The First Footprint on Everest: Edmund Hillary’s Historic Ascent

Edmund Hillary, the first man-kind to summit the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest (8848.86m), alongside Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay, on May 29, 1953. The duo was a member of the ninth British expedition to Everest. Named among the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, Hillary was also the first to reach both poles (South Pole and North Pole) and summit Everest.

Edmund Hillary’s Bio

Auckland, New Zealand native Edmund Hillary was born on 20th July 1919 to Percival Augustus and Gertrude (Clarks) Hillary. His full name is Sir Edmund Percival Hillary.

Family Tree

Edmund’s grandfather, Edmund Raymond Hillary, was a watchmaker from Lancashire. In the mid-19th Century, Edmund Raymond Hillary immigrated to northern Wairoa and married to Annie Fleming from Ireland. They had four kids, including Percival Augustus Hillary, Edmund’s father. Meanwhile, his maternal great-grandparents were both from Yorkshire.

Percival served in the first world war’s Gallipoli campaign with the 15th Regiment. In 1916, he was discharged from the Army and married Gertrude upon his return to New Zealand. They had three kids Edmund, June, and Rex.

After Percival was rewarded eight acres of land as a returned soldier in Tuakau, South of Auckland, the family moved there in 1920. Percival began serving as prewar there, gradually becoming the weekly Tuakau District News editor. Besides, he was also an apiarist.

Early Years

Initially, Hillary attended Taukau Primary School and finished primary schooling by 11. Later, he joined the Auckland Grammer School.

Edmund was comparatively smaller than his peers as well as shy in nature. However, he grew 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) after enrolling in boxing.

At sixteen, he developed an interest in the mountains following his school trip to Mount Ruapehu in 1935. Then he became more into tramping instead of studying. Edmund said he wanted to explore the world.

After high school, he enrolled at Auckland University College, also joining the Tramping Club. After two years, he quit his studies and became an apiarist like his father and brother. Further, his mother, Gertrude, was prominent for breeding and selling queen bees. Nevertheless, he never gave up on tramping. In summer, he kept bees, and in winter, Edmund went on climbing.

In 1983, the Hillary family went to hear a proponent of a life philosophy called “Radiant Living” by Herbert Sutcliffe. Eventually, the family was involved in the program and became the founding member, with Gertrude as its secretary. Later, Edmund became a teacher of Radiant Living. Also, he joined Radiant Living Tramping Club, which made him more enthusiastic about the outdoors.

His first success summiting was climbing Mount Ollivier ((6,342 ft) in New Zealand with Harry Ayres and George Lowe. Hillary said climbing brought new friends, his first real friends.

Moreover, Edmund Hillary was a navigator in the Royal New Zealand Air Force during the World War II.


In 1948, Edmund Hillary summited the south ridge of Aoraki / Mount Cook, 3,724 m, the highest peak in New Zealand. That same year, he was a member of the rescue team on Mount Stokes, where he met fellow climber Norman Hardie.

In 1951, Edmund Hillary joined the British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition led by Eric Shipton. However, the expedition did not lead to the summit.

First To Be At The Top Of The World

Edmund Hilllary and Tenzing Norgay

In 1953, Hillary joined the British Mount Everest expedition, the 9th ninth mountaineering expedition, to attempt the first ascent of Mount Everest, led by Colonel John Hunt.

However, Chinese-controlled Tibet closed the climbing route in 1949, and Nepal, on the other side, allowed one to two expeditions annually. This would be the last chance for the British to attempt the first ascent of Mount Everest. British Expedition felt pressure as the French had received permission for a trip in 1954 and the Swiss in 1955. Since, Swiss expedition sets 800 feet (240 m) below the summit with Tenzing Norgay last year (1952), this years (1953) would be their last chance to sumitt Mount Everest.

The 1953 expedition totaled over 400 people, including 362 porters and 20 Sherpa guides. Hunt directed two teams for the ascent. First ascent team: Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans. Second ascent team: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Not only climbing partners but Hillary and Norgay had developed a good friendship.

On 26 May 1953, Bourdillon and Evans attempted to summit but returned unsuccessfully; when Evans’s oxygen system failed.

