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Item #: OP881B-297
I'LL CLIMB MOUNT EVEREST ALONE: THE STORY OF MAURICE WILSON Dennis Roberts 2010 [1957] New Paperback
By Roberts, Dennis
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London, 2010 [1957]. 158 pp, 19 b/w ills. Story of a non-climber who flew to India in 1934, climbed solo to Everest's North Col, and died there. His body was found by Charles Warren and Eric Shipton. New paperback.

Eric Shipton's 1935 reconnaisance party found his body at the approaches to the North Col. There at a little over 21,000 feet they buried him in a snow crevasse and raised a cairn over his grave. But those bare facts hide an amazing story. Maurice Wilson had kept a Diary - a day by day record of the fantastic quest that led him to the upper slopes of Everest - and this diary Shipton took from Wilson's body and brought back to England. It proved an astonishing record of persistence, courage, and a faith that never wavered in the face of appalling hardship and adversity. 

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The most bizarre attempt on Everest has to be that of Maurice Wilson who in 1934 planned to crash land a plane on Everest and then walk up to the summit. There was one slight problem with this plan. He had never flown a plane before or done any mountain climbing

Utterly unqualified he wanted to climb in order to publicize his belief that fasting and having faith in God could solve the problems of the world. It took him months to actually get to the base of the mountain, because he didn't have permission to fly over Nepal. When he finally began to climb, he encountered problems on the glaciers, repeatedly getting lost. He reached 21,000 feet and then began to make a number of tentative ascents and descents before striking out for the summit. A year later his body was found.

Wilson was badly injured as a First Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment during World War 1. He spent the post war years drifting in an out of society. He eventually left Bradford for New Zealand, where he ran a ladies clothes shop, before leaving to dabble with mysticism and the power of the mind. He believed that if he could get divine help he would be able to achieve marvelous things.

Wilson eventually left England in 1933, making it to India in a Gypsy Moth plane despite having just basic maps. But he was eventually forced to sell his plane and make the rest of his ill-fated attempts on foot. In 1934, disguised as a Tibetan, and with the help of some Tibetan porters, he sneaked into forbidden Tibet and made his way to Camp 3 at 21,000-ft on the East Rongbuk Glacier. There he planned to fast and use the power of faith to get to the top. Wilson intended to transport himself spiritually to the summit, but was seduced into actually attempting to climb because of a stroke of luck. He had stumbled into the frozen food remains of the large British expedition of 1933. He sent his porters back and, armed with a shaving mirror, intended to climb Everest without proper food, equipment or mountaineering experience. The mirror would be used to signal monks at the Rongbuk Monastery some 15 miles away by flashing sunlight down to them.

But he struggled to get past the North Col. Eventually exhaustion took over and the following year Wilson’s body was found wrapped in his tent. His body was found wrapped in a tent by members of the British Everest reconnaissance expedition of 1935. It resurfaced from its crevasse again in 1960 and 1975 and continues to reappear.

There is one interesting quirk to the Wilson story. There have been persistent rumors that when Wilson was found there was women’s clothing in his rucksack and that he was decked out in women’s underwear. Some, perhaps unfairly rather than letting a deluded but brave man rest in peace, have speculated that because he worked in a ladies dress shop he was in New Zealand he was a transvestite or shoe fetishist.

Over the years Wilson has acquired a collection of supporters who believe he made it to the summit. There really is no way he could have done so. Nevertheless his story is one of the most interesting and bizarre to come off Everest and is well worth reading. His delusional quality and yet the sneaking admiration you have to feel for the man is summed up by the last four words in his diary as he embarked on another futile potter up the mountain “off again, gorgeous day.”


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