Andrew Irvine (mountaineer)


Andrew Irvine (mountaineer) : biography

8 April 1902 – 9 June 1924

Further confirmation of this sighting was provided by a 1986 conversation American Everest historian Tom Holzel had with Wang’s tent-mate from the 1975 expedition, Zhang Junyanon, who admitted that Wang had come back from a short excursion lasting about 20 minutes and described finding "a foreign mountaineer" at "8,100 m." Since no other European climber was known to have died at that elevation on the North side of Everest, it was almost certain that the body was either George Mallory or Andrew Irvine.

Wang’s 1975 sighting was the key to the discovery of Mallory’s body 24 years later in the same general area, although his reported description of the body he found, "hole in cheek", is not consistent with the condition and posture of Mallory’s body, which was face down, his head almost completely buried in scree, and with a golfball-sized puncture wound on his forehead, leaving open the possibility that Wang may have sighted Irvine instead. Arguing against this though is the fact that the second Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition in 2001 discovered Wang’s 1975 campsite location and made an extensive search of its surroundings, and found that Mallory’s remained the only body in the vicinity. One explanation of the apparent discrepancy between Wang’s description and the state Mallory’s body was discovered in, is that Wang, having discovered the body face up, may have turned the body over in order to effect a simple burial.

Sighting of Xu Jing

In 2001, Eric Simonson, leader of the 1999 Mallory and Irvine Expedition, and German researcher Jochen Hemmleb, who inspired it, travelled to Beijing to interview some of the remaining survivors of the 1960 Chinese Everest expedition, which had been the first expedition back to the north side since the British attempts of the 1920s and 1930s.

During their meeting, the deputy leader of the expedition, Xu Jing, spontaneously blurted out that on his descent from the First Step, he recalled having spotting a dead climber lying on his back, feet facing uphill, in a hollow or slot in the rock. Since no one other than Mallory and Irvine had ever been lost on the north side of Everest before 1960, and Mallory had been found much lower down, it was almost a certainty that Xu had discovered Irvine. However, the sighting was brief, and Xu was in desperate straits during the descent, and while he clearly remembered seeing the body, he was unclear about where it was.

Fortunately, a more contemporary account, not dulled by the passage of 40 years, has subsequently surfaced. In 1965, a member of the 1960 Chinese expedition, Wang Fu-chou gave a lecture to the St. Petersburg Alpine Club (USSR). While describing the expedition, Wang Fu-chou made a sensational remark, "At an altitude of about 8,600 meters we found the corpse of a European". Asked how he could he be sure the dead man was European, the Chinese climber replied simply, "He was wearing braces".

Traces on the ridge

Discovery of the ice-axe

In 1933, some nine years after the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, Percy Wyn-Harris, a member of the fourth British Everest Expedition discovered an ice-axe at around 8,460 m (27,760 ft), about 20 m below the ridge and some 230 m before the First Step. It was found lying loose on brown ‘boiler-plate’ slabs of rock, which though not particularly steep, were smooth and in places had a covering of loose pebbles.Ruttledge, H. (1934). "The Mount Everest Expedition, 1933", Alpine Journal, 45, p. 226 The Swiss manufacturer’s name matched those of a number supplied to the 1924 expedition, and since only Mallory and Irvine had climbed that high along the ridge route, it must have belonged to one of them.

It was speculated by Hugh Ruttledge, leader of the 1933 expedition, that the ice-axe marked the scene of a fall, during which it was either accidentally dropped or that its owner put it down possibly in order to have both hands free to hold the rope. Noel Odell, the last man to see Mallory and Irvine on their ascent in 1924, offered a more benign explanation: that the ice-axe had merely been placed there on the ascent to be collected on the way back in view of the fact that the climbing ahead was almost entirely on rock under the prevailing conditions.Odell, N.E. (1934). "The ice-axe found on Everest", Alpine Journal, 46