The Happiness Quotient

#87 - Peter Hillary, Son of Sir Edmund - What's Wrong With Everest

June 25, 2021 Thom Pollard Episode 87
The Happiness Quotient
#87 - Peter Hillary, Son of Sir Edmund - What's Wrong With Everest
Show Notes Transcript

Today, a special guest, Peter Hillary, son of the first man to ever climb Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary,…..Peter himself has climbed Everest twice. In addition to being an accomplished mountaineer Peter is a speaker, and he raises funds for Himalayan Foundations around the world....  Together with his sister Sarah Hillary, they manage the intellectual property of the Ed Hillary estate. I can almost guarantee you know someone named after his dad...

During a recent conversation, Peter and  I talked about the environment of Everest, the current state of Nepal and the Khumbu region, the garbage and growing human waste problem….how COVID has devastated Nepal, and what is being done about it. 

For more info on Peter, how to give to the Himalayan foundations, or to inquire about a speaking engagement by Peter, visit

https://www.peterhillary.com/

And, on June 30th there will be a Facebook live event hosted by Musa Masala, to benefit the Wongchu Memorial Hospital….


Links to the event are in the show notes or you can visit

https://musamasala.com/


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For more information about Thom Dharma Pollard:
http://eyesopenproductions.com/

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www.patreon.com/thehappinessquotient

Our theme song, Happiness Jones, appears courtesy of The Wood Brothers.


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Thom Pollard:

This is the happiness quotient. If you're a first time listener or regular listener of the HQ, please be sure to subscribe. wherever you may be listening, whether on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, wherever it may be, and when you subscribe, you'll be notified each time a new episode comes out. And if you're on Apple podcasts, give me a podcast rating, please. Okay, and if you have a chance to leave five stars that would hit the spot to abundant greetings today's interview with Peter Hillary is released in advance of a live Facebook event on the environment of Everest, and the waste problem they're taking place on June 30. With the mucem massala organization and their support of the Wang Shu Memorial Hospital in Nepal. I'll be doing a presentation on the state of the environment of Everest, which will include guests Peter Hillary Dan maser of the Everest bio gas project, and other notable guests. You don't want to miss it. Check the show notes here for info on where to watch us live or for links to view the program if you're listening after the event. I got

The Wood Brothers:

Happiness Jones

Thom Pollard:

Today a special guest Peter Hillary, son of the first man to ever climb Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, whom I interviewed in 2004. Peter himself has climbed Everest twice. In addition to being an accomplished mountaineer. He is a speaker and he raises funds for Himalayan foundations around the world. Together with his sister Sarah, Hillary, they manage the intellectual property of the ED Hillary estate and I can almost guarantee you that you know, someone named after his dad. During a recent conversation, Peter and I talked about the environment of Everest, the current state of Nepal, and the Khumbu region, the garbage and growing human waste problem there, how COVID has devastated the country and what's being done about it. That's right now on the HQ. Before I play the interview, some background is important. Since Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest for the first time with his partner Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953. The entire Mount Everest region has blossomed into our tourist tracking and climbing region for travelers and adventurers the world over. It started slowly at first until in 1985, the first guided expedition took place on Mount Everest. American David Bashir is guided Texas businessman and rancher Ski Area owner dick bass successfully to the summit. Before tracking and climbing was allowed there the lives of the Sherpa had remained pretty much unchanged for hundreds of years, living in the beautiful albeit austere remote mountain environment, eking by on small farms. And then with the increasing numbers of trekkers and climbers 10s of 1000s visit the Khumbu region every year, the lives of the Sherpa have been transformed very much for the better. A climbing Sherpa can earn in one season on Everest 10 or more times what he or she might earn by working his farm or by trading. The benefits are obvious but with more visitors to the fragile environment comm more trash more pressure on local resources such as wood to burn fires to cook food, more human waste, and with no roads or means to remove that said waste. Some have gone so far as to call Everest the highest garbage dump on Earth. Peter grew up climbing mountains and taking in many of his dad's expeditions and projects traveling to the North Pole, among other places up the Ganges River in India climbing and the hamal is around the United States and helping the mountain people of Nepal, which was his dad's sole focus after he summited in 1953 Peters first summit of Everest was in 1990. He and his dad became the first family of Himalayan mountaineering with two generations of Everest climbers. He climbed Mount Everest for the second time in 2002 for a National Geographic documentary celebrating his dad's first ascent. I first met Peter in Katmandu in 2016, where I interviewed him at the Radisson hotel for a film project. I was working on this conversation with Peter was via video conference where he was at his home in New Zealand, it was June 12. Where I was it was June 11. In the United States. Here's our conversation. How are you doing? How's your family? How did? How did everybody do with this COVID thing?

