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Tribute to Sir Ed Hillary From Nepal

Residents of the Khumbu going to the Khumjung Gompa to pay their last respects to Sir Ed Hillary on Januray 13, 2008. [Courtesy of Asian Trekking]

Dear Friends:

It is with a heavy heart that I wish you Namaste and offer my Greetings from Nepal…

Sir Ed Hillary has begun his journey to the final summit of Life – a summit that we all would like to reach, but very few of us are able.

Sir Ed Hillary will always live in the hearts and memories of the thousands of Sherpas who know him. As a tribute I wish to share with you some parts of Sir Ed Hillary’s life that has touched me and my family personally.

In the early 1960s Sir Ed Hillary was on one of his many journeys accompanied by his Sherpa friends. While they were crossing a mountain pass, Sir Ed Hillary is said to have asked one of the Sherpas if there was anything he could do for the Sherpa people, what would it be? The Sherpa friend immediately replied, “Burra Sahib” (Big Sahib), our children have eyes but they are blind and can not see. We want you to open their eyes by building a school.

In 1961 Sir Ed Hillary built the first school in Khumjung village with his own hands.

In 1964, he built Lukla airport opening a gate way to the Khumbu and to Everest and letting, not only the world know about the Sherpa people and their culture, but also showing the Sherpa people that there was a much bigger world beyond the Himalaya.

In 1966 he built the Khunde Hospital to provide free health services to all Nepalese.

And the list could go on. But what I have said here touches my family – the Sherpa who asked for a school to be built was my father Konchok Chumbi. My father accompanied Sir Ed Hillary when the Yeti scalp from Khumjung Gompa was taken around the world.

Phu Dorji, Sardar on Sir Ed Hillary’s many expeditions, shares a quiet moment with a long-time friend. [Courtesy of Asian Trekking]

I was one of the first students to get admitted into Khumjung School and graduate from there. If not for the vision of one man who stood above all – I would perhaps now be a man bowed by age and still carrying loads in my beloved Khumbu.

By coincidence, my son, Dawa Steven, was in Dingboche when he heard the news of Sir Ed Hillary’s passing away. He rushed down to Khumjung in one day and was fortunate to be able to share in the prayers offered by the people in Khumjung Gompa.

My son, Dawa Steven, is dedicating his Eco Everest Expedition 2008 to the Vision of Sir Ed Hillary for the Khumbu and her people.

I have proposed naming one Himalayan peak and Lukla airport after Sir Ed Hillary. I have also proposed that the Nepal Government initiate an International level award named after Sir Ed Hillary.

While I am deeply saddened, I feel joy that a soul like Sir Ed Hillary walked among us.

Until the next time we meet –


Ang Tshering Sherpa

Editors Note: Ang Tshering Sherpa is the President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political organization working to promote mountain tourism, climbing sports, protection of mountain environments and preservation of the cultural heritage of Nepal and the Himalaya.