The British journalist Jan Morris, who gave the Times the exclusive on the conquest of Everest, died on Friday at the age of 94, his son announced in a statement.
“This morning at 11:40 am, author and traveler Jan Morris began her longest journey. She leaves behind her longtime companion, Elizabeth,” Thomas was quoted as saying by the BBC.
Morris, who officially changed gender in 1972, rose to fame for having transmitted to his newsroom the exclusive story of the conquest of Everest in 1953, thanks to an encrypted message. Back then, there was fierce competition between newspapers but the Times was the only one that had a journalist on the expedition, ex-soldier James Morris, who at 27, discovered mountaineering.
Local couriers were responsible for carrying her messages across the mountain on foot, but fearing that her articles would be intercepted by her competition, the transgender reporter invented a code: “Bad snow conditions” meant “Everest was beaten.” “Still nagging wind” meant “the attempt to defeat Everest has been abandoned.” Each climber also had his code name.
Hillary and Tenzing arrived
Thus, on May 31, 1953, Morris sent a seemingly bland message: “Poor snow conditions, so the expedition left the advanced field on the 29th and expects improvements if all goes well.” For the initiated, the message will take on another meaning: “Everest, defeated on May 29 by Hillary and Tenzing.”
The next morning, the large crowd waiting for the coronation of Elizabeth II he knew from the first edition of the Times that two men had planted the British flag on the “roof of the world.”
Several years after this exclusive, Jan Morris left journalism to dedicate himself to literature. He wrote more than forty books, including works on the history of the British Empire and, above all, a lot of travel literature.
And as a transgender woman, the writer made her transition official in 1972, definitively adopting the name “Jan”, at a time when the transition was no less a feat than that of Hillary and Tenzing. He captured his life trajectory in the autobiographical work ‘Enigma’. In addition to his life-long companion, Elizabeth, whom he married and divorced as a man, and remarried as a woman, he leaves behind five children.