Edmund Hillary - The Biography

with Michael Gill

Saturday 16th November | 17:30 – 19:00 | Abbot Hall Social Centre

Michael Gill joins us to share his new biography of an incredible man - Edmund Hillary - the New Zealand beekeeper who climbed Mount Everest. A man who against expedition orders drove his tractor to the South Pole; a man honoured around the world for his pioneering climbs yet who collapsed on more than one occasion on a mountain, and a man who gave so much to Nepal yet lost his family to its mountains.

The author, Michael, was a close friend of Hillary’s for nearly 50 years, accompanying him on many expeditions and becoming heavily involved in Hillary’s aid work building schools and hospitals in the Himalaya. During the writing of this book, Gill was granted access to a large archive of private papers and photos that were deposited in the Auckland museum after Hillary’s death in 2008. Building on this unpublished material, as well as his extensive personal experience, Michael Gill profiles a man whose life was shaped by both triumph and tragedy.

Gill describes the uncertainties of the first 33 years of Hillary’s life, during which time he served in the New Zealand air force during the Second World War, as well as the background to the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, when Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit – a feat that brought the pair instant worldwide fame. He reveals the loving relationship Hillary had with his wife Louise, in part through their touching letters to each other. Her importance to him during their 22 years of marriage only underlines the horror of her death, along with that of their youngest daughter, Belinda, in a plane crash in 1975. Hillary eventually pulled out of his subsequent depression to continue his life’s work in the Himalaya.

Affectionate, but scrupulously fair, in Edmund Hillary – A Biography Michael Gill has gone further than anyone before to reveal the humanity of this remarkable man.

  • As I discovered from reading Michael Gill's new biography of Ed Hillary, there was much more to this man than just being the first person to climb Everest.

    John Burland

    The Wharfdale and Airedale Observer

  • For the climber, the book will be essential reading, but there is much here too in the more general appeal of a life well spent, in making the utmost of one's talents, and in man's pursuit of goals at the limit of human endeavour.

    Mike Bailey

    Footless Crow

  • Ed Hillary – A Biography’ is well illustrated throughout, initially with black and white photographs and then mainly colour from the time after Everest. Endpapers show large scale maps of Nepal & South Asia and the Mount Everest Region, and there is a double-page map of New Zealand and Antarctica.

    Amazon reviewer

  • This is a fascinating biography of a remarkable man – from beekeeper to mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist, author and diplomat. If you like your biographies meaty, you won’t starve with this well-researched and comprehensive account of the lantern-jawed, rugged Antipodean on the cover.

    Amazon reviewer

About the author

Michael Gill was a 22-year-old medical student in 1959 when he followed up on a newspaper statement that Sir Edmund Hillary was looking for additional climbers for his next Himalayan expedition. As a climber, photographer, doctor and writer, Michael was subsequently invited on nearly all the Hillary expeditions through to the last of them in 1977, a jet boat adventure up the Ganges River, and became a close friend of Sir Edmund’s. Edmund Hillary A Biography is Michael’s third book, following Mountain Midsummer, a mountaineering autobiography, and Himalayan Hospitals, an account of the experiences of the doctors and other volunteers who worked for Hillary’s Himalayan Trust between 1961 and 2002. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.