The son of one of New Zealand's most legendary mountaineers has paid tribute to his father on social media following his death earlier this week.

Guy Cotter posted on Facebook on Friday afternoon announcing his father, Edmund (Ed) Cotter, had passed away peacefully during the night.

The "Mountain Man" died on October 19 at Edith Cavell Rest Home, aged 90.

Ed Cotter was the last surviving member of the 1951 New Zealand Himalayan expedition with Sir Edmund Hillary, which took place just two years before Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to ascend Mt Everest.

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Cotter was one of four men, along with Hillary, George Lowe and Earle Riddiford, who took part in the expedition.

In preparation for the Himalayan expedition, the four pioneering climbers took on Mt Elie de Beaumont, at the head of the Tasman glacier, by a route so difficult it wasn't emulated for 30 years.

With Nepal's borders closed, the party climbed in the Indian Garhwal region of the ranges, their ultimate goal the unclimbed Mukut Parbat (7242m).

Cotter, Riddiford and Sherpa Pasang were the only two to make the summit.

When speaking about the expedition to the Herald in 2008, Cotter said he had been influenced by Pasang's remark - "Long way come - summit two hours.".

Awaiting them on their return to the foothills town of Ranikhet was an invitation for two of the Kiwis to join a British Everest reconnaissance expedition, led by Eric Shipton, exploring the just-opened Nepali south side.

This expedition was the precursor to the successful Mt Everest summit attempt two years later.

George Lowe, left, and Ed Cotter look over photos from the 1951 climbing expedition to Nepal with Ed Hillary. Photo / Simon Baker
George Lowe, left, and Ed Cotter look over photos from the 1951 climbing expedition to Nepal with Ed Hillary. Photo / Simon Baker

The British invitation created an obvious problem: four into two won't go. The Brits wanted only two Kiwis and didn't specify who.

"It became quite an evening of egos," Cotter had recalled. "Everyone claimed that they should go."

Cotter suggested that they all just turn up, reasoning that the worst that could happen would be that one or two would be sent back but it would still be an adventure to go into a country that had never been open.

Ultimately they conceded that Hillary should go and he was joined by Riddiford.

Cotter would have liked to have gone for the adventure; "To me the mountains are not a competition. The mountains are just where you want to be," he said.

Guy Cotter, who has taken after his father and is director of mountaineering company Adventure Consultants, told Fairfax his father was always adventurous.

"From when he was quite young, he used to go tramping in the hills in and around Arthur's Pass and other Canterbury mountain regions, like the Arrowsmiths.

"His father was also a mountaineer, so that got him into it."

George Lowe, Ed Hillary, Ed Cotter and Earle Riddiford. Photo / Supplied
George Lowe, Ed Hillary, Ed Cotter and Earle Riddiford. Photo / Supplied

Ed Cotter remained an active climber for many years, and was part of a team that completed first ascents of mountains across South America.

"That was the sort of thing he loved doing, the lightness and freedom of being [part of] a small group in new mountains and new terrain," Guy Cotter said in the Stuff article.

"It was really the heyday of semi-technical mountain exploration."

Cotter also joined his son on several expeditions to Nepal.

"He came with us to Everest Base camp one time when he was 70-years-old, and one time he walked in with us when he was 80," Guy Cotter told Stuff.

"He just loved the intensity of everything that was going on, it was light years away from the type of expeditions they were doing back in the early days."

Beyond his adventurous life, Cotter was also a dearly loved father, father-in-law, grandad, friend, companion and brother.

Friends and family have paid tribute to him online, calling him "a legend", "an amazing guy", "an inspiration", a "talented, generous and tolerant man", and "one of the stellar men of the climbing fraternity".

Guy Cotter said, "Ed certainly connected with a huge number of people of all ages and all walks of life. His legacy is that so many people felt a connection with him and held him in their hearts.".

A service to celebrate Ed's life will be held at The McFaddens Centre in Christchurch on Wednesday, at 1pm.