Photo: The Telegraph
KATHMANDU: Peter Hillary called his father in Auckland from Mount Everest and Edmund Hillary asked him “how was the Hillary step” — the challenging vertical rock face named after the first man to scale the summit.
Peter had just made it to 8,848m, for the second time, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest.
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to scale the summit on May 29, 1953.
Speaking at The Telegraph and The Himalayan present In Edmund Hillary’s Footsteps at Kala Mandir on Tuesday, Peter, 64, recalled that conversation and his realization of the importance of “balance in life”.
He showed a video clip of the conversation to a packed audience at the Kala Kunj auditorium on the occasion of Sir Edmund Hillary’s birth centenary.
“How was the Hillary Step?” Edmund Hillary asked his son Peter with a wink and a smile.
“…not only the Hillary Step but the climb up on to the south summit, it’s really steep and really exposed…. What you guys did nearly 50 years ago, it’s just incredible. We had fixed ropes all the way. You guys cut steps basically into the unknown…,” Peter said from the top.
The audience cheered and clapped at the “Ed’s” query.
Mountaineers consider the Hillary Step the last hurdle before they make it to the summit. It is more than 50m from the summit.
“Above all, I think there is something special about the Hillary Step, which is a formal step beneath the summit of Mount Everest. Not just because he was the first to climb the Hillary Step but because it has gone on to sort of symbolize striving for the summit, being prepared to go into the unknown and perhaps to go further than you ever imagined would be possible,” Peter said on Tuesday.
Peter said he had taken his children just as his “Dad did” to the mountains and was “keen for them to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps”.
“Next year my two sons, George and Alexander, are going to attempt Mount Everest. The boys and I have been involved for several years, going on a number of mountaineering expeditions and I can’t tell you how wonderful it has been to share that, as I did with my father I am doing with my own sons.”
They have been together on a number of climbs in Russia, in Europe and recently in Papua, the eastern end of Indonesia, which according to Peter was an “absolutely wonderful experience to see my two sons following the legacy of their grandfather Sir Edmund Hillary”.
Peter spoke of his father’s philanthropy in the Himalayan region and of the 2015 Nepal earthquake when he was there and felt the need to repair the schools and hospitals built during Hillary’s aid expeditions.
One of the things that Peter learned most from his father was the importance of “balance in life”.
“You got to have a career, you got to have aims and goals. You have family responsibility but you also got to think about the general community in which you live, in the community in which you interact with. Which could be anywhere. Of course, in the case of our family, it was the other side of the world. It was up there in the Himalayas with people who really mattered to us. So, we have tried to get up there several times of the year to make contributions and to share….
“One of the things that I think my father impressed upon me was the importance of achieving your own goals is certainly a great thing, climbing Everest, starting a business and being successful but in many ways, it is even greater when you enable other people to achieve their goals.”
The other speaker at the program was Jim Wilson, 82, Hillary’s friend.
“It was an amazing experience, going to the village in Kumjhung (the village in Nepal where Hillary first started the aid program) with Ed because he was immediately mobbed by children and elders and all the people in the village… there was a huge reception for him… then we got to know how Ed conducted the aid program. It was always in response to requests from the local community,” Wilson said.
(with inputs from the Telegraph)