Unmarried and solitary by nature, Col Jimmy was the only son of a Gujarat headmaster. He returned to South Asia after being sent “home” to school in England (King’s Canterbury, which I never heard him mention) and military training at Sandhurst. The product of a British Army career, he had a distinguished and highly decorated record in India, Malaya and Singapore. He always said that the few women he ever met were limited to the sisters of fellow Gurkha officers.
Instead, Jimmy went climbing. He pioneered Himalayan peaks in the days when access was constrained by tensions between China, India and Tibet, and visits to Nepal were “by invitation only”. As he put it: “At that time, for a mountaineer at least, the lure of Nepal was far more potent than Tibet or Bhutan. And in the mountain book, only the chapter titled ‘Nepal’ remained closed, the pages uncut.”
He became a legendary Himalayan mountaineer and explorer, bagging many first ascents and getting to 50m below the sacred summit of Mt Machapuchre. Disdaining to join John Hunt’s 1953 Everest expedition, which he himself had been shortlisted to lead, Col Jimmy helped with oxygen logistics then preferred to explore alone, making the first ascent of Mera Peak which he dismissed as: “rather over 21,000 feet and not difficult”.