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Hillary feat

Melbourne, Feb. 17 (Reuters): He may have been one of the first two men to conquer Mount Everest and the first man to reach both the South and North Poles, but Sir Edmund Hillary counts helping the sherpas in Nepal as his highest achievement.

New Zealand's Hillary kicked off a round of fundraising in Australia on Monday for his Himalayan Trust to celebrate the 50th anniversary this May of his climb with Tenzing Norgay of Nepal to the top of the world.

”It was reaching the summit of Mount Everest that made all the following adventures and programmes possible,” the fit 83-year-old said at a fundraising dinner.

Hillary founded the Himalayan Trust in 1961, eight years after scaling Everest and asking the Sherpa people how he could help them.

The foundation has built 27 schools, two hospitals, a dozen medical clinics in impoverished Nepal, rebuilding monasteries and most recently setting up a teacher training college.

”But when I look back over my life, I have little doubt that the most worthwhile things I have done have not been standing on the summits of mountains or the North and South Poles, great adventures though they were.”

”My most important projects have been the building and maintaining of schools and medical clinics for my good friends in the Himalayas,” Hillary said.

The former beekeeper regaled his audience with tales of his climbing adventures in the Himalayas, talking of how the British treasurer of the 1953 Everest expedition balked at paying for numerous cups of tea, because true gentlemen bought their own.

”We advised the treasurer we were not gentlemen. We were New Zealanders,” Hillary said.

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