Maurice Wilson MC (1898–1934) was a British soldier, mystic, mountaineer and aviator who is known for his ill-fated attempt to climb Mount Everest alone
Wilson found here
Often characterised as “eccentric”, he wished to climb Everest to promote his belief that the world’s ills could all be solved by a combination of fasting and faith in God.
Mt Everest found here
He joined the army on his eighteenth birthday and quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a Captain. He won the Military Cross for his part in an engagement where, as the only uninjured survivor of his unit, he single-handedly held a machine gun post against the advancing Germans.
image found here
Wilson left the army in 1919, and like many of the “lost generation” found the transition to post-war life difficult. For several years he wandered, living in London, the United States and then New Zealand where he ran a ladies clothes shop.
NZ Fashion Week 2008 found here
In 1932 he underwent a secretive treatment involving 35 days of intensive prayer and fasting with the aim of restoring his fading health. He claimed that the technique had come from a mysterious man he met in Mayfair who had cured himself and over 100 other people of diseases which doctors had declared incurable.
The idea of climbing Everest came to Wilson while he was recuperating in the Black Forest. He formed a plan to fly a small aeroplane to Tibet, crash-land it on the upper slopes of Everest, and walk to the summit. A practical problem was posed by the fact that Wilson knew nothing at all about either flying or mountaineering.
Black Forest found here
Wilson purchased a three-year-old Gipsy Moth, which he christened Ever Wrest, and set about learning the rudiments of flying. His preparation for the mountaineering challenge that lay ahead was even worse than his preparation for the flight. He bought no specialist equipment and made no attempt to learn technical mountaineering skills, such as the use of an ice axe and crampons. Instead, he spent just five weeks walking around the modest hills of Snowdonia and the Lake District before he declared himself ready.
Snowdonia found here
Ignoring the Air Ministry’s ban, Wilson set off, and remarkably, and in spite of the best efforts of the British government, he succeeded in reaching India two weeks later. After trying and failing to get permission to enter Tibet on foot, Wilson spent the winter in Darjeeling fasting and planning an illicit journey to the base of Everest.
Darjeeling found here
Most of what is known about Wilson’s activities on the mountain itself come from his diary, which was recovered the following year. He seems to have found the trek up the Rongbuk Glacier extremely difficult, constantly getting lost and having to retrace his steps. He wrote in his diary “It’s the weather that’s beaten me – what damned bad luck” and began a gruelling four day retreat down the glacier.
Rongbuk Glacier found here
On May 22, he made an abortive attempt to climb to the North Col. After four days of slow progress and camping on exposed ledges, he was defeated by a forty foot ice wall at around 22,700 ft. His last diary entry was dated 31 May, and read simply “Off again, gorgeous day“
In 1935, a small reconnaissance expedition to Mount Everest found Wilson’s body, lying on its side in the snow and surrounded by the remains of a tent which had been torn apart by the elements.
But there’s one more twist to this adventure. Rumours have continued to arise that Wilson had a secret. Barry Collins, who’s written a play about Wilson 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. Historian Audrey Salkeld says “We can’t conclusively 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 him as a transvestite or shoe fetishist.”
NOT this shoe found here