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

[tag]Sir Edmund Hillary[/tag] died today, according to the BBC. Others better qualified than I will no doubt properly eulogize him and put his storied life in the proper perspective. I’ll just add this: I can’t help but think he died just “for the hell of it.” He always struck me as someone who, like his predecessor [tag]George Mallory[/tag] famously said, climbed a mountain (in this case, [tag]Everest[/tag], which claimed his life) just “because it’s there.” One of Hillary’s quotes that has stuck with me, strikes a similar vein:

Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.

Here’s another one that I copied down from somewhere; the original source I forget (but it is no doubt only a quick Google away):

The explorers of the past were great men and we should honor 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.

If there is an afterlife of some sort—and ever since my mother died, I can’t help but believe for my own sanity’s sake that there is—I imagine that Hillary paused for a moment upon reaching the other side, savoring this next adventure. Of course, being a helpless romantic, I also imagine that a sherpa named Tenzing was already there to help him along the path …