Elizabeth Hawley

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Elizabeth Ann Hawley
Born(1923-11-09)November 9, 1923
DiedJanuary 26, 2018(2018-01-26) (aged 94)
Occupation(s)Journalist, Author
Employer(s)Time Inc., Reuters
Known forThe Himalayan Database
  • Frank Hawley (father)
  • Florelle Gore (mother)
AwardsKing Albert I Memorial Foundation Medal (1998)
Queen's Service Medal (2004)
Peak Hawley (2014)
WebsiteThe Himalayan Database:Elizabeth Hawley

Elizabeth Hawley (9 November 1923 – 26 January 2018) was an American journalist, author, and chronicler of Himalayan mountaineering expeditions. Hawley's The Himalayan Database became the unofficial record for climbs in the Nepalese Himalaya. She was also the honorary consul in Nepal for New Zealand.[1][2]


Early life[edit]

Hawley was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1923.[3][4] She was educated at the University of Michigan and graduated with an honours degree in English in 1946.[3][4] Having visited Kathmandu on a round-the-world trip in 1957, Hawley moved to Nepal full-time in 1959, giving up her job as a researcher for Fortune magazine in New York. In 1960 she started as a journalist and correspondent for Time,[1] but later moved to the Reuters news agency in 1962.[5] She covered the 1963 American Everest expedition that traversed Mount Everest.[2] Her article on the death of the Nepalese prime minister made the front page of The New York Times.[6] She socialized regularly with royalty and senior politicians in Nepal, on whom she reported for US media.[4][7]

Climbing database[edit]

While she never climbed a mountain herself, Hawley was the best-known chronicler of Nepalese Himalayan expeditions from the 1960s onwards (she did not chronicle the Karakoram Himalaya such as K2 or Nanga Parbat), and was respected by the international mountaineering community because of the accuracy of her records, and the tenacity of her investigations; winning her the nickname "The Sherlock Holmes of the Mountaineering World".[1][3] Italian climber Reinhold Messner told Outside, "If I need information about climbing 8,000-meter peaks, I go to her".[6] Sir Edmund Hillary, one of her closest friends (she was an executive officer for Hillary's Himalayan Trust),[7] once called her "a bit of a terror".[3][4]

Hawley's detailed mountaineering records are summarized in The Himalayan Database,[8] and have been used both as a record of successful ascents, and also of establishing success rates and fatality rates, for climbers in the Nepal Himalaya.[9] Having a Himalayan ascent logged on Hawley's database became an essential requirement for mountaineers, which lead to many famous disputes, including:[3][10]

  1. Hawley ruled that the 1997 ascent of Lhotse by Italian climbers Sergio Martini and Fausto De Stefani was "disputed"; Martini reclimbed Lhotse in 2000 to officially become the seventh person to climb all 14 eight-thousanders, but De Stefani refused to reclimb Lhotse and his claim is therefore disputed.[11]
  2. In 2010, Hawley was called on to assess whether Korean climber Oh Eun-sun had become the first woman to complete all 14 eight-thousanders; she found that her claim was unlikely, based on the terrain of her summit photograph on Kangchenjunga. Oh would later concede to not having reached the true summit, and Spaniard Edurne Pasaban became the first woman to achieve the feat.[2][10][12]
  3. Hawley also saw Alan Hinkes's claim to be the first Briton to complete all 14 eight-thousanders removed from the record books by placing a "disputed" mark over his 1990 ascent of Cho Oyu.[13][14]
  4. Hawley famously forced American climber Ed Viesturs to re-climb the true main summit of Shishapangma in his quest to climb all 14 eight-thousanders; her Himalayan Database would not accept ascents of Shishapangma's central (west) summit as full ascents of Shishapangma.[15]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2008, French ice climber François Damilano named a peak in Nepal after Elizabeth Hawley having made a solo first ascent of Peak Hawley (6,182 meters) in the Dhaulagiri Group on 9 May 2008.[16][17] In 2014, the Nepalese State officially confirmed the naming of Peak Hawley.[1][18][19]

