George Lowe Dies: Mount Everest Climber Passes At 89

Mount Everest climber George Lowe died on Thursday at the age of 89. His wife, Mary, announced her husband’s death at a nursing home in Ripley, Central England.

Lowe was the last surviving member from the first team to successfully scale Mount Everest. The mountaineer, along with his friend Edmund Hillary, were the only members of the team from New Zealand.

The team was mostly comprised of Britons. They successfully climbed the world’s highest peak in 1953. George Lowe was part of the small team that established the final base camp just 1,000 feet below the peak of Mount Everest on May 28, 1953.

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal left the next day and reached the peak of the 29,035-foot mountain. Hillary met Lowe on his descent the next day. Lowe greeted him with soup and emergency oxygen. Travel writer Jan Morris stated of their relationship:

“He and Hillary climbed together through life, really. And when it came to the point near the summit, George had to play a subsidiary role. He climbed very high, he climbed to top camp and said goodbye to Hillary then helped him come down. He played a very important role.”

After George Lowe helped Hillary ascend Everest, almost 4,000 people followed. Despite the fact that more people summitted the mountain, the 1953 expedition stayed as one of the iconic moments of 20th century travel. Hillary and Lowe were nearly cut off the team by the expedition’s leader, John Hunt.

But Hunt changed his mind and allowed the New Zealanders’ to stay after his fellow team members urged him to do so. And The two were an asset to the team. Both Hillary and Lowe took charge through the icefall. Lowe used his skills to cut the route up the Lhotse Face — a daunting glacial wall — with an ice ax. He also helped cut the steps up to the final base camp.

Edmund Hillary thought the world of his friend, George Lowe. He often referred to his friend as a pillar of strength, adding, “Calm and competent, he rode through the storm like a great ocean liner. With his strong hand on the rope, I knew I couldn’t fall far.”

Even though Hillary, who passed away in 2008, got most of the media attention, Mary Lowe assured that her husband “didn’t mind a bit.” She added that her husband “never sought the limelight.” Mary added that Hillary was much the same, though “he had it thrust upon him.”

There was no word on what George Lowe’s cause of death was.