HENRY CECIL JOHN HUNT LORD HUNT OF LLANFAIR WATERDINE
( 1910 - 1998 )
Unknown to the public, and even to most British climbers, John Hunt was not the obvious choice to lead the expedition to Everest in 1953. But he had been a mountaineer from early youth. He was 12 when he first put on a rope and 14 when he climbed the Piz Palu. His early climbing was largely confined to guided ascents in the Alps and extensive ski mountaineering. The latter led in 1931 and 1932 to two adventurous forays in the Pir Panjal, with a single companion, when he was stationed in India. It was not until 1933 that he first climbed in Britain and was thus inevitably attracted to rock climbing and to more technical routes, without guides, in the Alps. There followed a light-weight expedition in 1935, with James Waller and others, which reached 24,500 ft on Saltoro Kangri. The same month, he and Rowland Brotherhood made the first ascent of the south buttress of Kolahoi.
Later that year he was elected to the Alpine Club, and was on the short list for Everest in 1936, only to be turned down because of a heart murmur, the first of several occasions, he records in his memoirs, that doctors were to tell him to be careful about climbing the stairs.
Paying no attention to doctors, he and his wife Joy and C.R. Cooke carried out in 1937 an exploration of the north and east sides of Kangchenjunga, in the course of which he soloed to the southwest summit of Nepal Peak. This trip was partly aimed at investigating the possibility of late autumn expeditions, instead of the spring season generally favoured for high altitudes. Later, he and Joy trekked extensively in Sikkim, and in 1940, again with Reggie Cooke, they made for Pandim, which they had marked out as a good objective. Unfortunately, an urgent summons back to his regiment forestalled them; covering an amazing daily mileage, he and Joy rushed back, only to find that the ship to Europe would not sail for three weeks.
It was on his return to Britain that John developed his interest in training in mountain areas for troops, and its relevance in the education of young people. He was appointed chief instructor of the Commando Mountain & Snow Warfare Centre, under Frank Smythe, 'a most unwarlike character'. He was disappointed that the troops he trained were later mostly employed in the Netherlands, none being made available to the Eighth Army in Italy, where he was next posted. There he commanded a battalion and, later, a larger ad hoc formation in the Apennines, confronting the German 5th Mountain Division. His only mountain troops were an Indian mountain artillery regiment. The initiative lay with the enemy, who were patrolling aggressively, and it was his job to turn the tables on them. The award of the DSO is evidence of his success.
In 1944-45 he was in Greece, with the force under his command (the 11th Indian Infantry Brigade and several other units) reluctantly involved in the civil war. Without hope of reinforcement, they were stationed in Patras, surrounded by the 3rd Division of the left-wing ELAS, and aware that many guerrillas had infiltrated the city. In spite of the danger, the local civilians were strong in his support, but there were daily provocations and intimidation by ELAS. His force had to exercise great restraint, holding their positions but not provoking a showdown. He held frequent conferences with the ELAS commanders, which must have called for all John's tact, diplomacy and firmness. In the end, ELAS forces were defeated in the Athens area, and those investing Patras withdrew in haste, pursued by his brigade. After this extraordinary campaign he was again decorated.
After the war, there were opportunities for climbing in Greece and in Egypt, before John was posted to Paris. His contacts with British climbers were few. 'Who is this Colonel Hunt?' was the reaction in 1952 when his name was mentioned, especially among those who had recently been with Shipton. Their meeting, when he had been suggested as organising secretary or deputy leader for 1953, was a failure, the difference between their approaches to the forthcoming expedition being aggravated by the ambivalence of the Himalayan Committee. 'No doubt I was over-keen and showed it' is the characteristically humble comment in his memoirs.
