In his final months Sir Edmund Hillary spent much of his time in bed, watching Swiss superstar Roger Federer play tennis and occasionally getting depressed, but never worrying about dying.

In a revealing final interview in next week's NZ Listener, Sir Edmund speaks candidly to Maggie Barry about his family, the momentous climb to the top of Everest in 1953, depression, and his enduring love for Lady June Hillary and their extended family.

"I don't spend a lot of time thinking about dying, but I like to think that I've - if it did occur - that I would die peacefully and not make too much of a fuss about it."

He told Barry, who interviewed him before he became increasingly ill last year, that he enjoyed watching TV and reminiscing about some of his childhood heroes, such as Shackleton, whom he first read about in books borrowed from his local library.

"Shackleton was a man who - it's probably arrogant to say it - but he was a little bit like me. He undertook incredible dangers and carried on over the sea and over the ice and all the rest of it. He was a remarkable man."

He tells the Listener of a particular valley in Antarctica that he had always hoped to traverse. And perhaps gives the best indication that he would hate how New Zealanders are describing him since his death.

"I hate being called an icon. I just don't like it. That's all there is to it."

* Maggie Barry's interview with Sir Edmund Hillary appears in the Listener published today.