Sir Edmund Hillary has long been the most famous and admired New Zealander, and his death in 2008, aged 88, has probably raised his profile further. His ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 with Tenzing Norgay was undoubtedly an impressive achievement, and his humanitarian work in the villages of Nepal was widely lauded, but above all, Hillary embodied the qualities Kiwis hold most dear: hard-working, straight-talking, honest and, most of all, modest. As he famously said on his return from the successful summit attempt, “Well George, we knocked the bastard off”. That’s what gets your face on every $5 note in the country.
Though he grew up near Auckland, Sir Ed did much of his early climbing around Aoraki/Mount Cook Village, where a bronze statue of a youthful Hillary stands outside Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.