WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Sir Edmund Hillary, the unassuming beekeeper who conquered Mount Everest to win renown as one of the 20th century’s greatest adventurers, died today. He was 88.
The gangling New Zealander devoted much of his life to aiding the mountain people of Nepal and took his fame in stride, preferring to be called Ed and considering himself an “ordinary person with ordinary qualities.”
Hillary died at Auckland Hospital about 9 a.m. today from a heart attack, said a statement from the Auckland District Health Board.
His life was marked by grand achievements, high adventure, discovery, excitement – but he was especially pround of his decades-long campaign to set up schools and health clinics in Nepal, the homeland of Tenzing Norgay, the mountain guide with whom he stood arm in arm on the 29,035-foot summit of Everest on May 29, 1953.
Yet he was humble to the point that he only admitted being the first man atop Everest long after the death of Tenzing.
He wrote of the pair’s final steps to the top of the world: “Another few weary steps and there was nothing above us but the sky. There was no false cornice, no final pinnacle. We were standing together on the summit. There was enough space for about six people. We had conquered Everest.
“Awe, wonder, humility, pride, exaltation – these surely ought to be the confused emotions of the first men to stand on the highest peak on Earth, after so many others had failed,” Hillary noted.