Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary (1919–2008) was an explorer and mountain climber who, together with Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, became the first to climb Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, in 1953. Edmund climbed many mountains during his life and explored the Arctic and Antarctic regions, too. He also dedicated his time to raising funds for the people of Nepal, to give back to those who had helped him. Find out more about this gentle man and adventurous explorer, and enjoy using our printable resources below.

Edmund Hillary

Fun Facts

  • In 1985, Edmund became the first man to stand at both Poles and the top of Mount Everest! He travelled by ski plane to the North Pole with Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.
  • Edmund was very tall – 6 feet 5 inches. He reached the summit of Everest wearing 30 lb (14 kg) packs. He was also very shy – he had to ask his future mother-in-law to propose to his wife on his behalf.
  • Edmund’s son Peter became a climber, too. He reached the top of Everest in 1990, and again in 2003 (with Tenzing’s son Jamling, to mark the 50th anniversary of their fathers’ climb).

Edmund Hillary Quotes

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

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

“If you really want to do something, you will work hard for it.”

A Short Biography of Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1919 to Percival Hillary, a journalist and part-time beekeeper, and his wife Gertrude. Edmund’s paternal grandparents had moved to New Zealand from Yorkshire, England, in the 1800s.

The family lived in a small village called Tuakau, where Edmund and his older sister and younger brother went to the local primary school. For secondary school, they commuted over three hours a day (by bike and train) to and from Auckland Grammar School, until the family relocated to an Auckland suburb.

Edmund loved to read and dreamed of an adventurous life. He got his first taste for climbing at 16, on a school trip to Mount Ruapehu where he saw snow for the first time. By 20, he had climbed his first major mountain, Mount Ollivier. Edmund studied maths and science at the University of Auckland, but left after two years because he wanted to see the world. He worked during the summer as a beekeeper with his father and brother, and continued to climb in winter.

During World War II, Edmund joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator. He was badly burnt in a boat accident in Fiji in 1945 and was sent home to recover.

In 1953, Edmund was asked to join a British climbing expedition, attempting to scale Mount Everest. Over 400 people took part, including 362 porters and 20 Sherpa guides. They climbed in stages to get used to the altitude, and at each camp, some remained while others climbed on. At the last stage, two teams were chosen for the final ascent. Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans were picked to go first, and got within 300 feet of the 29,028 ft (8,848 m) summit, but turned back when Evans’ oxygen system failed. Then Edmund and Tenzing Norgay had a chance.

Despite the difficulties of the climb, including a 40 ft (12 m) rock face (now called ‘Hillary’s Step’), they made it to the top on 29th May 1953. They didn’t stay long because the air was so thin, but Tenzing left an offering of chocolates in the snow and Edmund left a cross that John Hunt, the expedition leader, had given him. It was difficult to retrace their steps because drifting snow had covered their tracks, but a member of the support team soon met them with hot soup! News of the expedition’s success reached Britain on 2nd June, the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. The Queen immediately knighted both Edmund and John Hunt.

Shortly after the expedition, Edmund married Louise Rose, and they went on to have three children together. Tragically Louise and their youngest daughter Belinda died in a plane crash near Kathmandu airport in 1975.

Edmund continued to climb in the years that followed, conquering ten other peaks in the Himalayas. In 1958, he also took an expedition to the South Pole. The group were the third to reach the South Pole over land, and the first to do so using motor vehicles.

In 1960, Edmund founded the Himalayan Trust, which built many schools and hospitals for the people of Nepal. He was also patron of the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre in New Zealand, introducing young people to the outdoors, just as he had been on a school trip as a 16-year-old boy.

Edmund led one last expedition in 1977 before retiring to his bee farm near Auckland. He wrote several books about his adventures and had a busy schedule of touring, lecturing and fundraising. Edmund also campaigned for mountain conservation work, to clean up climbing debris such as oxygen bottles and other equipment and litter. In 1989, he married June Mulgrew, the widow of his close friend Peter.

When Edmund died in 2008 at the age of 88, flags flew at half-mast on government and public buildings in New Zealand and he was given a state funeral. For the people of Nepal, his legacy lives on in the many schools and hospitals he helped to fund, and in climbers’ attempts to scale Mount Everest to this day, in reflection of Edmund’s enthusiasm for life and adventure.

Our Edmund Hillary Resources

Climbing Everest Diary

Climbing Everest Diary

Can the children write a diary entry for Sir Edmund Hillary describing what happened on May 28th 1953? We've provided a book template ready to write their report.

Edmund Hillary Booklet

Edmund Hillary Booklet

Here's one of our handy folding booklets ready to fill with facts and information - this one features explorer Edmund Hillary. Folding instructions can be found here.

Edmund Hillary Comprehension

Edmund Hillary Comprehension

Test comprehension skills with our Edmund Hillary comprehension worksheet - two pages of text about the great mountain climber with some questions to answer at the end.

Edmund Hillary Factsheet

Edmund Hillary Factsheet

Find out a little about Edmund Hillary with our helpful factsheet, then try some of our activities.

Edmund Hillary Poster

Edmund Hillary Poster

This simple illustrated poster of Edmund Hillary shows him in climbing gear, ready to reach the summit of Mount Everest...

Edmund Hillary Quote Poster

Edmund Hillary Quote Poster

"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves". This beautiful quote poster features a quote by Edmund Hillary, perfect for providing some inspiration in the classroom, work place or at home.

Edmund Hillary Quote Worksheet

Edmund Hillary Quote Worksheet

Here's a quote worksheet that's a perfect introduction to Edmund Hillary. The children need to think about what his quote means and try to rewrite it.

Edmund Hillary Story Paper

Edmund Hillary Story Paper

Use this story paper to write about Edmund Hillary - picking one of his achievements, or writing a short summary of his life.

Edmund Hillary Story Paper 2

Edmund Hillary Story Paper 2

Use this story paper to record what you've learned about Edmund Hillary, or to write your own adventure set on a mountain expedition.

Edmund Hillary Timeline Worksheet

Edmund Hillary Timeline Worksheet

There's a very important date to write on this timeline Edmund Hillary - the date he reached the summit of Mount Everest! Can the children fill in this date, and other important dates in his life too?

Edmund Hillary Writing Page

Edmund Hillary Writing Page

Have you been learning about Edmund Hillary? This writing page is perfect for keeping notes, or perhaps for writing a "good" copy of a biography for display.

Packing For Everest Worksheet

Packing For Everest Worksheet

There would be a lot to consider if you were packing to climb Mount Everest! What would you need to be safe and warm? The kids need to write down (or draw) their ideas in the suitcase.

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