A tribute tour
The incomparable Sir Edmund Hillary passed away in January 2008. The funeral of this country’s most admired citizen was watched by hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders. But many Kiwis, especially those who were close to Sir Ed wanted to pay their personal respects.
Dr Grant Davidson, who was chief executive of the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre, came up with the idea of a tribute memorial tour, which he called Summits for Ed. Sir Ed had been patron and mentor to the outdoor pursuits centre, which he intended as his legacy to the people of New Zealand. From south to north, in towns and cities across the country, ordinary New Zealanders were given an opportunity to pay tribute to Sir Ed. His honour was not to be a bronze statue or a fanfare of trumpets but by climbing a local summit and giving, in the tradition of mountaineers, a rock for a memorial cairn.
Morrison McDougall was appointed as project manager of the tour that started in Bluff, worked its way up through 36 towns in every region of New Zealand and finally concluded at Cape Reinga in the Far North. More than 10,000 people joined the tribute tour at the various pre-selected summits and a truckload of rocks and pebbles, many of them containing messages and collected from a favourite place, beach, river or hillside, were collected along the way.
New Zealanders were able to participate in a very special tribute tour for a very special New Zealander, in a way that Sir Ed would have thoroughly approved. Today the cairn of rocks and stones stands at the entranceway to the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre at Tongariro.