If Sir Edmund Hillary had it his way, a list of his accomplishments might have ended with "Oh, by the way, climbed Mount Everest, 1953," said Hillary's friend and fellow climber Peter Athans on Friday.
Nicknamed "Mr. Everest" for having reached the mountain's peak seven times—more than any other non-Sherpa—the Seattle-based Athans, 50, spoke to National Geographic News after learning of Hillary's death Friday at 88.
"He'll be remembered, obviously, for climbing Mount Everest," Athans said. But "probably Ed himself would like to think that people will remember him for everything that he did afterwards."
Athans first met Hillary in 1985. Athans was a newbie climber on his first expedition to Mount Everest when he bumped into the legend on the trail to base camp.
Athans said the pioneering New Zealander set an example for all climbers who came after him, establishing "that it's our duty and our responsibility to go back to these places and to give something back."
Hillary went to Nepal more than 120 times, including many trips to help build hospitals, health clinics, airfields, and schools. The Himalayan Trust he set up in 1962 funded many of these projects and also helped higher education and reforestation programs.
When Hillary made it to Everest's summit in 1953, the achievement told a world still recovering from World War II "that anything in our dreams could be possible and that we dwell in infinite possibility," Athans said in a consolation email to his friends and colleagues Friday.
Later he told National Geographic News, "I think it just gave people the idea that, if two people like this can do this remarkable climb of Everest, then we can do anything as well."
Despite the achievement, Hillary kept his humility, Athans recalled.
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