Elizabeth Hawley, world's Everest expert

Mon May 9, 2011 4:18am EDT
 
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters Life!) - Over fifty years living in the shadow of Mount Everest has made U.S.-born Elizabeth Hawley the unrivalled authority on the world's highest peak. Not bad for a former journalist who has never set foot on the snow of base camp.

When the 87-year-old Hawley came to Nepal in 1960 as a journalist for Time magazine, she had no idea that she was on the road to becoming the most highly-respected chronicler of mountain climbing in the Himalayan nation, home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks.

Today, from her house in Kathmandu, Hawley runs the Himalayan Database, a record of major climbs of the Nepali mountains, and a necessary endorsement for climbers to gain global fame by validating their achievements.

"I never took a conscious decision but it has been an engaging work over all these years," the short, thin Hawley told Reuters, peering over the rim of her glasses at decades of notes from interviews with climbers stacked on shelves in her study.

Though the database itself is unofficial, it is widely respected by climbers.

Born in Chicago in 1923, Hawley began reporting for Reuters in 1962, nine years after the pioneering climb of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay opened the gates to global tourism in the mountainous nation.

"I very quickly realized that mountaineering will be a very important part of news reporting for an international news agency," she said, dressed as always in a neatly pressed skirt.

But Hawley, now the unofficial arbiter of climbing-related disputes, has herself never been to Everest base camp from where climbers begin their ascent and which turns into a tent city in climbing times.   Continued...

 
<p>U.S.-born Elizabeth Hawley, former journalist and chronicler of mountain climbing in the Himalayan nation, speaks on a phone in Kathmandu May 5, 2011. When the 87-year-old Hawley came to Nepal in 1960 as a journalist for Time magazine, she had no idea that she was on the road to becoming the most highly-respected chronicler of mountain climbing in the Himalayan nation, home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks. Today, from her house in Kathmandu, Hawley runs the Himalayan Database, a record of major climbs of the Nepali mountains, and a necessary endorsement for climbers to gain global fame by validating their achievements. Picture taken May 5, 2011. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar</p>