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Elizabeth Hawley may not have been a climber, but there’s no doubt that she is an icon in the mountaineering community.
The Chicago-born journalist chronicled hiking expeditions on the Himalayas for more than 50 years. Since 1963, Hawley has been documenting climbs, creating the Himalayan Database, an extensive archive of more than 9,600 expeditions.
“The climbing world is mourning the loss of a legend,” said Alan Arnette, who conquered Mount Everest in 2011 and now covers climbing news on alanarnette.com.
Arnette recalls his first time meeting Hawley in 1998 and says he was impressed with her unrelenting questions and commitment to accurate reporting.
“The last time I saw her, years later (in 2013), she was just as feisty, engaging, and smart as ever,” Arnette said.
Not only did Hawley meticulously document expeditions, but she rigorously investigated claims to ensure accuracy. Her questioning and persistence reportedly lead her to be referred to as “the Sherlock Homes of the mountaineering world.”
She even has a namesake Nepalese peak, Peak Hawley (6,182 meters), which French ice climber François Damilano named after her following his first solo ascent in 2008.
While originally on duty to report on the area’s political happenings, she quickly developed a passion covering the region’s mountaineering scene and soon after began covering mountaineering news for Reuters.
Hawley reportedly died on Friday from complications from pneumonia. She was admitted last week to a private hospital near her home in Kathmandu.
“As the Himalayan Database continues, it will honor her legacy as the final word on climbing some of the world’s highest peaks,” Arnette said.