A farewell to Sir Edmund Hillary

Featured, UIAA

After the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, the UIAA office has received many messages paying tribute to the great mountaineer.

Message from Ang Tshering Sherpa, President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association: 

Dear Friends:

It is with a heavy heart that I wish you Namaste and offer my Greetings from Nepal …..

 Sir Ed Hillary has begun his journey to the final summit of Life – a summit that we all would like to reach, but very few of us are able.

Sir Ed Hillary will always live in the hearts and memories of the thousands of Sherpas who know him. As a tribute I wish to share with you some parts of Sir Ed Hillary’s life that has touched me and my family personally.

In the early 1960s Sir Ed Hillary was on one of his many journeys accompanied by his Sherpa friends.  While they were crossing a mountain pass, Sir Ed Hillary is said to have asked one of the Sherpas if there was anything he could do for the Sherpa people, what would it be?  The Sherpa friend immediately replied, “Burra Sahib” (Big Sahib), our children have eyes but they are blind and can not see. We want you to open their eyes by building a school. 

 In 1961 Sir Ed Hillary built the first school in Khumjung village with his own hands.

 In 1964, he built Lukla airport opening a gate way to the Khumbu and to Everest and letting, not only the world know about the Sherpa people and their culture, but also showing the Sherpa people that there was a much bigger world beyond the Himalaya.

 In 1966 he built the Khunde  Hospital to provide free health services to all Nepalese. 

 And the list could go on.  But what I have said here touches my family – the Sherpa who asked for a school to be built was my father Konchok Chumbi.  My father accompanied Sir Ed Hillary when the Yeti scalp from Khumjung Gompa was taken around the world. 

 I was one of the first students to get admitted into Khumjung  School and graduate from there.  If not for the vision of one man who stood above all – I would perhaps now be a man bowed by age and still carrying loads in my beloved Khumbu. 

By coincidence, my son, Dawa Steven, was in Dingboche when he heard the news of Sir Ed Hillary’s passing away.  He rushed down to Khumjung in one day and was fortunate to be able to share in the prayers offered by the people in Khumjung Gompa. In the attached WinZip file I am sharing a few of the images, honoring the memory of a great human being.

 My son, Dawa Steven, is dedicating his Eco Everest Expedition 2008 to the Vision of Sir Ed Hillary for the Khumbu and her people. 

 As President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) I have proposed naming one Himalayan peak and Lukla airport after Sir Ed Hillary.  I have also proposed that the Nepal Government initiate an International level award named after Sir Ed Hillary.

 While I am deeply saddened, I feel joy that a soul like Sir Ed Hillary walked among us.

Until the next time we meet –


Ang Tshering Sherpa

Tribute by Jordi Pons, UIAA honorary member  

I met Edmund Hillary during a meeting of the Council of the UIAA in Plas and Brenin (UK). His personality and humility was no disappointment to me whilst we had the good fortune and pleasure to spend some hours together.

At this time we were celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the first ascent of Everest. The British expedition of 1953, led by Colonel John Hunt made it possible for the two men, Edmund Hillary and the sherpa Tenzing Norgay, to make the first steps to the highest summit in the world. A victory much merited by many British following their many endeavors on this mountain in the 20s.

This accomplishment marked a milestone for international mountaineering and went beyond the region of previous explorations of the Himalayas, the highest range in the world.

It is true that Everest will always be joined with the names of Tenzig Norgay and Edmund Hillary but this is the edge of an important victory and it should not be the last of the record. Hillary then began his altruistic work across the Tibetan villages of Nepal, helping to construct schools and hospitals in the most rural areas of this far off place.

These great achievements mark the beginning of Edmund Hillary’s relationship with humanitarian causes for which his Foundation deserves respect and admiration. This is the sentiment of my tribute.

 Jordi Pons.

Translated from Spanish to English  by  Ludivine Gilis.

You can read the article Mountaineers give salute to Sir Ed  from the “The Press”  here

Sir Ed’s funeral took place on the morning of Tuesday 22nd January in Auckland, New Zealand. Later in the day a “Mountaineers’ Farewell” was organised by the New Zealand outdoors community.

At the ceremony John Nankervis, the New Zealand Alpine Club delegate to the UIAA, read out a short obituary written by UIAA President Mike Mortimer. Mike emphasizes Sir Ed’s importance to climbers worldwide, recognised by his honorary membership of the UIAA. Read Mike’s obituary here.

Ollie Clifton from the NZAC  says that the “Mountaineers’ Farewell” was an “opportunity for the outdoors community to remember and respect Sir Ed and his huge contribution to mountaineering.” You can read the NZAC obituary here.

Monday, thousands of people paid their respects by Edmund Hillary’s casket in Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, Auckland.  In Nepal, the Sherpa community held a Buddist prayer service last Monday.