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  Mallory and Irvine The Final Chapter: Mail Bag 3

We have received hundreds of e-mails on the Mallory and Irvine Story. Many are very interesting. We think you will enjoy many of them. Note we cannot answer all the e-mail/questions, but you will see some comments below...

Reader's Letter: I have no personal experience in climbing – so please take my comments as those of a complete climbing neophyte.  I have followed the history of M&I for several years – reading everything and thinking through the possible scenarios.   

I have been wondering why George Mallory had a broken climbing rope around his waist?  The break point was close to his body – so here is a possible sub-theory…. complete speculation on my part of course. 

EverestNews.com: Not sure this is true: "The break point was close to his body."

Reader's Letter continued: George made it past the second step.  He was in the process of assisting Sandy up the second step using the rope that he tied off around a rock or some other fixed anchor point above the 2nd step.  As Sandy was using the rope to ascend, the rope broke at the anchor point, which was close to George’s body.  Perhaps the rope broke at the point where it chafed against the rock at the top of the second step.  Perhaps Sandy was tired and had difficulty climbing even with the rope to assist him. 

Sandy fell back and may have been hurt or shaken.  He decides not to continue the climb to the summit and he elected to sit a while and recover from his fall.  If his injuries were not particularly serious (or if he underestimated his injuries), he may have told George to continue on to the summit and he would find his way back to the high camp on his own.  The traditional “stiff upper lip” approach to a good challenge…(I can say this – I am English).  He passes up his oxygen bottle to George (or perhaps he sent bottle up first before he attempted the climb) and sits down to evaluate his condition.  It is only after Mallory is gone that he determines he may not have the physical ability to make it back to camp.  Maybe he twisted his ankle or hurt is knee and figured he could “shake it off” if he had some time to relax.   

If Sandy had told George that he was badly hurt and not able to return to their high camp, then I suspect George would have aborted the climb and returned to assist his partner – unless his partner was so severely injured (or dead) that Sandy’s rescue was out of the question.  In any case, I doubt that George would have continued to summit if Sandy had severe injuries.  So Sandy must have told George that he was “OK” and would make it back to high camp on his own. 

This sub-theory potentially explains:

1.  Why Mallory had a broken rope around his waist (I wonder why he did not remove the rope – it would have been useless?)

EverestNews.com: Note the rope was also up around his shoulders, like he was carrying it or it had wrapped around him.

Reader's Letter continued:  2.  Why Irvine did not continue with Mallory - and why they separated at the 2nd step. 

3.  Why Mallory did not return down the same route to link up with his partner as he expected Irvine would be safe and warm back in camp waiting for his return. 

Is Mallory’s final position on the mountain consistent with a potential route to return to their high camp?  If so, this seems to add to the viability.  You have done a superb job in adding to the body of evidence and theory to hopefully unravel this mystery.  Thanks for your good work! Best Regards

Reader's Letter: Dear Sir Thank you so much for your work and investigation into this fascinating story which has captivated me for many years.

It was a Sunday night in May 1999 that the discovery of Mallory's body was broadcast on our local radio service.

I had been following the story for years before this and that discovery inspired me to finally travel to Nepal and do a trek to

Base Camp which include Kala Patar and Gokyo Lakes. I had booked the trip by the following Friday and went in October 1999. I know my efforts pale into insignificance compared to the risk you guys undertake but unfortunately we are not all cut out for the high altitude climbing required. Needless to say I would go on the trip I did again if the circumstances are right. (I am working on this ).

I have one request from you which, from your previous dispatches, you may not want to do. It is very hard to comprehend the different locations where different items were found with out some focal point.

In the book put out by the 1999 team, they had a photo of a long shot of the north face and a circle around the approximate area where Mallory's body was found.

Would it be possible that you guys could publish the same type of photo which would indicate approximately the locations of 

A/   Mallory's bodies

B/   Where you believe Sandy's body was

C/   The three "steps"

D/   Sandy's ice axe

E/   The oxygen bottles

F/    Wang's camp

G/    Mallory and Irvine's highest camp

H/    Any thing else you consider would be helpful

If you can do this, I thank you in anticipation.

If not I will continue to read the dispatches with great interest.

Lastly thanks for the sensational photos . They are fantastic and are a great joy to look at as it will be the closest I ever get to being there. best wishes and good luck for you future investigations

EverestNews.com:  It is on the to do list.

Reader's Letter: Very well done.

Your theory is quite compelling.  Indeed, it also answers the question of "where is Mallory's oxygen apparatus?" - He must have left it on the summit on high on the route and it has since been buried/fallen.  Your theory also is consistent with Mallory's goggles being in his pocket.  If the additional object/evidence you refer to near the "old dead" location is Irvine's O2 rack, it would obviously add further support to the theory the "old dead" was Irvine.

There are two aspects of the theory, however, that seem difficult to reconcile with other information:

1) If the pictures in "Ghosts" and "Detectives" are to be believed, why would Mallory have a rope wrapped around his body around him if he was simply traversing the "snow terrace"?  Doesn't the rope suggest a higher fall over more technical terrain?

EverestNews.com: We think Mallory just took the rope. Again we see no evidence of a fall from up high, and if Sandy's body is up high then.... We do need to do an article on our thoughts and some of the climbers thoughts on the "rope" issue. It is on the list. Note we have reviewed the video of George Mallory being dug up several times; we do not see rope injuries on the body.

