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  Mallory and Irvine The Final Chapter: Edward R. Norton


When a flare up of malaria struck Brigadier General C.G. Bruce leadership of the 1924 Third British Expedition fell to Lt. Colonel Edward Norton. This in turn would result in George Mallory being promoted to Climbing Leader. This would set in motion events that would culminate in Mallory & Irvine's famous and still enigmatic attempt at Everest's summit.

However Mallory and Irvine were not the only ones to make heroic attempts at the summit during that expedition. Despite weeks of bad weather the expedition had established a camp on the North Face at about 26,700 feet. Norton and Howard Somervell attempted an oxygenless summit despite being woefully equipped by today's standards. Somervell was forced to abandon the climb at about 28,000 feet while Norton continued on alone. It was extremely slow going over the frigid landscape where each step required eight to ten breaths before continuing. At one point Norton removed his goggles to watch his footing on the steep, frozen mountainside. This would end up being a grave error as by that afternoon he was suffering from double vision and by the next day he was snowblind. Norton finally reached a height of 28,126 feet, just 800 feet short of the summit. With the summit so tantalizingly close Norton decided that it was too dangerous to continue alone and unroped, knowing a single misstep could send him tumbling down the mountain.

Norton's ascent was a record for an oxygenless climb that would not be surpassed for 54 years. A few days later Mallory and Irvine, climbing with oxygen, made their attempt at the summit.

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