Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Because it was there ..."

Sir Edmund Hillary, the lanky New Zealand mountaineer and explorer who with Tenzing Norgay, his Sherpa guide, won worldwide acclaim in 1953 by becoming the first to scale the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, has died, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Friday in Wellington. He was 88.

Sir Edmund wrote or co-authored 13 books, including “No Latitude for Error,” (1961, Hodder & Stoughton), about the Antarctic experience. Besides writing and lecturing, he formed a foundation, the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust, that raised millions and built more than 30 schools, a dozen clinics, two hospitals, a couple of airfields, and numerous foot bridges, water pipelines and other facilities for the Sherpa villages in Nepal. In 2003, Nepal conferred honorary citizenship upon Sir Edmund, the first foreign national to receive that distinction. For many years, Sir Edmund also was president of New Zealand’s Peace Corps, and an important voice in his country’s conservation efforts. He never ran for public office, but was a frequent critic of New Zealand’s Government, calling for antipollution and other measures to improve the quality of life.

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