Sunday, 14 April 2013

Everest 60th Anniversary

I finally made a visit to the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, just before the 60th anniversary of Hillary and Tenzing’s Everest climb. I’d heard that the names of the expedition members were written on the ceiling and sure enough, there they were, in the Alpine bar.

In the far corner of the ceiling I noted a familiar name, John Disley, who I’d listened to speaking as President of the Snowdonia Society at its recent AGM. A soft-spoken, quietly persuasive man but why was his name here next to Roger Bannister? No Everest connection as far as I can make out but great achievers nonetheless.

Both Bannister and Disley competed in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics with Bannister coming fourth in the 1500 metres and Disley winning bronze in the 3000 metre steeplechase. That same year John Disley set the record for the traverse of the Welsh 3000s ... ‘His time might well have been less than seven hours had not threatening weather prompted him to set off an hour earlier than planned.  As a result he kept arriving at his pre-arranged ‘pit-stops’ too early for his support teams.  He continued, without food or drink, until he finally collapsed on top of Pen yr Oleu Wen.  Fortunately, his support team on Carnedd Dafydd saw that something was amiss and came haring over to revive him....’ (extract from the excellent 14 x 3000 Cymru website).   Bannister went on to break the four minute mile in 1954 and Disley was BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 1955.

After shopping at Cotswold Outdoors
In 1981 Disley was co-founder of the London Marathon with Chris Brasher and both were regular guests at Pen y Gwryd. There is a reference in the Daily Post (2003 May 3rd) which says Brasher had a group of walkers called Oboes, an acronym for On the Back Of EnvelopeS, which was inspired by Harold Tilman, the explorer who used to write the details of his expeditions on the back of envelopes. Roger Bannister was a member of this group and presumably so was Disley? At the next AGM of the Snowdonia Society I must ask him.

I’m really glad I made it to this shrine to Everest in the heart of Snowdonia. The 60th anniversary is on 29th May and there will be a reunion at the hotel that weekend for the families of the expedition of which there is only one survivor, Jan Morris, who was the Times correspondent covering the story.

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