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(English) Elizabeth Hawley: A legendary chronicler of Himalayan expedition

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File photo of Elizabeth Hawley. Image source:
File photo of Elizabeth Hawley. Image source: Agency

KATHMANDU, Nepal–For the last five decades, she has been keeping the chronology of Nepal’s mountaineering history. She is still devoted to her profession and has the same vigor as that of any teenager. Elizabeth Hawley, 92, who has given significant contribution to the development of mountaineering sectors in Nepal, is an inspiring woman for all people.

The American journalist turned historian has afforded outstanding contribution in the Himalayan expedition.

Peak named after Hawley

Citing the immense contribution of Ms Hawley, the government of Nepal has named a peak after her. Peak Hawley – at the elevation of 6,182 metres, will be open for the foreigner for the first time.

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation confirmed the decision to name the mountain after the American nonagenarian.

“She has been documenting the Himalayan mountaineering for more than five decades. She is a great lady”, Dipendra Paudel, an official at the Ministry said. Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) also lauded the government’s move to name Peak after renowned lady.

There have been several mountains named after people who have contributed to the development of mountaineering and who have been honoured.

Earlier this year, government officials had announced they were opening a number of previously off-limits mountains to foreign climbers. And, naming the peak after a chronicler is a part of the commitment made by the government of Nepal.

The Nepal government has already named several of those peak, including two peaks close to Everest, which were named after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, who made the first ever ascent of the world’s highest mountain in 1953.

No peak after individuals

However, to everyone surprise, this nonagenarian is not satisfied with the government’s move and in her opinion the decision was itself a great joke. “I think it’s a joke,” Ms Hawley was quoted by The Independent adding that the government should stop naming the peak after individuals.

She believes that to name peaks after individuals rather than using local names was not in line with practices elsewhere. What a nice and broad thinking!

She gives an instance of the US state of Alaska that made huge struggle to officially rename Mt McKinley, the highest peak in North America, to Denali, the name used by the local indigenous tribes and which means “great one”.

When did Hawley first visit Nepal?

Ms Hawley, originally from Chicago, first arrived in Nepal in 1959, during the party less Panchyat era. Having left the US to travel in Asia and South Asia, she also enjoyed an opportunity offered by Time magazine where she contributed many scoop stories she investigated in the Himalayan kingdom. She was really fascinated by the job.

One of her first scoops is related to the 1963 US expedition to Everest. According to reports, Ms Hawley persuaded the US military staff to let her to use a secret radio set at the Base Camp.

Himalayan Database

With her involvement in the Himalayan Database, a record of major climbs of mountains in Nepal including Mount Everest, she became a central figure within the world of mountaineering in the Himalayan nation.

Though the database is unofficial, many mountaineers apply it for climbing-related information.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Ms Hawley has logged the ascents of all major peaks within Nepal. An US expedition team to Everest is one of the most memorable ascents she has catalogued.

An entry in the database her supervise has represented confirmation of a climb to the mountaineering world. Likewise, the Himalayan Data gathered by Ms Hawley scans any of the climber’s fake claims to have reached the top, or to have followed a certain route.

She has also acted as a judge for controversial record claim made by South Korean female mountaineer Oh Eun-Sun, who in 2010 completed an ascent of Annapurna, and her alleged ascents of all 14 of the world’s 8,000m mountains.

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