Edmund Hillary

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

Now, the answer to the question of the first man to climb Everest is, of course, an obvious one.

Apologies if you were hoping for another did they / didn't they article about Mallory and Irvine. 

Ever since Tenzing Norgay stated that Edmund Hillary was the first of the two men to reach the summit of Everest, the idea of both men reaching the summit simultaneously or indeed the idea of Tenzing being the first - given that he was the only one photographed in that legendary summit shot - has been dispelled.

So the answer to the question is straightforward; Edmund Hillary was the first man to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain. Although he did not want this fact to be publicised, preferring to see the effort for what it was; teamwork. Hillary thought the petty idea of who reached the summit first would simply detract from the overall achievement.

Ok, BUT who was he?

Well as you can imagine I am not going to launch into a long piece of prose detailing Hillary's life. That's what books are for! So instead here are a few bullet points about the great man and then a selection of his works and a few biographies for you to find and read.

Edmund Hillary Facts:

  • Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand on 20th July 1919.
  • He studied at Auckland University College an climbed in the Southern Alps. Later he became a beekeeper, which was ostensibly a summer pursuit allowing him to climb in winter.
  • In 1948 he climbed Mount Cook on New Zealand's South Island.
  • He was a close friend of George Lowe, with whom he attempted Cho Oyu in 1952.
  • In 1953 Edmund Hillary was part of the first successful expedition to Mount Everest.
  • Hillary devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust he set up in 1960.
  • Hillary was the first man to reach both North and South Poles and Summit Everest.
  • His son, Peter, has also climbed Everest

Book List

Hillary published many books, at first capitalising on the success of the 1953 expedition, and then further detailing his career as an adventurer. Here is the pick of works from or about this pioneer of Himalayan climbing.

Extraordinary Life
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Superb authorised biography of the first man to climb Everest.

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The true story from Edmund Hillary, the first man to stand on top of the world.

View from the Summit
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All the remarkable adventures of Edmund Hillary's lifetime in one book!

Schoolhouse in the clouds
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Humorous and dramatic story of Hillary's return to the Himalayas, to fulfill a promise - to repay the Sherpas.

Nothing Venture Nothing Win
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Hillary's enthralling autobiography detailing his mountaineering exploits from modest origins in New Zealand.

Two Generations
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Written in conjunction with his son Peter this makes for two interesting viewpoints!

High Adventure, with its beautiful original dust jacket design, is one of the first books I bought and I was so excited to find a signed copy, not realising at the time that over the years it seems that Hillary managed to sign just about every copy on the planet! However, of particular note I think is Two Generations, written in collabortion with his son Peter.

The two are very different men and this makes for interesting reading. It is not simply a straightforward account of two climbers in two differing generations, but a personal tale of living in the shadow of a great, if humble man.



I quit the rat-race to live a more adventurous life. This is my journey.