Celebrations in Nepal to mark 70 years since Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest

It has been 70 years since Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

And since Sir Edmund, in his words, "knocked the bastard off" more than 6000 others have climbed the world's highest peak amid concerns tourism and climate change are ruining the destination.

But he and Norgay are still revered. In fact, today is Everest Day in Nepal, marking the 70th anniversary of a history-making feat of two legendary climbers and their legacy.

When then-33-year-old beekeeper Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest on May 29 1953 it was a step into the unknown.

Sir Ed customarily downplayed the achievement despite one heartstopping fall down a crevasse.

Sir Ed is described as a typical, humble Kiwi bloke by patron of the Himalayan Trust, Helen Clark, who is in Nepal for the celebrations. 

"Having done Everest which was incredible, he came back and worked with the Sherpa communities who'd helped him and his legacy today is far better - health, education opportunity, clean water to the villages and so much else," Clark told Newshub. 

Both families will forever be entwined. Sons Sir Peter and Jamling today continued the work of Sir Ed's Himalayan Trust in Kumjun Village, asking for donations for the Fiver For Ed campaign, opening a visitor centre and the Tenzing Heritage Centre.

"What they used that accomplishment to achieve all through the rest of their life was really something to be proud of and that's why we're here celebrating 70 years on," Sir Edmund's grandson Alexander Hillary said. 

There's also a sad legacy: 318 people have died on Everest over the past century and nowadays people pay tens of thousand dollars, even up to $300,000 to join the queue to the top.

Sherpa Kami Rati just did it for a record 28th time, he said, to promote tourism in Nepal. 

Adventure Tourism operator Guy Cotter has just come down from the mountain himself, after returning to a country he had to abandon because of COVID-19.

"I don't think it takes a lot from what was done in 1953 and I think everybody who goes to climb Everest is trying to find a little bit of that same adventure for themselves," Cotter said. 

But it's not just the nature of the ascent that's changing, the snow and ice is melting fast too. 

Most adults grew up seeing images of the mountain covered in snow but these days large parts of it look like a rock climb. It's a reality few would have envisaged 70 years ago.