- My solar plexus was tight with fear as I ploughed on. Halfway up I stopped, exhausted. I could look down 10,000 feet between my legs, and I have never felt more insecure. Anxiously I waved Tenzing up to me.
- High Adventure : The True Story of the First Ascent of Everest (1955)
- Well, we knocked the bastard off!
- Hillary's comment to George Lowe, after his successful ascent of Mt Everest, as he and Tenzing Norgay were descending from the summit. (29 May 1953); as recounted in Nothing Venture, Nothing Win (1975) Ch. 10; also recounted as "Well George, we’ve knocked the bastard off." as quoted by Jan Morris in "Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay" for TIME magazine (14 June 1999)
- I am hell-bent for the South Pole — God willing and crevasses permitting.
- Comment (28 December 1957) eight days before he reached the South Pole as part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, as quoted in news summaries (5 January 1958)
- Better if he had said something natural like, "Jesus, here we are."
- On Neil Armstrong’s famous first words on stepping on the surface of the moon, "That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." The Sunday Times [London] (21 July 1974)
- I’ve always hated the danger part of climbing, and it’s great to come down again because it’s safe ... But there is something about building up a comradeship — that I still believe is the greatest of all feats — and sharing in the dangers with your company of peers. It’s the intense effort, the giving of everything you’ve got. It’s really a very pleasant sensation.
- Statement of 1977 as quoted in "Sir Edmund Hillary, a Pioneering Conquerer of Everest, Dies at 88" in The New York Times (online edition) (10 January 2008)
- It was too late to take risks now. I asked Tenzing to belay me strongly, and I started cutting a cautious line of steps up the ridge. Peering from side to side and thrusting with my ice axe, I tried to discover a possible cornice, but everything seemed solid and firm. I waved Tenzing up to me. A few more whacks of the ice–ax, a few very weary steps, and we were on the summit of Everest.
It was 11:30 AM. My first sensation was one of relief — relief that the long grind was over, that the summit had been reached before our oxygen supplies had dropped to a critical level; and relief that in the end the mountain had been kind to us in having a pleasantly rounded cone for its summit instead of a fearsome and unapproachable cornice. But mixed with the relief was a vague sense of astonishment that I should have been the lucky one to attain the ambition of so many brave and determined climbers. I seemed difficult to grasp that we'd got there. I was too tired and too conscious of the long way down to safety really to feel any great elation. But as the fact of our success thrust itself more clearly into my mind, I felt a quiet glow of satisfaction spread through my body — a satisfaction less vociferous but more powerful than I had ever felt on a mountain top before. I turned and looked at Tenzing. Even beneath his oxygen mask and the icicles hanging form his hair, I could see his infectious grin of sheer delight. I held out my hand, and in silence we shook in good Anglo-Saxon fashion. But this was not enough for Tenzing, and impulsively he threw his arm around my shoulders and we thumped each other on the back in mutual congratulations.
- "Adventure's End" in The Norton Book of Sports (1992) edited by George Plimpton, p. 85
- Tenzing had been waiting patiently, but now, at my request, he unfurled the flags wrapped around his ice–axe and standing at the summit, held them above his head. Clad in all his bulky equipment and with the flags flapping furiously in the wind, he made a dramatic picture, and the thought drifted through my mind that this photograph should be a good one if it came out at all. I didn't worry about getting Tenzing to take a photograph of me — as far as I knew, he had never taken a photograph before, and the summit of Everest was hardly the place to show him how.
- Reaching the summit of a mountain gives great satisfaction, but nothing for me has been more rewarding in life than the result of our climb on Everest, when we have devoted ourselves to the welfare of our Sherpa friends.
- As quoted in Great Climbs: A Celebration of World Mountaineering (1994) by Sir Chris Bonington
- While standing on top of Everest, I looked across the valley, towards the other great peak, Makalu, and mentally worked out a route about how it could be climbed… it showed me that, even though I was standing on top of the world, it wasn’t the end of everything for me, by any means. I was still looking beyond to other interesting challenges.
- Foreword to Peak Performance : Business Lessons from the World's Top Sports Organizations (2000) by Clive Gibson, Mike Pratt, Kevin Roberts and Ed Weymes.
- It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
- As quoted in That's Life : Wild Wit & Wisdom (2003) by Bonnie Louise Kuchler, p. 20
- You don't have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals. The intense effort, the giving of everything you've got, is a very pleasant bonus.
- As quoted in 1000 Brilliant Achievement Quotes (2004) by David Deford, p. 4
- Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.
- As quoted in Wise Guys : Brilliant Thoughts and Big Talk from Real Men (2005) by Allan Zullo, p. 5
- I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top. They don't give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress and it doesn't impress me at all that they leave someone lying under a rock to die.
