updated 1/14/2008 12:12:42 PM ET 2008-01-14T17:12:42

New Zealand plans to pay tribute to Mount Everest conqueror Edmund Hillary by carrying on his humanitarian work in Nepal, Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday.

"Ed himself was very dismissive of formal memorials and he didn't want great statues," Clark told National Radio.

Hillary, the first person to climb the world's highest peak, died of heart failure last Friday at the age of 88.

He achieved the feat on May 29, 1953, with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. During a lifetime of adventuring in Antarctica and elsewhere, Hillary returned regularly to Tenzing's impoverished Himalayan nation of Nepal and his charity work helped build schools, hospitals, roads and water supplies and protect the country's environment.

"The best tribute is to carry on his (humanitarian) work," Clark said. "Our thinking would be very much in that direction." She did not elaborate.

Clark said planning was under way for a Jan. 22 state funeral for Hillary, and dignitaries and senior government representatives from many countries were expected to attend.

The first memorial service for Hillary took place Sunday at the Chapel of the Snows at the U.S. McMurdo Station research base on the northern Antarctic coast.

Nearly 70 people crammed into the small chapel, said Dean Peterson, New Zealand's representative in Antarctica.

"Everyone's got a connection because of his incredible greatness, even if they never met him," Dean said.

Another memorial service was to be held in the Nepalese capital, Katmandu, later Monday.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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