Sir Edmund Hillary Comes to Valdez(1962)


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Sir Edmund Hillary Comes to Valdez(1962)

I was surprised to find out a few months ago, that Sir Edmund Hillary, his wife Louise and their three children traveled throughout Alaska, including Valdez, after he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to stand atop Everest. Longtime Valdez residents Jim and Charlotte Shepard had heard that Tabitha and I were trekking to Everest Base Camp in the fall and called to let me know of his wife’s book titled, Keep Calm If You Can.

Sir Hillary was sponsored by Sears and Roebuck to travel around the world hyping their outdoor gear. His wife penned the book of their travels so the perspective of traveling with a famous husband and children makes for a pretty good travel book. The fact that she devoted an entire chapter to share her vivid impressions of Valdez’s alpine scenery is noteworthy. They stayed at Blueberry Lake, climbed on Worthington Glacier and fished. The book includes a photo of two of the children on Thompson Pass. The trip ends in Nepal where the family visits Sherpa Tenzing in his mountain village. As a ski alpinist, I am humbled by her impressions of the Chugach and that Sir Hillary and his family walked where I now ski.

His visit to Valdez seems to have been lost in time. I have yet to talk to an “Old Towner” who recalls his visit. It occurred one year before the earthquake that demolished Valdez. He now joins another famous mountaineer, Bradford Washburn who has a connection to Valdez. Washburn set a up photo shop in 1936 in Valdez. The book also states that Sears made a film of the entire trip and that would be cool to find.

Louise and her daughter where killed in a plane crash in Nepal in 1975. That tragic event is lost on many of us connected to mountain history and lore. This is worth reflecting on this ski season, the 60th Anniversary of the first ascent of Everest. Fortunately she left us with these memories of her life with one of the icons of our times, Sir Hillary. I hope you enjoy the 7-page excerpt from her book.
Matt Kinney
Oct 12, 2013

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