Sir John Hunt’s mittens and ephemera

Sir John Hunt’s mittens from the 1953 Everest expedition have been reunited.

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As reported in ATG No 2593, the left-hand cotton mitten owned by Hunt (1910-98)sold for a hammer price of £3200 at Hansons in Staffordshire on May 10.

The owner of the right-hand mitten, a man who climbed Everest himself in 2018, spotted its pair coming up for sale and after a fierce bidding battle he came out on top.

Jim Spencer, manager of the Library sale, said: “I had the bidder on the telephone and after they won the auction they said to me, ‘By the way, I own the other one’.”


The left-hand mitten is now waiting to be framed and displayed alongside the right-hand version (framed along with a letter of provenance from Sir John), which he “bought more than 20 years ago at auction for around £400”, said Hansons.

The right-hand mitten had been offered at Bonhams in 2003 but had gone unsold at the time, so was presumably a post-sale purchase or reoffered elsewhere.

The owner of the reunited pair, Daniel Wallace, 44, a property surveyor from Winkfield, Berkshire, said: “I’ve been a mountaineer for around 20 years and climbed Everest in 2018.

“I also attempted Everest in 2014 and 2015 and witnessed tragedy. I lost three members of my team in a Nepal earthquake in April 2015. I was also there when an ice avalanche struck in 2014. I went on to raise money for the families of three Sherpas who lost their lives.

“I know first-hand how difficult it is to climb Everest and how long it takes – more than two months is required in order to acclimatise to the high altitude.”


The letter from Sir John with the right-hand mitten, dated December 1986, confirms it was one of a pair worn ‘during the first assault on 24-28 May 1953’. He also mentioned memorabilia being distributed to ‘various charity foundations’.

This ties in with a letter of provenance with the left-hand one which reads: “Dear Mr Jenkins, Thank you for your letter dated 17th September. I hope that the enclosed down mitt, used by me at 27,400 feet on Everest on 26th May 1953, may be helpful to you in your campaign.”

Spencer added: “The campaign referred to was a 1970s fund-raiser for a new Scout hut for the 1st Newtown Scout Group in Newtown, Powys.

“Sir John kindly donated the mitt and the seller’s father bought it. At that time, Sir John had a home nearby in the village of Llanfair Waterdine.

“The Welsh seller drove all the way to Hansons’ Staffordshire saleroom, Bishton Hall, to bring me the mitt.”

Hunt had chosen two pairs of climbers to make the final push for the summit. The first, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, came within 330ft on May 26 but turned back after running into oxygen problems.

The same day, Hunt, ascending with Sherpa Da Namgyal, intended to reach 27,900 feet to leave equipment for the second summit party of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The pair came to Hunt’s rescue when he could not move any more at 27,400 feet, overcome by altitude sickness. Hilary fetched his oxygen apparatus and put Hunt on a maximum flow of six litres per minute. Three days later Norgay and Hillary reached the summit.