Edmund Hillary2 2

Quotations from Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919-2008

You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.

As I reported yesterday, the world lost a great man with the passing of Sir Edmund Hillary. An extraordinary man in so many ways, he left and indelible mark on the world of mountaineering as well as on the world as a whole through his humanitarian efforts and self-effacing style.

In his memory, I wanted to share some of his thoughts and ideas which I have collected over the years:

You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.

Each night when I went to bed [during the Everest expedition], I’d let my mind dwell on the likely things that might happen the next day. And I’d think out carefully the sorts of decisions that might be necessary to make.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

The explorers of the past were great men and we should honor them. But let us not forget that their spirit still lives on. It is still not hard to find a man who will adventure for the sake of a dream or one who will search, for the pleasure of searching, and not for what he may find.

People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.

There is precious little in civilization to appeal to a Yeti.

Better if he had said something natural like, Jesus, here we are.’
– Edmund Hillary on Neil Armstrong’s "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

We commenced plugging up in foot deep steps with a thin wind crust on top and precious little belay for the ice-axe. It was altogether most unsatisfactory and whenever I felt feelings of fear regarding it I’d say to myself, ‘Forget it!? This is Everest and you’ve got to take a few risks.’

We reached the summit almost together.
– Hillary & Tenzing’s 1953 signed statement to dispel questions about who got to the summit first

There is no height, no depth, that the spirit of man, guided by a Higher Spirit, cannot attain.
– Lord John Hunt, after Hillary & Tenzin reached the top of Everest in 1953

Well, we knocked the bastard off.
– Sir Edmund Hillary, on reaching the summit of Everest with Tenzin Norgay

Wouldn’t Mallory be pleased if he knew about this?
– Hillary while descending from the summit of Everest

These final quotes to me show most accurately who Hillary was as a man, his self-effacing, generous, gracious, and humanitarian sides. May his lasting legacy be an inspiration to us all as climbers, as human beings:

Another few weary steps and there was nothing above us but the sky. There was no false cornice, no final pinnacle. We were standing together on the summit. There was enough space for about six people. We had conquered Everest. Awe, wonder, humility, pride, exaltation—these surely ought to be the confused emotions of the first men to stand on the highest peak on Earth, after so many others had failed.

Without doubt, the most important things have never been standing on a summit, or reaching a Pole. Unquestionably, it has been the work we have done in cooperation with the mountain people, establishing schools, medical clinics, and hospitals. Those are the things I will always remember.

Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.


  1. DSD
    DSDJanuary 16,08

    Very nice quotes Jake…
    Words are not insignificant and can speak to the character of a person and the meaning of their lives…
    He left an amazing legacy…

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