Sir Edmund Hillary's study
NZ House & Garden was saddened to hear of the recent death of Sir Edmund Hillary. We met him in October 1995 to talk about his favourite room and thought it appropriate to reproduce the article as a tribute.
'My study is absolutely jammed with papers. I get literally hundreds of requests for autographs and my wife June is very conscientious about these and insists that I sign them. People are very appreciative – that is why, with some reluctance, I keep going. It is not only children who write – requests come from all ages and all nationalities.
I also have a lot of photographs in here. James Irwin who walked on the moon gave me that one. He was very interested in all my adventures and I was very interested in his. I’d love to go into space but I think I’m too old for that now.
That is me with the Queen and this is Antarctica’s Polar Plateau – we helicoptered in and landed in various places there last year. I have a lot of mountaineering books but I don’t read all of them. I’ve kept them because they’re mostly written by people I know. I have to say that a lot of the books I read, the books I really like, are science fiction.
That calligraphy was sent to me by a very famous Japanese explorer who died on Mt McKinley. I have some hand-beaten copper vessels from Nepal, masks used by dancers in Sherpa religious festivals and a very typical Nepalese drum. The portrait is of Mingma Tsering, my Sherpa sardar (guide/leader). He was really the inspiration behind the building of the schools and hospitals in Nepal, a man of great personality and a strong influence among the Sherpa people.
June and I loved India too. We had nearly five years there when I was high commissioner and we travelled over much of the continent. One of the marvellous things was that we were often the only foreigners at many of the functions we were invited to. Tenzing (Norgay) and I were treated with considerable respect by both young and old in India. Tenzing was a formidable climber and I was certainly very fit on the mountain but we were not superhuman creatures. I know that we were just very enthusiastic and determined mountaineers so when people start talking about heroes and icons my mind shuts off. Climbers say we inspired them. Well, that’s very nice. I appreciate that our ascent stimulated them but I don’t think much about it myself. Tenzing and I had a strong desire to get up Everest.
Later I was determined to drive to the South Pole. Nobody in their right mind would drive Ferguson tractors to the South Pole but we did and we got there. I really believe that the greatest satisfaction to be found in life is in succeeding in a challenge that nobody has ever met before.'
Interview with Prue Dashfield
Issue: Online Only
Photographs: Jessie Casson