By Chris Brokensha

Jan 20, Reuters

AUCKLAND - Hundreds of people queued on Monday to pay their last respects to Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Mount Everest, whose body lay in state in New Zealand ahead of his funeral on Tuesday.

The flag draped coffin of the first man to climb the world's highest peak was carried into Auckland's cathedral by members of the New Zealand armed forces, as local Maori stood in light rain and delivered a traditional welcome.

Hillary, 88, who died after a heart attack on January 11, will lie in state for 24 hours to allow the public to farewell New Zealand's greatest hero -- a former beekeeper who became one of the 20th century's most admired adventurers and humanitarians.

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photo: Members of the public pass a portrait of Mount Everest hero Sir Edmund Hillary as the New Zealand climber lies in state at the Holy Trinity Cathedral January 21, 2008, before his state funeral on Tuesday. Hillary, along with Nepal's Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, made the first human climb of the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) mountain in 1953, a feat that shot Nepal into the limelight as a popular destination for trekking and mountain climbing (REUTERS/Nigel Marple)