Mallory & Irvine: Lost on Everest

On June 8, 1924 British mountain climber George Mallory, along with his young climbing partner Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, disappeared during their attempt to be the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Twenty nine years later Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay successfully conquered the summit of Everest and are considered to be the first to have scaled the peak of the world’s tallest mountain.

George Mallory
George Mallory

There is, however, rampant speculation that George Mallory and Sandy Irvine were actually the first to reach the summit, although no conclusive evidence has been discovered to prove it. They carried with them a camera that some believe might hold the proof of their ascent to the top of the world but it has yet to be recovered. This story remains to this day one of mountaineering’s greatest mysteries, still hotly debated amongst mountaineering circles some eighty years later.

An expedition was mounted in 1999 to search for Mallory and Irvine’s remains and to hopefully recover the camera that might solve this mystery. They were unable to locate Irvine’s body but they did locate George Mallory. He was discovered face down at about 27,500 feet on the North Face of Everest. He’d fallen at some point during the descent, severely breaking his right leg in two places, injuring his shoulder, breaking an arm, and suffering what appeared to be a fatal blow to the forehead. A broken length of rope was found tied around his torso and his ribs were fractured and his torso bruised beneath the rope. As he fell it appears the rope caught on something solid before it broke, subsequently sealing his fate. It’s assumed he was roped to Irvine when he fell but it’s virtually impossible to know for sure.

He didn’t fall far though; his body did not show the severe and significant injury that others had who’d fallen long distances on Everest did. Regardless of distance his fall was, nonetheless, fatal. Although Irvine’s remains were not found in 1999 it is believed that someone from a Chinese expedition may have spotted him in 1960 lying on his back between two large rocks. However, even recent attempts to find Irvine’s body and recover any artifacts and/or proof of a summit have been unsuccessful. It’s not impossible that the two fell together; Mallory coming to a stop and Irvine continuing to fall much, much further. Continue reading

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