words. That doesn't make your snowflake any less precious, or individual.

Prompted by this I was looking up tourism in the region. Apparently tens of thousands of visitors wanting hot coffee have deforested large areas. In the 1970s, when Khumbu was attracting 5,000 annually, Hillary himself revisited, saw some of the problems, and began campaigning for sustainable development. I believe annual Khumbu numbers are now up to 30,000. Meanwhile, close to 200 bodies remain slowly decomposing on the slopes.
posted by meehawl at 8:43 PM on January 10, 2008


A very decent man and one tough motherfucker is dead, Godspeed sir. Isn't explorer (with all it's colonial and paternalistic attachments, sure) still the coolest fucking occupation there is? Here's to ambition, itchy feet, imagination and heart!
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:16 PM on January 10, 2008


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truly iconic among new zealanders. he was one of the few heroes left in this world, anywhere.
his loss is a great shame, but he lived a great life, made greater by his unflinching modesty and down-to-earth nature.
rest in peace.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 9:25 PM on January 10, 2008


I think it's telling that so many people think that Hillary died long ago; there's something about him that just seems to be of a prior age. There's a gaping chasm between him and so many other celebrities (even within the world of mountaineering).

I think it's inevitable that he will be remembered as the last true explorer, a profession that simply no longer exists.

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posted by Kadin2048 at 10:51 PM on January 10, 2008


It's pretty crazy even today how much land out there is just fuck-off wilderness even in this day and age. I think it actually cheers me to know that there's a place where if you die you're just left alone to rot there without anyone dragging your corpse around for official reasons.

But, considering most of the mountains have been climbed, and so on, and new mountains are pretty slow coming on the human timescale, I think it's time to go to Mars.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:01 AM on January 11, 2008


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posted by Happy Dave at 1:28 AM on January 11, 2008


Top man
posted by fullerine at 1:51 AM on January 11, 2008


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posted by C17H19NO3 at 1:52 AM on January 11, 2008


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posted by Kiell at 3:02 AM on January 11, 2008


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posted by Smart Dalek at 5:43 AM on January 11, 2008


Goodness gracious, what a life well led, and what a shock that it came to an end. What has impressed me most about Sir Edmund Hillary is his humility and his generosity.

When I was in New Zealand some years ago, I watched a presentation about protecting the natural resources in the country, he was the spokesperson. Instead of introducing himself as 'Good evening, this is Sir Edmund Hillary...' he simply said "hi, this is Ed."

In this age of monstrous egos, affectation and overinflation of insignificant achievements "this is Ed" had a profound effect on me. His grace, humility, tremendous achievements, constant energy, altruism, fundraising and leadership will be very sorely missed.

These are big shoes for someone else to step in, and there are very few candidates. How many other climbers (let alone how many other living legends) will leave a similar legacy?

Goodbye Ed.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by cass at 10:24 AM on January 11, 2008


Sorry to hear this.
posted by Kiwi at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2008


Sad to hear this. I named by rabbit after him because he always likes to climb to the highest point in the room. (Full name: The Senator Sir Edmund Hillary)
posted by rmless at 1:39 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hillary has taken the final Step.

From here on up it's easy climbing to the summit.
posted by bwg at 3:56 PM on January 11, 2008


A top bloke, and a life well lived.

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posted by andraste at 5:31 PM on January 11, 2008


Marxchivist, apparently they both refused to say for years, but Sir Edmund did finally admit to being the first long after Norgay himself died.

Yup. Also Tensing's autobiography admits Edmund was first (the first time either came out with it), while also making the point that it was a joint decision to not tell because it was truly a joint effort. It's an interesting book actually, I definitely recommend it.
posted by shelleycat at 4:04 PM on January 12, 2008


Sir Ed is lying in state, waiting for his procession later today. I went along and paid my respects. It was very sombre, but very right.

For such a big man, his coffin looked so small, sitting there amongst his honour guard, draped in a New Zealand flag.
posted by The Monkey at 7:30 AM on January 21, 2008


Will his death and the reaction to it fuel NZ republicanism?
posted by Rumple at 9:07 AM on January 21, 2008


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