Everest hero Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbing bag surfaces once more at public sale in New York 


New Zealand

Dec. 13, 2021 22:00

Sir Edmund Hillary is about to set off with a small group from Banepa, Nepal, on a climbing and school building expedition in Eastern Nepal. Photo / file

A climbing bag that once belonged to Sir Edmund Hillary has resurfaced at auction in New York – just four years after it was sold at the same auction house.

The faded canvas travel bag dates back to 1946 when a 27-year-old Hillary was busy climbing some of New Zealand’s most challenging peaks.

The time would prove to be perfect training for his later successful summit of the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest, seven years later with the Nepalese Sherpa leader Tenzing Norgay.

A rare Hillary memorabilia, the bag was last offered for sale at Bonhams in New York in 2017.

With “Hillary Expedition 46” and “Ropes and Slings” handwritten on the 86 cm long bag, it sold for US $ 3,500 (NZD 5179).

A canvas climbing bag that once belonged to Sir Edmund Hillary has resurfaced at an auction in New York.  Photo / BonhamsA canvas climbing bag that once belonged to Sir Edmund Hillary has resurfaced at an auction in New York. Photo / Bonhams

But now it’s back on sale at Bonhams in New York and goes on sale Thursday (NZ time) with an estimate of $ 3000-5000 ($ 4442-7404).

The last time the item appeared for sale, Lady June Hillary, the Everest hero’s second wife, knew neither about the sale nor about the existence of the bag.

She wondered where it had come from and doubted whether Hillary had given it as a gift or a souvenir. She said, “He wasn’t that historically minded, even though he was with his ice axes.”

“[He] traveled to Everest all along, and these kinds of things come up from time to time, “Lady June told the Herald today.

1946 was to be an important one for Hillary.

After serving as an RNZAF navigator on Catalina flying boats during World War II, the Auckland beekeeper was badly burned in a boat accident in the Solomon Islands in 1945.

Hillary returned to civilian life and beekeeping after she was fully fit again and spent every spare minute mountaineering for the following year.

He made several difficult climbs including Kitchener, Sealy, Hamilton, Malte Brun and De la Beche.

At the beginning of winter 1946 he also crossed the mountain range from Awatere Valley to the Clarence River in order to “build some high winter camps”.

Hillary also met legendary kiwi mountaineer and guide Harry Ayres that year, whom Hillary later wrote in his first autobiography Nothing Venture, Nothing Win as “perhaps the most important step in my mountaineering life”.

In High Adventure he later wrote about his encounter with Ayres: “He took me under his wing and for three wonderful seasons we climbed the great peaks together.”

The couple climbed New Zealand’s highest peak, Mt Cook (now Aoraki / Mount Cook) on January 30, 1947. A year later they managed the first ascent of the imposing South Ridge Direct on the 3724 m high Mt. Cook.

On May 29, 1953, Hillary and Norgay were the first to climb the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest (8,848 m) and immediately became world celebrities.

The Canterbury Museum paid $ 16,000 in 2018 for a canvas bag that Hillary used during the Everest Summit.

In August 2017, a rare postcard signed by the entire British Mt Everest Expedition of 1953, including Hillary and Norgay, fetched $ 1,550 at auction in Auckland.

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