Mount Everest Mountaineer George Lowe Passes Away
March 24, 2013

George Lowe, Last Living Member Of Famed Everest Expedition, Passes Away

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

George Lowe, the last surviving member of Sir Edmund Hillary´s team that scaled Mount Everest in 1953, died on Wednesday at a nursing home in central England after a long-term battle with illness.

Besides being one of the first men to reach the top of the world, Lowe also participated in the first crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole in 1957-58. He also made notable expeditions to Greenland and Ethiopia.

Lowe and Hillary were the only two New Zealanders to make the Everest climb; however the politics of being in a British-led expedition probably led to Lowe being an unsung member of the Everest team. The two men were temporarily cut from the team by expedition leader John Hunt. However, Hunt reinstated them at the request of other members of the English team, who recognized the New Zealanders' impressive alpine skills.

That decision would prove fortuitous as the two Kiwis led the team through the icefall, with Lowe´s ax skills leading the way up the glacial wall known as the Lhotse Face. Lowe also played a key role in establishing the final camp just below the mountain's summit on May 28, 1953.

Despite Sir Edmund Hillary receiving most of the fame and accolades for the expedition, including a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II, Lowe never resented his countryman or his own lack of fame — according to his wife Mary Lowe.

"He had a wonderful life," she told the Associated Press. "He did a lot of things, but he was a very modest man.... He never sought the limelight. Ed Hillary didn't seek the limelight either – but he had it thrust upon him."

Lowe also joined Hillary´s expedition that led to the first land crossing of Antarctica which passed over the South Pole. In addition to his responsibilities within the expedition, Lowe also served as a journalist — often operating a clockwork camera while wearing four pairs of gloves.

"When there were dramas, there was a split problem. Do you take part in the urgency - or do you record it?" he told the BBC in 1995.

Huw Lewis-Jones, who assisted Lowe with a book of memoirs and photographs due to be published later this year, told the British news agency Lowe never let his achievements inflate his ego.

"He was involved in two of the most important explorations of the 20th Century... yet remained a humble, happy man right to the end,” Lewis-Jones said, “an inspirational lesson to us all."

Lowe also made later and lesser-known expeditions to Greenland, Greece and Ethiopia. He also taught school in both the UK and Chile, lectured on his exploits and became Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools for England.

Along with Hillary, Lowe founded the Himalayan Trust UK in 1960. The foundation is dedicated to giving back to the Nepalese people who assisted the two men in their legendary ascent. Funds from the foundation are dedicated to the “education, health, forests, monastery repairs and natural disaster response” for the people living at the base of the Himalayas — according to a statement on the official website.