Everest pioneer George Lowe dies aged 89

 

The last surviving member of the team which first conquered Everest in 1953 has died at the age of 89.

George Lowe died at a nursing home in Ripley, Derbyshire, on Wednesday night after a long-term illness, with his wife Mary by his side.

Mr Lowe, who was born in New Zealand, was part of the team that helped Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgary to become the first to reach the top of the world's highest peak on May 29 1953.

As Sir Edmund, a close friend and fellow New Zealander, descended Mount Everest the next day, he greeted Mr Lowe with: "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off."

Following his Everest climb, Mr Lowe went on to take part in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1957-58, which made the first successful overland crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole.

He later made expeditions to Greenland, Greece and Ethiopia, before settling in England and becoming an Inspector of Schools with the Department of Education and Sciences before retiring in 1984.

Family friend and historian Dr Huw Lewis-Jones has paid tribute to a "gentle soul and fine climber" who shunned the limelight.

Dr Lewis-Jones, a former curator at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge who first met Mr Lowe in 2005, said: "George is a hero of mine. I don't often use that word but then it is not very often that you get to meet one."

Born in Hastings, New Zealand, Mr Lowe became a school teacher and spent his holidays climbing in the Southern Alps, where he met Sir Edmund.

The pair became friends and in 1951 were members of the first New Zealand expedition to the Himalayas. They went on to join the British Everest expedition led by British Army Colonel John Hunt and to conquer the 29,028 feet mountain in 1953, days before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr Lowe, a keen photographer, made a documentary about the climb called The Conquest Of Everest. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

He also made a film called Antarctic Crossing after taking part in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1957-58, which made the first successful overland crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole.

Mr Lowe is survived by wife Mary and three sons from his first marriage to Lord Hunt's daughter Susan.

Over the last few years, Dr Lewis-Jones, who runs a publishing company with his wife Kari, has been working with Mr Lowe and his family to put together his memoirs and photographs from the climb so that they can be published for the first time.

The Conquest Of Everest: Original Photographs From The Legendary First Ascent will be published in May along with Letters From Everest.

Paying tribute to Mr Lowe last night, Dr Lewis-Jones said: "Lowe was a brilliant, kind fellow who never sought the limelight.

"An unsung hero, if you like, and sixty years on from Everest his achievements deserve wider recognition.

"It has been an honour to have spent the last few years working with George's family on his memoirs and photographs.

"He was a gentle soul, a gentleman, generous with his time and modest despite all his success.

"He was involved in two of the most important explorations of the twentieth century - Everest, and the first crossing of Antarctica - yet remained a humble, happy man right to the end. That's an inspirational lesson to us all. "

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW London

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...

Recruitment Genius: Bathroom Showroom Customer Service / Sales Assistant

£14560 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Even though their premises have...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Manager

£44000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Marketing company based in cent...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence