Sir Edmund Hillary's relationship with the Sherpa people first began in 1951, when he took part in a New Zealand mountaineering expedition to the Himalayas. After three months of successful climbing he was lucky enough to join a British expedition, led by Eric Shipton, to conduct a reconnaissance of the Khumbu region. The expedition aimed to find ways to access Everest and Ed Hillary quickly made his mark as a strong and outstanding climber.
After an unsuccessful summit attempt by a Swiss expedition in 1952, Sir Edmund Hillary joined John Hunt's British expedition to summit Mt Everest in 1953. During months of acclimatisation and physical hardship they progressed through a series of camps and gradually made their way up the side of Mt Everest. During this time Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, formed a strong climbing partnership and friendship, quickly asserting themselves as a capable summit team. And so it was that at 11.30am on 29th May, 1953, Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first men ever to summit Mount Everest - or Sagarmatha as it is better known to the Sherpa people.
Both people’s lives were changed forever on that historic day. Tenzing Norgay went on to direct the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, training many young people to become climbing guides. Sir Ed, knighted immediately by the new Queen of England, led many expeditions into the Everest Region and around the world before his philanthropic role took precedence.
Although an overnight mountaineering hero, Sir Edmund Hillary was quick to acknowledge that this first successful ascent would have been impossible without the help, knowledge, patience and the strength of the Sherpa people from the Khumjung valley.