Hunt, conqueror of Everest, dies

LORD HUNT, the man who led the first team to conquer Everest, has died aged 88. His daughter, Sally Nesbitt, announced yesterday that the peer, who had been ill for a short time, died peacefully at home in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on Saturday night.

The "coronation" expedition to Everest, which reached the summit on 29 May 1953, was the ninth from Britain to either survey or attempt the mountain.

Edmund Hillary, of New Zealand, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay planted the British and Nepalese flags on the summit, but the expedition was headed by John Hunt, the British brigadier, who became Baron Hunt in 1966.

Yesterday, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh spoke of their sadness at the news of his death. A statement from Buckingham Palace said: "The conquest of Everest was an early landmark of the Queen's reign and Lord Hunt brought the same spirit of adventure and leadership to many other areas of national life. As the first director of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, he particularly helped and encouraged young people in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth."

The son of an Army captain, Lord Hunt was educated at Marlborough College and at Sandhurst. In 1930, he had earned his first commission to the King's Royal Rifle Corps and he was soon seconded to the Indian police, serving there between 1934 and 1935 and then again in 1938 to 1940, when he eventually received the Indian Police Medal.

He retired from the Army in the 1950s, taking on the first directorship of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme and sitting on many high-profile advisory panels and boards, particularly those concerned with the environment, with India and with penal law. He went on to become first chairman of the Parole Board and headed successive British government relief missions to Nigeria during the civil war between 1968 and 1970. He was also a personal adviser to the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, during the period of this war.

In 1981, Lord Hunt joined the Social Democratic Party, and he went on to join the Social and Liberal Democrats.

He wrote two published accounts of his ascent of Everest. One written with the former athlete Chris Brasher was entitled Our Everest Adventure and appeared in 1954.

Lord Hunt's meticulous planning is often cited as the reason for the success of the 1953 expedition to reach the 29,028ft summit.

Talking of the assault in recent years he said: "We were not ready for worldwide media exploitation. It only came to us as we made our way back to Kathmandu. The local reporters put poor Tenzing under huge pressure to say that he was first up."

Acknowledging Lord Hunt's inspirational skills, Mr Brasher yesterday recalled that whenever anyone worked with him, they would be overcome by a feeling that "you cannot let this great man down".

Mr Brasher, who also co-wrote The Red Snows with Lord Hunt, said: "He was an amazing leader of men and, thinking back on it, he was probably one of the best men that I have come across.

"He would take great care of everybody with him and he would listen and watch to make sure that everyone was okay."

The adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes said he was one of many explorers inspired by the achievements Lord Hunt notched up in the course of a "great life".

"He was a very, very great man, one of the great mountain-climbers and helpers of youth wanting to head in the same direction of our time," he said. "I was a nine-year-old schoolboy listening with wide eyes when he led this incredible expedition which put Hillary and Tenzing on Everest.

"I was very impressed by it, one of the greatest British, or I should say Commonwealth, expeditions ever mounted."

George Lowe, one of the New Zealanders who were with Lord Hunt on the Everest expedition, described him as an "extraordinary man and an amazing leader". Another expedition member, Emlyn Jones, said he generated "a great loyalty" among the team.

Lord Hunt leaves a widow, former tennis player Joy Mowbray-Green, and four daughters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral