Monday, 21 November 2016

Eccentric British army man Maurice Wilson and Mt. Everest!

Eccentric Englishman Maurice Wilson. YouTube
The outdoor sports of mountaineering  is not only a costly affair   but also it requires proper training and planning. In the case of scaling tall summits  like  Mt. Everest,  Mt. Nangaparbat,  Mt. McKinley (Alaska, USA), etc., one  needs better  training, technical skills, mental agility and sound physical and mental health. Can you imagine what will happen to a man who has tried to climb the tallest peak Mt. Everest without having  either reasonable experience in mountaineering or proper planning of an expedition to such a tall summit? Such a suicidal attempt is roughly equal to digging his own grave  and fixing by himself an epitaph on it written by him! One Maurice Wilson, a British soldier and an aviator had an ill-fated attempt in 1934 on Mt. Everest, barring government restrictions on his adventure. It drew the attention of the media world over  not because  of his wealthy back ground, but because of his quirky and aberrant behavior.
Maurice Wilson with his gypsy moth plane-Ever Wrest, before his flight to India/en.wikipedia.org

Maurice Wilson MC (21 April 1898 - c. 31 May, 1934) from Bradford  was the son of  a wealthy woolen mill owner and  he would have stepped into his father's shoes and taken care of the mill with his brothers. But his fate had it the other way  and  with the  outbreak of the First World War,  he joined the  British army on his eighteenth birthday, leaving his father's woolen mill job prospects in the cold storage.

As a soldier with the British army he proved his talents and    quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a Captain. He actively took part  in the Battle of Passchendaele (from July to November 1917) and later won the Military Cross for his heroic  engagement near Meteren (Dutch province of Gelderland). Here, being the only uninjured survivor of his unit, he single-handedly held a machine gun post against the advancing Germans. Later he left the army in 1919 because of  his serious injury in his left arm almost paralyzed  as a result of machine-gun fire. The injury never healed and left him in pain till the end of of his life. 

His postwar transition to civilian life was a difficult one and for some period he had a chequered career in the US and New Zealand. Though financially he was quite comfortable, he was unhappy and his physical and mental health was not  good. The doctors could not cure his TB that he contracted in the past.  Surprisingly his illness was reasonably cured through a month of crash treatment program, involving intense prayer and fasting - a dose of western religion and eastern mysticism. Since his  miraculous cure, he had become a votary of intense prayer and fasting as cure for ailments and in this vocation his commitment was strong.
Ascent on Mt. Everest. longitudes.ups.com
While in Black Forest in south western Germany, where  he was recuperating, a chanced reading of an article on the 1924 failed attempt on Mt. Everest by Mallory and Irvine, drew his attention and wanted to pick up the task left unfinished by the duo and successfully climb Everest. He thought through the power of  prayer, faith in God  and fasting, nothing was impossible and was not beyond human resilience and he would succeed in his endeavor which Mallory and Irvine had failed to succeed. Further, he described that climbing Everest was an opportunity -" the job I have been given to do".

 His weird idea was to fly a small plane  to Tibet, crash land it near the summit on the upper slopes and walk up to the summit. Even an experienced mountaineer would shudder, contemplating a solo ascent on the most treacherous summit Everest. The funny thing is Wilson had to learn the basic of flying and mountaineering. He learned the basics of flying with a three-year old Gypsy Moth plane which he himself bought and got the license, taking twice the time required to get it. His peers were against his solo flight from England to India.
difficult terrain. way to Mt. Everest. VeryHelpful.net
With great difficulties, he flew into the Indian subcontinent and illegally entered Nepal with three Sherpas. There  he was unable to get the plane,  as his plane was impounded near the Nepal-India border. So he reached the base camp on foot.

His first attempt took him two mile close to Rutledge below North Col. However,  bad weather forced him to retreat to the base camp.  Following this, he was sick and snow blind and took more than a couple of weeks to recover.  On 21st May, with help from the Sherpas, he made unsuccessful attempt on North Col. Next day, he could not cross the 40 foot ice wall at 22700 feet, a tough barrier. On his return to the base,  Sherpas pleaded  him to give up his ascent but he refused to give up. Again on May 29, Wilson  set out to reach North Col and above, this time alone with  no Sherpas assisting him. When he did not return to the base camp, the two Sherpas reached Kalimpong in July 1934 finally announced the first news of Wilson's death. A pathetic end of a spirited Britisher.

It was a fool hardy adventure by the Englishman whose obsession with fasting and faith in god never taught him what was right and what  was  wrong. Nobody would risk his life and make such an attempt without training and proper mountaineering gear.
Ref:
https://www.outdoorrevival.com/instant-articles/historic-failed-attempts-to-conquer-everest.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Wilson