Beetham and Irvine aboard SS California, Liverpool
29th February 1924, en route for Darjeeling © The
Sandy Irvine Trust, UK. Not to be reproduced
"Because it's there," - George Leigh Mallory
By the time George
Leigh Mallory first set foot on Everest in the early 1920s the world was on its way
to becoming a pretty well known place. Most of its far reaches and secluded
spots had already been, or soon would be explored, mapped and recorded; all
their mystery laid bare.
Such was not the
case for the worldís third pole. At this point in time the
Everest had yet to be summited though many men had already lost their lives in the
attempt. Mallory was
at the time of his
final expedition and his historic attempt at the first summit of Everest. He
was a member of a 1921 Everest expedition, which had studied the mountain from
the Tibetan side and was widely recognized as perhaps
Britainís best climber.
Mallory returned to
Everest in 1922, reaching a height of 27,000 feet
before retreating from
the attempt and after
losing seven Sherpa
in an avalanche. Finally in 1924 Mallory would make an assault on the summit
along with teammate Andrew "Sandy" Irvine. They left high camp
on June 8th and were last seen by geologist Noel
Odell through a momentary parting in the blowing snow and mist as they
approached the Second Step. Though Odell says they were later than he expected
the two men appeared to be climbing strongly toward the peak. They were never
seen again and were lost on Everestís vast North Face.
whether or not Mallory & Irvine actually summited Everest decades before Sir
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay continues to this day. It is thought, based
on Odellís testimony that the two men may have climbed the difficult Second
but what happened after that remains a mystery. However a few clues to the mens' fate and one startling
lay in wait for later climbers.
An Ice Axe was found
in 1933 at 27,750 feet on the route Mallory and
Irvine took. The Axe was etched with three marks
as was customary for Sandy Irvine. The Chinese completed Mallory & Irvineís
route in 1960. However it appears that without the necessary equipment, a climb
of the Second step by Mallory & Irvine would have been extremely difficult. A
body, thought to
be Irvineís was reportedly found by a
Chinese climber 750 below the ice axe and finally on May 1, 1999 George
Malloryís body was discovered
27,000 feet on Everestís North Face.
Did the men reach
the top and die on the way down? No one knows. Tantalizingly, a camera Mallory
took with him still waits to be found somewhere on Everestís towering slopes.
If that camera is ever recovered the film inside may finally put the mystery
of Mallory & Irvineís summit to rest.
George Mallory II, summited Everest in 1995.
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