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SALT LAKE CITY — The son of the man known for making the first-ever ascent to the top of Mount Everest was in Utah Monday, helping one of the state's own climbing legends.
Utah's own Apa Sherpa holds the world record for the number of climbs he's made to the top of Everest, and he now uses his fame to benefit school children back in Nepal.
Peter Hilary, whose father is Sir Edmund Hilary, shares an interest with Apa Sherpa in helping children in Nepal get an education — something that doesn't come easily out there.
Thame is a small town near Mount Everest. Its school was one of many built by Sir Edmund Hilary, who along with Tenzig Norgay made that famous first trip to the top of Everest in 1953. The journey paved the way for so many others, including Apa Sherpa, who's made that Everest climb 21 times.
Peter Hillary is the son of the late adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary, who, along with Tenzing Norgay, completed the first successful ascent of Mount Everest. When Peter Hillary summited Everest in 1990, he and his father were the first father/son duo to achieve the feat. Hillary has achieved two summits of Everest, an 84-day trek across Antarctica to the South Pole, and an expedition guiding astronaut Neil Armstrong to land a small aircraft at the North Pole.
"Eventually, (Sir Edmund Hilary) struck up some very close friendships with the Sherpa people. He realized they had very little," Peter Hillary explained.
The Thame school is where Apa Sherpa got his humble beginnings. "We have a very poor education," he said. "So now my goal is to help with the children's educations."
Even now, students at Thame can only get a fifth-grade education. Continuing beyond that means walking three hours away, five days a week — something Apa Sherpa did himself as a child.
Apa Sherpa and Peter Hilary actually made their first ascent on Mount Everest together, back in 1990. Now, the old friends have come together in Salt Lake City to raise money to help the students in Thame.
"I think it's just marvelous that Apa Sherpa wants to come back, as someone who was a recipient of some of these services, and make them even better with his own foundation," Peter Hilary said.
If Apa Sherpa gets his way, kids will be able to attend the Thame school through the seventh grade. That's still far from where he'd like it to be, but it's a start.
"It shows what an incredible, determined man he is," Peter Hilary said.
On Friday, Peter Hilary will speak at a benefit dinner and auction for the Apa Sherpa Foundation. For details on the event, visit www.apasherpafoundation.org.