Sir Ed's signature mystery solved

By Susan Sandys of the Ashburton Guardian

Double Hut is a former musterers' hut dating back to the early 1900s. Photo / Ashburton Guardian
Double Hut is a former musterers' hut dating back to the early 1900s. Photo / Ashburton Guardian

The signature of Sir Edmund Hillary has been rediscovered at Mid Canterbury's Double Hut.

Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of the pencilled words "Ed Hillary 1951" after the Kiwi mountaineer died in 2008.

Mid Canterbury trampers and mountaineers tried to find his signature at Double Hut at the time, having last spotted it there in 2002.

But they were unsuccessful, and suspected the wood it had been written on had been chainsawed out and stolen.

But the signature has been found on a wall, above one of its six beds.

Sir Ed stayed in the hut, a three-hour walk from Lake Heron, as he prepared to climb nearby Mt Taylor before his famous ascent of Mt Everest in 1953.

Tramper Lew Shaw said he had viewed the signature again last weekend. He and just a few others had known about the signature's rediscovery, but had not wanted to raise awareness of it due to the risk of someone stealing it.

However, considering the hut was not accessible by road, the signature was difficult to find, and that most would realise its value was inherent in its location, they decided this was minimal.

"It's very hard to find," Mr Shaw said.

Even though he knew exactly where it was, it had taken him a good 10 minutes to make it out from a wall above one of the beds at the weekend.

"If you were to lie on your back and reach over and write your signature, that's where it is," he said.

The signature had always been considered to be Sir Edmund's over the decades, but there was no way of knowing if the signature which had been rediscovered was one and the same as the original, however he believed it was the same one and that is was genuine.

"My feeling is that it's genuine," he said.

Department of Conservation spokesperson George Iles said he had stayed in the hut four times over the years and had tried to find the signature but had been unsuccessful.

"I'm really pleased it hasn't disappeared, because there was a rumour it had been taken," Mr Iles said.

"I don't think people would look at it twice out of location, but it means so much more in location," he said.

"It would be nice to keep that heritage in the landscape."

Double Hut is a former musterers' hut dating back to the early 1900s, used by trampers, mountaineers and hunters for back country accommodation.

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