She was the honorary consul in Nepal for New Zealand for 20 years up until her retirement in 2010, for which she received the Queen's Service Medal in 2004.[2][18] She was also awarded the Swiss King Albert I Memorial Foundation Medal in 1998 for services to mountaineering,[18] and was the first recipient of the Sagarmatha National Award from the Government of Nepal.[18] The former American ambassador to Nepal, Peter Bodde, described Hawley as one of Nepal's "living treasures" and that "her contribution to the depth of knowledge and understanding between Nepal and the US was immense".[20]


  • Salisbury, Richard; Hawley, Elizabeth (October 2004). The Himalayan Database: The Expedition Archives of Elizabeth Hawley. American Alpine Club. ISBN 978-0930410995.
  • Bernadette McDonald (September 2005). I'll Call You in Kathmandu: The Elizabeth Hawley Story. Mountaineers Books. ISBN 978-0-89886-800-5.
  • Salisbury, Richard; Hawley, Elizabeth (March 2012). The Himalaya by Numbers: A Statistical Analysis of Mountaineering in the Nepal Himalaya. Mountaineers Books. ISBN 978-9937506649.
  • McDonald, Bernadette; Hillary, Sir Edmund (October 2012). Keeper of the Mountains. RMB. ISBN 978-1927330159.


  • Allison Otto (Director) (2013). Keeper of the Mountains (DVD).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Rajneesh Bhandari; Kai Schultz (28 January 2018). "Elizabeth Hawley, Who Chronicled Everest Treks, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2019. Climbers nicknamed her the "living archive" and the "Sherlock Holmes of the mountaineering world".
  2. ^ a b c d Jolly, Joanna (28 August 2010). "Elizabeth Hawley, unrivalled Himalayan record keeper". BBC News. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Elizabeth Hawley: Undisputed authority on Himalayan climbing expeditions who ran the definitive database but never ventured as far as Base Camp of Everest". The Times. 30 January 2018. Yet for five and a half decades she was the undisputed and unrivalled authority on every significant climbing expedition in the region. No climber entered or left Nepal without being interrogated by the diminutive "Miss Hawley".
  4. ^ a b c d Bernadette McDonald (30 January 2018). "Elizabeth Hawley Remembered". Alpinist. One of her closest friends, Sir Edmund Hillary, once described her as "a bit of a terror." But he freely admitted that her friendship was gold standard—one that lasted a lifetime. Reinhold Messner called her a "first-class journalist." Kurt Diemberger described her as a "living archive."
  5. ^ Gopal Sharma (26 January 2018). "Everest climb chronicler Elizabeth Hawley dies in Nepal". Reuters News. The global climbing community has lost a "great friend", said Ang Tshering Sherpa, a former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
  6. ^ a b Eric Hansen. "Legendary Himalayan Journalist Elizabeth Hawley Dies". Outside. As I noted in my 2011 profile of Hawley for this magazine, her information came to be relied upon by newswires, scholars, the Nepal Mountaineering Association, the American Alpine Journal, European climbing publications, and the world's best mountaineers. "If I need information about climbing 8,000-meter peaks, I go to her," Italian climbing legend Reinhold Messner told me.
  7. ^ a b "The unique Elizabeth Hawley Nov 9, 1923-Jan 26, 2018". Himalayan Trust. 30 January 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  8. ^ Salisbury, Richard; Hawley, Elizabeth (October 2004). The Himalayan Database: The Expedition Archives of Elizabeth Hawley. American Alpine Club. ISBN 978-0930410995.
  9. ^ Salisbury, Richard; Hawley, Elizabeth (March 2012). The Himalaya by Numbers: A Statistical Analysis of Mountaineering in the Nepal Himalaya. Mountaineers Books. ISBN 978-9937506649.
  10. ^ a b Eric Hansen. "The High Priestess of Posterity". Outside. Hawley has been in the middle of it, and her suspicions appear to have been borne out: in spring 2010, Oh admitted that, although one of her Sherpas still maintains that they reached the summit, she thinks they actually stopped "five vertical meters from the top."
  11. ^ Elizabeth Hawley (2014). "Seasonal Stories for the Nepalese Himalaya 1985-2014" (PDF). The Himalayan Database. p. 274. But a South Korean climber, who followed in their footprints on the crusted snow three days later [in 1997] in clearer weather, did not consider that they actually gained the top. While [Sergio] Martini and [Fausto] De Stefani indicated they were perhaps only a few meters below it, Park Young-Seok claimed that their footprints stopped well before the top, perhaps 30 meters below a small fore-summit and 150 vertical meters below the highest summit. Now in 2000 [Sergio] Martini was back again, and this time he definitely summited Lhotse.
  12. ^ Gopal Sharma (27 April 2010). "Korean first woman to climb world's 14 highest peaks". Reuters. Retrieved 14 March 2019. Climbing historian Elizabeth Hawley said Oh's 2009 ascent of the world's third highest Mount Kanchenjunga was in dispute as the picture of the climber was "clearly" not at the summit of the mountain because it showed her feet on the rock and not on snow. "Summit pictures of other people on the same mountain in the same season show them standing in the snow," Hawley, who chronicles major climbs in Nepal's Himalayas, told Reuters.
  13. ^ Jeremy Page. "A towering knowledge and final arbiter on Himalayan disputes". The Times. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  14. ^ Ed Douglas (22 August 2005). "Fame is a four letter word". British Mountaineering Council. Retrieved 14 March 2019. And they get their info from Liz Hawley in Kathmandu. "Hinkes said that he 'has no proof to have not been to the summit'," the website explained, "and so he counts it a done deal. The statisticians didn't buy it, and Alan was deleted on all of the Cho Oyu lists."
  15. ^ Bernadette McDonald (5 October 2012). Keeper of the Mountains: The Elizabeth Hawley Story. Rocky Mountain Books. pp. 185–195. ISBN 978-1927330159.
  16. ^ Dougal MacDonald (10 July 2008). "Newly Climbed Peak Named for Elizabeth Hawley". Climbing. Retrieved 14 March 2019. The French ice climber François Damilano has named a newly climbed peak in Nepal after Elizabeth Hawley, the longtime chronicler of mountaineering in the Himalaya. Damilano made a solo first ascent of Peak Hawley (6,182 meters) in the Dhaulagiri Group in early May.
  17. ^ Francois Damilano (2009). "Asia, Nepal, Dhaulagiri Himal, Peak Hawley (6,182m)". American Alpine Journal. American Alpine Club. 51 (83): 321. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  18. ^ a b c d Lisa Choegyal (13 February 2018). "ELIZABETH HAWLEY 1923 – 2018". American Alpine Club. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  19. ^ Ben Ayres (11 March 2016). "Meet the 92-Year Old Recording History in the Himalayas". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 31 July 2020. Retrieved 15 March 2019. In 2014 the government of Nepal named a peak after her in recognition of her contribution to the mountaineering industry—and Miss Hawley was not amused.
  20. ^ Lisa Choegyal (28 February 2018). "Elizabeth Hawley 1923–2018". Nepali Times. Retrieved 14 March 2019. Elizabeth Hawley, who died in Kathmandu on 26 January 2018 aged 94 years, was an American journalist living in Nepal since 1960, regarded as the undisputed authority on mountaineering in Nepal. She was famed worldwide as a 'one-woman mountaineering institution' because of her systematic compilation of a detailed Himalayan database of expeditions still maintained today by her team of volunteers, and published by the American Alpine Club.

External links[edit]

Elizabeth Hawley at IMDb