A personal tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary
There are many things in youth which shape your life to come, the way you think and the way you act.
On the day of the Queen Elizabeth 11’s Coronation I was just turned 5 years old and as adventrous as any other kid.
It was still the days of Ripping Yarns, Davy Crockett and a British Empire and Commonwealth.
Just after the Coronation I went into Sevenoaks Hospital to have my tonsils out. In those days, one sore throat and out they came.
A couple of days after the operation, a Nurse, or someone, showed me the picture of Mount Everest and read me the story of the perilous climb to the summit by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing.
Into my brain it went – and it’s never gone out!
As soon as they told me the story, my two tin soldiers I had taken into the Ward with me became the famous duo themselves. I made the exact shape of Mount Everest with the bedsheets using by knees and other objects and thrice or more daily, the summit would be conquered.
Throughout the following summer, the huge Leylandi type tree in the back garden finished it’s role as hideout from the Red Indians and also became the mountain, along with Base Camp at the bottom to Camp 6 and the summit some 29,000feet up. It was probably only 30feet, but it did sway!
The years rolled on and the books started to be purchased. I watched various Everest Expeditions on TV and at the coming of VHS, got a few video’s as well.
I attended lectures by the likes of Chris Boninton and Doug Scott. I was hooked indeed.
It was always a dream of mine to visit the Base Camp in Nepal and a few times I nearly got to going, only to be drawn back by domestic or work issues. Saga do a trek there, but I can’t afford it now anyway!
In 2003, my son Leo and I camped below Tryfan in North Wales. Knowing the Everest Expedition of 1953 trained there, I took my ‘Ascent of Everest’ book along and we scoured around for more or less the same spot. The result is the picture below!
That is my personal experience of how Sir Edmund Hillary shaped me, but the man himself?
An ex-Beekeeper, Hillary proved to be the fittest of Lord Hunt’s 1953 Expedition and along with Sherpa Tensing they reached the summit on 29th.May 1953.
Looking at the photograph right, no huge padded scientific jackets with hi-tech equipment, just a lot of layers and gut!”
In the years that followed, Sir Edmund returned and lived in Nepal for many years building schools for the Nepalese people. He gave back to them more than he took, the reason I’m sure being that he saw the World as one place and not divided into political sects. He was never ex-directory in the phonebook back home in New Zealand, he was approachable and would never turn down a conversation.
He had high respect for the better side of the Commonwealth and saw his ‘fame’ as a chance to influence young people into doing better things.
Yes, he was 88, had a good innings and we all ‘have to go’ sometime, but to lose a man of the Earth like this is saying farewell to one of the last true heroes, a Conquerer of both Peaks and hearts of all people.
See ‘Growing up in the 1950’s’ on the main Website