THE ECCENTRIC EVEREST
Could a mill worker’s son from Bradford
have been the first person to climb Mount Everest? Maurice Wilson’s
story is a fascinating one of eccentricism, faith and fetishes!
Wilson was a real life comic book hero, who in the 1930s
announced to the world that he would crash land a plane on the slopes
of the world’s highest peak and then walk to the summit.
There was however, just one problem – Wilson had never
flown a plane before or done any mountain climbing!
Salkeld recounts Wilson's adventure
Wilson’s story starts during the First World War.
He became badly injured as a First Lieutenant in the
West Yorkshire Regiment and spent the post war years drifting in an out
He eventually left Bradford for New Zealand, where he
ran a ladies clothes shop, before leaving again on journey where he would
dabble with mysticism and the power of the mind.
Audrey Salkeld, an Everest historian says, "He believed
that if he could get divine help he’d be able to prove that he could do
Barry Collins, who’s written a play about Wilson says,
"The British Empire didn’t want this crazy man to fly out solo to the
Himalayas so they did everything they could to stop him."
Wilson eventually left England in 1933, making it to
India in a Gypsy Moth plane despite having just basic maps.
But he was eventually forced to sell his plane and make
the rest of his ill-fated attempts on foot.
It is the world's tallest mountain at 8,850 metres
It is 60 million years old.
Water boils at 70 degrees c. at the top of Everest.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay were
the first to officially climb the mountain in 1953.
Wilson set up camp at around 21,000 feet and planned
to fast and use the power of faith to get to the top.
But he struggled to get past the North Col. Eventually
exhaustion took over and the following year Wilson’s body was found wrapped
in his tent.
Collins says, "I have this feeling that he couldn’t come
home again. He’d made such an enormous public fuss in the newspapers that
he was going to prove the existence of God and what faith can do."
"If he’d gone back a failure it would have been the end
for him psychologically so he ended up dying on the mountain."
An American supporter of Wilson believes that he did
get to the top and died on his way down rather than the way up.
"The Chinese expedition of 1960 found a tent that was
700 feet higher than any other high camp established on Everest. Where
did that tent come from? It could only have come from Maurice Wilson."
But Sir Chris Bonington, a legend of British mountaineering
|Sir Chris Bonington
laughs off the suggestion that Wilson succeeded
He says, " I think it’s pretty unlikely that Mallory
and Irvine reached the summit of Everest, but with Wilson I think you
can say with absolute certainty that he would have no chance whatsoever."
But there’s one more twist to Wilson’s adventure. Rumours
have continued to arise that Wilson had a secret.
Collins says, "It appears that when Wilson was found
there was women’s clothing in his rucksack and I’ve heard someone say
that he was decked out in women’s underwear".
The story was fuelled by the discovery of a ladies shoe
at 21,000 feet by the 1960 Chinese expedition.
Audrey Wilson says "We can’t pin the woman’s shoe find
on Wilson but knowing that he worked in a ladies dress shop in New Zealand
all these things have come together to build a picture of Maurice Wilson
as a transvestite or shoe fetishist."