Pioneer of Everest climb dies, aged 89

A Blackbrook adventurer who was the last surviving member of the team which first conquered Everest in 1953 has died, it has emerged.

George Lowe, 89, died at a nursing home in Ripley, Derbyshire at the end of March after a long illness.

The New Zealand-born mountaineer was part of the team which helped Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to become the first to reach the top of the world’s highest peak on May 29, 1953.

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.

Fellow mountaineer, Nigel Vardy of Belper, said: “The last of the John Hunt 1953 expedition has gone and with him a great mountaineering dynasty is over. I met George many times as we only lived a few miles apart and what I remember about him is that he was a tall, quiet, unassuming gentleman, who never boasted about his adventures, but gladly shared them.”

He continued: “In 1998 a group of friends joined by Raleigh International got together to plan an expedition into the Himalayas to carry out community work in the Khumbu valley. George gladly accepted our request to be the expeditions patron. We met George and his wife Mary many times, discussing the trip in their beautiful house in Blackbrook.

“Words pale into insignificance at the loss of this man. Everest 1953 will always be associated with Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, but don’t forget Lowe, who climbed as hard as any of them and to me was a true gentleman”

Over recent years, Mr Lowe had been working on putting together his memoirs featuring photographs from the climb. This will be published in May.

Mr Lowe also made a documentary about his experiences called The Conquest of Everest. It was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature.

He previously held a lecture in Belper, showing some of the ‘photographs that didn’t quite make the press’ from the Everest trip.

He also used to bring his Everest tent to the Blackbrook village fete and charge a small fee for getting inside to raise money for the local church.

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