Howard Somervell

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 1
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameTheodore Howard•Somervell
Used nameHoward•Somervell
Born16 April 1890 in Kendal, Cumbria, England (GBR)
Died23 January 1975 in Ambleside, Cumbria, England (GBR)
NOC Great Britain


Howard Somervell was the son of William Henry Somervell, a well-known Kendal footwear manufacturer. With Kendal being in the heart of England’s Lake District, it was of no surprise that Howard soon had a fascination with the hills and mountains around him. Educated at Rugby School, he then went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge where he studied natural sciences. He went on to become a medical student at University College Hospital. During World War I, Somervell was a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and was mentioned in dispatches.

Somervell was chosen to join two Mount Everest expeditions and during his first attempt in 1922, along with George Mallory and Edward Norton, reached 26,895 feet (8,198m), just 2,134 feet (650m) from the summit. Two years later, Somervell accompanied Norton on a push for the summit but was forced to stop with severe pain in his throat. Norton carried on a little further before he too was forced to give in to the elements., but not before he had reached 28,200 feet (8,595m), and was within 909 feet (277m). It was on the 1924 expedition that Somervell bravely rescued four Sherpas marooned on the North Col.

In between his two expeditions, Somervell volunteered to be a surgeon at the London Missionary Society’s hospitals in Neyyoor, India. He became the official head of the hospitals and stayed with them for 22 years, until retiring in 1945. Upon retiring, he was in great demand as a speaker to university students. Somervell was a fine musician and artist, and was president of the Alpine Club 1961-64 and once, during a six weeks holidays in the Alps, he climbed 32 local peaks.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1924 Winter Olympics Alpinism GBR Howard Somervell
Alpinism, Open (Olympic) Mixed team 1 Gold