Peter HIllary:

Well, look, it's certainly been a big challenge around the world. New Zealand has followed very much the recommendations of epidemiologists and experts in the field and the borders were closed, our borders are closed with the exception of our ability to travel to Australia. So life very quickly returned to normal. We've had a couple of lockdowns, one at the beginning of the pandemic. And I mean, actually, it's a bit like going back in time, because we're doing what everyone used to do before everyone travelled overseas all of the time. Yeah, we ever in travels around the country. So I and my family have been going to the mountains to walk and ski and climb. And it Look, in many respects, it's been great. It's hard on some areas of business, of course.

Thom Pollard:

And I know that a place very dear to your heart. And Nepal is kind of really in a way at the epicenter of, of this pandemic. So can you can you give me a little bit of an update? Like, how is it going there? Because I'm hearing it just through little clips here and there?

Peter HIllary:

Well, I mean, they've had a terrible time in Nepal. I mean, as everyone heard, there was this huge second wave of a new variant in India. It has moved through that vast country with with terrible effect. And of course, not surprisingly, it's, it's gone north through the very porous border, into Nepal and into the Himalayas. And places like Katmandu have been very badly affected, perhaps illustrate that I can tell you that our accountant at our foundation office in Katmandu, his family has been absolutely devastated by it. Boeing's mother has died shortly thereafter, his 34 year old cousins or a young man, he died, and his father and Wolf sister, so it's for one family, it's been a terrible, terrible tragedy,

Thom Pollard:

that and that's your family. Ultimately, you've you've had a lifetime, investing yourself and, and your time, and your energy in that part of the world. And that's what I would love to ask you about today. And, you know, I think I had told you when I met you in 2016, that I had the opportunity to interview your dad, in 2004, I believe it was at the 100th anniversary of the Explorers Club. And everybody who made sure dad Well, I can't say everybody, but I most people will probably want to say what was it like to be the first person on the top of Mount Everest? To be honest, I had no interest in that. I did. I mean, of course, that that set him apart of every human being in the world. I was interested in asking him about giving back. Like, like his legacy. Sure. He he tagged it, he did brave, brilliant thing to get to the top of that mountain with Tenzing he gave back and it started with responding to someone say I need a school in my village. And he thought that was going to be just one act and then a lifetime. You You could have gone hitchhiking around the world and been a hippie and been happy. But you carried on the legacy that says something he he somehow put that into you and your your family. How what that must have been a remarkable thing to grow up in that atmosphere.

Peter HIllary:

Oh, it was and dad was very inclusive of his family and his friends in all of these projects. We felt a part of it. But that was part of the magic of it, because it was actually the local people who wanted a school for their children felt a part of the two they were, you know, it's not as if we would come in and say, well, you need education, that's them going. We want education. How can we work together to make this happen? It was a very collaborative affair. And it look the the friendship, the warmth, the connection that was engendered through all of these projects really was the great thing about it. So it wasn't like drawing blood out of the stone. It was It really was a shared involvement and a very heartwarming

Thom Pollard:

I'm not sure if I remember this from speaking with you but you was somewhere I saw this about remembering being a young child or, or maybe in your early teens riding your bike around Katmandu before there were even car like there might have been one or two cars in the entire city which is you that's almost an impossible thing to imagine these days that must have so it was pure like the birds It was like being in a jungle probably.

Peter HIllary:

Look, it was it was extraordinary. Back in 1962. Of course we were I was only seven years old. But other latest go riding bikes. We were staying at the the British ambassador's residence. And she and she would let us ride bikes on the street because they're apart from holy cows, other bicycles and people carrying loads on a tub strap. There were only the only people who had cars was the king, the American ambassador and the British ambassador. So I think she felt that, you know, the odds on the streets were pretty much in our favor.

