I’ll come back to that…....in a while but, as I was reading in bed last night, sipping a drop of Highland Park and water, I came across a reference to the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel in Snowdonia and my attention became riveted. It historic claim to fame is that it was used by scores of young men as a base for training for the several Everest expeditions before the war. It was also used by the Brits who took part in the successful one in 1950s.
The book mentions the part played by the Times journalist, James Morris who was “embedded” with the expedition since the Times had bought exclusive rights to the story and who sent the following telegram to London: “Snow conditions bad stop advance base abandoned May 29 stop awaiting improvement stop all well” It sounded like a report of failure but was, in fact, code for success.
This is a rambling tale but it struck me as an odd chain of coincidences; the message was not passed on to the public because it was decided to release it on the same date as that of the Coronation.
We had the day off on that day and I was standing at the bar in the mess when Loris, the barman, heard the news of the Everest success and announced it. I had always been keen on climbing, had read all the books by Eric Shipton about earlier expeditions and been to the PYG several times and was very pleased and excited but I didn’t realise at the time, and only found out last night, that James Morris, who had started off the chain, was Jan Morris who wrote “Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere” and who mentions hearing the aria “Mai piu ritornerai, mai pui,” as a young cavalry officer in Trieste.