From the New York Times:

Sir Edmund Hillary, the lanky New Zealand mountaineer and explorer who with Tenzing Norgay, his Sherpa guide, won worldwide acclaim in 1953 by becoming the first to scale the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, died Friday in Auckland, New Zealand. He was 88.

His death was announced by Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand.

In the annals of great heroic exploits, the conquest of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund and Mr. Norgay ranks with the first trek to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen in 1911 and the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight by Charles A. Lindbergh in 1927.

By 1953, nearly a century after British surveyors had established that the Himalayan peak on the Nepal-Tibet border was the highest point on earth, many climbers considered the mountain all but unconquerable. The summit was 5 ½ vertical miles above sea level (up where today’s jets fly): an otherworldly place of yawning crevasses and 100-mile-an-hour winds, of perpetual cold and air so thin that the human brain and lungs do not function properly in it.

Numerous Everest expeditions had failed, and dozens of experienced mountaineers, including many Sherpas, the Nepalese people famed as climbers, had been killed — buried in avalanches or lost and frozen in sudden storms that roared over the dizzying escarpments. One who vanished, in 1924, was George Leigh Mallory, known for snapping when asked why climb Everest, “Because it is there!” His body was found in the ice 75 years later, in 1999, about 2,000 feet below the summit.

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”