The Beekeeper's Dream
Sir Edmund Hillary, the Kiwi who, along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, became the first man to stand atop Mount Everest, the so-called Third Pole, died on Friday at the age of 88. Though he has wont to refer to himself as a mere beekeeper, Sir Edmund was a mensch of the highest order -- an explorer who stuck by the mountain he climbed and the people who made that climb possible. In later years, he lamented the crowds that thronged Everest and the litter (and bodies) that accrued on its slopes, as well as the warming that is altering the face of the Himalayas and threatening human lives. But he also helped improve the lot of Nepalese Sherpas (for whom the mountain is not Everest at all, but Chomolungma, "Mother of the Earth") through the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust, which built clinics, schools, and other facilities in the region.
It is important to remember that when Norgay and Hillary climbed Everest, no one even knew whether the feat was humanly possible. Recalling the view atop the summit, he once said, "The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map. I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men."