Everything About Mount Everest 1/50 - George Mallory and Andrew Irvine

Posted by Prateek Gianchandani

Many of us must have heard about late Sir Edmund Hillary and late Sir Tenzing Norgay, the first two people to stand on top of the world, situated at an altitude of 8,848 m.

But very few of us know about George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. Known as the best climber of his generation, George mallory had made a number of attempts from the north side of everest in Tibet. Back in those days, there was no specific route to the summit of Everest. The expeditions teams have to figure out their own routes, keeping in mind the places where they would put their camps and the threat of avalanches, blind crevasses, and exposure.

In 1921, a team led by George Mallory finally discovered a route to the summit of Everest. This route is still being followed by climbers climbing from the north side. He named several places along the way, including the famous North Col.

On his third unsuccessful attempt to the summit, as mallory and his team were coming down from the slopes of the North Col, an avalanche swept over the group, killing seven Sherpas. The expedition was cancelled and mallory returned to his home.

Why Climb Everest ?

One day, while mallory was travelling to New york, a New york journalist asked mallory a question.

“Why Climb Everest ?”

What followed are probably the most inspiring words ever said in the history of mountaineering.

Mallory replied “Because it’s there.”

The 1924 British Expedition

In 1924, Mallory decided to give one final attempt to reach the summit. He chose his partner as Andrew Irvine because of his proficieny with oxygen sets, and his ability to improve their functionality, lightness and strength. He also maintained the expedition’s cameras, camp beds, primus stoves and many other devices.

On 4 June 1924, Mallory and Andrew Irvine set off from Advanced base camp at 6500m towards the summit, setting up higher camps each day. On 8 June 1924 at 1 pm, Neil Odell, who was climbing behind the team in a support role spotted them climbing a prominent rock step about 800 feet below the summit. It is unclear whether they were climbing the first step, second step or the third step, the three rock faces that one has to cross while reaching the summit.

At 12.50, just after I had emerged from a state of jubilation at finding the first definite fossils on Everest, there was a sudden clearing of the atmosphere, and the entire summit ridge and final peak of Everest were unveiled. My eyes became fixed on one tiny black spot silhouetted on a small snow-crest beneath a rock-step in the ridge; the black spot moved. Another black spot became apparent and moved up the snow to join the other on the crest. The first then approached the great rock-step and shortly emerged at the top; the second did likewise. Then the whole fascinating vision vanished, enveloped in cloud once more.

— Noel Odell, geologist

It was the last time either George Mallory or Andrew Irvine were seen alive. For 31 years, everest remained unconquered.

75 years later

There have been several attempts to find Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s body since they disappeared high on the mountain. In 1975, a chinese climber reported seeing an old body of an English man (possibly Andrew Irvine) before being swept away by an avalanche.

In 1999, Conrad Anker, who took part in an expedition to search for Mallory and Irvine’s body, found the body of George Mallory, frozen in time.

His sunglasses were in his pocket, suggesting that he must have been descending in the dark and on his way down when he took the fall. There is still a wide debate on whether he reached the summit or not. All evidence can be proved by finding Andrew Irvine’s camera, and in the past few years, there have been numerous expeditions to search for the body of Andrew Irvine.

Some people still believe that it was indeed George Mallory and Andrew Irvine who were the first to summit Mount Everest.

One day i wish to trek up to Everest Advanced base camp in Tibet and see the place where George mallory and Andrew Irvine left off for their summit attempt.