Monday, 3 January 2011

Lost at the top of the world

George Mallory was a narcissist, nudist and a relentless adventurer, he ran (and slept with) the Bloomsbury Set at Cambridge, fought at The Somme, taught at Charterhouse and, by the nineteen twenties, was one of the most famous mountaineers in the world, a preternaturally gifted climber blessed with the pigheadedness and total disregard for his own safety that British society has always held in high regard.

On the 8th June 1924, on his third expedition to try and conquer Everest, Mallory (right) and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine (left) were seen heading 'strongly' to the summit in their tweed suits and cleated boots. They were never seen alive again. There has always been speculation around whether Mallory & Irvine did actually reach the top (beating Edmund Hillary & Sherpa Tenzing by almost thirty years), with a wide range of experts arguing for and against the possibility but, without any trace of the climbers apart from  the 1933 discovery of Irvine's lost ice axe, the truth remained a mystery

In 1999, an expedition set out to try and find evidence, using the co-ordinates of the ice axe find as their starting point. Within only a few hours they had discovered Mallory's body. Largely intact because of the extreme cold, the petrified corpse raised more questions than answers, particularly with regard to a missing photograph of Mallory's wife which he had said he would leave at the summit if they made it to the top. Irvine's remains, however, despite their best efforts, could not be found. Frustratingly, it was he who  was carrying the camera that (experts tell us) would still carry the photographic evidence of their last few hours on earth and where they spent them.

It is estimated that the bodies of around 200 climbers are scattered around the approach to Everest, but it is logistically impossible to remove them without endangering more lives.

1 comment:

  1. Great write up, I just saw a link a few weeks back that had a collection of pics of the bodies left around mt. everest. Not for the faint of heart at all. It was really creepy to see all that colorful vibrant mountain climbing gear wrapped around a decomposing body.