She's an amazing woman in all respects, and perhaps the last person one would expect to find living in Kathmandu, Nepal, and documenting the climbing scene. For starters, she's not a climber. She once told me she thought all of us climbers had a screw loose; and, she'd be the authority more than anyone, since she's worked with climbers in Nepal for over 50 years, documenting every ascent of significant peaks in the Nepal Himalaya.
But, she knows the Himalayan peaks better than anyone, and putts around in her 1960's, baby-blue VW Beetle every climbing season to track - and sometime harass - incoming and outgoing climbers. She's a stickler for detail, and is considered the ultimate arbiter when a summit is in dispute.
Prickly as she may be at times, Liz (she somehow has always allowed me to call her that) is a joy to be around. When I see her, I don't expect a sugar coating on anything, just straight up questions, straight up answers, and good conversation, all delivered on schedule.
I last saw her in 2009 after coming off Everest. I hadn't seen her since Gurla Mandhata in 2006 but, from across the lobby of the Yak & Yeti Hotel in Kathmandu, she chirped: Mr. Norton, I have a meeting with you, Mr. Hahn, and others tomorrow at 3:00. Please remind Hahn. I quickly smiled, said yes, and began walking her way to chat. A stern, librarian finger snapped up and stopped me in my tracks. That's all, Mr. Norton. We'll talk more tomorrow. Silenced, I walked off, scribbling the meeting time on the back of my hand with a Sharpie.
Finally, the work of Liz Hawley, is being recognized by the world outside of Himalayan climbers. In 2011, Eric Hansen wrote a great article on Liz in Outside Magazine, entitled "The High Priestess of Posterity".
And, now, my friend Allison Otto is heading soon to Kathmandu, Nepal, to meet with Liz and begin a documentary film on her life and career as the keeper of the Himalayan record.
But, Allison needs your help to fund the project; please check out the brief introduction below, and then head on over to her project, Keeper of the Mountains, at KickStarter.com, and make a donation!