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  • Elizabeth Hawley, former U.S. journalist and chronicler of mountain climbing in the Himalayas, in Kathmandu in 2011.

    Elizabeth Hawley, former U.S. journalist and chronicler of mountain climbing in the Himalayas, in Kathmandu in 2011. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 January 2018

Elizabeth Hawley managed the "Himalayan Database," in which the names of those who climbed the highest peak in the world were recorded.

Elizabeth Hawley, famed chronicler of the Himalayas in Nepal, has died at a hospital in Kathmandu at the age of 94. A journalist dedicated to covering every Everest expedition, she had become so respected that climbers requested her formal recognition of their adventures.

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Hawley decided to establish herself in Kathmandu in 1960 after a visit to the Himalayas. Born in Chicago in 1923, she first started writing for Reuters in 1962.

Initially tasked with covering Nepalese politics and social issues, in 1963 she got the opportunity to cover a U.S. expedition to the highest peak in the world.

So began her relationship with mountaineers, who swifty became her main research and reporting interest. Hawley soon began recording every climber who scaled Mount Everst and other Himalayan peaks, building a substantial archive.

Hawley became so respected in the climbing community that her formal recognition was considered essential for anyone successfully scaling Everest. Her work was finally acknowledged by the Nepalese government in 1991.

The global climbing community has lost a "great friend," former President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association Ang Tshering Sherpa told Reuters, "but her memory will live on in the form of her life's work."

Despite spending decades reporting extensively on expeditions, Hawley herself never actually climbed Everest or even visited its base camp.

Instead, she would interview climbers before and after their efforts to decide whether to include their names in "The Himalayan Database: The Expedition Archives of Elizabeth Hawley."

Always unofficial, the database was nonetheless respected by climbers: a necessary endorsement to validate their achievements. She managed the register until five years ago, chronicling no less than 9,600 expeditions.

"Climbers like the database and seeing their names along with other climbers," said Hawley, who became an unofficial "judge" of expeditions.

"I don't mean to frighten people, but maybe I've acquired this aura of being the arbitrator," she told the BBC in 2010. "It might scare them into telling me the truth and that might be useful."

In 2009, Hawley registered South Korean Oh Eun-Sun's climb to Kanchenjunga as "doubtful," preventing her from becoming the first woman to officially climb the 14 peaks higher than 8,000 meters above sea level.

A year later and after five attempts, Spain's Edurne Pasaban climbed the Shisha Pangama peak and claimed the title.

In 2014, the Nepalese government named a mountain Peak Hawley in honor of the journalist, who last week was admitted to the CIWEC Hospital and Travel Medicine Centre in Kathmandu.

She died Friday of pneumonia-related complications, Doctor Prathiva Pandey said.


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