Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary

The passing of Edmond Hillary makes us pause to consider what it means to live a great and worthy life.

The deed for which he became famous is the apotheosis of personal achievement. The first ascent of the world’s highest peak – with his partner Tenzing Norgay, for whom my nephew is named – demonstrated courage, intelligence, technical skill, physical endurance, mental discipline, boldness, creativity, teamwork, and the joy of adventure. If Everest is a universal metaphor, so too was its conquest.

And yet, the magic of Edmund Hillary was not his great ascent; it was that he understood that his climb to the summit of Everest was an event, but that his life was an enduring process. It was a life given to the service of others. It was a life of simplicity and modesty almost inconceivable in an age where men and women climb mountains, real and metaphorical, to wrap themselves in glory society so eagerly accords.

I loved Edmund Hillary as much as a person could possibly love someone they’d never met. I am sad that we have lost such a fine teacher.

2 Responses to “Edmund Hillary”

  1. 1 Kumar 17 April 2008 at 12:51 am

    I think Kanchenjunga is the highest peak in the world, not Mount Everest.

  2. 2 mbjesq 18 April 2008 at 7:18 am


    Though precise altitudes are impossible to nail — for a variety of reasons, including the difficulty in defining sea level when the measured mountains are situated far inland — the official list of world’s highest mountains is not in substantial dispute.

    Everest is highest at 8,848m (29.028 ft.), K2 is second at 8,611m (28,251 ft.), and Kanchenjunga is third at 8,586m (28,169 ft.).

    You probably think Kanchenjunga (which sits on the India/Nepal border) is the highest peak in the world because you are Indian, and see the world through the absurdly jingoistic lens that many Indians do. Don’t feel too badly, though. Most Americans have probably never even heard of Everest, and think the highest mountain in the world is Mount Rushmore.



    p.s. Here’s a shot I took of Kanchenjunga from Kaluk in West Sikkim in 2002. I might have had some more spectacular shots from Dzongri-la, at 4,550m, but it was snowing much of the time on that trek and the mountain was socked-in with clouds throughout.

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