George Mallory : biography
Recent observations taken from Odell’s vantage point by advocates of Mallory’s success indicate that the viewpoint is such that Odell would not likely have been confused or mistaken as to the location of the pair, and so had probably seen the men at the Second Step as he had initially reported—or even the Third Step. EverestNews.com
The 1999 research team returned to the mountain in 2001 to conduct further research. They discovered Mallory and Irvine’s last camp, but failed to find either Irvine or a camera. Based on rumours of the sighting of Irvine, Don Martin of EverestNews.com funded a search expedition (unrelated to the 1999 and 2001 team) for the cameras and other clues that either had reached the summit, but found no significant new evidence. A fourth initiative in 2005 also proved fruitless.
Possible sightings of Irvine
In 1979 a Chinese climber named Wang Hung-bao reported to Japanese Expedition leader Ryoten Hasagawa that, in 1975, he had discovered the body of an "English dead" at . Wang was killed in an avalanche the day after this verbal report and so the location was never more precisely fixed. The Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) officially denied the sighting claim. In 1986, Chinese climber Zhang Junyan (who had been sharing the tent with Wang in 1975) confirmed to Tom Holzel Wang’s report of finding a foreign climber’s body. Zhang stated that Wang had only been out for 20 minutes. If this report was accurate, at that altitude and date the body must have been that of Irvine.
Wang’s sighting was the key to the discovery of Mallory’s body 24 years later in the same general area, though Wang’s reported description of the body he found, face up, with a "hole in cheek", is not consistent with the condition and posture of Mallory’s body, which was face down, its head almost completely buried in scree, and with a golfball-sized puncture wound on his forehead. Some have speculated that Wang could have been referring to the hole in the skin of Mallory’s exposed buttocks ("cheeks"). However, this would seem unlikely. The 2001 research expedition discovered Wang’s campsite location and made an extensive search of its surroundings. Mallory’s remained the only ancient body in the vicinity. Some argue it must have been Mallory, not Irvine, that Wang had found in 1975, despite the variations in body posture. Zhang said that Wang had only been gone about 20 minutes but he had waited while dozing in his sleeping bag, so Wang’s stroll could have been of longer duration. Conrad Anker now believes Wang did indeed find Irvine and not Mallory.Personal note to Tom Holzel.
In 2001, another Chinese climber, Xu Jing, claimed to have seen the body of Andrew Irvine in 1960 (reported in Hemmleb and Simonson’s, Detectives on Everest), although testimony is uncertain with regard to the location of his find. On two occasions, Xu placed it between Camps VI and VII (the Yellow Band, c. 8300 m), though later changed it to the NE Ridge between the First and Second Steps (c. and directly on the NE Ridge. In spite of several such rumoured and reported sightings, subsequent searches of these locations on the North Face have failed to find any trace of Irvine. Some climbers believe Xu spotted Mallory. However, again, this is hearsay.
American researcher Tom Holzel reported that Xu had spotted the body as he descended "by a more direct route" due to exhaustion, while his teammates had continued their assault. The body was lying on its back in a narrow slot, its feet pointing towards the summit, and its face blackened from frostbite. Holzel has claimed that a location in the Yellow Band, matching this description exactly, has been identified at by his analysis of high-resolution aerial photography.
In July 2005, the Alpine Club of St. Petersburg, Russia, published an article to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the North Face climb by the Chinese expedition in 1960. The article referred to the presentation by Wang Fuzhou (a member of the group which reached the summit of Everest on 25 May 1960) given by him in Leningrad before the USSR Geographical Society in 1965. It claims that Xu Jing had seen the body of a European climber at an altitude of some , just below the notorious Second Step. That Russian article could be a first non-mainstream and non-English-language source of evidence in the Mallory-Irvine story. In particular, it mentions that Xu laconically reported that he had identified the body to be "European" by the braces that it wore.