Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"We Knocked The Bastard Off!"

"It's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves" 
- Edmund Percival Hillary 1919-2008

Sixty years ago, a beekeeper from New Zealand, Edmund Hillary, and a Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of the world's highest peak.
After climbing with British teams in the Himalayas in the early 1950s, Hillary and another New Zealander, George Lowe, had joined John Hunt's 1953 British Everest Expedition. Today in history, at 11.30am on 29 May 1953 – four days before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – the chosen pair of Hillary and the experienced Tenzing, reached the 8848m.high summit of Mt Everest via the south-east ridge.
From the moment Hillary advised Lowe that they'd "knocked the bastard off", his life was public property. He was knighted and fêted around the world, and went on to become the most famous NZer ever to have lived...
The men and the mountain
Sir Ed got his first taste of the mountains while on a school ski trip to Mt Ruapehu. After graduating, he worked in the family beekeeping business. He joined the RNZAF in 1944, and began mountaineering, ascending 16 of NZ's tallest peaks. In 1950 he toured Europe and climbed peaks in the Alps.
The following year Hillary was in the first all-NZ expedition to the Himalayas. He then joined British expeditions in 1952 and 1953. Although they explored several Himalayan mountains, Everest was the goal. During the 1953 expedition, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay formed a tight team: as other mountaineers fell back, these two forged on. They reached the summit on 29 May, gaining worldwide fame...
From then on, Hillary made his living from public speaking, writing and undertaking further expeditions, inspiring global interest in mountaineering. In 1956–57, Hillary led the Antarctic expedition to establish Scott Base.
In 1960, Hillary was determined to help the impoverished Sherpas in the Khumbu region of Nepal, who had put so much effort into his expeditions. He established the Himalayan Trust, which built schools, airfields, bridges, clinics and hospitals in Nepal, and restored Buddhist monasteries. He became NZ's ambassador to India in 1985, a member of the Order of NZ in 1987 and a Knight of the Garter in 1995. After Hillary's death in 2008, his work continued through the Himalayan Trust.
One thing is certain...Sir Ed will always be a NEW ZEALANDER. UK newspaper The Telegraph recently tried to claim him as one of "those great Britons". But this humble man and his great achievements will forever remain securely wrapped in the stars of the constellation Crux, the Southern Cross.
   'On this lonely planet of freeze-dried food, computer-generated fabrics and commercialised mountain-climbing, it is almost impossible to imagine the earth-shaking impact that Hillary and Norgay’s achievement had in 1953. For many it represented the last of the earth's great challenges. It placed Hillary in the lineage of great terrestrial explorers. Adventurers such as Marco Polo, Chistopher Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Stanley and Livingston, Scott and Amundsen, Shackelton, Lindbergh – explorers driven to find, step, see, go, endure, where no person had gone before. His achievement as one of mankind's great accomplishments came at one of the last times in history when such a feat could still be recognised as a distinctly human one, and not technological.'
   'The real story of Hillary and the meaning of Everest is in the life, not the moment. So when the world remembers May 29th each year as the day that Hillary and Tenzing conquered Everest, they should not be remembering a feat but an example.'

It is shameful however that the very "bastard" Hillary "knocked off" is now littered with debris from those who followed in his footsteps. The Digital Journal reported in 2008 that there were over 120 tons of garbage strewn along the course of the ascent: shredded tents, empty oxygen tanks, even the frozen bodies of some 120 climbers who never made it off Everest.
This beautiful brutal mountain, and the achievements of these two heroic men, deserve much more respect than this...

No comments: