“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”— Sir Edmund Hillary
Sir Edmund Hillary was a fascinating man. You may be familiar with his story. Hillary was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer, and philanthropist. On May 29, 1953, Hillary and his climbing partner, Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first human beings to achieve the summit of Mount Everest. The accomplishment was arguably the greatest earthly conquest in history, and Hillary himself was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Following his ascent of Everest, he also reached the South Pole and the North Pole overland, making him the first person in history to reach both poles and summit Everest. While certainly an extraordinary and accomplished adventurer, Hillary’s story doesn’t end there.
What many people don’t know is that following his grand adventures, Hillary devoted the rest of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal. Raising funds through his trust, he was responsible for installing infrastructure, building nearly 30 schools, two hospitals, 12 medical clinics, numerous monasteries, and planted more than a million seedlings in Nepal.
Hillary was also a humble man. It has been documented that during the 15 minutes he and his Nepalese climbing partner spent on the summit of world’s highest mountain, only one picture was taken as evidence of their accomplishment. Hillary himself took the now famous photo of his partner Tenzing, but Hillary’s own ascent was, ironically not captured for posterity. Later, in his memoirs, Tenzing admitted that Hillary had declined to have his picture taken, without explanation. The only thing Hillary left on the mountain was a cross, which he buried in the snow on the summit of the 29,029 ft. peak.
What makes Edmund Hillary’s life story so scintillating is not simply his feats of adventure, but what he did behind the scenes, without fanfare, for people not as fortunate as himself. That fact alone is what is so inspirational to me. The “Everest” he chased was not just overcoming a tall mountain, but helping an impoverished people overcome their obstacles as well.
My own Everest is centered on a grand plan, years in the making, to cycle the world, unsupported, through a series of rather epic cycling tours. And while “Chasing Everest” for me certainly fulfills my own passion for adventure, like Hillary, it will not end there. Chasing Everest for me will support my dream to live a life that explores the upper limits of faith, fitness, adventure, self-discovery, and good works.
It should be fun!