Elizabeth Hawley, for most mountaineers on their way to climb in the Nepalese Himalaya, was like a venerable aunt you did not want to cross. She was made an Honourary Member of the Alpine Club in 2013. Many expedition leaders will remember a knock on their Kathmandu hotel door that awoke them from a jet lagged slumber. "Miss Hawley is waiting downstairs to see you sir," the deskman would say. Liz knew when you were in town and where. She would greet you cordially in a crisp, no nonsense American accent that spoke of both an excellent education and impeccable manners. She was a petite woman with aquiline features, glasses always perched halfway down her nose. Peering over those glasses, her eyes interrogated you as much as her questions. She never missed a chance to extract every ounce of information about your plans over tea and toast. In return, Liz gave us the latest news; who was where; doing what; tips on unexpected access or porter problems.
An interview with Liz was the gateway through which we passed into the reality of those great mountains. Her presence stayed with you on the climbs. You knew she would welcome you on return to hear your tales: just make sure you had your facts straight if you claimed a summit! I knew this not from my Nepal visits and from 10 years of corresponding with Liz while doing the Himalayan news for Mountain Magazine. She needed proof or it didn't count.
The last time a saw Liz was at a reception at the British Embassy. She sidled up to me from nowhere and said without even so much as a 'how are you'; "you people are going to put the likes of me out of business!!" "Hello Liz," I replied cautiously, " what do you mean?" "Your Mr. Bonington tells me you are going to be running a website from your basecamp in Tibet. The year was 1997. I immediately took her point. I thought for a moment and replied; "Ah, but all the more opportunities for a good journalist to pull together the true story from a load of unprofessional ramblings." Liz smiled, and said; "Maybe."' We spent the rest of the evening drinking wine and talking of old times. Today the battle to be a good journalist is a battle against tens of thousands of websites. From her strong hold in Kathmandu, Liz maintained her standards without rivals. Liz will be greatly missed. Her reports and lifelong dedication to mountaineering in Nepal is a legacy that will benefit many generations to come, and that is not a "maybe."