By George Manley – Expedition 8848 Artist
Everest Historical Moments Series
1924’s Everest expedition will always be remembered for the tragic death of George Mallory (arguably the best climber of his time) and Sandy Irvine. During the second attempt to reach the summit, their disappearance took place high up on the North East ridge either at two difficult sections called the second step or the final third step before the summit.
Their disappearance will always be shrouded in mystery leaving the unanswered question of whether or not they reached the summit. The last person to see Mallory and Irvine was Noel Odell, who said they were both at the second step, but later had his doubts and suggested Mallory could have been at the third step, current climbers have remarked that from Odell’s description it fits the third and final step.
In 1999 Mallory’s body was unbelievably found on Everest, this has only added to the mystery. Interestingly, one of Mallory’s or Irvine’s oxygen bottles was found a lot higher up, suggesting that Mallory had been a lot higher, possibly summited and was on his way down. Also, Mallory carried a photo of his wife Ruth, which he promised to leave on the summit, there was no photo found on his body, suggesting he and been on the summit and left the photo. He also had snow goggles with him, these were in his pocket, leading to the idea he had made the final push to the summit and was on his way down after sunset.
Whether or not it will be proven that they both summited, Mallory certainly had been higher than any other person, possibly to at least 28,000ft, in far inferior clothing and equipment than today, an unbelievable feat of human endurance. We can only wait for his camera to be found and then we might have a final answer.
Famously, when asked by a reporter why climb Everest, Mallory replied with the immortal phrase “Because it’s there”