On his eventual appointment as leader of the Everest expedition, he first tried to persuade the disappointed Shipton to join it. He had more success, helped by Shipton himself, with Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, who deeply resented the late change of leadership. The rest, as they say, is history. But it was no inevitable progress to the summit, nor was it at all like one's idea of a military campaign except for the fact that, a lot of the time, the Commander and one or two staff were hard at work with plans or despatches while the rest of us relaxed in the communal mess tent. Organising ability John certainly had, and a tremendous capacity for work, but his prime quality as a leader was his humanity. Everyone knew that they were valued. He looked for the good in every man - and got the best out of him. His skill was such that, somehow, the inevitable next step seemed to be as much one's own idea as the leader's. The Everest team soon became a close-knit group of friends and, under John's benevolent eye, has remained that way. Of none was that more true than of Tensing. Their relationship could have started badly, with Tensing resenting his initial reception at the British Embassy in Kathmandu as some kind of a head porter, instead of the experienced Sirdar and climbing partner of Raymond Lambert. The resentment did not survive exposure to John's charm and genuine good will.
As one got to know him, the image of the regular army officer, the simple soldier, faded. He was a more complex character, a man of many parts and many interests. He did not talk about his past, but his autobiography, Life is Meeting, is illuminating. His father, who was killed in Belgium in 1914, was in the Indian Army, and his mother came from a military family, so it was always assumed that he would be a soldier. The family had high expectations for him, which he proceeded to satisfy by passing into Sandhurst first in his year, and afterwards gaining the Anson Memorial Sword. But he describes himself as having been a bit of a misfit. He was serious and very hard-working. Joining the British regiment in India, he found regimental life not greatly to his liking; he preferred expeditions in the countryside, or games which he organised with the soldiers, to the conventional round of polo and parties. While others took a siesta, he learnt Urdu with a munshi.
Then in 1933 he answered a call from the authorities for volunteers for intelligence work with the police in Bengal, where terrorists were conducting a campaign against the Raj. This was an experience which informed his whole life. Not only did he get to know and respect the ordinary Bengali, but he found himself in sympathy with the young, idealistic, high-school students who provided many of the terrorists' recruits. When opportunity offered, he encouraged headmasters to channel their boys' energies into activities more suitable to their youth, by organising games and competitions and giving them responsibility. He wrote a report I am a Revolutionary, which apparently fell on stony ground with his superiors, but it is perhaps to their credit that he was not disciplined, and was in fact awarded the Indian Police Medal.
John Hunt regrets, in his memoirs, that he had not in his youth allowed himself much fun and relaxation. A corrective was now at hand. In 1936, he married Joy Mowbray-Green, which was the beginning of a life-long happy partnership. She was a Wimbledon tennis player, with stamina to match his own. She shared his love of mountains and wild country, of birds and butterflies. She could bring out his warmth and enable him to relax and put his obsessions into perspective. He was still the serious, dedicated soldier and mountaineer, but he was also, for the rest of his life, her 'Johnnie'.
This background was unknown to those who met him for the first time in 1952. We only knew that he was as good a leader as we could wish for. It was a surprise to find that he was also a remarkably good public speaker, on all occasions, formal or informal. We knew that he spoke Urdu, but his total fluency in French and his good German were unexpected. Later, he learnt enough Russian to converse when he went to the Caucasus and enough Spanish to be the most fluent of our party in Peru. I have no doubt that his Greek was more than passable. It was not only a natural gift for languages and hard work that were responsible, but his urge to communicate with all those he met.
After '1953 and all that' (his words), he resumed his army career until 1956, when he retired in order to set up and run the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme for young people. He returned of course to the Alps and to rock climbing. It was part of his nature that he should do all he could to help others, especially the young, to participate. Equally, he was keen to promote good relations with climbers in other countries, in particular the Soviet Union which had seen very few Western climbers for many years.
The list of his climbs and treks is long - the Caucasus and the Pamirs; the Pindos, Greenland and the Tatras, all with parties of youth; the Pyrenees, Yukon, Nepal repeatedly, Sarawak, Hunza, Peru, as well as alpine seasons. He served the climbing world in many capacities. He was president of the Alpine Club in 1957-59, the Climbers Club in 1963-66, the British Mountaineering Council in 1965-68; but at all times he could be called upon for advice and for help which he gave unstintingly. He headed the Council for National
Parks. He was one of those busy men who yet seem to have time for everyone and do everything promptly.
