Edmund Hillary: Cloud Climber


By: Nathan Chandler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Sir Edmund Hillary was born in a back corner of the world where he learned all about adventure from the very youngest days of his life. He carried his sense of wonder into adulthood and accomplished feats that no human had before. How much do you know about Hillary and his expeditions?

Edmund Hillary is best known for what?

Hillary is best known for leading an expedition that attempted to climb Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth.


Many people tried to scale Everest's heights before Hillary. How tall is the incredible mountain?

Mt. Everest is a jaw-dropping 29,029 feet tall. In contrast, the tallest mountain in Colorado is Mount Elbert, which is "only" 14,440 feet tall.


How far is 29,029 feet, really?

Everest is about 5.5 miles high. As climbers ascend, oxygen levels plummet, making breathing very difficult. Extreme cold, snow and occasional 100 mph winds add to the dangers.


How many failed British expeditions preceded Hillary's attempt on Everest's summit?

At least eight other British expeditions set out to conquer Everest and failed. Then Hillary decided to give it a shot.


Hillary made his attempt in 1953. When did the first British expedition set out to reach the summit?

During the World War I era, Everest was still an unconquered peak tucked into a distant corner of the planet. It was an enthralling -- and deadly -- challenge that beckoned to only the bravest mountaineers. Three decades after the first British expedition, the peak was still untouched.


Hillary was the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa from Nepal, were the first two confirmed people to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. They reached the mountaintop on May 29.


Humans first orbited Earth in 1961, marking a crossroads in the history of civilization. When did Hillary climb to the top of Mount Everest?

Mount Everest was so difficult a challenge that no one climbed it until 1953, just eight years before the first man rocketed into orbit around Earth. Then, in another eight years, we walked on the moon.


The amazing climber was raised in a wild place. Where did Hillary grow up?

Hillary was from the small country of New Zealand. He grew to nearly six and a half feet in height and learned from a young age that he had more stamina than many of his peers.


Hillary served in World War II. With which branch of the military did he serve?

Hillary joined the New Zealand air force in 1943 and served in the Pacific war theater. He suffered injuries in an accident and was sent home.


Hillary and Norgay were the only two truly experienced climbers on the expedition.

The expedition brought along several great mountaineers. The idea was to send waves of climbers, if necessary, in order to finally conquer the huge hulk of rock and ice.


Including support staff, how many people were part of the expedition?

The British sent a small army intent on tackling Mount Everest. Most of those people were used to carry an enormous amount of equipment and supplies into the thin mountain air.


Tenzing Norgay was part of a prior attempt with a 1952 Swiss expedition. Where did that expedition halt?

The Swiss group pulled up just 800 feet short of winning the race to the peak. Horrific weather caused them to give up and turn back, meaning Norgay would have to wait another year to try.


Who was the leader of the 1953 British expedition?

Eric Shipton was first selected to lead the group, but he was replaced by Hunt, who was a World War II veteran and had many climbing accomplishments under his belt.


What was Hunt's approach to the expedition?

Hunt brought his military experience to the expedition and treated it like an army mission. Every facet of the assault was intricately planned and oversupplied.


On May 26, 1953, two British climbers (Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans) were instructed to attempt a last push to the summit. Why did they have to turn back?

Both climbers were wearing oxygen tanks, and one of the systems failed. They had no choice but to turn back just 300 feet short of the summit.


Norgay and Hillary were selected as part of the next assault on the summit. They stopped partway to sleep. What was the temperature that night?

It seems like a miracle that the men survived, much less climbed a mountain. During their night just short of the peak, the temperature plummeted to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.


As a young man, Hillary expressed much interest in which job?

Both Hillary and his brother were beekeepers as young men. Beekeeping, of course, is a summer job, meaning the men were free to do more important things in the winter ... like climb mountains.


As Hillary and Norgay inched towards the summit, they nearly died. What happened?

Hillary took a step and the snow collapsed. The men slipped nearly three stories down a steep ridge before they managed to arrest their falls.


Which man actually took the very first step on the summit of Mount Everest?

Hunt said they reached the summit at the same time, but Hillary later said that he was just ahead of Norgay. Either way, both men achieved an incredible feat.


What was the weather like when the men reached the top?

The two lucked out. Not only did they reach the top, but the weather was clear, too. They could look down the mountain and see clouds floating below them.


Hillary and Norgay were the first human beings on Mount Everest. How long did they hang out on the peak to celebrate?

Everest is no place for a party. The two men took in their surroundings for about 15 minutes and then began the perilous trip back down the peak.


After Hillary returned home, how did the government receive him?

On the day that British Queen Elizabeth II was coronated, news of Hillary's accomplishment reached England. Both John Hunt and Hillary were knighted. Norgay wasn't a citizen, so he wasn’t knighted, but he did receive plenty of other recognition.


What is the Hillary Step?

The very last approach to the summit is a vertical sheet of rock nearly four stories high. Hillary and Norgay found a crack between the rock and the snow and pushed their way upwards in order to reach the summit.


These days, the Hillary Step is far less treacherous than it was back in the 50s. Why?

Some earthquakes affected the rock face that made up Hillary's Step. It's not nearly as steep as it was decades ago, so modern climbers have an easier route.


Hillary conquered Mount Everest. What other major feats did he accomplish?

As if summiting Everest wasn’t enough in 1958 he went to the South Pole … and then followed that by going to the North Pole. He was the first person to perform all three feats.


Shortly after climbing Mount Everest, what did Hillary do?

The same year that he climbed Mount Everest, Hillary got married. Two decades later his wife and daughter were killed in a Nepali plane crash.


How did Hillary die?

After a long life filled with amazing accomplishments, Hillary died in 2008 due to heart failure. He was 88 years old.


Before his ascent of Mount Everest, Hillary was known as a quiet and modest man. How did fame affect him?

His new fame and riches didn't alter his modest personality. He was still reserved and kind to people and spent much of his life helping others.


The man became well-known for his philanthropic efforts. Where did he focus much of his goodwill work?

Hillary fell in love with the Nepalese people during his climb. He helped them build schools and hospitals, acts that were very beneficial in an often impoverished part of the world.


Hillary and Norgay beat Mount Everest. With that accomplishment out of the way, how did the two climbers think that other people would look at Everest?

With the highest peak beaten, both climbers figured no one would ever try to climb it again. They were very wrong. Each year many climbers risk their lives trying to conquer the world's tallest mountain. Many of them die.


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