Legendary adventurer Edmund Hillary has died at the age of 88. The New Zealander was the first man to climb the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.
Edmund Hillary made history when he conquered Mount Everest with his Nepalese climbing partner, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in May 1953.
After scaling the 8,850 meter peak, Hillary led a number of expeditions to the South Pole and devoted his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal's Khumbu region.
The death of the iconic New Zealander has prompted an outpouring of sympathy, with messages of condolence flooding in from around the world.
Acting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the explorer was an inspiration to generations.
"Sir Edmund's name is synonymous with adventure, with achievement, with dreaming and then making those dreams come true," she said. "I'm sure there will be many Australians today who reflect on his death. It was obviously a long life and well lived."
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Hillary was a heroic figure and said all New Zealanders would deeply mourn his passing. Hillary will be honored with a state funeral.
He spent two years as New Zealand's High Commissioner to India, and founded the Himalayan Trust in 1964.
The trust helped build hospitals and schools in the region. He was made an honorary Nepalese citizen in 2003.
At home in New Zealand, the legendary explorer was a simple beekeeper. Speaking in 2003, he said he was just an ordinary man who did not deserve celebrity status.
"I never permitted the climb of Everest to make me regard myself as a heroic figure," he said. "I knew I was no heroic figure."
Hillary was born in Auckland in 1919 and began climbing mountains in his native New Zealand as a teenager.
Following his Everest triumph, tragedy struck in 1975, when his wife and daughter died in a plane crash on their way to meet him at a construction site.
One of the 20th century's greatest adventurers died in an Auckland hospital of a heart attack after a long illness. Mountaineer Edmund Hillary was 88.