Maurice Wilson, dubbed "the mad Yorkshireman," stands with his Gipsy Moth, the Ever-Wrest.
Outsmarting the Weather
by Liesl Clark
May 13, 1999
Maurice Wilson has always been described as an eccentric, but what he set out
to accomplish back in 1934 was remarkable—the first solo attempt on Mount
Everest. Wilson bought a second-hand Gipsy Moth airplane, took his first and
only course of flying lessons, and promptly set off for India. This alone was
quite a feat, but he had his sights set on Everest. "When I have accomplished
my little work, I shall be somebody. People will listen to me," Wilson
declared. Jochen Hemmleb
explains the irony in this: "As it turns out, Maurice
Wilson is remembered for his Everest attempt because his aviation accomplishments
were much more memorable, flying illegally from England to India."
For years, Wilson's remains have been seen and photographed just below
Advance Base Camp. He died alone at 22,000 feet and was discovered a year
later by a British Reconnaissance Expedition. They wrapped him in his tent
and placed him in a crevasse. That night, the members of the British team
read Wilson's diary aloud to each other and were moved by his accounts: "We
cannot fail to admire his courage."
Today, Jochen Hemmleb and expedition doctor Lee Meyers, found Wilson's
remains on the glacier just below Advance Base Camp. "Occasionally, you
find pieces of cloth in the glacier that look like they could have come
from the 1930s," explained Hemmleb. "The first piece we found was a half
femur bone about eight inches long. Not far from it I found one vertebra.
Then about 600-900 feet down from that was a piece of forearm, the ulnar
bone." The glacier, in its movement, has broken up Wilson's bones and
clothing, spreading him out further and further each year. "Even in death
he shows his determination, refusing to be buried," said Hemmleb wistfully.
"It's a beautiful morning. We're a couple minutes from walking," reported
Dave Hahn on the radio
this morning. The climbers are moving up from Camp IV on the North Col to Camp V
at 25,500 feet. Our team of Sherpas, a total of eight, will move up to the Col
today and then go straight up to Camp VI to join the climbers tomorrow if the
weather holds out.
Outsmarting the weather is a difficult game up here, as the jet stream
fluctuates back and forth, to the north and south of Everest at this
time of year. As the monsoon pushes from the south, the jet stream
moves north, providing climbers on Everest with a brief interlude before
the monsoon snows set in. Currently, the jet is split to the north and
south, with Everest somewhere in between the two threads. This means
that the jet is not blowing directly on the summit of Everest. If the
conditions hold out, then the climbers could be on top as early as the
15th. Just this morning, 14 people from the south side, nine Sherpas and
five climbers, were standing on the summit. They called down to our
Sherpas by radio.
Tonight the mists and snow have enveloped the mountain and a light snow is
falling on our tents. From Advance Base Camp we have no view of Everest,
just whiteout. And at Camp V, the team will wait out the storm
until expedition leader Eric Simonson receives word by e-mail on the weather.