It was not only the climbing world that he served. Shortly after he finished with the Award Scheme, having run it for ten years, he was asked to become the first chairman of the Parole Board, with the job of overseeing early release for prisoners with good behaviour. This was a new concept for British justice, and involved John in working with many people, from senior judges to warders, police and probation officers. He set up the Board, and ran it with a great measure of success for seven years. During that time, he also acted as an emissary from the government to establish the facts about alleged genocide in Nigeria, and to make recommendations for the delivery of humanitarian aid. Another difficult government assignment was to report on the organisation of the police in Northern Ireland. He was a long term President of the Association of Probation Officers. He was on numerous committees, chairing many of them. In all of these, he made a contribution and, more importantly to him, made contact with all concerned.
He was created a Life Peer in 1966. Taking, as he said, a little time to become acclimatised to the rarefied air and the arcane procedures of the House of Lords, it is clear from his speeches that he came to enjoy the experience. He was keen to make his contribution on the subjects dear to his heart - opportunities for the young, penal measures, sport, care of the environment. His speeches in the House, like the 'few words' he was so often required to say outside it, were thoroughly researched, appropriate to the occasion and leavened with a dash of humour. They also demonstrated his wish to see both sides of a question and his refusal to impute inferior motives to those not sharing his views; the most he allowed himself was a gentle irony.
He enjoyed his own celebrity, but was the least ostentatious of men. He was proud of his achievements, but spoke only of what others had achieved. His sense of duty pervaded his whole life, but he wore it lightly. His appointment as a Knight of the Garter in 1979 recognised not only a lifetime of service, but the way in which it had been carried out. He was a man with a great warmth for his fellow men. Whoever you were, young or old, John made you feel that you were someone special. Life will never be the same, now he is gone, for Joy and their family and his many friends.
John Hunt was the first to admit that Everest was the defining moment of his life. The chance to lead the 1953 expedition was a fantastic opportunity which he seized wholeheartedly and its successful outcome undoubtedly opened doors. However, he was always keen to downplay '1953 And All That'. I remember well his presentation at the 1989 Explorers' Club dinner in New York. Amidst all the glitz and hype, he chose to reminisce about his 1930s ski holidays in Kashmir, trips to Sikkim with his beloved wife, Joy, a summitless attempt on Saltoro Kangri and more recent international climbing meets around the world. Everest was just mentioned in passing and his most special praise was saved for some of his predecessors - pioneering mountain explorers like Mummery, Longstaff and Shipton, the very man whose public fame he had, to his lasting embarrassment, eclipsed in 1953.
Afterwards some self-important bore in the audience complained that, in brushing aside Everest, Lord Hunt had denigrated the efforts of his team members, perhaps out of pique, he suggested, because Hunt himself had not reached the summit. The Explorers' Club member had completely missed the point and words such as 'modesty' and 'understatement' were clearly not part of his vocabulary. John Hunt was immensely proud of his Everest team and anyone who has seen them together will know how they reciprocated his affection. He just wanted to hint that there was life both before and after Everest - that public event was actually, in mountaineering terms, something of an anachronism, which should not distract us from the gentler, more subtle aspects of our pastime. Contrary to popular belief, Hunt had a lifelong passion for mountainous country, of which Everest was just one serendipitous incident; but how did that passion develop and how did it colour the rest of his life?
In 1952, Hunt was serving in Germany when the summons came from the Everest Committee in London. The sordid tale of Eric Shipton's sacking has already been told many times and Peter Steele's new Shipton biography makes it clear that, once the possibility was mentioned, Hunt pursued the leadership enthusiastically. And who wouldn't? He was the first to admit that his pre-war experience, impressive as it was, did not match Shipton's unique record of exploration but he also knew that he could do a very fine job of coordinating an efficient, full-scale assault, with none of the ambivalence that was Shipton's downfall. Later, secure in success, he could afford the luxury of ironic amusement but at the time he was willing to play it straight and, like another successful expedition leader, Chris Bonington, he was prepared to work long, hard hours. But hard work and enthusiasm alone were not enough for, as Charles Wylie put it: "Shipton was Mr. Everest - he was the man." The new leader faced considerable hostility and it was a mark of his personal qualities that he managed to win over the old hands, particularly the deputy leader, Charles Evans, who initially threatened resignation.
