George Lowe (mountaineer)

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Wallace George Lowe, CNZM, OBE (15 January 1924 – 20 March 2013),[1] known as George Lowe, was a New Zealand-born mountaineer, explorer, film director and educator. He was the last surviving member of the 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition, during which his friend Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first known people to summit the world's highest peak.

Early life and expeditions

Born in Hastings, New Zealand,[2] George Lowe was educated at Hastings High School and Wellington Teachers College[3] before starting work as a teacher. He spent holidays climbing in the Southern Alps, where he met fellow-New Zealander Edmund Hillary.[2]

In 1951, along with Hillary, Lowe was a member of the first New Zealand expedition to the Himalayas, including a first ascent of 7,242m Mukut Parbat in Garhwal, India. The following year, he went to Nepal as a member of an expedition to Cho Oyu aiming to explore physiology and oxygen flow rates. With Eric Shipton, Lowe and Hillary explored the region around Everest.,[2]

Everest and subsequent expeditions

In 1953 Lowe was a member of the 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition led by John Hunt. During the expedition, Lowe helped prepare the route from the head of the Western Cwm up the Lhotse Face towards the South Col at close to 8,000m altitude.[4] On 28 May Lowe, Alfred Gregory and Sherpa Ang Nyima, all carrying heavy loads, set out with Hillary and Tenzing as the support party for their summit attempt. Camp IX was established at 8,500m, then Lowe, Gregory and Ang Nyima descended to the South Col.[4] The following day, 29 May, Hillary and Tenzing successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest.

During their descent to the South Col, the two men were met by Lowe. It was then that Hillary delivered his immortal summary of their achievement: "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off."[5] Lowe also directed a documentary film during the expedition, entitled The Conquest of Everest[6] that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[7]

George Lowe (right) with Sir Edmund Hillary (left) and Governor-General Sir Willoughby Norrie at Government House, Wellington, 20 August 1953.

In 1954 he again joined Hillary, on an unsuccessful New Zealand expedition to Makalu. However, during this trip Lowe met Vivian Fuchs, who invited him to become a New Zealand representative on the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition which, between 1955 and 1958, not only traversed Antarctica, becoming the first to reach the South Pole by land since Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912, but also carried out extensive surveying of the continent. At the Pole, he was met by Hillary, who had led a route-finding party from the other direction. Lowe worked on the film of the expedition: The Crossing Of Antarctica.[8]

In 1960 he was a member of the Silver Hut Physiological Expedition in the Everest area and the "Yeti Expedition" to Rowaling. During that decade he went on expeditions with the John Hunt Exploration Group for young people to Greenland, Greece and Ethiopia. He also joined Hunt on an expedition to the Pamirs with a British-Russian team.[2]

Trusteeship

In 1989, he was one of the founders of the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust UK, a charity set up to assist development and improve infrastructure for the Sherpa people living in the Himalayas. Lowe was elected as the first chairman, serving from 1989 to 2003. He continued as a Trustee until 2008, when he succeeded Sir Chris Bonington as Patron.[2]

Personal life

Settling in England, in 1962 he married the Honourable Susan Hunt, daughter of Lord Hunt, with whom he had three sons. He married a second time, to Mary who was also a former teacher and schools inspector.[9] He had himself become an Inspector of Schools for the Department of Education and Science, retiring from this post in 1984.[10] His memoirs of the climb are to be published in 2013, the sixtieth anniversary of this remarkable expedition.[11]

Death

Lowe died 20 March 2013 at a nursing home in Ripley, Derbyshire, England, after an illness. He was 89.[12]

References

  1. ^ Everest ’53 veteran George Lowe passes away
  2. ^ a b c d e Himalayan Trust UK website – George Lowe profile
  3. ^ Royal Geographical Society Imaging Everest
  4. ^ a b The Times Everest Colour Supplement
  5. ^ Himalayan Trust UK website – Edmund Hillary profile
  6. ^ IMDb – The Conquest Of Everest
  7. ^ "NY Times: The Conquest of Everest". NY Times. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  8. ^ IMDb – The Crossing Of Antarctica
  9. ^ Himalayan Trust UK website – Mary Lowe profile
  10. ^ Emma Sword "Everest pioneer George Lowe dies aged 89", The Independent, 22 March 2013
  11. ^ The Conquest of Everest
  12. ^ "EVEREST MOUNTAINEER GEORGE LOWE DIES AT 89". AP. Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 

Further reading

External links

  • George Lowe on IMDb
  • Media related to George Lowe (mountaineer) at Wikimedia Commons
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