Lowe stories great – but biographer wants more
The England-based biographer of Hawke’s Bay’s most famous mountaineer, George Lowe, is rapt with the number of people who contacted him after he advertised in Hawke’s Bay Today last month, but is keen to hear from more.
Biographer Eddie Bissell wants more information on mountaineer George Lowe, CNZM OBE, from family, friends, former school friends, colleagues in the teaching profession, fellow trampers and climbers.
England-based Mr Bissell said there was no set publication date for the biography.
He was thrilled with the response to an advertisement last month but was keen to hear from more people soon.
In a recent e-mail to Hawke’s Bay Today, Mr Bissell praised an article by reporter Doug Laing, In Everest’s Shadow, and added his own perspective on Mr Lowe’s renowned modesty. He wrote:
“In my first interview with George I decided early on to get one uncomfortable question off my chest:
“Did he, George, ever feel he had lived in the shadow of Ed Hillary?” He paused for a moment, not to think but because this impressively modest man talks more easily about the mountains and his friends than about himself. Then he emphatically brushed the question aside.
My impression at the moment his hand conveyed a negative, was of a man perplexed that such a thought should be conceived.
Taking it as a no, I stepped in with the follow-up:
“Had Everest ever been a burden to him over the last 50 years?”
No pause now. “Oh, no,” he said. “Ed’s had that.”
It didn’t need an explanation. It was obvious. George’s lifelong friendship with the man he introduced to the Himalayan climbs is stronger than ever and reflects the bond that exists between people in any form of human endeavour where months of close contact and shared dangers also bring shared accomplishments whichever one individual is first or highest. Mountaineering is one of many activities [part of article missing] where success is the result of teamwork. No one comes second where interdependence is crucial.
Everest is now firmly established in language, as a pinnacle of effort in any field, but that too, has its dangers. We all have Everests in our lives. Maybe consuming ambition, perhaps less compelling aims or goals, whatever the reason it’s important to strive to achieve. But we should take care with the analogy because the corollary can have the devastating effect of branding anyone who achieves less than the summit as second-best, also-rans, in the shadow of. And that can devalue the achievement that has occurred in trying, doing a job, and reaching a standard at whatever level. In teamwork, every stage reached in support of those eventually chosen to cross the line first is a summit in itself. George’s 11 days on the Lhotse Face above 23,000 feet were seen then, and remain, a remarkable achievement in world climbing and crucial on that occasion to the eventual success of a meticulously-planned expedition. But so, too, was the work of the Sherpas who carried, and other committed team members whose equally less high-profile labours ensured the result.
That Ed Hlllary stood on top of the world’s highest mountain – the first to do so and deserving of the accolades that followed was a product of skill, endurance and courage; his own, those of team members below him, and of those other climbers who took on the challenge, some facing and succumbing to death, in the many decades of attempts prior to the 1953 success.
George Lowe’s ice work on Lhotse and the establishment of Camp IX at the high point of 27,900 feet which made the final section attainable when set against limitations of men and oxygen was his contribution, however it is remembered or not by a wider world.
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It’s clear to Mr Laing, and it’s clear to me that George is certainly not forgotten (though if I had but a small percentage of his daily e-mails and post I should probably want to be). It’s also clear that, being the man he is, George is far more concerned with opportunity, progress, and attainment in other people than in monuments to himself.
His work as a teacher, trainer, UK HM Inspector of Schools and, most tellingly, with Ed Hillary among the Sherpas of Nepal confirms that. The schools’ building programme begun 40 years ago and is now complemented by a teacher-training facility and syllabus that ensures a brighter future through education and knowledge, and a continuance of the success of Everest 53.
That is the real summit of teamwork and achievement, and that certainly won’t be forgotten.
Mr Bissell can be contacted at bissell[@]trainingdlrect.demon.co.uk, or E.H.Bissell[@]Derby.ac.uk. His phone number is [number withheld]. His mall address is The Old Barn, Upper Holloway, Derbyshire, England, DE4 5AW.