Sir Ed's bach a place of solace

RETREAT: Sir Edmund Hillary at his bach overlooking Whites Beach in 1973.
RETREAT: Sir Edmund Hillary at his bach overlooking Whites Beach in 1973.

The late Sir Edmund Hillary escaped to his beachside bach on the rugged west coast after conquering Mt Everest in 1953, says mayor Bob Harvey.

Mr Harvey, who wrote about the world famous mountaineer in his book Westies, says Sir Edmund retreated to the family bach at Whites Beach, near Anawhata, when the media attention got too much.

It had always been his place of solace.

"Building the cottage at Whites Beach – he told me – was one of his greatest pleasures," Mr Harvey says.

Sir Edmund died on Friday morning in Auckland hospital, aged 88.

He and Mr Harvey formed a friendship when they made The Adventure World of Sir Edmund Hillary television series from 1972 to 1975.

Sir Edmund co-owned a large tract of land in the Karekare Valley with his climbing friend Mike Gill during the 1970s when he was also the patron of the local surf club despite never being a keen swimmer.

The west coast was important to him and he chose it as the backdrop to a photo shoot with Vanity Fair magazine.

He appeared in the publication pictured on the sand at Karekare with his Everest ice axe and a Sherpa’s scarf.

Mr Harvey was always impressed by Sir Edmund’s sense of humour as well as a love for the environment and people.

"He and his wife Lady June Hillary always made themselves available to all New Zealanders," he says.

"Whether it be opening a fair or attending the annual Nepalese Day in small halls.

"He is someone special, a father figure of the nation and a colossus in our lifetime."

Sir Edmund, the first man to reach Everest’s summit, has his handprints etched into the Waitakere City Walkway of Fame which is outside the council buildings on Henderson Valley Rd.

All council flags will fly at half mast this week as a sign of respect.

Western Leader