22 Mar 2013

Climber who helped Hillary conquer Everest dies

5:05 pm on 22 March 2013

A climber who supported Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay when they scaled Mount Everest in 1953 has died.

New Zealander George Lowe died at a British resthome in Ripley on Wednesday. He was 89.

His memoirs were due to be published in a few weeks' time on the 60th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Everest.

Mr Lowe climbed most of the mountain in Nepal with Sir Edmund and Mr Norgay and was involved in planning the final ascent.

He produced a documentary on the climb, and it was to him that Sir Edmund said: "Well, we knocked the bastard off".

New Zealand Alpine Club president Stuart Gray says the next generation has a lot to learn from the climbers of George Lowe's era.

Mr Gray says George Lowe was a man of great strength and determination who helped establish New Zealand in the world of mountaineering.

Mary Lowe told Radio New Zealand in 2008 that the expedition was a challenge for her husband.

"I think he regards himself as a very lucky lad - that he was involved in exploration and expeditioning - and he had a marvellous time.

"He had to give up his teaching job in New Zealand in order to go on these expeditions, but I think it changed his life, as it did all of the members of the expedition."

Sir Edmund's son, Peter Hillary, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Friday George Lowe's death marks the end of an era in mountaineering.

"George was one of the great climbers on the 1953 Everest expedition. He was really one of my father's closest friends, kept him laughing all the time. They had a long friendship and a tremendous mountaineering partnership."

Mr Hillary said Mr Lowe made a significant contribution to education about mountaineering in New Zealand and the Himalayas.

George Lowe was a trustee of the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust at the time of his death.