Entity Type:
Hillary, Sir Edmund Percival (1919-)
It was perhaps inevitable that the first person to clamber atop the planet’s biggest mountain would turn out to be a larger than life character himself. Ed Hillary, a bold, brash, bombastic beekeeper from New Zealand had already had a more eventful career than most before the climactic events surrounding his moment of triumph on Everest with Tensing. A redneck upbringing in New Zealand led to adventures in that country’s alps, where Hillary learnt the craft of ice-climbing. It was while on a shoe-string Kiwi expedition to the Indian Garhwal in 1951 that he cheekily ‘hitched’ aboard the British Everest reconnaissance expedition, led by the famously laid-back Eric Shipton. Impressed by Hillary’s sound mountain-craft and fortitude at altitude, Hillary was invited onto the following year’s training expedition to Cho Oyu and the 1953 Everest attempt. His infamous antipodean directness was exemplified by his description of the triumphant moment of conquest on the peak: ‘Having just paid our respects to the highest mountain in the world, I then had no choice but to urinate on it’. He followed up this robust christening by his frank appraisal of his achievement which he gave to fellow kiwi George Lowe, ‘Well, we’ve knocked the bastard off’. Presumably his language was slightly moderated when he received his knighthood from the Queen later that year. Although several mountaineering ventures followed his Everest triumph, Hillary ironically suffered from ever more severe bouts of altitude sickness, ensuring that his energies were increasingly channelled into adventures in horizontal planes, rather than steeply inclined ones. In 1956-8 he managed to drive a converted farm tractor all the way to the South Pole, and was involved in river-rafting expeditions and trekking ventures, before turning politician. Hillary has also been heavily involved in addressing welfare issues of Sherpas in Nepal, particularly to whom he has devoted a lifetime of help with aid programmes.
Further reading: View from the Summit, Ed Hillary, Doubleday, 2000
Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
Access Points:
Hillary, Sir Edmund Percival (1919-2008)
Related Items:
B004 : The Ascent of Everest
Related Entities:
British University Film and Video Council