Siliguri, Jan 12 : Ninety-one year old Rabindra Nath Mitra has reminisced his only meeting with Sir Edmund Hillary after his conquest of Mount Everest with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
Residing in Silguri, Mitra faintly recounts the small but memorable encounter he had with Hillary just seven days before the highest peak on earth was first scaled.
"I saw Hillary only in Raj Bhavan. After the conquest of Everest, they came and stayed in Raj Bhavan. I shook hands and talked to him," said Mitra.
Mitra claims that he was the one who had persuaded Norgay to accept the offer made by British Colonel Hunt's team to climb Mount Everest and give up a commitment made to the Swiss team.
He said that he presented the Indian tricolour that Norgay planted atop Mount Everest.
Sir Edmund Hillary, who along with Nepalese Norgay became the first to conquer Mount Everest, died of heart attack on Friday.
Hillary, together with Norgay, on May 29, 1953 became the first to scale the 29,028 foot summit of Mount Everest.
He was New Zealand's best-known son, revered in his native country, and the picture of his craggy face is on the New Zealand five-dollar note.
The second pairing in the 14-man party to attempt the summit, Hillary and Norgay set off on a cloudless morning after spending a night at high altitude on the south peak of the infamous South Col.
Encumbered by clothing and oxygen equipment that modern climbers would deem museum pieces, they inched ahead until they reached the most formidable problem on the final ridge, a 40 foot rock now known as the Hillary step.
Hillary "jammed" his way up a narrow crack running vertically up the rock using all his strength and determination. He then hauled Norgay up and they moved on with little left to impede them.
At 11.30 a.m. they became the first to step onto the summit of the highest mountain on earth. For years neither would say who stepped foot on the summit first, but after Norgay 's death, Hillary revealed it was him.
In 1985, Hillary was appointed New Zealand Ambassador to India, Nepal andangladesh.
His climbing partner Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer, died in 1986.