George Lowe CNZM OBE – The last of ’53…

George-Lowe-B+W

It is with great sadness that the news of Georges death was announced.  My thoughts go to his wife Mary and to all the family.  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 in Derbyshire, and what I remember about him is a tall, quiet, unassuming gentleman, who never boasted about his adventures, but gladly shared them…

I wont go into George’s huge achievements here as the web is full of formal obituaries, but what I would like to share are the moments he gladly shared with the people around him…

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, Derbyshire.  His support of the trip was well received, but for me it wasn’t to be as I was airlifted off Mt. McKinley only a few months before and was hospital bound when everyone left.  After the expedition, George and Mary attended the review and gave me a lift home in their camper as it was the only vehicle big enough to get me and my wheelchair in – frostbite and all..!

A little later, George held a lecture, showing a huge amount of the ‘photographs that didn’t quite make the press’ in Belper.  Before us stood a man, armed with dozens of cardboard edged Kodachrome colour slides which lit up like day.  He still had his camera in its leather case and talked with beautiful ease and honesty about the climb.  It was one of the most touching lectures I have ever had the privilege to attend.

George-Lowe-Everest

George and Mary decided to move house and needed to sell a few pieces of furniture as their new home was smaller.  I happened to call in and was shown a piece of mountaineering history – freeze dried summit rations from the 1953 expedition.  George had one packet untouched and one opened.  They were wrapped in cellophane, with a gummed label stating that they were summit rations for the ‘John Hunt Mount Everest Expedition 1953’.  Their value was quoted as ‘more than all your possessions and they should be put in a vault’, but George didn’t want that.  He wanted people to see them and imagine the climb and its epic effort.  Blimey, he used to bring his Everest tent to the village fete and charge a small fee for getting inside to raise money for the local Church..!  This is the kind of man we have lost…

I was contacted after George’s death by an old school friend, who’s parents now live in what was his Blackbrook home.  The garden is filled with plants from around the world, which they are struggling to identify.  George was a schoolteacher and worked in South America at some point, so perhaps they reminded him of there?  The garden was huge and filled to the brim, so I think there’s some work to hard be done..!

I did a couple of interviews with the BBC and ITV about Geroge…

There is so much more that I could say, but 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…

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