George Lowe, the last surviving member of the 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition, led by John Hunt and summited by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, has died at the age of 89. He passed away at a nursing home in Ripley, Derbyshire on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, after a long illness.
Lowe was born in Hastings, New Zealand, January of 1924. Before he started work as a teacher, Lowe spent holidays climbing in the Southern Alps, and this is where he met Sir Edmund Hillary. George Lowe had many incredible accomplishments in the world of mountaineering. He was a member of the first New Zealand expedition in the Himalayas back in 1951 along with Hillary, and a first ascent of 7,242-meter Mukut Parbat in Garhwal, India was made on this trip.
A year after the first ascent of Mukut Parbat, Lowe went on an expedition to Nepal to Cho Oyu with British Himalayan mountaineer Eric Shipton and Sir Edmund Hillary to explore the physiology and oxygen flow rates in the region around Everest.
Lowe helped prepare the route from the head of the Western Cwm up the Lhotse Face towards the South Col close to 8,000 meters altitude on the 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition. He carried heavy loads along with Alfred Gregory and Sherpa Ang Nyima as support for Hillary and Tenzing’s Mount Everest summit attempt. On May 29, 1953 Hillary and Tenzing successfully summited Mount Everest. Lowe directed the Oscar-nominated documentary film, “The Conquest of Everest” during the expedition.
During an unsuccessful expedition to Makalu, Lowe met English explorer Vivian Fuchs. Fuchs invited Lowe to become a New Zealand representative on the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition which made the first successful overland crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole while carrying out extensive surveying of the continent between 1955 and 1958.
Lowe went on several more expeditions after the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic venture that included Greenland, Greece, Ethiopia and the Pamirs.
Along with Sir Edmund Hillary, George Lowe helped establish the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust UK, a charity to assist development and improve infrastructure for the Sherpa people living in the Himalayas.
As stated by family friend and historian Dr. Huw Lewis-Jones, “George Lowe was involved in two of the most important explorations of the 20th 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.”
A book that Lewis-Jones worked on with Lowe that will be memoirs and photographs from the Mount Everest climb will be published in May 2013, the 60th anniversary of the extraordinary expedition.