The Everest team was genuinely astonished by the world-wide acclaim that greeted their success. Rewarded with fame and honours, John Hunt returned initially to duty, but in 1956 he retired from his successful military career with the rank of brigadier, asked by Prince Philip to set up and run the new Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. Nowadays, he might perhaps have been tempted to turn his fame to commercial advantage, but back in the '50s he eschewed financial gain for a less lucrative career as a public servant. He believed passionately in the value of outdoor education, particularly for young people from deprived backgrounds. Created a peer in 1966.
He was appointed the following year to chair the new Parole Board. He championed the notion that locking people up is not necessarily the best way to deal with all crimes - a belief which he had formed many years earlier, in India, when he had presented a treatise to his superior officers entitled with provocative naivete 'I am a Revolutionary'. Sitting on the cross benches in the Lords his speeches covered a wide range of issues, but concentrated in particular on penal reform, youth service and the conservation of national parks.
In the climbing world he was no less active. Ever the international idealist, he led joint British-Soviet expeditions to the Caucasus (1958) and the Pamirs (1962). He served as president for the Climbers' Club, the Royal Geographical Society and the Alpine Club, where he pushed through the change in the rules to admit women members, much to the annoyance of Bill Tilman.
All that committee work and philanthropy could have been merely worthy, if it had not been enlivened by the man's genuine passion and interest in other people. In fact, acquaintances from his earlier years did sometimes accuse him of being over-earnest and he himself, describing the young officer arriving in India in 1931 wrote, 'I was a bit of a misfit, a loner and doubtless somewhat of a prig'. I only knew him in his old age, with all the corners rubbed off by a lifetime's fulfilment, mellow and at ease with the world.
I met him properly, in a pub, in 1983 and after that, got to know him quite well. For an extremely busy man he was generous with his time, always replying promptly to letters, right up to his death, helping with snippets of information or turning up for a press conference. He enjoyed company, particularly women's flirting, with the innocent ease of someone secure in a very happy marriage. I remember his transparent delight as guest of honour at a Chamonix assemblage for 'femmes alpinistes'. Closer to home, at a London dinner where all the other climbers were talking shop, driving my wife to distraction, he saved the day by chatting her up with all his gallant charm. Called upon to present countless awards and deliver endless speeches, he always took the trouble (for these things do require effort) to be eloquent, witty and well-informed. Somehow he managed to rise to the occasion yet wear his gravitas lightly. Agreeing to co-operate with me on an article for the Guardian, he promised with an amused twinkle: "I shall look forward immensely to being ... interviewed by you", catching just the right conspiratorial note to put me at my ease. He was, in every sense of that rather old-fashioned word, a gentleman. I shall miss him very much, as will many, many others throughout the world's climbing community and in the wider world where he touched so many peoples' lives.
(Reprinted from High (abridged), with kind permission of the author and editor.)
HIROSHI NAKAJIMA (1938-1998)
With the passing of Hiroshi Nakajima, The Japanese Alpine Club has lost one of the most competent persons and his untimely death will be deeply felt by many in the organisation who much appreciated his incisive but fair and impartial judgements. The man of prodigious ability in wider fields is no longer with us. He could not overcome a cancer. So the unthinkable occurred on 6 October 1998, six months after we had celebrated his 60th birthday in Nagano Prefecture.
Although the membership of Hiroshi Nakajima in The Himalayan Club was for a very short period, he would surely have contributed to the club at some future date since his enthusiasm for mountaineering knew no bounds and always made him look forward. To mention his climbing career and background of a distinguished businessman as well, he had the brightest mind that I have ever encountered.
