British writer Eric Newby, author of the travel classic
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
, has died, his family said today. He was 86.
Newby died of natural causes, his daughter Sonia Ashmore said. She said her father "passed away peacefully on Friday evening" near Guildford in southern England.
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 the 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 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), a book that has remained in print for half a century.
Newby served as travel editor of The Observer newspaper 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.