George Lowe, the last surviving member of the Everest ’53 Team and Patron of King’s Himalayan Club, passed away last night (March 20th) aged 89. He had been suffering from a debilitating illness for a number of years. I am proud to have known him and to have worked with him when he was Chairman of the Himalayan Trust UK.
As well as being a man of action, a mountaineer chiselled out of Kiwi stone, George was a quiet, gentle man. During one of the King’s expeditions to the Everest region the group met up with George and Mary, his wife, at Namche Bazaar. Sitting in a lodge one of the team asked George if he had been here before. George answered quietly that he had. Later that same evening we managed to get hold of a copy of George’s film “The Conquest of Everest”. We sat in the lodge attached to the Sherpa Museum in Namche and watched it. The same boy, not having learnt his lesson the first time, turned to George and made a not too complimentary remark about the film, asking ‘who made it?’ George, again, quietly turned to him and said, “I did.” Having spent all of his non expedition life in education, he knew exactly how to handle young people.
George’s passing ends an era and he shall be sadly missed by his family and those who were close to him. However, George will not be forgotten. Having talked to him and listened to the story of Everest ’53, I am convinced that the expedition would not have succeeded without George spending eleven gruelling days cutting steps and preparing the route up the Lhotse Face to the South Col.
George could never be sure when he embarked on the expedition in 1953 that he would return. Just in case he didn’t, he wrote a letter to his sister every day. Collectively they give a detailed and insightful view of the expedition. It is a fitting tribute to him that those letters will be published in a book ‘Letters From Everest’ on the 28th May, the eve of the 60th Anniversary of that first ascent.