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Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealand beekeeper and mountaineer, was in Chicago last week preparing for another ascent. No, Sir Edmund is not about to climb Chicago's highest peak, the Prudential Building (alt.: 912 feet with TV tower). The mountain is in Nepal but the money ($200,000) is in Chicago, where a children's encyclopedia is financing the expedition that Hillary will lead into the Himalayas next September.
The chief purpose of the expedition is to collect facts on man's ability to adjust himself to extreme altitudes. Half of the party of 14 will spend nine months at 18,000 to 20,000 feet, and data on pulse and breathing rates and body temperature will be telemetered back to a base camp. As a final test, the climbers will tackle Mount Makalu (alt.: 27,790 feet) without oxygen kits. Mount Makalu has been climbed only once, by a French party using oxygen in 1955, and it is 1,000 feet higher, Hillary says, than the highest peak climbed thus far without oxygen.
While his mountaineers are cheerfully gasping for science, Sir Edmund expects them also to keep an eye out for Abominable Snowmen. Instead of tracking the hairy creatures, as others apparently have done, Hillary's men will station themselves at crucial outposts and hope a Snowman drops by. If one shows up, it will be bagged and anesthetized with a gun that shoots a hypodermic syringe.
But Sir Edmund is doubtful that the Snowman will turn out to be a humanoid. "I'm more inclined," he says, "to the view that it's some bear or a monkey that has somehow learned to walk on its back legs. It's also possible that the tracks have been made by one of the Sherpa holy men. I've really got nothing to substantiate my belief. One just has a natural skepticism of the unusual thing turning up."
Sir Edmund's party—six Americans, five New Zealanders and three Britons—is made up of scientists and climbers. "People tend to pick themselves," he says when asked how the members of the expedition were chosen. "The man has to have done some high-class climbing over a number of years. He would have had to pioneer some new routes, which I think is the mark of a great climber. We don't want somebody that will be brilliant for a while and then poop out."
Sir Edmund still likes to think of himself as an amateur. "I regard climbing very much as a hobby," he says. "Once one adopts a professional approach to these things, a lot of the pleasure and enjoyment goes out of it. The ideal is to be the amateur in heart and the professional in skill. We climb mountains because we damn well enjoy it."
The Ins and The Outs
Hank Aaron is in. Ernie Banks is out. Paul Brown is in. Amos Alonzo Stagg is out. Jimmy Brown is in. Johnny Unitas is out. Avery Brundage is in. James D. Norris is out. Bill Russell is out. Wilt Chamberlain is in, but spelled Chamberlin. What the ins are in and the outs are out of is International Celebrity Register, a weighty (five pounds) but buoyantly written book ( George Weiss, for instance, is a man "whose face seems to run into his body without time for a neck"), which sells for $26.
Register's editor-in-chief is Cleveland Amory (in), who is both buoyant (spirit) and weighty (flesh) and owns a Van Cliburn (in) hairdo. Register's publisher is Earl Blackwell (out), who is courtly, has an accent as soft as a magnolia blossom and, as a boy, caddied for Bobby Jones (in). Amory's boyhood idol was Barry Wood (out). "He spoke to me my first day at Milton Academy when he was a top classman," says Amory with awe. Of the 2,240 biographies in Register, some 10% are of sports celebrities.
"A celebrity," says Amory, "is someone who was made by news and now makes news."