FILE - In this Aug. 8, 1953 file photo, Sir Edmund Hillary, left, and his fellow New Zealander George Lowe, are welcomed home to New Zealand following their arrival by air at Auckland. George Lowe, the last surviving climber from the team that made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, died Wednesday, March 20, 2013. He was 89. (AP Photo, File)
Updated: April 23, 2013 2:35PM
LONDON — George Lowe, the last surviving climber from the team that made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 89.
Mary Lowe said her husband died Wednesday at a nursing home after an illness.
Mr. Lowe and his friend Edmund Hillary were the only two New Zealanders on the 1953 British-led attempt to climb the world’s highest peak.
Mr. Lowe was part of a small group that established the final camp 1,000 feet below the mountain’s summit on May 28, 1953. The next day, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal reached the 29,035 foot peak.
As Hillary descended the next day, he greeted Mr. Lowe with: “Well, George, we knocked the bastard off.”
“He and Hillary climbed together through life, really,” said travel writer Jan Morris, who was part of the Everest expedition as a journalist for The Times newspaper.
“And when it came to the point near the summit, George had to play a subsidiary role. He climbed very high, he climbed to top camp and said goodbye to Hillary then helped him come down. He played a very important role.”
Morris said she was now the expedition’s only survivor.
She said Mr. Lowe was “a gentleman in the old sense — very kind, very forceful, thoughtful and also a true adventurer, an unusual combination.” AP