Who's Who 1924
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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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