Naturally, Hiroshi was a respectable mentor to many of us, with vast breadth and depth of knowledge. Invaluable advice, sometimes based on academic discipline, was freely and generously given to anyone who asked for it under any circumstances.
Hiroshi was born in Saitama Prefecture, Japan in 1938, and was educated at Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, where he did a degree in economics in 1957/61. It was at that time that he commenced hill walking and climbing. In 1961, he was selected as a member of Peru-Bolivia Andes Expedition of the said university's mountaineering club led by Ichiro Yoshizawa. Hiroshi succeeded in the first ascent of Nevado Pucahirca Norte (6046 m) of Cordillera Blanca in Peru and recorded also several first ascents in Apolobamba and Pupuya in the remotest area of Bolivian Andes.
Towards the end the of 1960s, after five years, he was invited to join a succession of expeditions to the Southwest Face of Everest which the Japanese Alpine Club had planned and launched. With restless spirits, Hiroshi took part in the pursuit of the ambitious ventures. He was assigned not only as a candidate for the climbing party but also as an assistant to the management and execution, in particular, for fund raising and negotiations with the authorities concerned. In 1969, leading the reconnaissance team that included, famous Naomi Uemura, he opened a viable route up to 8050 m on the Southwest Face, and in 1970, he also played an important role in the main expedition, though they were finally defeated. Through these two expeditions, his reputation as an all-round mountaineer was established.
The following decade after Everest was a time for Hiroshi to reconstruct his life so that both mountaineering and his profession night remain compatible. For the purpose, he allocated his potential chiefly to his work as an economist of the highest standard to support developing countries. As a result, before long he became a senior manager in charge of the project finance and then a board member of one of the major merchant banks in Japan.
After 1980, Hiroshi was carrying on his personal climbing and trekking, whilst he completed his services in his bank to satisfaction. In 1980, he climbed Assiniboine (3618 m) via the north ridge in the Canadian Rocky. In 1983 when he was stationed in Brazil, he scaled Nevado Huayna Potosi (6094 m) of the Bolivian Andes.
Hiroshi returned to the mountains in Asia in 1989 to 1992 when he was promoted to be in charge of Hong Kong and neighbouring territory. He visited Langtang Himal in Nepal in 1990, ascended Kinabalu (4101 m) of Borneo in 1991 and crossed the Thorng Pass (5416 m) in the Annapurna massif in 1992.
In 1992, Hiroshi was nominated as President of Hoko Suisan Co., a well-known fishery and food processing company that ranks very highly in Japan. He concentrated his overall energy to improve the achievements and performances of the company in spite of his serious illness since 1994. Even during the busy days when he was awfully tied-up, he always willingly afforded co-operation to his colleagues, and was going to participate in compiling the 100 year chronicle of The Japanese Alpine Club.
Together with his family, The Japanese Alpine Club and many mountaineers in Japan who were acquainted with him mourn the early departure of an outstanding man.
NAVNIT PAREKH (1923-1998)
Life Member & Resident Representative of Himalayan Club at Almora (Kumaun), Navnit Parekh approached the Himalaya with humility and veneration.
Navnit Bansidhar Parekh was born in a Vaishnav Baniya family on 25 November 1923 at Ahmedabad. Early in life his grandfather inculcated in him love for Sanskrit and Bhagvatgeeta he learnt from his maternal grand-mother Shuddhadwaita philosophy of Vallabhacharya popularly known as Pushti-Marg. After his school and college education in Ahmedabad he jointed the family firm of Lee & Muirhead. The main business of the firm was Clearing and Forwarding and subsequently Travel and Tourism.
His first visit to the Himalaya was with his father in 1947 to meet Swami Krishna Prem at Mirtola ashram near Almora. They trekked 18 miles from Almora. He was a member of the First Indian Expedition to Nepal to attempt Pumori. His treks in the Himalaya covered many regions including Kailas and Mansarovar in Tibet, Muktinath in Nepal, Sikkim Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir.
