Editor's Note: Published on page A16 of the June 15, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
EMINENT Mount Everest chronicler Elizabeth Hawley said the other day maverick Filipino climber Dale Abenojar summited the world’s highest mountain on May 15, two days before the heretofore first Filipino to reach the peak, Leo Oracion.
In a long distance telephone interview with the Inquirer, Hawley said she interviewed Abenojar at his request for one hour on June 6 and was shown two summit photos.
“I met him myself. I interviewed him at his request. I believe he reached the summit. I believe him. It has been disputed, but he has photos and I have copies (of the photos),” the 83- year-old Hawley said.
One of the photos, Hawley said, clearly showed Mt. Makalu in the background. “Makalu is not visible anywhere below 8,500 feet on the north side.”
She said Abenojar made it to the summit together with Tsiring Jangbu Sherpa.
Canadian saw him
the photos Abenojar had given her. The Canadian, who didn’t actually summit, told her he had seen someone wearing the same clothes as Abenojar climbing the north face of Everest.
Hawley also said a Canadian climber visited her and saw
Hawley, a former journalist, traveled to Nepal 40 years ago and never left. While she has never climbed a mountain in her life, Hawley is the best known chronicler of Himalayan expeditions for over four decades. She is respected by the international mountaineering community because of her complete and accurate records, despite their being unofficial.
Climbers who want to be recognized for climbing Everest subject themselves to interviews with Hawley or her staff.
During the interviews, every aspect and detail of the mountaineer’s Everest climb is discussed, including what and who they saw on the mountain. Hawley is able to verify a climb by interviewing other climbers.
Hawley told the Inquirer she remembered Abenojar, whom she called “Mr. Dale,” very well.
“He was very talkative. He just wouldn’t shut up. The guy who was with him tried to shut him up,” Hawley recalled.
She said, however, she could not comment on the authenticity of the certification issued to Abenojar by the Tibet Mountaineering Association.
Hawley explained there had been cases where climbers claimed to have summited Everest but these were disproved years later. “I wouldn’t say that is common. But that is certainly not uncommon.”
She said climbers without previous experience scaling alpine mountains have been known to summit Everest.
Controversy has surrounded Abenojar’s claim of having scaled Everest from the tougher North side. Skeptics in the mountaineering community said he did not have the alpine-mountain climbing experience and his history of mountaineering in the Philippines was checkered with “fabrications.”
At one point in the past, Abenojar’s detractors said he had claimed to have climbed every mountain in the Philippines.
Abenojar also claimed to have climbed Mt. Halcon in Mindoro, one of the country’s more difficult peaks. This claim was later to have been found to be false by mountaineers in the area.
Oracion, the acknowledged first Filipino on Mt. Everest, received the news in stride.
“He can claim whatever he wants to claim. Diyos na bahala sa kanya (Let God be his judge). It’s up to him to prove it,” Oracion told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
“Basta kami (As far as we are concerned), we delivered the message na kaya ng Pinoy (the Filipino can do it,” Oracion said.