‘Sherlock Holmes’ of Nepal’s Himalayas dies at 94


Hawley built a reputation as one of the most authoritative voices on Himalayan mountaineering. (Photo: AFP/Bikash Karki)

Source: Channel News Asia

KATHMANDU: American journalist Elizabeth Hawley, whose fifty years chronicling summits and tragedies in the Himalayas earned her the moniker “the Sherlock Holmes of the mountaineering world”, died Friday (Jan 26) aged 94.

Hawley built a reputation as one of the most authoritative voices on Himalayan mountaineering after moving to Nepal in 1959 as a journalist, where she continued to live up to her death.

“She had a very peaceful death,” Dr Prativa Pandey, who looked after Hawley at the end of her life, told AFP.

She passed away at a hospital in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu in the early hours of Friday, a week after falling ill with a lung infection. She later likely suffered a stroke, Dr Pandey said.

Hawley founded the Himalayan Database, a meticulous archive of all summits in Nepal’s mountains that she managed until five years ago.

Known for ferreting out the truth from climbers claiming to set new records, her word on summits in the fabled mountains was considered final, though she never climbed any peaks herself.

Every climbing season Hawley – behind the wheel of her 1965 sky-blue VW Beetle – would drive to mountaineers’ hotels in Kathmandu to grill them before and after their expeditions.

“I guess I am quite forceful, I come to the point and if someone thinks they can evade my questions, they can think again,” she told AFP in a 2014 interview.

Elizabeth Ann Hawley was born on Nov 9, 1923 to a Chicago-based chartered accountant and a suffragist.

She attended university in Michigan and promptly moved to Manhattan after graduation in 1946, landing a job as a researcher with Fortune magazine.

The job bored her and she took off to see the world in 1957, finally ending up in Nepal in February 1959, then a Hindu kingdom which had only recently opened its gates to foreign visitors.

Hawley eventually became a correspondent for the Reuters news agency in Nepal and landed her first major scoop during the 1963 US expedition to Everest.

The American military attache offered her access to secret radio communication between Everest base camp and the embassy, enabling her to be the first to file when they reached the summit.

In 2014, Nepal named a 6,182-metre mountain in her honour: Peak Hawley in the country’s northwest.

“I retire when I die. It might be the same thing,” Hawley said in her book The Nepal Scene, a collection of monthly dispatches she wrote until 2007.

This article was published at Channel News Asia.

Related News Nepal mountaineering record keeper Elizabeth Hawley dies at 94


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