Mountaineer George Lowe applied for his passport only two months before leaving with Edmund Hillary for the Indian expedition that "shaped climbing history".

Archives NZ has been delving into the passport applications of notable New Zealanders and has released those of the two late climbers.

Hillary's application was dated February 16, 1950, and notes that he was 6 feet 1-½ inches (1.87m) tall and had brown hair and hazel eyes. It was certified by his then-future father-in-law Jim Rose, an Auckland solicitor and 1953-55 NZ Alpine Club president.

Edmund Hillary's passport application from 1950 before his trip to Europe. Source / Archives NZ
Edmund Hillary's passport application from 1950 before his trip to Europe. Source / Archives NZ
George Lowe's passport application before the climbing expedition to the Garhwal Himalaya mountains in northern India in 1951. Source / Archives NZ
George Lowe's passport application before the climbing expedition to the Garhwal Himalaya mountains in northern India in 1951. Source / Archives NZ

Hillary sailed to England in April 1950 where he met his sister June who was married and living in London. They travelled in Europe with their parents and Ed Hillary went climbing in the Alps.

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In May 1951, Hillary and Lowe went to northern India with Earle Riddiford and Ed Cotter, where they climbed a number of 6000m peaks in the Garhwal Himalaya mountains.

Riddiford, the main organiser of the expedition, with Cotter and Pasang Dawa Lama reached the summit of 7240m Mukut Parbat, its first ascent. Lowe and Hillary turned back before reaching the summit.

Author Lyn McKinnon has analysed the climb, the climbers and their disputes in her book, Only Two for Everest: How a first ascent by Riddiford and Cotter shaped climbing history.

The success on Mukut Parbat led, in several steps, to Hillary and Lowe joining the British expedition to Mt Everest in 1953, on which Lowe played a critical role and Hillary, with Tenzing Norgay, made the first ascent of the world's highest mountain.

Archives NZ said a fascinating glimpse of the country's past had been revealed after some passport application files, which were previously thought not to exist, were discovered.

The agency said the files would not usually be retained as a public archive because so many are processed each year and their limited value once the actual passport has been issued.

"However after a researcher requested his grandfather's file, staff checked containers named 'passport files' and although nothing was found on the grandfather, the applications of several notable New Zealanders were discovered.

"They included Sir Edmund Hillary, the 1924 All Blacks Invincibles, former Prime Minister Gordon Coates and women's health champion Dr Agnes Bennett."

Chief archivist Richard Foy said: "The significance of the find lies in rarely seen passport application photographs and an idea of where individuals were travelling to at the start of the 20th century."

Dr Agnes Bennett

Agnes Bennett (born 1872, died 1960) was a Scotland-trained doctor from Australia who settled in New Zealand. Archives NZ has released her 1931 Wellington application to renew her British passport.

She had bought a medical practice in Wellington in 1905 after suffering from the prejudice against women doctors in Sydney, according to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

During World War I she worked in military hospitals in North Africa and Europe, including for the Serbian army. Back in Wellington after the war she was influential in efforts to reduce maternal and perinatal deaths through improved, more-hygienic health care.

Part of the 1924 passport application of George Nēpia, a member of the
Part of the 1924 passport application of George Nēpia, a member of the "Invincibles" All Blacks. Source / Archives NZ

George Nēpia

George Nēpia (born 1904, died 1986) was a member of the 1924-25 All Blacks "Invincibles" to tour Britain, France and Canada.

He applied for his passport in June 1924, a month before leaving.

Nēpia played all 32 matches on the tour and has been described as one of New Zealand's finest rugby players. He played league too - in need of money after the Great Depression, he took a professional contract in Britain.

"Following a general amnesty in 1947 Nēpia was reinstated to rugby," according to nzhistory.govt.nz.

Part of the 1936 passport application of Gordon Coates, who was prime minister at the time. Source / Archives NZ
Part of the 1936 passport application of Gordon Coates, who was prime minister at the time. Source / Archives NZ

Gordon Coates

Gordon Coates (born 1878, died 1943) was prime minister from 1925 to 1928 and finance minister during the depths of the Great Depression in the early 1930s.

An MP for the conservative Reform Party and later National - and at times an Independent - Coates sought a passport in September 1926 to go to the United States and Europe.

"Profession - Prime Minister," his application states. Address - "260 Tinakori Rd, Wellington", aka Premier House.