Edmund Hillary, the beekeeper who conquered Mount Everest to win renown as one of the 20th century's greatest adventurers, has died. He was 88.
Hillary, who with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was the first to reach the 8,848-metre summit of Everest in 1953, had been in increasingly frail health in recent years.
The cause of Hillary's death was not announced, but he had been ill for some time and local media reported he had been suffering pneumonia.
Hillary took his fame in stride, preferring to be called Ed and considering himself just an ordinary beekeeper.
He admitted to being the first man atop Everest only long after the death of climbing companion Norgay.
After Everest, Hillary led a number of expeditions to the South Pole and the Himalayas, and devoted his time to helping Nepal's Sherpa people who live in the shadow of Everest.
His Himalaya Trust raised about $250,000 a year and he personally helped build schools, hospitals, bridges, pipelines and even an airfield.
"Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities," Helen Clark, New Zealand's prime minister, said on Friday in announcing his death.
"In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only 'knocked off' Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.
"The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived," she added.