Kathmandu, January 27
The world’s mountaineering fraternity today mourned the death of Elizabeth Hawley, who died of pneumonia at age 94 here yesterday, while tributes also began to pour in on social media for the grande dame of the Himalayan climbing following her demise.
Calling the death of Hawely as the ‘end of an era for Himalayan mountaineering’, family of legendary climber Tenzing Norway Sherpa described Miss Hawley as a refreshing beacon of integrity in the world of Himalayan mountaineering.
Talking to THT, Norbu Tenzing Norgay, the eldest son of Tenzing Norgay, said Hawley was a force for good and a fierce advocate for the truth. “For Sherpas, mountains are sacred places, and Miss Hawley showed great respect to these high peaks in her own way, by meticulously verifying those who climbed them,” he shared.
He added that she was also a dear friend of the Sherpa people. “And no visit to Nepal in my work with the American Himalayan Foundation was complete without an audience with Miss Hawley,” he said. “The mountaineering world has lost an important voice and Nepal has lost a dear friend. We will all miss her dearly.”
William R Chapman, an author cum climber from California, US, recounted, “I have had the pleasure of being debriefed by Miss Hawley a couple times and sat in on many other climbing expedition confirmations.”
Colorado-based climber Alan Arnette shared that Hawley’s tireless work resulted in the Himalayan Database, a compilation of records for all expeditions that have climbed Nepal’s Himalaya. The data cover all expeditions from 1905 through 2017 to more than 450 significant Nepali peaks. “If your name is not in their database, then you didn’t summit!”
Peter Athans, one of the world’s foremost high-altitude mountaineers termed Hawley as a champion. “Never was there a truer critic or a more diligent pursuer of details and knowledge. Most climbers who pass through Kathmandu know of her legendary detective skills in tracking down expedition leaders, in search of expedition details. She was a fixture in Kathmandu in an era that saw so much transition, both welcome and terrible. She reported it all, from pro democracy marches to the absurd and sublime efforts on Everest.”
Hawley breathed her last in Kathmandu after a storied career as a journalist for all things mountaineering in the Himalaya and beyond, he shared.
Jim Herrington, a renowned author and photographer, said Hawley had interviewed the majority of climbers who’ve done ascents of Nepali/Tibetan peaks since she arrived (she doesn’t bother with the western range, Pakistan/China). “Parts historian, archivist and librarian she is Authenticator Supreme and if you summited, and you want anyone to know about it, you’ll want her to know about it.”
The world-class photographer also added that he was in Nepal in 2016 photographing two Sherpas for his climbing book but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drop by and pay her a visit. “I photographed her in Kathmandu, in the same apartment she’d been living in for 57 years.”
Mikel Dunham, co-editor of The Nepal Scene: Chronicles of Elizabeth Hawley, 1988-2007, termed the death of Hawley, the ultimate authority on Himalayan ascents, as a great loss to the international mountaineering community. “Alpine A-listers know no one will ever fill her shoes,”
Meanwhile, journalist and climber Billi Bierling, who had worked with the American nonagenarian since 2004, said memorial service would be held at Hawley’s home in Dillibazaar as well as at the office of the Himalayan Trust tomorrow.
Hawley’s nephew has already arrived in Kathmandu from the US and her body would be cremated at Swayambhu-based cremation site tomorrow, according to Dr Prativa Pandey, medical director, CIWEC Hospital and Travel Medicine Centre.
A version of this article appears in print on January 28, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.