Sir Edmund Hillary was born in 1919 in Auckland, New Zealand and died on January 11, 2008. He made his living as a beekeeper, and climbed mountains in New Zealand as a hobby. Then he decided to take his climbing to the next level and started climbing in the Himalayas, where he climbed 11 different peaks of over 20,000 feet. The next challenge for Edmund Hillary was to confront the world's highest mountain, Mt. Everest. Several others had tried to do this but failed or perished while trying.
Edmund Hillary started by taking part in Everest reconnaissance expeditions in 1951 and again in 1952. During these expeditions he was noticed by Sir John Hunt who was the leader of an expedition sponsored by the Joint Himalayan Committee of the Alpine Club of Great Britain and the Royal Geographic Society and was to attempt climbing Everest in 1953, Edmund Hillary was invited to join them.
The expedition reached the South Peak of Everest, but all but Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay who had come this far were forced to turn back by exhaustion at the high altitude. Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips) were the only members of the party able to make the final trip to the summit. At 1130 on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth and were the first ever to had successfully finished the climb. They spent only fifteen minutes there and Hillary left a cross that he had been given. He then traveled to England where he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Sir Edmund Hillary turned to Antarctic exploration and led the New Zealand section of the Trans-Antarctic expedition from 1955 to 1958. In 1958 he participated in the first mechanized expedition to the South Pole.
As he grew older he became he became concerned with the living conditions of the Nepalese people. In the 1960s, he returned to Nepal, to help with the development of the society, building clinics, hospitals and 17 schools.
As part of these projects, two airstrips were built. Unfortunately these airstrips started bringing more tourists and mountain climbers to the remote region. The Nepalese cut down huge amounts of their forests to provide fuel for the mountaineers. Edmund Hillary became concerned about the damage to the environment of the Himalayas and convinced the Nepalese government to pass laws protecting the forest and to declare the area around Everest a National Park. The Nepalese didn't have the money to fund this project themselves and had no experience in park management so Sir Edmund Hillary used his fame and prestige to convince the government of New Zealand to provide the funds to do so.
In 1975 in an unfortunate plane crash Sir Edmund Hillary lost both his wife and daughter. For the remainder of his life he continued to fight for environmental causes and improving the Nepalese peoples living conditions. He died at home in New Zealand at the age of 88, his death was a great loss to New Zealanders and the Nepalese, as well as the to all his admirers around the world.
"Well, George, we knocked the bastard off." - Hillary to friend George Lowe after reaching Everest's peak