Darjeeling was thrown into mourning on Friday after the death of mountaineering icon Edmund Hillary. Always considered as one of Darjeeling’s own, Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest, had had a long association with the hill association. Hillary was instrumental in setting up the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in 1954, which is considered as one of the pioneer and premier mountaineering training institutes of the world.
“Words cannot describe Sir Hillary’s contribution to mountaineering and specially the promotion of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI),” said Colonel JS Dhillon. A condolence meeting was also held at the mausoleum of Tenzing Norgay at the HMI premises.
Hillary used to often visit Darjeeling. He was here in May 1986 to attend Tenzing Norgay’s funeral and again in 1997 to unveil Tenzing’s statue. A champion of the Sherpa cause, Hillary spent most of his later years trying to improve the living conditions of the Sherpa community in Nepal, building schools and clinics. Hillary used to often say:
The news of Hillary’s death has come as a shock to Tenzing Norgay’s family. “He was the greatest friend, philosopher and guide to our family,” said Tashi Tenzing from Kathmandu. “Hillary was a ‘great man but always down to earth.”