Story: Mountaineering

Edmund Hillary climbs Mt Everest

In this film Sir Edmund Hillary describes the last stages of his successful ascent of Mt Everest with Tenzing Norgay on 29 May 1953, a few days before Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

This feat turned Hillary into a household name. Born in Auckland in 1919, he did not discover mountains until he visited Mt Ruapehu on a school trip when he was 16. He became a beekeeper like his father, and when he joined the air force in 1943 he began to climb on his days off. He learned his skills in the Southern Alps, and first visited the Himalayas in 1951. His exploits there led to an invitation to join Colonel John Hunt’s Everest expedition in 1953.

In 1957–58 Hillary led the New Zealand section of a British trans-Antarctic expedition, and although merely tasked with setting up supply depots, he beat expedition leader Vivian Fuchs (who was trekking in from the other side of the continent) to the South Pole.

In the 1960s Hillary returned to the Himalayas to help build schools and health facilities for the sherpas of Nepal. In 1978 he led a jetboat expedition up the Ganges River and six years later he became New Zealand’s High Commissioner to India.

Hillary has been honoured by a knighthood, membership of the Order of New Zealand and honorary citizenship of Nepal, and his portrait appears on New Zealand’s $5 note.

Video courtesy of Screentime.

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TVNZ Television New Zealand

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How to cite this page:

John Wilson, 'Mountaineering - New Zealand climbers overseas', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 April 2024)

Story by John Wilson, published 24 Sep 2007, updated 1 Feb 2017