Sir Edmund Hillary
With temperatures well below freezing, blistering winds, thin air, and sheer exhaustion, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay did what no one in the world had ever done. On May 29, 1953 Hillary and Norgay set foot on the highest point on earth (Rosenberg). Many climbers had tried and failed, many lost their lives, but Hillary, the beekeeper from Auckland, New Zealand, and Norgay a Sherpa from Nepal, achieved every climber’s dream which is to stand on top of the world, to stand atop the beautiful Mount Everest.
Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand to Gertrude and Percival Hillary on July 19, 1919. He was a shy and studious child. He did not have many friends and he loved to read. When he was a teenager he grew to a height of 6'5". He was awkward in sports so he took up boxing to build up his confidence. He discovered his love of climbing during a high school trip to Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand's Southern Alps. (Johnston)
After graduating high school, Hillary attended the University of Auckland where he studied mathematics and science. Hillary’s first major climb was when he was 20. He reached the summit of Mount Ollivier, which is located in the Southern Alps. This sparked his passion for climbing. While he was at the University he also joined outdoor clubs to satisfy his love of climbing. He later joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force and during World War II he suffered a serious burn in a boating accident (Johnson 51).
To the surprise of his doctors he quickly recovered and was discharged from the air force with sick leave.
After the War, Hillary had one goal in mind, to summit Mount Everest. He was determined to go where no man had been before. He was ready to return to climbing. Like their father, Hillary and his brother Rex became beekeepers, which allowed time to pursue the sport in the winter (Johnston 39). While he was not working Hillary climbed many mountains in New Zealand, the Alps, and the Himalayas. While climbing the Himalayas, he climbed 11 peaks, all of which were over 20,000 feet. He scaled New Zealand’s highest peak in 1948 and became well known in the climbing world (Robinson).
His notoriety enabled him to join the 1951 British expedition to Everest and unfortunately that expedition failed and then in 1953 he joined the ninth expedition to Everest led by Colonial John Hunt. The Joint Himalayan Committee of the Alpine Club of Great Britain and the Royal Geographic Society sponsored this climb (Robinson). At this time, no team had the stamina and pace needed to conquer Everest. Many had tried and all had failed.
Between 1921 and 1953 there were eight major expeditions to Everest from the north through Tibet. All had failed, and 16 people had died on their way up to the summit. After World War II, climbing became slightly easier. With Tibet now locked behind Communist China, approaches from the north were impossible. To the south Nepal opened its doors to...