Reader's Letter continued: 2) If Irvine was closer to camp than the ice axe site yet still above 8400m and near the ridge, is not that area quite "well traveled"? (i.e,. about 75m in height through which all NE routes pass?)  Did the climber who say the "old dead" do so in the early 80's? 

EverestNews.com: Well we are not going to say specifically where the "old dead" was to be as we discussed earlier, but obviously people can figure out the general area. To answer your question more directly, the area is not well traveled. We believe George and Sandy took a different route up the steps than today's climbers. We also think there is a misconception to many on what the standard route on Everest is. We hope to bring you some detailed video of the route later.

Reader's Letter continued: Once again, well done.  Thank-you for your efforts in this mystery and for so freely sharing the information and your theory.  It is appreciated

Letter/Comment: Hello, Could SI, after they slit up, move to a place where he could see GM going up? And saw him descend via the GC.

Is it possible that he saw him below, saw him fall, left his ice axe as a marker and tried to reach him. Thanks, fascinating, I visit your site every day from Holland

Letter/Comment: If only one Chinese climber reported, to Simonson's team, that he saw an "old dead" at that location, then would he not be the only one that would have brought your oxygen bottle to that location while "visiting Sandy's body"?

You said that you did not interview this Chinese climber. From Simonson's book, he interviewed the climber within the last few years. I'm assuming that the Chinese climber is still alive and that he needs to be asked if he brought the bottle to that location. From what I've read, no other Chinese climbers reported seeing a body that high and that he was really the only one that went "exploring". Just a thought.

EverestNews.com: On the "to do" list. On others seeing the body, we don't know if all of the Chinese were asked. We assume not, in that there were several Chinese/Tibetan climbers. Who were the ones that bought back the 1938 gear? Many questions to be asked.

Letter/Comment: I agree completely with what you say about Mallory's body, having seen first hand the results of falls from structures only 12 to 20 stories or so high to pavement. A fall of, as you put it, a few meters would be consistent in my experience at many accident scenes with the reported injuries -- skull fracture, broken leg, etc. In fact, the whole theory makes sense to me, I have to say, and seems in keeping with what I've read of each man's abilities and motivations. Did GM make it? We'll never know, of course, but if he got over the Second Step, with or without SI's help, he'd have had a good shot at it. I'd like to think he did.

The only picture I saw of GM was the one displayed just after the team returned, showing him face down with his back partially exposed. My reference to injuries and the state of the rope was based on my memory of what was written by the team at the time, and my memory being what it is, it is quite possibly erroneous. Was it possible he fell rappelling? was my initial reaction after reading your theory placing SI so far away.  

And like you, I don't believe in magic bullets. I do believe GM died where he was found. Too bad SI's body will never be located for certain. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to respond to my queries.

Letter/Comment: Great stuff, I have been fascinated by your work.

Is it possible that Sandy left his ice axe as a "marker" for George to see on his way back down? If he realized that (or if it was already dark) George would be descending in the dark, it would help him find his way? Is the location of the axe consistent with the path back down? Thanks.

EverestNews.com: Interesting thought/Idea!

Letter/Comment: I think he could have done it simply because that year was low on snow so arguably more stable in the couloir? and also I have always believed that whilst technology has advanced climbing incredibly since 1924, you can not compare technology and human spirit. There are those who just see Mallory as an amateur who could not have succeeded relative to 2004, but what they don't see is a trail hardened human, totally acclimatized and toughened up beyond recognition to the climbers of today. We can only live in the moment and Mallory was in his 1924 moment.

Letter/Comment: Have read your theory with great interest, but my knowledge of the local geographical situation is somewhat limited, and my questions reflect this:

However; 1) If Irvine left his axe where it was found, he must have been very tired, or thought he did not need it any longer. In the first case, he must have collapsed very close to it. Is the second case a geographical/practical possibility on his way to his top-camp?? Whatever it is, how does this fit in with his waiting-position? 

2)The biggest "hole" in your theory concerning M. summiting, is the lack of a camera on M. body. My believe is that if he left Irvine, he would make sure he took a camera with him, and if he summited, ha would take all kinds of photos, and you can be very sure he would consider these pictures so valuable, that he would make it 100% certain that they would not be lost on his way down - whatever happened! Accordingly your theory must be based on the fact that somebody have removed the camera from his body.

EverestNews.com:  The camera could still be with Mallory's body a few meters away, no one knows.... Many possibilities and again there is no proof, to date that they had a camera on the summit push. The camera, to us, is a non issue; Lots of plausible explanations why no camera was found on George.

Reader's Letter continued: 3) You state that M. took another way down as he thought Irvine would have left. If the only help he needed from Irvine was to jump from his shoulders on his way up, than he should have no difficulties in getting down the same way - with a rope. We do not know what agreement they had when/if M. left for the summit, but to chose another way down without being absolutely sure that your pal had left, is unthinkable in this situation.

EverestNews.com:  Leaving your pal on Everest happens. Frankly, if you don't leave him when your pal gets in trouble, you usually end up dead with him.

EverestNews.com: Thanks for all the e-mails and support. We will be posting more soon. Submit your questions and or comments to .

We went to Mount Everest in search of an answer.


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