Eric Newby, 86; travel writer known for classic mountain-climbing tale

From Times wire reports

Eric Newby, 86, author of the travel classic “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush,” died Oct. 20 near Guildford in southern England, his daughter Sonia Ashmore told the Associated Press. No cause of death was given.

Born and raised in London, Newby gave up a job in advertising in 1938 to sail on a Finnish grain ship to Australia and back, a voyage he later recounted in “The Last Grain Race.”

Newby served with Britain’s elite Special Boat Section during World War II. Captured during an operation off the Italian coast in 1942, he spent three years in a prisoner-of-war camp. He managed to escape, and before being recaptured he met a young Italian Slovenian woman, Wanda Skof, whom he married in 1946.

After the war, Newby worked in the fashion business before setting out -- with almost no mountaineering training -- to climb Afghanistan’s Mir Samir. The journey, alternately funny and thrilling, is recounted in “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” (1958), which has remained in print for half a century.


Newby served as travel editor of the Observer newspaper in London between 1964 and 1973 and continued to travel, frequently accompanied by his wife. His travel books include “Slowly Down the Ganges,” “Round Ireland in Low Gear,” “Love and War in the Apennines” -- about his wartime experience -- and “On the Shores of the Mediterranean.”