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The Elizabeth Hawley Story

She defied the conventions of her era: an American women on her own in Nepal for more than four decades, celebrated as the unofficial chronicler of Himalayan expedition climbing.

• Based on extensive interviews with Hawley, celebrated mountaineers, and Kathmandu intimates, and full access to Hawley’s meticulous records and correspondence.
• Follows the development of Himalayan mountaineering and Nepal’s entry into the twentieth century.
• Details friendships with famed climbers Hillary, Messner, Bonington, Humar, Viesturs, and more.
• Foreward by Sir Edmund Hillary, who considers Hawley his closest link in Nepal.

One of the most important figures in Himalayan climbing may be someone who has never been to Everest Base Camp, and is not a climber. In 1960, a young American woman, Elizabeth Hawley, moved to Nepal as a reporter for Time, Inc. Initially sending home political dispatches from the kingdom, it wasn’t long before Hawley’s pen found its niche: mountaineering in the world’s highest places. She quickly became part of the Kathmandu scene, socializing regularly with an eclectic group of adventurers, climbers, royalty, politicians and entrepreneurs. Hawley is still in Kathmandu today and has been the unofficial chronicler of every detail of every expedition mounted from Nepal in the Himalaya from more than four decades.

What would motivate this single American woman, the product of a Midwest upbringing, to travel solo during this era to one of the most remote and enigmatic places on the globe? How did she command the respect of climbers from around the world (some of whom report fear of her sharp tongue and rigorous interview style)? How did she remain an authoritative figure for 40 years during the most intense climbing of this region—the “Golden Era of Himalayan Climbing”? What changes did she see take place in mountaineering and in the political landscape of this region?

Although the intensely private Ms. Hawley is an enigma even to those who know her well, I’ll Call you in Kathmandu reveals Hawley as a complex personality, with a rich personal life.

BERNADETTE MCDONALD is Vice President, Mountain Culture at the Banff Centre and Director of the Banff Mountain Film Festival. She is the co-editor of Voices From the Summit: The World’s Great Mountaineers on the Future of Climbing, and other titles.

256 pages, 30 b&w photos, 2 maps, hardbound, $24.95
ISBN 0-89886-800-9. BIOGRAPHY.
Published by The Mountaineers Books (2005)

The first edition is out-of-print, but still available in some bookstores or from

A revised edition was published in 2012 under the title Keeper of the Mountains, The Elizabeth Hawley Story.

256 pages, 31 b&w-color photos, softcover, $22.95
ISBN 978-1-927330-15-9. BIOGRAPHY.
Published by Rocky Mountain Books, Vancouver, Canada (2012)