Edmund Hillary? George Mallory? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Edmund Hillary and fellow mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first two people to reach the summit of the tallest peak on Earth, Mount Everest, in 1953. The grueling expedition required extensive planning and the climbers displayed remarkable self-control during the ascent. Hillary reportedly summarized the lesson of the adventure with this eloquent quotation:
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
Oddly, I have not been able to find a good citation would you please help?
Quote Investigator: In 1998 an interviewer in the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” asked Edmund Hillary about his motivations, and also asked if he had actually employed this quotation. Emphasis added by QI: 1
Q: Oh, OK. So why did you climb it?
A: What I generally say is that it’s the sense of challenge, the attempt to stretch yourself to the utmost and overcome considerable difficulties. If you can do that, you get a great sense of satisfaction.
Q: I have another quote from you — let’s see if you said this: “It is not the mountains we conquer but ourselves.” Did you say that?
A: I think I did say that over the years, and I believe it, too.
QI believes that the situation is more complex than suggested by Hillary’s response. Indeed, QI hypothesizes that the words were incorrectly assigned to Hillary before he embraced them in the 1998 interview.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order beginning with a precursor passage.
- 1998 November 9, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Section: Magazine, Lofty Ideals: Story by Bill Steigerwald, (Continuation title: Sir Edmund Hillary has held onto his lofty ideals), Start Page D1, Quote Page D5, Column 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