Thom Pollard:

Right? Watch out for those Hillary kids. They're pretty speedy on their bicycles. That that is that's really a beautiful thing to try to imagine. Because we all know, well, you know, even the people who have never been there are well aware, just what the kind of the scene of Katmandu is now i'm not talking during COVID, because it got very much shut down. But you know, things grew in the city. And then likewise, the, the tourism in the traffic up in the Everest region has increased. And that's that's one of the reasons I wanted to reach out to you. And it's a good thing the people have benefited greatly from this infusion of outsiders. And how is how is the environment there? I my my guess, guess is that it might be better in some ways, more trees more, you know, reforestation. They don't cut trees down to burn, things like that. But in the adverse crumble region is what's the state there? Is it really the highest garbage dump in the world that outsiders seem to say?

Peter HIllary:

Yeah, look, I think the the garbage dump stories really had got wildly overstated. I mean, certainly there was a period on the outskirts of villages or up near the base camp, there was rubbish lying around. That is true. But there has been cleaned up very, very substantially. It was cleaned up initially by foreign groups. I know my old friend, Brett Bishop from Seattle had a group who went up there and removed a lot of rubbish from Basecamp. And up from higher up on the mountain, there have been a number of efforts along those lines. But now the sagarmatha pollution control committee based on knrg desire, obviously, the local people run this, and they've set up rubbish collection sites along the trails, they clear these. So they are developing the infrastructure. So it really is not too much of a problem anymore. I mean, obviously, more needs to be done. It needs to be done in all of our cities, too. But I think a lot of that has been well addressed. There's a continuing problem up on the mountain, and I think, really on Mount Everest, they need to take some of the bold steps that were taken, for example, on Denali. And the National Park Service came in with what they when I when I went there, they said, Look, we admit this is a very simple solution. You collect your own business, a little bag and you dispose of it only in the place that we say you can. But it really works. And I was delighted when I was up there on that amazing Alaskan mountain to find an absolutely pristine. Now Denali did have the same human waste pollution issues that ever stood. I mean, there are something like 1500 people climb the mountain each year. So simple mathematics tells you it could have been pretty nasty. But these days, it really it's fantastic. And, you know, the result is wonderful. But this needs to happen in Nepal, it's perhaps a little more challenging because there are cultural issues around human waste. But let's face it, we all have to take care of our business. The stairway. And that's just just a reality, no point getting squeamish about it. And, you know, if you go prepared with the appropriate little containers and have it have a protocol system, then this can be done. So that's the challenge.

Thom Pollard:

Everybody knows about Mount Everest in the world. And that's one of the greatest things about it. You can't go anywhere in the world and say, Mount Everest and have people go, where is that? Well, they might say, where is it, but they know what it is. It's also one of the most difficult things about it as well, because everybody, everybody has an idea about whatever is represents to them. And some people are sharply critical, like, just, it's amazing, almost angry. I saw an interview with you. Somewhere along the line, you said, Look, it's not really our decision to make try to lecture Nepal on how to handle this or at or something on that. And, like, can you use Sha money as an example? And I loved that? Could you explain that? Because everybody's trying to get their morals and place their morals on this mountain in these people. And that's disturbing to me, sometimes.

Peter HIllary:

