Photo: Garden view from a guest room in the Nagase Ryokan, Takayama.

From the NYT: Edmund Hillary, First on Everest, Dies at 88

A toast in honor of Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (who may have been first, but let’s not be poopy about it today), for the achievement and the inspiration:

The vast panorama of the Himalayas lay before them: fleecy clouds and the pastel shades of Tibet to the north, and in all directions sweeping ranks of jagged mountains, cloud-filled valleys, great natural amphitheaters of snow and rock, and the glittering Kangshung Glacier 10,000 feet below. [..] “The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map,” he told one interviewer. “I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.”

Here’s a good interview in Outside Magazine.

When Carlos and I were in Takayama for Christmas, we stayed at the Nagase Ryokan. We were padding about the place in our yukata (robes) and slippers, which is comme il faut in ryokans, everyone shuffles around in their robes, which makes for a relaxed, away from the world’s problems atmosphere…where was I? Ah, we were checking out the normal cool stuff in old ryokan lobbies, like a huge, hand drawn wall map of Takayama from the 1700s, old photographs and ceramics, a brazier carved out of a tree root, and lacquer fans and white paperboard squares on which the ryokan had humbly requested famous guests to sign/write poems/draw cartoons. On the bottom shelf of a small glass cabinet was a white card with a signature and some words of thanks from Edmund Hillary, dated sometime in the 1970s. I like to imagine all six-foot-five-inches of him sitting on tatami at a low Japanese table, his arms too long for the sleeves of his robe, eating sashimi with chopsticks.

I once read a quote by Hillary in Esquire (or Men’s Health, I can’t remember, and I can’t find the quote), giving advice to the modern man. One line in particular rang clear and elegant. He wrote, to paraphrase, “Everyone should indulge themselves at least once in the great luxury of excellent physical fitness.” This has stuck in my head for a long time. It was the first time I read physical fitness described in terms of something luxurious, rather than the normal hectoring “deny yourself pleasure to live forever.”

Should I make a tardy New Year’s resolution in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary? I will! That’s it, I’m getting in shape.

Except now that I think about it, it may have been Sir Ranulph Fiennes who thinks physical fitness is a luxury. Damn. But it was definately Hillary in the ryokan.

RIP mountain man.

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