Saturday, June 3, 2000
F A C T   F I L E

Sir John Hunt
By Illa Vij

"WE must remember that man’s relationship with mountains is not merely one of stern struggle. There is much more in it than rubbing our noses against a vertical rock. We must not forget that mountains are not merely to be conquered but solace for the soul." These were the words of Sir John Hunt, who planned and led the successful ascent of Everest, which transformed him from a virtually unknown figure into a national hero, and an international figure. He strongly felt and propagated that when mountaineers are exposed to hardships and dangers, it brings about a close comradeship which breaks all barriers of race, creed and language.

John Hunt said, "We must not forget that mountains are not merely to be conquered but solace for the soul"Henry Cecil John Hunt was born in 1910 in Shimla in India. His father was on officer in the Indian Army, and was killed in the early stages of World War I. John studied in a school in Marlborough. During his vacations his mother would take him to the Alps. It was here that he learned to climb. At the age of 18, he topped the entrance examination to Sandhurst and passed out first and became an army officer. He won the King’s medal and the Anson Memorial Award and was then commissioned in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. A mountaineer of great ability and strong at heart, he climbed whenever he got an opportunity to do so. As a young lieutenant, serving his regiment in India, he spent his leave along with another officer in exploring the areas around Peak 36, a 24,400 ft summit in the Saltoro range of the Karakoram in the North West of India.

  They tried to make it to the summit too, but bad weather conditions didn’t permit them to move ahead. Over the years his Himalayan experience increased. He was even appointed the Chief Instructor at the Mountain Warfare and Winter Warfare school at Braemar, in the Cairngorms. Later in 1945, he organised Mountain Training Courses for the Indian and Scottish troops, on the slopes of Mount Olympus. With a team ofn other officers he explored relatively unknown mountains of Greece. He even climbed Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain in Sinai. In 1952 he received an invitation from the Himalyan Committee, asking him to lead the expedition to the Himalayas. Since numerous attempts to conquer the Everest had failed, John Hunt knew that the whole world was waiting for the final success. An excellent team was selected and after intensive preparations, overcoming all barriers. Mt Everest was conquered in May 1953. Hillary and Tenzing made the successful assault. Of course their achievement overshadowed most of the part played by John Hunt himself, but we all know that preparations, groundwork, proper planning and taking major decisions are priceless contributions for any success. He even said "It was tempting to go for the top myself but I’m sure that I’ve chosen the best men for the job and that my position enables me to control the business and make decisions on the spot.."

His book Ascent of Everest gives a vivid account of this remarkable expedition. He retired from the British Army in 1956 as a Brigadier. He also became director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme from 1956 to 1966. He received his peerage in 1966. He helped in setting up the Mount Everest Foundation, a fund built up from the proceeds of the books, films and lectures of the Everest expedition. He even felt that this expedition aroused a great interest in mountaineering all over the World. We all must remember, like most mountaineers feel, "something sublime is the essence of mountaineering.

The funds are used to support explorations in mountain areas.