For the Love of Kathmandu

If you’re anything like me, when you’re going away on holiday, you tend to do a bit of research first. These days it’s not just a matter of getting travel brochures from the travel agent to drool over or maybe taking a trip to the local library to borrow one of those coffee table books with the glossy pictures in. That’s what we did way back in 1979 when we took our first European trip.

Now though we have the amazingly helpful tool that is Google.

Sometimes a good thing (beautiful pictures and helpful information), sometimes not so good (as in, you’ll be landing at the most dangerous airport in the world – why not u – tube it?).

So it was, while researching all things remotely connected to my upcoming destination, that I came across a lady synonymous with Kathmandu and mountaineering in the region.

Elizabeth Hawley is an 89 year old American renowned for her meticulously researched and comprehensive database on all expeditions that leave from Kathmandu.

If you’re in to biographies this one is fascinating and I must admit to buying yet another book. Born in 1923 in Chicago, Elizabeth enrolled in the University of Michigan in 1941 and went on to gain a Masters degree in history before starting work for Fortune magazine as an editorial researcher.

This position saw her travelling through the Americas and Canada and sparked in Elizabeth a lust for travel that would eventually see her embark on a round the world journey. She was one of the pioneers of solo travel for women and in the late 1950s travelled through Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, the Middle East, South East Asia and Japan by train, bus and boat.

It was on this journey that she visited Kathmandu and fell in love with the place, although she returned to America to put her affairs in order, Kathmandu was to be her home to this day.

Her initial work here during the early years involved being a correspondent for Time-Life and Reuters, reporting on politics and culture. During this time she became part of the Kathmandu scene, meeting Nepalese royalty, politicians, adventurers and mountaineers and it was from association with the mountaineering community that the database began.

Elizabeth’s attention to detail and determination to acquire all of the facts has resulted in the most detailed information being collected and compiled on every expedition since the early 1960s. She was a close friend of Sir Edmund Hillary and is the Executive Officer of his Himalayan Trust.

She still meets with every expedition leader and is constantly adding to the database and, with her old blue VW Beetle as her means of transport, she’s a well known figure in Kathmandu.