- As quoted in The Age (25 May 2006)
- On my expedition there was no way that you would have left a man under a rock to die. It simply would not have happened. It would have been a disaster from our point of view. There have been a number of occasions when people have been neglected and left to die and I don’t regard this as a correct philosophy. I am absolutely certain that if any member of our expedition all those years ago had been in that situation we would have made every effort.
- As quoted in The Tribune (India) (29 May 2006)
- I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.
Sir Edmund Hillary : King Of The World
- Quotations of Hillary in "Sir Edmund Hillary : King Of The World" in NZEdge
- Some day I’m going to climb Everest.
- Statement to a friend just before World War II.
- In some ways I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander: I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination, and I rather like to succeed.
- We didn’t know if it was humanly possible to reach the top of Mt. Everest. And even using oxygen as we were, if we did get to the top, we weren’t at all sure whether we wouldn’t drop dead or something of that nature.
- I was very much aware that we still had to get safely back down the mountain again and that was quite an important factor. I really felt the most excitement when we finally got to the bottom of the mountain again and it was all behind us.
- I was just an enthusiastic mountaineer of modest abilities who was willing to work quite hard and had the necessary imagination and determination. I was just an average bloke; it was the media that transformed me into a heroic figure. And try as I did, there was no way to destroy my heroic image. But as I learned through the years, as long as you didn’t believe all that rubbish about yourself, you wouldn’t come to much harm.
- The explorers of the past were great men and we should honour them. But let us not forget that their spirit lives on. It is still not hard to find a man who will adventure for the sake of a dream or one who will search, for the pleasure of searching, not for what he may find.
- I don't know if I particularly want to be remembered for anything. I have enjoyed great satisfaction from my climb of Everest and my trips to the poles. But there's no doubt, either, that my most worthwhile things have been the building of schools and medical clinics. That has given me more satisfaction than a footprint on a mountain.
Quotes about Hillary
- The beekeeper and the Sherpa, one from a remote former colony of the Crown on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the other from the edge of the heavens. They affirmed the power of humble determination and, placing themselves firmly with the mythic paradigms of their respective cultures, won one for the underdogs. ... On this lonely planet of freeze dried food, computer generated fabrics and commercialised mountain climbing, it is almost impossible to imagine the earth-shaking impact that Hillary and Norgay’s achievement had in 1953. For many it represented the last of the earth’s great challenges. It placed Hillary in the lineage of great terrestrial explorers. ... His achievement as one of mankind’s great accomplishments came at one of the last times in history when such a feat could still be recognised as a distinctly human one, and not technological. ... Hillary’s near-mythical status puts him on a plateau above sporting heroes, for he has distinguished himself well beyond the singularity of a mountain. From a feat that would have been the crowning achievement of many careers, he has gone on to become a humanitarian, an ambassador and elder statesman, never giving up, never giving in to either despair or complacency, always planning the next goal.
- Geography was not furthered by the achievement, scientific progress was scarcely hastened, and nothing new was discovered. Yet the names of Hillary and Tenzing went instantly into all languages as the names of heroes, partly because they really were men of heroic mold but chiefly because they represented so compellingly the spirit of their time.
- The real point of mountain climbing, as of most hard sports, is that it voluntarily tests the human spirit against the fiercest odds, not that it achieves anything more substantial — or even wins the contest, for that matter. For the most part, its heroism is of a subjective kind. It was the fate of Hillary and Tenzing, though, to become very public heroes indeed, and it was a measure of the men that over the years they truly grew into the condition. Perhaps they thought that just being the first to climb a hill was hardly qualification for immortality; perhaps they instinctively realized destiny had another place for them. For they both became, in the course of time, representatives not merely of their particular nations but of half of humanity. Astronauts might justly claim that they were envoys of all humanity; Hillary and Tenzing, in a less spectacular kind, came to stand for the small nations of the world, the young ones, the tucked-away and the up-and-coming.
- Jan Morris in "Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay" in TIME magazine (14 June 1999)
- I liked these men very much when I first met them on the mountain nearly a half-century ago, but I came to admire them far more in the years that followed. I thought their brand of heroism — the heroism of example, the heroism of debts repaid and causes sustained — far more inspiring than the gung-ho kind. Did it really mean much to the human race when Everest was conquered for the first time? Only because there became attached to the memory of the exploit, in the years that followed, a reputation for decency, kindness and stylish simplicity. Hillary and Tenzing fixed it when they knocked the bastard off.
- Jan Morris in "Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay" in TIME magazine (14 June 1999)