Saddened to wake up and read that New Zealand's legendary mountaineer Sir Edmond Hillary has died. He and Tenzing Norgay were the first men to stand atop Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain, conquering the summit in 1953. They won worldwide acclaim for their achievement, and Hillary won the everlasting affection of Kiwis with his blunt description of the feat: 'We knocked the bastard off!' He later made a pioneering trip to the South Pole and went with Neil Armstrong to the North Pole.
But Hillary's life was not just about exploration. He was a modest man who sometimes described himself as mediocre. Yet he raised millions for charity and built schools, clinics, and other facilities in the Himalayas. It's a mark of the esteem Kiwis felt for him that Sir Ed will be given a full state funeral and it was the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, who announced his death. A recent poll called Hillary the most admired of all New Zealanders and the accolade was well deserved. A great loss.