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Stewart Hawkins, the Author

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Wilfrid Noyce, from Charterhouse, Malvern College and the Climbers Club to the 1953 Everest mountaineering expedition

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The life of Wilfrid Noyce, Mountaineer, Scholar and Poet

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Far,Far the Distant Peak

Wilfrid Noyce is best known for his mountaineering exploits during the period before the Second World War and until his death in 1962 in the Pamirs; he made a major contribution to the success of the 1953 Everest expedition. There were however many other sides to this quiet, diffident unassuming man. This book tells of his scholarly prowess from an age right through Charterhouse and King’s College, Cambridge to his War service in India and beyond. He led the cryptography team that broke a key Japanese code and significantly improved the ability of the allies to understand the plans of the Japanese and to intercept the movements of their forces.

After the war he became a schoolmaster, first at Malvern College and, after his marriage in 1950, at his old school, Charterhouse. He taught Classics initially and then French and Italian and was appreciated for the quiet manner in which he delivered his lessons. He was a popular master and many are the boys who are grateful to him for introducing them to the mountains and inspiring them with a love of adventure and the outdoors.

Poetry and writing came naturally to him. Articles and poems flowed from his pen from early on and when he was established as a writer, he published a new book almost every year. Most of these concerned the mountains and adventure but the biography-poem Michael Angelo was published in 1953 and Poems in 1960.

This book describes Noyce’s life and achievements and seeks to show the motivation and driving force of a man who spanned two very different eras of mountaineering achievement.


I remember being taught French by Noyce at Charterhouse. Always modest and quietly spoken, he came alight when we asked him about climbing – and had him describe sleeping outdoors in a hammock in February, at Godalming, in preparation for the Everest climb. I read his book South Col and realised then that he was a poet and mystic first and a school teacher second.

As always delving deeper into a life reveals fascinating detail, which would otherwise be lost for ever. That is what Stewart Hawkins has done for us with this book.

David Dimbleby