At the top George Mallory wanted to leave a photograph of his wife. It hasn’t been found -yet. How far he got is unclear to this day. Clear is Mallory and Irvine had an accident. Unclear is if they were on there way up or down.
In 1924 the British climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared on Mount Everest. Did they make it all the way to the top? Were they on the highest peak in the world before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay 1953? Does that mean that the first ascent of the 8,848.86 meter high mountain, which has been officially recognized since December 8, 2020, took place in 1924 – and not in 1953?
George Mallory was considered the best British mountain climber of his time whose eloquent words matched the bold style of his climbs. He cut his chops on climbs in his native England and the Alps, but it wasn’t until 1921 that he found his lives dream, the mountain that would consume his ambition -Mount Everest.
Because it’s there…Everest is the highest mountain in the world, and no man has reached its summit. Its existence is a challenge. The answer is instinctive, a part, I suppose, of man’s desire to conquer the universe. (George Mallory)
George Mallory had been on two other expeditions to the summit of Mount Everest, in 1921 and 1922. A teacher who was considered to be intellectually and artistically gifted. At the same time a strategist who carefully thought through the ascent of Mount Everest.
1921, they had no maps, no guides. Nobody knew the area.
1922 he returned with a camera to show the world Mount Everest. They climbed higher than anyone before, but an avalanche stopped them.
Failure only seemed to steel his resolve. Mallory returned to Everest in 1924 for his fatal third attempt.
In February 1924 George Mallory and Andrew Irvine set out to their final third expedition. After months of traveling, the column of 300 pack animals and 70 porters walked off into the Tibetan highlands.
George Mallory’s plan was genius. He wanted to reach the summit in stages. Up a bit, build a camp, return and draw strengths. A technique practiced to this day for acclimatization.
George Mallory didn’t want to use oxygen tanks. He had long rejected it, but at an altitude of more than 8,000 meters the air contains about two thirds less oxygen than at sea level. Sadly, the oxygen cylinders were unreliable, unwieldy, and a “cursed load when climbing,” as Mallory wrote. On June 6, 1924, the preparations were completed, Mallory and Irvine made their way to Camp 5. One last photo shows them with the monstrous oxygen equipment on her back.
Mallory and Irvine leave late for the last stage
A day later they arrived at Camp 6. The weather was good, Mallory wrote another message for the expedition’s photographer, “We’ll probably leave early tomorrow so we have clear weather. You can look out for us from 8 o’clock. We either cross the ledge below the summit pyramid or we go up the ridge. Greetings, your George Mallory.” It is not known when the two actually left on June 8, 1924. Their magnesium torches and flashlights were found in the tent -they probably didn’t start until after sunrise, sometime between 5 and 7 a.m. They also left some of the oxygen equipment behind -maybe they had problems with it.
Mallory and Irvine are being watched
While the two of them were climbing from Camp 6 towards the summit, they were seen by Noel Odell, a geologist who examined the rock formations on Mount Everest: He looked towards the summit at around 12.50 p.m. and discovered Mallory and Irvine climbing a snow-covered ridge below a large rock step. He observed that the two were making rapid progress – but would take at least three hours to the summit and then descend late in the dark. Then there was also a heavy snow storm. Noel Odell anxiously prepared the highest camp for the return of the two. He was the last to see Mallory and Irvine alive.
Above Camp II. Mallory and Irvine experienced their first phase with bad weather with a storm and a sudden drop in temperature. They realized the way to the summit would be much harder than they thought.
Heavy snowfall and winds hit the team, the tents barely held up. The brutal conditions forced the entire team back to the base camp. Two men died -the expedition continued.
Mallory and Irvine are not coming back
The search for George Mallory and Andrew Irvine was fruitless. The two climbers remained missing for the next few days and weeks. Speculation as to whether or not they had made it to the summit began. In 1933, Andrew Irvine’s ice ax was found on the summit ridge at almost 8,500 meters. But even this find could not give an answer.
Great Britain mourned the fallen heroes. Bells were ringing all over the country and George Mallory and Andrew Irvine became legends. Irvines body hasn’t been found to this day.
In May 1999 a search team finds George Mallory
75 years later, in May 1999, five climbers are on their way to solve one of the greatest mystery in mountaineering history. The search expedition wants to find the bodies of George Mallory, Andrew Irvine and their camera. According to the manufacturer, the film could still be developed. Photos showing Mallory and Irvine at the summit would be final proof that the two were the first to reach the top of Mount Everest.
Mallory’s frozen body was found by climbers on the Mountain’s north ridge in 1999.
George Mallory’s left leg lay over the broken one, presumably to ease the pain. It looks like his left fingers are trying to hold on to the ice, to prevent a fall or sliding down.
He didn’t suffer long. At these cold temperatures death comes fast. 30 minutes after the accident he must have been dead.
There is no confusion about who’s body had been found. His body was well preserved in the cold. The climbers find letters and notes, as well as his snow goggles, a pocket knife and matches. But no camera.
The written notes do not provide clear answers either. The team notices that Mallory is not carrying the photo of his wife Ruth with him. He had previously announced that he would deposit it on the Everest summit. Has he succeeded? Or was the photo lost before or after his death? His mountain companion Andrew Irvine has not yet been found either. What is certain is that the two died in June 1924 in the summit area. How far they got and whether they did not survive the ascent or descent remains open.
Personally, I want to believe they made it to the top.
I hope one day they find Andrew Irvine’s body and the camera! I never heard of George Mallory before I found his book quote. Now I am glad I dug deeper. I hope he and Andrew Irvine made it to the top.