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A Gift from the Legend Elizabeth "Santa" Hawley

Rupak Bhattacharya | Dec 11 , 2017

We are still a fortnight away from Christmas, but the first gift has already arrived, wrapped in "Himalayan snow-white" paper and tied off with a "Himalayan sunrise - red" ribbon.

Elizabeth "Himalaya" Hawley, and her team, have gifted their, only of its kind priceless treasure, Himalayan Database to the mountaineering world. This unique compendium, the work of a lifetime, of meticulously compiled data and records is now available to all readers free of costs.

Saying thank you would be superfluos and shallow, because I am sure she was not angling for gratitude when she decided to give it away. Her "baby", a labour of love, is now a "mature adult" with an unique charecter of ones own, with a nuanced personality, sometimes happy and celebratory at the news of a hard - fought summit and sometimes deathly sad at a tragic loss; but always upright, always precise always honest.

Her baby, if I may be permitted the liberty to say so, was concieved per chance, albeit legitimately, in 1963 when Reuters wanted her to cover the first US Expedition to Everest; and she managed to trump three other foreign correspondents in Kathmandu to provide the exclusive scoops.

That was the begining of her journey as a chronicler of Himalayan expeditions. Elizabeth Hawley, a young New Yorker, when she left home to see the world, knew one thing she didn't want to be - somebodys secretary. Her travels brought her to Kathmandu, where she returned in 1960, single and alone. She says, "I came to Nepal. I never planned to stay. I just never left."

From those early days as a correspondent, by sheer dedicated perseverance, she is today the undisputed Sherlock Holmes of Himalayan mountaineering. Though she insists that she is still a reporter, and neither judge nor jury, she can still ferret out the contradictions between "what they said they did and what they actually did", by meticulous multisource evaluation, authentication and documentation. For as Messner says, "there is just one person who knows all about the history of Himalayan climbing", echoing what Hillary said, "no one has wider knowledge of Himalayan mountaineering." Even the late legend Anatoli Boukreev had confessed to Conrad Anker, "I've got to go back -- Elizabeth says I didn't really climb it," after his Sishapangma expedition.

What Homer was to an Agamemnon or an Ulysses, so to is Elizabeth to a Mallory or a Messner, admired and respected by all and feared by a few.

The firmament of Himalayan mountaineering has many enigmatic stars with their own legends and lores.
Elizabeth Hawley, who never climbed a Himalayan peak nor ever reached a base camp, is by rights one of its brightest -- Alpha Himalayae Elizabethii.

Merry Christmas Miss Hawley, and a Happy New Year.

Christmas r Naya Saalero
shubhkamna linu hos .

Elizabeth Hawley | Pic Courtesy: The Mountaineers Book

With Sir Edmund Hillary 1995 | Pic Courtesy: Elizabeth Hawley collection

With Reinhold Messner | Pic Courtesy: BBC

Elizabeth Hawley | Pic Courtesy: misadventuresmag.com

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