Monday, 6 May 2013

A Really Welsh Everest

This May 29th is the 60th anniversary of the first (known) ascent of Everest and to celebrate its many Welsh connections there is an exhibition at St Julitta’s Chuch, next to Plas y Brenin in Capel Curig.  Harvey Lloyd, an Everest enthusiast and Chair of the Friends of St Julitta’s, showed me around and explained some of the connections.

Harvey Lloyd with Norton's ice axe
The mountain was named after Sir George Everest from Crickhowell in recognition of the great work he did surveying and mapping that part of the world in the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India. Previously it had been referred to as Peak XV although for centuries the locals had called it Chomolungma.

Hillary from New Zealand and Tensing from Nepal were the first to make it to the top but it could have been a Welshman. Charles Evans, who went on to become the vice chancellor of Bangor University, was deputy leader of the expedition and, together with Tom Bourdillon, was the first to attempt the summit on 26th May. Problems with their oxygen slowed them down and they had to turn back.

It took five days for the news to get out, two days to travel down to base camp and then a runner to Kathmandu where a coded message was sent to The Times who were the main sponsor. Their correspondent was James Morris, now known as Jan Morris, the only surviving member of the expedition and who lives near Pwllheli.

Having climbed Tryfan a couple of weeks ago I was pleased to see a photo of climbers testing out their oxygen tanks on the north ridge. Irvine from Corwen, who disappeared close to the summit with Mallory in 1924, was the oxygen expert.

The exhibition at Capel Curig will be open Friday to Monday each week and all of the week ending 2nd June from 11:00 to 17:00 and admission is free. It will then move to other locations including Llandudno and Llanrwst.  

For more information about the church and their programme of events visit the St Julitta’s website.

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