Everest pioneer Mike Westmacott: memorial service

Posted by Ed Douglas on 07/09/2012
Mike Westmacott on Everest

A memorial service is planned for Mike Westmacott at Kendal Parish Church on 5 October - anyone is welcome.

Mike Westmacott, one of the last remaining members of the first team to climb Everest in 1953, died aged 87 in June. A former president of both the Alpine Club and the Climbers’ Club, Mike was a constant presence in the British climbing scene for over 60 years.

A memorial service is planned for Mike Westmacott at Kendal Parish Church on 5 October at 3:30pm. Anyone is welcome, but please contact Sally Westmacott on 01539 822 684 in advance.

Born in 1925, Mike read mathematics at Oxford University, where he was also president of the mountaineering club, after serving with the Indian Army Engineers at the end of the Second World War.

Although he was an experienced rock climber and alpinist, the expedition to Everest was his first to the Himalaya. He learned of the expedition from a friend as they descended the Matterhorn, and when he got home, Mike applied and was invited to an interview with Col John Hunt at the Royal Geographical Society.

“I’d been a humble lieutenant in the Indian army,” Mike later told the BBC, “so the thought of meeting a full colonel was a little bit daunting in those days. But that feeling didn't last more than 10 seconds. When one met him he was instantly welcoming and friendly.”

Mike’s job was to help find the route through the Icefall – climbing dangerous features including ‘Mike’s Horror’ – and then keep it open to provide a safe passage for the climbers working higher on the mountain as it changed and melted through the season.

When Hillary and Tenzing reached advanced base with the news of their success, Mike accompanied Jan Morris in her dash to get the news out in time for the Queen’s coronation.

It was not, he later recalled, “the most sensible thing I've done from a mountaineering point of view. By the time we got to the bottom we were very tired indeed and it was getting dark.”

When he went to Everest Mike was working as an agricultural statistician at Rothamsted Experimental Station, but then moved to Shell where he spent the rest of his career before retiring in 1985 to the Lake District.

Mike was a true servant of British climbing, not only as a club president but also as a committee member of the Himalayan Trust in the UK.

Perhaps his most lasting contribution was his conception and realisation of the Himalayan Index, a reference resource that lists over 2,500 peaks in the Himalaya and provides an essential research tool for exploratory mountaineers.

The BMC offers its condolences to Mike’s wife Sally and his family. Fuller obituaries appear in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.



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