the surviving members of the 1924 Third British
expedition to Everest in 1924, Noel E. Odell holds the
distinction of being the last person to see George
Mallory and Sandy Irvine alive as they made their
attempt at the summit. Much of what is known and
conjectured about Mallory & Irvine’s final hours is
based on Odell’s testimony. Mallory and Irvine were
26,800 ft on the North Ridge of Mt. Everest.
On the morning of the 8th they broke camp and headed for
Odell reports seeing two black
figures through a sudden break in the clouds and mist (who could only be
Mallory & Irvine) on the afternoon of June 8th, 1924. He watched as they
approached and climbed the Second Step. Though he would later change this to
the First Step some believe that his initial report, as given in the 1924
Times of London, is the correct one and that his description
of the terrain
rules out the First Step.
Regardless of where they actually were on the mountain it seemed to Odell that
they were going strong and he thought they would make it to the summit though
they were hours
behind schedule and much
later than he
expected. The mists closed back in and Mallory and Irvine passed out of view
and into history.
Odell reported finding oxygen
equipment and supplies strewn about Mallory & Irvine’s tent at their high
camp indicating that Irvine had been hard at work on their breathing apparatus
before they left on their final climb, perhaps putting their start for the
summit too late in the day. Odell spent two days waiting for the men to return
to their high camp but no sign of them was found.
As a geologist by trade, Odell
presented a collection of the rock samples he collected from the slopes of
Everest to the British Natural History Museum in 1926. Although he was hired
for his expertise in dealing with the balky oxygen gear of the era rather than
as a geologist he was still able to devote some time to the geologic study of
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