Key Points:

Kiwi mountaineering legend Sir Edmund Hillary has made his last journey.

The ashes of the man who conquered the world's highest mountain, Mt Everest, in 1953, were scattered today from the youth sail training ship, Spirit of New Zealand on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf by his wife, Lady Hillary and children Peter and Sarah.

In a private ceremony the ashes were scattered from a new steel gangway designed and built for the ceremony and named the Hillary Step.

The final major hurdle in the climb to the top of the 8848 metre Mt Everest has become known as the Hillary Step, about 88 metres below the summit.

"Mindful of the honour being given to the ship, we designed the Hillary Step - a gangplank with five steps leading down to a small platform only about a hand's breadth above the water," said John Lister, the chief executive of the Spirit of Adventure Trust.

The Hillary Step was to become a permanent part of the ship and would be particularly useful when disabled children were on a training voyage, allowing them to get out of the water after a swim instead of climbing up the usual cargo nets, Mr Lister said.

Media were not informed of the ceremony as the family requested privacy and only about 30 guests were on the ship, including Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Sir Edmund died on January 11, aged 88. He was cremated in Auckland after a state funeral on January 22.

Sir Edmund said he never wanted to end his days at the bottom of a crevass on a mountain.

In his book View From the Summit, published nearly 10 years ago, Sir Edmund said he had "been down too many of them for that to have much appeal".

He said he wanted to die peacefully and would "like my ashes spread on the beautiful waters of Auckland's Hauraki Gulf to be washed gently ashore maybe on the many pleasant beaches near the place where I was born.

"Then the full circle of my life will be complete."