As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Sir Edmund Hillary has passed away. He was the first man, along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, to summit Everest back in 1953, and later went on to climb ten other peaks in the Himalaya. His adventure exploits didn’t end there however, as he also led a team of New Zealander’s to the South Pole and piloted jet boats from the mouth of the Ganges River to it’s source. Truly he displayed a spirit of adventure.
However, if you were to as Sir Ed how he would like to be remembered, I’d be willing to bet he was most proud of his charitable work. Especially in Nepal, the country which he felt gave so much to him. Hillary dedicated a good portion of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal by creating the Himalayan Trust, an organization whose soul purpose was to enrich the lives of the Nepalese people. Through the trust, more than 30 schools have been built, along with 13 medical clinics and 2 hospitals. In addition, 100 young Sherpas are granted scholarships to those schools each year, providing them with an education that they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to take advantage of. The trust has done a lot of other wonderful things, such as providing training for teachers, building and maintaining monasteries, and the planting of more than 100,000 trees in environmentally protected areas across the country. These acts demonstrate the profound and lasting effect that Edmund Hillary has had, and will continue to have, on the people of Nepal.
Sir Ed’s passing also marks the passing of another era. Hillary climbed Everest at a time when mountaineers were seen as heroes doing great things for their countries. They made front page news and were on television for their exploits as they did things that no one thought was possible. Much like Neil Armstrong taking those first steps on the moon 16 years later, Hillary and Norgay’s first steps onto the summit of Everest were not unlike walking onto another world. By the time they returned to base camp, their lives were forever changed, as word spread around the World of their accomplishment at having “knocked the bastard off” as Hillary would so famously say.
That era was a time of heroes. True explorers who pushed boundaries for the pure adventure of it, all the while pushing themselves to the limits of human endurance. And while there are plenty of people who have picked up the torch and continue pushing those boundaries, I fear we will never see the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary again. Rest in peace and God Speed. Today we mourn the passing of a legend.
Thank you to everyone who sent me notes and links on this story. They were very much appreciated.
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