Ed Hillary and George Lowe Passport applications Found

Mountaineer George Lowe applied for his passport only two months before leaving with Edmund Hillary for the Indian expedition that “shaped climbing history”.

Archives NZ has been delving into the passport applications of notable New Zealanders and has released those of the two late climbers.

Hillary’s application was dated February 16, 1950, and notes that he was 6 feet 1-½ inches (1.87m) tall and had brown hair and hazel eyes. It was certified by his then-future father-in-law Jim Rose, an Auckland solicitor and 1953-55 NZ Alpine Club president.

Ed Hillary

Edmund Hillary’s passport application from 1950 before his trip to Europe. Source / Archives NZ

Hillary sailed to England in April 1950 where he met his sister June who was married and living in London. They travelled in Europe with their parents and Ed Hillary went climbing in the Alps.

In May 1951, Hillary and Lowe went to northern India with Earle Riddiford and Ed Cotter, where they climbed a number of 6000m peaks in the Garhwal Himalaya mountains.

George Lowe

George Lowe’s passport application before the climbing expedition to the Garhwal Himalaya mountains in northern India in 1951. Source / Archives NZ

Riddiford, the main organiser of the expedition, with Cotter and Pasang Dawa Lama reached the summit of 7240m Mukut Parbat, its first ascent. Lowe and Hillary turned back before reaching the summit.

Author Lyn McKinnon has analysed the climb, the climbers and their disputes in her book, Only Two for Everest: How a first ascent by Riddiford and Cotter shaped climbing history.
The success on Mukut Parbat led, in several steps, to Hillary and Lowe joining the British expedition to Mt Everest in 1953, on which Lowe played a critical role and Hillary, with Tenzing Norgay, made the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain.

Archives NZ said a fascinating glimpse of the country’s past had been revealed after some passport application files, which were previously thought not to exist, were discovered.
The agency said the files would not usually be retained as a public archive because so many are processed each year and their limited value once the actual passport has been issued.

“However after a researcher requested his grandfather’s file, staff checked containers named ‘passport files’ and although nothing was found on the grandfather, the applications of several notable New Zealanders were discovered.

“They included Sir Edmund Hillary, the 1924 All Blacks Invincibles, former Prime Minister Gordon Coates and women’s health champion Dr Agnes Bennett.”

Chief archivist Richard Foy said: “The significance of the find lies in rarely seen passport application photographs and an idea of where individuals were travelling to at the start of the 20th century.”

Source: New Zealand Herald