I look, I think that's right. I think it's incredibly important that we, we don't Hector, the Nepalese, they are managing it the way they want to manage the mountain. And look, by and large, it is working. Mostly, you know, people are talking amongst themselves at base camp. And they are structuring the ascent so that, you know, the large numbers mean that people can go on different days. But that that classic photograph from 2019 was because the weather wasn't what they expected, one group delayed their departure, and went the next day when another group was coming up, and you ended up with, I think it was over 200 people all met summit ridge. But there's another side as well. So that was more an aberration. But I think the key point to make to people is that this isn't every day, you know, sometimes people think every day, there's a traffic jam, just as there is in my city, on the summit of Mount Everest. But of course, that's not the case. Right now on Everest, there's not even anyone on the mountain, they've gone, the mountains deserted. And 360 days of the year, more or less, there is no enough there. It's just all those few little days when there's a window in the weather. And towards the end of May, when when people are trying to make their sense. So that's when you can get those crowds. But look, philosophically, I think we've got to look at what do we want from these outdoor experiences from the mountaineering experience. And I frequently find myself quoting from that wonderful book, published by the mountaineers in Seattle, the freedom of the hills. And what does the freedom of the hills mean to people, it means you put a pack on your back, and you head out into a wonderful preserve of nature. And you are free to camp over there, collect some water to drink from this creek over over the side of the river there. Move up onto the mountain face, you are in a free situation in a beautiful, natural environment. And I think we we need to resist trying to put too many of our rules and regulations on top of this experience, because so much of our lives is dictated necessarily by rules and regulations. And for us to be able to go to the mountains and enjoy that freedom. I think it's a very important thing, you know, really connecting with nature. Yeah.

Thom Pollard:

Beautiful. Peter. So as we emerge from COVID, and this pandemic, granted with Nepal still in the thick of it. What is the the more immediate kind of charge going on with the foundations that you're involved with? Are people getting in there giving assistance? Is it or is it still are we still waiting back? So what's kind of the next maybe six months or so?

Peter HIllary:

Well, I think we've got to remember that the infection rates in areas like India or Nepal and Brazil and Africa, in fact, The REITs exceed, I believe the total for 2020. So it's not as if we're cresting over and coming out of the pandemic. Globally, this is an expanding scenario. And so we are limited in terms of charities, in terms of our ability to go there. But of course, we have this amazing video call technology. I was on a call with our people in Katmandu, just yesterday, and you know, you see them, you know where they are, we've all been there so often, that those communications are working very well. And they're able to organize the delivery of personal protection equipment for people working with this pandemic. We're able to deliver testing kits and fun personnel to assist with a lot of this work in terms of isolation and treatment and so on. But look, we really are reliant on the fact that lockdowns do slow the spread of the virus, and the poor has locked down as we speak, kids are working and studying remotely. We've got a young boy who we sponsor, and apparently, he's going to be continuing his education for the time being online now in fairly remote villages, which is astounding to me. Because up until recently, you disappear into what we would consider remote valleys in the Himalayas, and no one would hear from you. And you wouldn't hear from anyone for all of the time that you're there. But suddenly, I was just speaking to this young man, and, you know, at this very humble house and look, this technology is, is quite remarkable. And there's a lot of good things about it. So look, the lockdown, and then the next big step. And of course, many countries, the US, Australia and New Zealand and others have been contributing to the delivery of vaccines to places like Nepal, and this, this is a very important step way that we can start to get on top of this.

Thom Pollard:

So for somebody who's listening to this, who might have an interest in helping in whatever way they can be at a donation, and that that might be how they do it. But what what can someone do if they're inclined to lend a hand?

Peter HIllary:

Well, look, I'm on the, on the board of the American Himalayan foundation. And in San Francisco, so they could make a donation to the hf and that would be greatly appreciated. Because there are immediate needs now vaccination obviously is an important destination for every country and let's face it, I mean a country like the US or New Zealand or wherever you are, is not really going to be safe from this disease until the Nepalese are or people in Nigeria, we've really got to reach out to the global community. So that's important. But certainly getting PP testing kits. assisting with with lockdown and isolation to slow this disease is is incredibly important. So the support that that people can give is greatly appreciated and it's important for all of us ultimately.

Thom Pollard:

Fantastic so my gut is you haven't been on an airplane in a while maybe you have but have you have your travel has probably been just cut down to nothing. Are you still jumping around?

Peter HIllary:

Yeah, international travel. I haven't been out of New Zealand since March 2020 when I arrived back from Antarctica just before the lockdown however, I've been able to travel around New Zealand extensively so I'm on airline is pretty often Yeah, because New Zealand is open we move it we have to wear a mask on plane but everywhere else. You go to restaurants you gather with your friends, there are simply no issues. We've been very fortunate.

