Mountaineer who helped Hillary conquer Everest dies

New Zealander George Lowe, the last surviving member of the expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary that conquered Everest in 1953, has died aged 89, reports said Friday.

Lowe died in a nursing home in the British town of Ripley on Wednesday, Radio New Zealand reported.

Hillary's son Peter told the broadcaster that Lowe's death represented the end of an era.

"George was one of the great climbers on the 1953 Everest expedition," he said.

"He was really one of my father's closest friends, kept him laughing all the time. They had a long friendship and a tremendous mountaineering partnership."

The expedition gained worldwide acclaim after Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of the world's highest mountain on May 29, 1953 -- a feat that had defied mountaineers for decades.

It was Lowe to whom Hillary addressed his famous remark after he and Norgay made their descent -- "Well, we knocked the bastard off."

Hillary died in 2008 aged 88 and Norgay in 1986 at 71.