The Nepalese government last week announced that it was renaming an airport near Mount Everest after the late Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, the first men known to reach the summit of the world’s tallest peak. Hillary, who died Jan. 11 at 88, campaigned to raise money to build schools, hospitals, and airfields for the people of the Himalayas after his 1953 climb. (Travelbite.co.uk)
What the commentators said
Hillary’s funeral “was an event,” said Glynn Moore in the Augusta, Ga., Chronicle. Sherpas wrapped prayer cloths around his coffin, and thousands of Hillary’s countrymen in his native New Zealand showed up to pay their respects to a “lowly beekeeper" who "went on to build schools and hospitals for thousands.” There are still heroes out there—you might even know some—and their send-offs can make you “want to be a better person.”
Hillary’s daring climb “seemed to cap an era of high adventure” that included sledding to the poles and Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic, said The Providence Journal in an editorial. A trip to Everest’s 29,029-foot summit seems almost “commonplace” now, but back then no one knew whether the climb was “survivable.” There aren’t many “marquee exploits” like that left on this “well trodden planet,” but Hillary will always be high on the list of the “brave and hardy souls” who stepped forward back in “the days when there were mountains and ocean trenches to vanquish.”
Everest is now just another “icon to be vanquished” by rich, fit adventurers, said syndicated columnist Froma Harrop in The Detroit News. “The climb has become an extreme sport for which the mountain could as well be a giant rock climbing wall with bad weather.” But Hillary—who was “a good man, and brave”—“understood that mountains are more than recreational facilities.” They are “spiritual places,” and Hillary’s lifelong devotion to the people who call the Himalayas home should serve as a reminder of that.