Navnit Parekh had taken excellent films of his visits to the Himalaya and these films were shown to thousands of people. His film on Kailas and Mansoravar was so popular that he was invited to show the film to the national leaders including the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad and Jai Prakash, when the Congress working Committee meeting was held in Bombay.
He visited almost each and every pilgrim centre in the Himalaya including Amarnath and Badri-Kedar. He was not satisfied with his wanderings in the Himalaya and acquired Khali Estate near Almora in 1959 from Swami Bhaskaranand.
However, he started living at Khali for about 7 months in a year from 1963. The Khali Estate was originally purchased by Sir Henry Ramsay but it was Wilson the next successor, who constructed the present spacious bunglow-like a Spanish villa. One can get an excellent view of Nanda Devi, Trisul, Nand Kot, Nanda Ghunti, Kamet and Neelkanth from here.
He married Prassanaben, a teacher at Almora, in 1968. She shared his passion for Hindustani classical music and his lure for the Himalaya.
Navnit Parekh wrote a number of books in Gujarati on the Himalaya and his Himalayan Memories. These books give accurate information about his experiences and places of interest which he had visited. He had a large collection of books on the Himalaya, Indian Scriptures and Travel in his library.
Some of the important visitors to his Khali Estate were Swami Krishna-Prem, Madhav-Ashish, Lama Angarika Govinda, Swami Ishwaranand Giri, Swami Pranavanandji, Ravi Shankar Maharaj, Swami Anand, Kaka Saheb Kalelkar, and Ma Anand-Mayi.
He donated rest houses for bhotias at Almora, and Tibetan refugees at Dharamasala in the Kangra valley. He made arrangement with a doctor at Danapani, near Kaparkhan (Almora) to provide free medicines to local villagers.
Navnit Parekh was also keenly interested in Indian art and culture. He travelled extensively in the East Asia in 1956 including Japan, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Cambodia, Siam, Bornio and Burma and noticed extensive influence of Hindu culture. He started the 'Asian Arts and Culture Centre' in Bombay and was its' Founder Secretary for more than 15 years. He also wrote a series of articles in Kumar Magazine and wrote a book on the Footsteps of Rishi Agatsya covering his visit to the East Asian countries.
Navnit Parekh had the knowledge and understanding of Sanskrit language and this helped him in appreciating the Indian scriptures. He had taken up the assignment of translating 3 books of Rishi Bhartru-Hari namely Nitishatak, Shrinagar Shatak and Vairag Shatak. The first book is already published and the other two books were in the final stage of completion when he died.
Although he had met a number of saints in the Himalaya he found his Guru Swami Ramdas an embodiment of love, joy and bliss in the coastal state of Kerala. For Navnit Parekh, Himalaya was a place for solitude and contemplation. He tried to reach that state of bliss from his Himalayan abode where he breathed his last in May 1998.
AKIO HORIUCHI (1933-1999)
Akio Horiuchi was born on 30 March 1933 in Nagano, Japan and died on 12 January 1999 in Tokyo. After three and a half painful years in a hospital bed, death delivered him from a serious illness.
He had loved mountaineering in Japan from his boyhood and in 1960's he aimed for the mountains in the Himalaya. In 1973, he went to Nepal for the first time as a member of the Japanese Annapurna Expedition. In 1976, he was associated with the Nanda Devi Expedition, though he did not go to Nanda Devi.
Since then, he could never go on a Himalayan expedition because of his disease. But he still took a great interest in the Himalaya. He was a ardent dealer of mountaineering books, and the dealer of The Himalayan Journal in Japan for an long time. He had a great interest in high altitude medicine and physiology also, and introduced many books on high altitude medicine published in the U.K. and the U.S.A. in Japan.
||Class of Membership and
||year of Election
|Bird, D. Le. R. R. (Wing Cdr.)
|Shankaran, M. S.
|Edwards, Stephen C.
|Mohan, K. v.