Thom Pollard:

That's fantastic. So I interviewed my friend Jamie McGinnis not long ago who I was on Everest with in 2019 in Tibet and it I guess I wasn't thinking because I said he's possibly the second greatest Kiwi mountaineer of all time, and I'm not sure how I wasn't thinking about you. I'm gonna I might have to bump Jamie because you were you were climbing Everest before Jamie was and you you. You did some pretty incredible things yourself. So, you know, so I'm apologizing to you, because who knows, maybe Jamie would rib you if he ever bumped into you. But

Peter HIllary:

essentially, let's face it, we all go to the mountains for our own reasons. It's to achieve something. Sure. Generally, the aim is to tag the summit, a momentary, brief, rather marvelous moment to reach the top of a mountain. But it's that whole process, the people we share the experience with and the incredible sights and experiences we have. So yeah, I mean, I don't think we need to great grade us particularly, or obviously, there are some truly great technical mountaineers who've pushed the parameters, and they do set benchmarks, but it's a very broad pursuit for why we go what we get out of it. But there's no question I think that every single one of us, you get a lot out of going on an expedition, you know, you, you're on a very, in a way, it simplifies the world, you know, you, it comes back to those basic needs shelter, warmth, that accompany some warm food. And really doesn't matter what sort of food It could even be Tibetan, some with hot salty tea. But if that's all it's going, that's the best food in the world, because that's what you've got. And that's kind of a nice space to be in the some of the time. And I think that's part of the attraction of being going mountaineering and the expedition re experience.

Thom Pollard:

That's, that's fantastic. I don't want to take up too much of your time, let me let me ask you this one last thing, this might be a great way to wrap it up. One of the things that you champion is is not necessarily always you know, people going to the mountains, but people overcoming their fears becoming, having the courage to go after what's in their heart, or what what their desires are. And you you've spoken around the world to big, huge audiences in small audiences. What do you what do you tell people about about on leashing the shackles of that hold them from going after what they really desire?

Peter HIllary:

Look, I think, you know, lots of people desire to do all sorts of different things. But I think the key here is there really is no time like now. And, and it doesn't mean that you know, just because someone is talking to someone like yourself, or me and you some, you know, you identify this person is a mountain near you think, gee, I would have liked to have done that. It doesn't mean that you necessarily have to go and do that. But go and do something, it could be, you know, make some music, go for a walk in the park, you know, build something, do something that really draws on your inner self. And it's important to get out and do that because that expression is enriching for each and every one of us. And I think it gives us the opportunity to really develop who we are and what we want to be. And certainly, climbing on big mountains has done that, for me, it's taken me right to the edge of, you know, my ability by psychological and emotional strength. You know, I've found myself really pressed. But you know, when you come back and you digest that experience, it's generally a very, very positive process. And I think you'll come away from it better off and proud that you went there.

Thom Pollard:

Thank you so much, and have a have a fantastic day. You're at the dawn of a new day in New Zealand and I do appreciate it. So thanks for everything. Thanks, Tom. Today, there are Himalayan oundations in six countries and eter is a board member undraiser, regular Nepal visitor, he continues his commitment to helping people help themselves. Thank you Peter for taking the time to speak with me today. For more info on Peter and how to give to the Himalayan foundations or to inquire about a speaking engagement with Peter. Visit Peter hillary.com. abundant

The Wood Brothers:

Happiness

Thom Pollard:

and on June 30, there will be a Facebook Live event hosted by Moosa masala to benefit the Wong Chu Memorial Hospital. Links to the event are in the show notes or you can visit Moosa masalit.com. As always, thank you to the wood brothers and their management for the Use of their song, happiness Jones for our theme song here on the HQ, and to their publicist Kevin Calabro for helping make it all happen. For more information about me, Tom Dharma Pollard, to inquire about personal coaching or public speaking in person or virtually, please visit me at ies open productions.com. And you can write me anytime at Tom dot Dharma dot [email protected] And don't forget to subscribe and leave me a review on Apple podcasts, it would mean a whole lot. And you can also visit me [email protected] slash the happiness quotient for a free download of a course in happiness. Thanks for visiting the happiness quotient. I will see you all real soon.

The Wood Brothers:

Got it. all of those words I wrote in th storm that rocked my boat all of that was stuck in my throat w en I was happy all of those song I was singin while my boat wa sinkin n Happy Happy. Happy, Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy Happy. Happy Happy. Happy. Happy