WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Sir Edmund Hillary, the unassuming beekeeper who conquered Mount Everest and was the first man to drive a tractor across Antarctica to win renown as one of the 20th century's greatest adventurers, has died, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Friday. He was 88.

His 1953 climb of Everest with Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay made him an international hero. Norgay died in 1986.

The gangling New Zealander devoted much of his life to aiding the mountain people of Nepal and took his fame in stride, preferring to be called "Ed" and considering himself just an ordinary beekeeper.

Hillary's life was marked by grand achievements, high adventure, discovery, excitement and by his personal humility. Humble to the point that he only admitted being the first man atop Everest long after the death of climbing companion Norgay.