Sir Edmund Percival Hillary KG, ONZ, KBE (20th July 1919 - 11th January
2008) was a New Zealand mountaineer and explorer. On the 29th of May 1953
he and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to
have reached the summit of Mount Everest.
Hillary became interested
in mountaineering while in secondary school, making his first major climb
in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier. He served in the RNZAF as a
navigator during World War II. Before the successful expedition in 1953 to
Everest, he had been part of a reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in
1951 and an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. As part of the
Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition he reached the South Pole overland
in 1958. He would later also travel to the North Pole.
created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) on the
6th of June 1953; a member of the Order of New Zealand in 1987; and a
Knight of the Order of the Garter on the 22nd of April 1995. He was also
awarded the Polar Medal for his part in the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic
His favoured New Zealand charity was the Sir Edmund
Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand of which he was Patron for
35 years. Hillary was particularly keen on the work this organisation did
in introducing young New Zealanders to the outdoors in a very similar way
to his first experience of a school trip to Mt Ruapehu at the age of
Hillary spoke of his disdain for the attitudes displayed by many
modern mountaineers. In particular he publicly criticized New Zealander
Mark Inglis and 40 other climbers who, in various groups, left British
climber David Sharp to die in May 2006: "I think the whole attitude
towards climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people
just want to get to the top. They don't give a damn for anybody else
who may be in distress and it doesn't impress me at all that they leave
someone lying under a rock to die."
Following his ascent of
Everest he devoted much of his life to improving the conditions and lives
of the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, a non-profit
organisation which he founded in 1960. Over four decades the organisation
has helped to establish over thirty schools, two hospitals and twelve
medical clinics. He was the Honorary President of the American Himalayan
Foundation, a United States non-profit body that helps improve the ecology
and living conditions in the Himalayas.
He is famously quoted as
saying: "People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to
accomplish extraordinary things."
The 50 cent, $1 and $2.50
stamps from this issue were included in the 2009 Timpex Stamp Exhibition
miniature sheet with P14 perforation.