On the same day – March 20, 2013 – an important background figure in the early hunt for Bigfoot died (see Warren Thompson’s obituary), another quiet man who was involved in the even earlier search for Yeti died.
George Lowe, the last surviving climber from the team that made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, has died. He was 89. Lowe passed away on Wednesday at a central English nursing home in Ripley, after an illness.
Born on January 15, 1924, in Hastings, New Zealand, Lowe spent holidays climbing in the Southern Alps in New Zealand. That is where he would meet his fellow-New Zealander climber Edmund Hillary (five years older), who became his life-long friend. Lowe would become a schoolmaster to Hillary’s beekeeper.
George Lowe is additionally and significantly part of the history of Abominable Snowmen knowledge.
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. It will be recalled that in 1951, Eric Shipton, along with Mike Ward, came across the now famous Yeti tracks in the Himalayas. The photographs they take – and the casts made from the images in the UK – give the Abominable Snowman an iconic image that will live on forever.
The following year, Lowe 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. It was on this expedition, in 1952, that Lowe and Hillary found a tuft of black hair at an altitude of 19,000 feet. It was a swatch of hair that the Sherpas swore was Yeti hair — and immediately threw away in fear. Concurrently, a Swiss expedition found Yeti tracks.
In 1953, Lowe was a member of the 1953 British Mount Everest Expedition led by John Hunt. It was on that trek that Yeti tracks were found by Hillary in the Barun Khola range. Was Lowe there too?
In the early 1960s, Lowe and Hunt joined on an expedition to the Pamirs with a British-Russian team. Were they searching for the “Snowmen,” which was a goal of several efforts funded by the USSR at the time?
In 1960 Lowe was a member of Hillary’s World Book Abominable Snowman (Yeti) Expedition to Rowaling, Nepal.
George Lowe (right) with Sir Edmund Hillary (left) and Governor-General Sir Willoughby Norrie at Government House, Wellington, New Zealand, August 20, 1953.
Lowe’s more public history will be recalled with his involvement of the climbing of Mount Everest.
One of two New Zealanders on the 1953 British expedition, Lowe helped establish the final camp 1,000 feet below the mountain’s summit on May 28, 1953. The next day, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the peak.
As Hillary descended the next day, he told Lowe: “Well, George, we knocked the bastard off.” Source: AP
While Hillary’s success in the climb got him a knighthood and much fame, Lowe’s supportive role tended to keep him in the shadows (outside of mountaineering circles).
Almost 4,000 people have now successfully climbed Everest, according to the Nepal Mountaineering Association, but that 1953 expedition remains one of the iconic moments of 20th-century adventure.
Lowe directed a film of the expedition, The Conquest of Everest. Lowe kept climbing mountains all over the world, also made The Crossing of Antarctica, a movie about a trans-Antarctic expedition later in the 1950s.
George Lowe (shown above, late in life) is survived by his second wife Mary, and by three sons from his first marriage to mountaineer John Hunt’s daughter Susan: Gavin, Bruce and Matthew.