It was hot and humid inside Elizabeth Hawley's home in Katmandu, Nepal, where Sir Edmund Hillary and Utahn Jerry Mika were sitting down last April for tea with Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa and Apa Sherpa, just before their SuperSherpas team was scheduled to begin their expedition to summit Mount Everest.
Mika on Friday recalled fanning Hillary with a magazine to help keep the climbing legend cool. During the visit to the home of Hawley, a historian of Everest news, Mika asked if Hillary would grant the SuperSherpas team a videotaped interview.
Hillary agreed to the interview and it became his last in Nepal, where some say his biggest legacy lies in what he did to help the Sherpa community there in the years after gaining worldwide recognition for being the first, along with Nepal's Tenzing Norgay, to summit the planet's tallest peak at 29,035 feet.
Hillary, 88, died Friday at a hospital in New Zealand.
Mika, who lives in Draper, helped bring Lhakpa's and Apa's families from Nepal to Utah, which they now call home. Apa, who "broke up" upon hearing word of Hillary's death, gave a statement to Mika.
"I am very upset and I am so sad this is very sad news," Apa said Friday. "Sir Edmund did a lot of good things. He opened our eyes for Sherpa people. Without Sir Edmund, we would not have hospitals and schools (in his Himalayan community of Nepal)."
Lhakpa said he was saddened to hear of Hillary's passing.
"Because he helped a lot of people in Nepal and, now that he has passed away, who is going to help the Nepali and Sherpa people?" Lhakpa asked Mika. "We will always look at Mount Everest and see our Tenzing and Sir Edmund Hillary."
Mika was humbled in Hillary's presence in Nepal, where his impact can be seen in the schools and health clinics he helped build.
"You could just see his mark, what he's done," Mika said. "What a legacy for one man, to be able to accomplish that much."
Apa, Lhakpa and other expedition team members, all Sherpas, reached the top of the world on May 16 in Nepal. The twist for their expedition was that Westerners, like Utahns Mika and Roger Kehr, were the support crew for the much-lauded Sherpas, who are usually left in the shadows of publicity surrounding a team's successful climb.
Apa is the record holder for the total number of summits, 17, and Lhakpa is considered to have the fastest time in reaching the tip of Everest.
Other goals for the expedition last May included raising money for the Sherpa community in Nepal and producing a video documentary of the experience. To date, about $11,000 has been raised through SuperSherpas, which is helping fund four children at a boarding school in Katmandu.
Mika said the documentary is moving forward, with actor Scott Glenn volunteering to do narration for the project. The interview with Hillary will be included in the documentary.
More about SuperSherpas and ongoing fundraising efforts can be found at www.supersherpas.com.
In the meantime, Mika said Lhakpa and Apa's children are thriving in Utah schools, boasting 4.0 GPAs and taking advantage of their educational opportunities.
"I couldn't be more proud of these children," Mika said. One of Apa's children is the first from his village back in Nepal to learn how to play the piano.
In his statement to Mika, Apa praised Hillary for showing the world the first Everest route, which includes a section named the Hillary Step, located just below the summit."Sir Edmund will be greatly missed by all the people around the world," Apa said. "Our family is lighting a candle for this wonderful man. May his soul rest in peace in heaven."
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