Everest conqueror Hillary dies aged 88

WELLINGTON, Jan 11, 2008 (AFP) – Edmund Hillary, the unassuming New Zealander who won world fame as the first man to climb Mount Everest, died Friday at the age of 88.

Hillary, who with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain on May 29, 1953, died of a heart attack in Auckland Hospital following a period of bad health, the hospital said in a statement.

Tributes poured in after the passing of one of the world’s great adventurers and New Zealand’s most famous citizen, who was knighted soon after his historic feat.

“Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus,” Prime Minister Helen Clark said in a statement.

“He was an heroic figure who not only ‘knocked off’ Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity,” she said.

News of the success of the British-led expedition to the top of the 8,848-metre (29,028-foot) mountain was announced on the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on June 2, 1953, magnifying the patriotic fervour in both Britain and former colony New Zealand.

Returning to base camp after the climb, the lanky adventurer