1.25.2008

Sir Edmund Hillary: The Legacy

“The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map. I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.” Quote from the NYT obituary of Sir Edmund Hillary.

"That's a technical mountain" -- Lakpa Sherpa, my trekking guide in Nepal, after seeing this image on a little flickr card I had printed -- the image is Boot Spur on Mt. Washington.

Sir Edmund Hillary died recently, I'm not an expert on Nepal, or on development issues in the 3rd world, etc., but I would say this: In this celebrity drenched age, where it's all about Brad and Angelina and the strange rantings of Tom Cruise, the sad downward spiral of Britney Spears, the lonely death of Heath Ledger, etc, celebrities often adopt causes with varying degrees of seriousness, from the very committed to (Bono on poverty) to the trivial, like the current crop of Hollywood bad girls...Sir Edmund Hillary made a long term commitment to Nepal, particularly the Sherpa communities of the Everest region.

Hillary's achievement (along with Tenzing Norgay) made him an international celebrity -- quite a change for a for a beekeeper from New Zealand. He remained deeply involved with the Sherpa communities in Everest region throughout his life in a very hands on way, and from what I heard, probably did more than any Nepalese government ever managed in terms of helping to build infrastructure that would make people's life better and open up new opportunities: The schools he helped build are known as "Hillary Schools" in Nepal. Nepal is a very poorly governed country (corruption & inefficiency are bywords) and the country's infrastructure verges from the poor to the non-existent. Hillary's ability to get things built and keep them running and make an ongoing positive difference in people's lives is a very impressive achievement.

Lunch at 4200m: Lakpa, our guide in Nepal, was an excellent all round guide.

Lapka, our guide in Nepal, was born in the village of Khumjung, in the Everest region, and attended the "Hillary School" there. Lapka was a great guide, I think the most interesting part of trekking in Nepal, was experiencing Sherpa culture up close, their hospitality made me feel rude, repressed, and inhibited in comparison.

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