George Mallory

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George Mallory : biography

18 June 1886 – 9 June 1924

On 4 June 1924, Mallory and Andrew Irvine set off from Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at and already began using oxygen from the base of the North Col, which they climbed in hours—such was the conversion of Mallory from anti- to pro-oxygen usage, Mallory having been converted from his original scepticism by his failure on his initial assault and recalling the very rapid ascent speed of Finch in 1922.

At 8:40 am on 6 June they set off, climbing to C-5. On 7 June they reached C-6. Mallory wrote he had used only of one bottle of oxygen for the two days, which suggests a climb rate of some 856 vertical feet per hour.

On 8 June, expedition colleague Noel Odell was moving up behind the pair in a “support role.” At some he spotted the two climbing a prominent rock-step, either the First or Second Step, around 1 pm; although some summit advocates suggest that the Odell description of the topography might fit the higher, then-unknown, “Third Step.” Odell later reported:

At the time, Odell identified one of the men to have surmounted the Second Step of the NE ridge. No evidence, apart from his testimony, has been found that they climbed higher than the First Step (one of their spent oxygen cylinders was found shortly below the First Step; and Irvine’s ice axe was also found nearby in 1933). They never returned to their camp and died high on the mountain.

It is assumed that Mallory and Irvine died either late the same evening or on 9 June. The news of Mallory and Irvine’s disappearance was widely mourned in Britain, to the extent that the two were hailed as national heroes. A memorial service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral, London on 17 October and was attended by a wealth of family and friends as well as Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald, the entire British Cabinet and the Royal Family, headed by King George V.

Lost on Everest for 75 years

After their disappearance several expeditions tried to find their remains and, perhaps, determine if they had reached the summit. Based on reports from Chinese climber Zhang Junyan that his tent-mate, Wang Hung-bao, had stumbled across "an English dead" at in 1975, Tom Holzel launched a search expedition in late 1986. The Mt. Everest North Face Research Expedition (MENFRE) was snowed out, unable to reach the 8,100 m terrace. On the last day of the expedition, Holzel met with Zhang Junyan, who reiterated that, despite official denials from the Chinese Mountaineering Association, Wang Hung-bao had come back from a short excursion and described finding "a foreign mountaineer" at "8,100 m." Wang was killed in an avalanche the day after this verbal report and so the location was never more precisely fixed.

In 1999 the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition, sponsored in part by the TV show Nova and the BBC, and organized and led by Eric Simonson, arrived at Everest to search for the lost pair. Guided by the research of Jochen Hemmleb, within hours of beginning the search on 1 May, a frozen body was found by Conrad Anker at on the north face of the mountain. As the body was found at 27,000 ft, below where Irvine’s axe was found in 1933 which was found at 27,760 ft, the team expected the body to be Irvine’s, and were hoping to recover the camera that he had reportedly carried with him. They were surprised to find that name tags on the body’s clothing bore the name of "G. Leigh Mallory." All the clothing labels showed the same. The body was remarkably well preserved, due to the mountain’s climate. The team could not locate the camera. Experts from Kodak have said that if a camera is ever found, there is some chance that its film could be developed to produce printable images, if extraordinary measures are taken. Kodak experts provided guidance as to handling of such a camera and the film inside, in the event that such were found in the investigation. Letter from Kodak laboratories to Tom Holzel, 9 May 1984. Retrieved 3 March 2013

The expedition conducted an Anglican service for Mallory and covered his remains with a cairn on the mountain.