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Mountaineering and Exploring

Maurice Wilson:

A Yorkshireman on Everest


Profits from the sale of this book will be donated to CAN (Community Action Nepal) for more information see: www.canepal.org.uk

About this book:

  • ISBN: 978 190 452 4564 (paperback)

  • Published 2008

  • Price £12.50 + postage

  • 199 pages

  • Illustrated with 25 photographs, drawings and maps


About this Book:

In 1932 Maurice Wilson was one of many who dreamed of climbing Mount Everest. But he planned to go alone, to fly to Tibet, land as high up on the mountain as he could and walk to the top. At that point he had no climbing experience and had never been in a plane, but he believed Everest was his destiny, and that his faith would guide him. He bought a second hand Gypsy Moth, booked a course of flying lessons and, defying government instructions, left London in May 1933. His amazing story is one of courage, determination, and belief.

About the Author:

Like Maurice Wilson, Ruth Hanson was born and brought up in Bradford. Since 1991, she has travelled fairly widely in the Himalayas, mainly in Nepal but also visiting Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan. She currently works as an in house lawyer, and lives with her partner in North Yorkshire.


Ruth Hanson has written wonderfully well of Maurice Wilson admitting to have been touched by his 'courage, some altruistic intention and a whole hearted strength of purpose'. I found the whole story quite compelling, a real page turner, needing to know more of this eccentric Englishman's efforts to show the world how to live by climbing Everest alone. Doug Scott, CBE

The Yorkshireman who died on Everest, on a gorgeous day
Ruth Hanson first heard about Maurice Wilson while on holiday in Scotland with friends one New Year.
"I was browsing through a book about Everest that one of us had been given for Christmas when a faded photograph caught my eye," she says.
The photograph showed a man standing in front of a small bi-plane, hands on hips, wearing a leather helmet and flying goggles, and staring at the camera with a half-smile.
It was a picture of a man who dared to follow his dream, an adventure which could have come straight from the pages of a 'Boy's Own' annual. A man whose story inspired Ruth, a Halifax banking lawyer, to write one of her own.
The man in question was Yorkshireman Maurice Wilson, who, in the early 1930s, decided that in spite of a complete lack of either flying or mountaineering experience, he would fly from England to Tibet and then begin his climb of the then unconquered Mount Everest.
A few years earlier, in 1924, British climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine had died attempting the hazardous feat and it would be another couple of decades before Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay would be successful in 1953.
Wilson did manage to fly his three-year-old Gipsy Moth, which he christened 'Ever Wrest', from Britain to India but he died in his attempt to climb the mountain.
But his derring do exploits captivated Ruth - just as they had the public years before when his story made newspaper headlines.
"I read the piece and something about him caught my imagination. Perhaps it was the crazy impossibility of his plan; or knowing he got as far as he did when most people - including myself - would have given it up as hopeless; or even our shared Yorkshire roots," explains Ruth, who comes from Bradford, as Wilson did.
But she adds, the more she found out about the man, born in 1898, the son of a Bradford mill owner who joined the Army at the age of 18, quickly rising through the ranks to make Captain and winning the Military Cross, the more she became intrigued by him.
"He was well known in climbing circles and his story had been written about before but even so, I became hooked on his story and thought perhaps there was more to be told," she says.
And so the idea of book began to take hold - a book which would not only tell Wilson's story but also include the colour and beauty of a region - he Himalayas - which were also familiar territory to Ruth.
"I had visited a friend here back in 1991 and began trekking. The area intrigued me and so I wanted to include my experiences too."
The result - 'Maurice Wilson, A Yorkshireman on Everest' - is an amazing story of courage, determination and belief, woven with Ruth's love of the Himalayas.
Ruth began her research in earnest in 2005 and has included newspaper cuttings, papers held at the British Library and, perhaps most poignantly, Maurice Wilson's diaries of the expedition.
The story paints a picture of a man who left the Army after being injured and who, while suffering failing health, went in search of a 'cure'.
'This really was based around his faith and I think he believed that if he could conquer Everest then he would make something of himself and people would take notice of him,' says Ruth.
Despite attempts by the British authorities to stop him, Wilson did manage to fly from London to India and on a trip to see his parents in Shipley before that mammoth journey, he flew the Gipsy Moth north, crash-landing in a field near Clifton, Brighouse.
On arriving in India, he disguised himself and set off to walk to Tibet before eventually making an attempt to climb the mountain. The first climb, alone on 16 April 1934, had to be aborted.
He tried again on 12 May, taking Sherpas with him this time. But again the climb was abandoned. Days later the party tried again and all of them reached a point before Wilson decided to carry on alone.
His last diary entry, dated 31 May, read: "Off again, gorgeous day."
When he did not return, it was assumed he was dead but it was not until 1935 that a small reconnaissance expedition came across his body at the foot of the North Col, lying in the snow.
"They thought he had been dead for about a year. The body was rolled in a crevasse in the ice," says Ruth.
And so Everest was to be Maurice Wilson's final resting place and the story of the 'mad Yorkshireman' was to reach the world.
"It's a story that I hope will interest people," says Ruth, who is giving profits from the book to Community Action Nepal, a charity that supports mountain people.
The charity was started by Doug Scott, who has climbed over 40 Himalayan summits, including Everest and who has written the foreword to Ruth's book.
"For me, Maurice Wilson was just an ordinary chap who had a dream. Managing to fly that distance was a major achievement in itself before the climb. His story inspired me and I hope his story will inspire others." says Ruth.

Halifax Evening Courier, July 2008


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This book is now available in a French edition from

Les Éditions du Mont Blanc


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