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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Friday, January 11, 2008

So long, Sir Edmund

Mountain climbers and explorers are different from most of us, and some are driven by strange demons. Sir Edmund Hillary however stood apart. The humanitarian climber died yesterday in New Zealand.

In 1953 he and Tsering Norgay were the first mountaineers to reach the summit of Mt Everest. Hillary was 33 years old.

He was an extraordinary kind of explorer -- a diplomat who gave back to the hill people he loved.

Listen to a few words and view some footage about the great man here.

Wikipedia reviews his life and times.

Getty Conservation Prize winner Hemanta Mishra, my colleague from Nepal days, wrote last night:

"I am deeply shocked. Yes - but of course I knew him very well. Sir Ed and I worked together in creating the Sagarmatha National Park. I have fond memories of him up in the Everest area. He was instrumental in getting many of Nepal's National Park staff trained in New Zealand e.g. the Late Mingma Sherpa, Ram Prit Yadav, Lakpa Sherpa, Nima Wangchu and many others.

I met him now and then over the years. He visited our home in Kupondole and one of my most cherished photographs is of him and his wife with Alita, Pragya, and Binayak (inside Sushma's belly).

His famous saying "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" -- were words that motived me to translocate the rhinos from Chitwan to Bardia.

Though born in New Zealand - he was a Nepalese in heart and mind, and he did so much for Nepal. We will miss him very much."


Anonymous said...

Super! Thanks. I attended a lecture by him about two years ago, part of the SI Resident Associates program. While he did talk some about his climbs, he mostly talked about his work in Nepal, which I think meant more to him than his climbing. Remarkable man.

Owlman said...

Nice tribute to a great man Chris.
Our mentor Larry Swan was with him on that first climb and I recall the riveting stories he told which were Hitchcockian in there conclusions about the possibility of the existense of the Yeti.

Owlman said...

I see my namesake has left a comment too - the world can only be a better place with more owlmen ;-)

I recently watched the Discovery channels series: Everest Beyond the limits which gave you a rare look into high altitude climbing. What was fascinating is how much assistance/technology (oxygen, fixed ropes, fixed ladders, satellite phones, radios, thermal clothing etc) the climbers have today and how most of them still find the challenge EXTREMELY difficult. This makes the achievements of the first climbers a miraculous super human accomplishment!

Camera Trap Codger said...

I don't know about you Owlmen and Peter, but I am going to get one of his books and read it. Regarding high-tech climbers, I believe Hillary, among others was not at all pleased with all the trash left behind by those guys. Of course the discarded equipment ended up in shops in Kathmandu, and it was all better quality than any packs I used. Modern mountaineering, like team sports just isn't what it used to be.