Then, Hunt directed Hillary and Tenzing to attempt the summit. On 27 May, the second climbing pair left Camp IX at 6.30 am, and by 9 am, they had reached the South Summit. On 29th May, the duo reached the summit at 11:30 am through the South Col route.

Hillary and Tenzing remained at the summit point long enough to take photographs and enjoy the view. On 30th May 1953, the news was sent by telegram to the British Embassy in Kathmandu.

Hillary was appointed the most prestigious Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for the victory. Also, he was honored with Hunt, a Knight Bachelor. Hillary and Hunt were incredibly honored with Khukuris in jeweled sheaths, while the other members received jeweled caskets from the Government of Nepal.

Moreover, the United Kingdom and Commonwealth decoration, George Medal, was also presented to Hunt, Hillary, and Tenzing. Also, Tenzing was awarded the prestigious Star of Nepal by King Tribhuvan in Nepal.

The conqueror of Everest, Hillary, then climbed ten other peaks in the Himalayans.

Was Edmund Hillary Married? Know His Wife & Children

After a successful Mt. Everest ascent, Hillary tied the knot with the love of his life, Louise Mary Rose. In fact, Hillary’s mother, Gertrude, proposed to Rose on her behalf of Hillary. Hillary admitted he was terrified of asking her to marry.

Hillary and Rose shared three children. In 1954, they had their first child, Peter Edmund Hillary. Two years later, they had a daughter Sarah followed by Belinda in 1959.

On 31st March 1975, Rose and their youngest daughter, Belinda, were killed in a plane crash in Nepal. The mother and daughter were en route to join Hillary in Phaphlu, where he was aiding in building a hospital, Phalpu Hospital. Later, Chortens was built for Louise and Belinda on a ridge near the crash site.

After the death of Louise and Belinda, Sarah did not return to Nepal for two decades. However, she later revisited Nepal several times.

Meanwhile, following his father’s footsteps, Peter Hillary summited Everest twice. In 1990, Peter and Edmund Hillary became the first father/son duo to summit Everest.

Who Was Edmund Hillary’s Second Wife?

In 1984, Edmund Hillary and June Mulgrew, the widow of his close friend and mountaineer Peter Mulgrew, toured Nepal’s SoluKhumbu.

In the late 1980s, Hillary and Mulgrew lived together throughout India when Hillary was the New Zealand ambassador, and they traveled widely in the area.

In 1989, Hillary and Mulgrew married.

Founded Himalayan Trust With Tenzing Norgay

Edmund Hillary and Mount Cook
Statue of Edmund Hillary permanently gazing at Mount Cook

Though already a star after summiting the world’s highest peak, Hillary was never attracted by stardom. Instead, he became more devoted to the humanitarian service of the Sherpa people.

In 1960, he established the Himalayan Trust.

In 1961, Кhumjung Еdmund Нillаry Sсhооl wаs established by thе Нimаlаyаn trust, the first school ever in the region. The main objective of the Himalayan Trust is to uplift the living standard of people in the Solukhumbu district by encouraging the area’s health, education, environment, and various infrastructure, including Lukla Airport.

Also, the trust supported implementing the Sagarmatha Forestry Project maintenance and rebuilding monasteries.

After the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, Peter Hillary looks after the Himalayan Trust.

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Died At The Age Of 88

In April 2007, Hillary’s health seemed to decline while on a trip to Kathmandu. After Hillary returned to New Zealand, he was hospitalized. On 11th January 2008, Edmund Hillary died of Heart-attack at Auckland City Hospital.

Who summited Mt. Everest First? Sir Edmund Hillary or Tenzing Norgay

In 1955, Tenzing Norgay stated in his autobiography Sir Edmund Hillary first stepped on top. And Norgay stepped up following Hillary.

Did Sir Edmund Hillary use oxygen?

In 1952, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first mankind to ascend the highest point on the Earth, Mt. Everest. Both of them used supplemental oxygen.

How old was Sir Edmund Hillary when he climbed Mount Everest?

Sir Edmund Hillary was 33 when he first successfully summited Mount Everest with Tenzing Norgay.


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