Death of Ripley climber who helped conquer Everest
A MOUNTAINEER who helped to conquer Everest for the first time has died at his Ripley home.
George Lowe was the last surviving member of the team which first conquered Everest in 1953.
The 89-year-old died at a nursing home on Wednesday after a long illness, with his wife, Mary, by his side.
Mountaineer Nigel Vardy, of Belper, said he had the pleasure of meeting Mr Lowe on several occasions.
The 43-year-old said: "Originally I was part of a team based in Derby that was going to run a community expedition to the Himalayas.
"We got in contact with George who agreed to be our patron.
"We had planned to go in 1999 but, unfortunately, I was in bed with frostbite and I was not allowed to take part.
"George ended up bringing me back after the expedition in a camper van."
Mr Vardy, who was the first Briton to climb the seven highest peaks on the world's largest islands, said: "He was the kindest and nicest gentleman you could ever speak to.
"He was a lovely man. He reached 89 and he lived his life to the full.
"We will always remember him for Everest.
"He worked on cross-Antarctic expeditions, he was a school teacher, but he always had time."
Mr Lowe was born in New Zealand and was part of the team that helped Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to become the first to reach the top of the world's highest peak on May 29, 1953.
Following his Everest climb, Mr Lowe went on to take part in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1957-58, which made the first successful overland crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole.
He later made expeditions to Greenland, Greece and Ethiopia, before settling in England and becoming an inspector of schools with the Department of Education and Sciences before retiring in 1984.
Mr Lowe was also a school teacher and spent his holidays climbing in the southern Alps.
He was a keen photographer and made a documentary about the climb called The Conquest Of Everest.
It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
He also made a film called Antarctic Crossing about taking part in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
Mr Lowe is survived by his wife, Mary, and three sons from his first marriage to Lord Hunt's daughter, Susan.
Over the past few years, Dr Huw Lewis-Jones, who runs a publishing company with his wife Kari, has been working with Mr Lowe and his family to put together his memoirs and photographs from the Everest climb so that they can be published for the first time.
The Conquest Of Everest: Original Photographs From The Legendary First Ascent will be published in May, along with Letters From Everest.
Dr Lewis-Jones said: "Mr Lowe was a brilliant, kind fellow who never sought the limelight.
"An unsung hero, if you like, and 60 years on from Everest his achievements deserve some wider recognition.
"It has been an honour to have spent the past few years working with George's family on his memoirs and photographs.
"He was a gentle soul, a gentleman, generous with his time and modest despite all his success.
"He was involved in two of the most important explorations of the 20th century – Everest and the first crossing of Antarctica – yet remained a humble, happy man right to the end.
"That's an inspirational lesson to us all," he added.