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Sunday, November 8, 1998 Published at 23:16 GMT


Everest pioneer dies

Lord Hunt: "A very, very great man" says Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Lord Hunt, who led the first team to climb Mount Everest, has died aged 88.

Lord Hunt recounts the "thrilling" conquest of Mount Everest
He died peacefully at home in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on Saturday surrounded by members of his family.

John Hunt led the 1953 Everest expedition and, although he did not reach the summit, his planning allowed Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain.

[ image: Mount Everest: Lord Hunt organised the expedition which first climbed the mountain]
Mount Everest: Lord Hunt organised the expedition which first climbed the mountain
A brigadier with a distinguished Army career, he was knighted a month later for his part in the triumph.

He also played a prominent role in public life, holding a series of high-profile posts.

In 1956 he retired from the Army to become the first Director of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and was given a life peerage - as Baron Hunt of Llanfair Waterdine - in 1966.

He went on to become first Chairman of the Parole Board and headed successive government relief missions to Biafra during the Nigerian civil war.

He leaves a wife, former tennis player Lady Joy, and four daughters.

Tribute from the Queen

News of the success on Everest reached the UK on the day of Princess Elizabeth's coronation and both events were morale boosters for Britons enduring the grim post-war era.

[ image: The Queen is
The Queen is "saddened" by Lord Hunt's death
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh spoke of their sadness at his death.

A statement from Buckingham Palace said: "The conquest of Everest was an early landmark of the Queen's reign and Lord Hunt brought the same spirit of adventure and leadership to many other areas of national life.

"As the first director of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, he particularly helped and encouraged young people in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth."

Emlyn Jones, who was on the 1953 Everest expedition, said Lord Hunt overcame initial suspicion after he beat the respected mountaineer Eric Shipley to lead the mission.

'A great organiser'

Mr Jones said: "He was a great man, a great administrator and very good at organising people.

"He was able to build a very strong happy team and although one or two were unhappy when he was first appointed, he proved to be an absolutely outstanding mountaineer."

[ image: Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Inspired by Lord Hunt]
Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Inspired by Lord Hunt
Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes said Lord Hunt's achievements inspired his own exploits.

He said: "He was a very, very great man, one of the great mountain-climbers and helpers of youth wanting to head in the same direction of our time.

"I was a nine-year-old schoolboy with wide eyes when he led this incredible expedition which put Hillary and Tenzing on Everest.

"I was very impressed by it, one of the greatest British, or I should say Commonwealth, expeditions ever mounted," said Sir Ranulph.

Military pedigree

During the World War II Lord Hunt was an instructor in commando techniques and snow warfare and served in Egypt, Italy and Greece.

He was awarded military honours - the DSO in 1944 -and the CBE in 1945.

In 1952 the British Army of the Rhine gave him special leave to organise the Everest expedition.

Although Hillary and Tenzing grabbed the headlines it was Lord Hunt who ensured all those on the expedition came down the mountain safely.

Four years after the Everest expedition Lord Hunt led a rescue party which saved three members of the Alpine Club who were overwhelmed by a blizzard in the Swiss Alps.

Renowned for his honesty Lord Hunt was once asked by a group of schoolchildren what Sir Edmund had said after reaching the summit of Everest.

He replied: "We've knocked the bastard off", and told his shocked audience: "I think it is better that I told you the truth, even if it wasn't what you expected."

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