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  Mallory and Irvine The Final Chapter: Mail Bag 4


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: Based your teams knowledge of the terrain found in a 'few meter' radius above Mallory's body, would it have been necessary for Mallory to tie off to an object/person in order to down climb an obstacle?   Please let us know if you start to take donations for future endeavors.  I am sure I can throw a few bucks your way.  Thanks for your hard work.

EverestNews.com: We don't think it would have been "necessary" to tie off to an object in that area. But we found that area very icy and actually one of our climbers fell in that area. So maybe he should of have tied off and maybe Mallory did. That night our climber dreamed of Mallory!

Reader's Letter: As with all the other readers of your site, I have been fascinated by your series on Mallory and Irvine. Having read a lot about Mallory, in particular, and Everest in general, I have always hoped that Mallory (and Irvine) made it. However, though I am heartened by your theory, I feel that, if your assumptions are right, we are probably never going to have any clear evidence that either of them did make it.

EverestNews.com: We think future evidence might come from items like a piece of glass, fibers, or other artifacts; not likely a camera at this point. We probably should think in the future in those terms. We have some of that kind of evidence.

Reader's Letter continued: One query about your theory - a significant point is that Mallory overcame the second step from the ridge. You seem to suggest that this is the 'true' second step and give the impression that it was much easier to surmount than the route up the second step that is currently taken (hence, Irvine could give Mallory a leg up). Why have previous analyses of Mallory's capacity to surmount the second step always assumed that he would have taken the Chinese route, and (as in, say, Anker's account) that he would not have been capable of getting over it? How 'easy' is the ridge route over the second step? Denis

EverestNews.com Comment: Mallory was known as a ridge climber. It is hard to say what is easier without the ropes and the ladders, maybe we will find out soon.

Reader's Letter: Well done lads - Good job.

Picking up points from the two mail bags.

1. I have broken a watch once while climbing - Jamming up an off-width. If Odell put them on the 1st step at 12:50, could the watch put Mallory jambing his way up the 2nd step at 2:00. Is this required? I think Conrad Anker used a jamb on his (almost) free of the traditional 2nd step route. Mallory puts his broken watch in his pocket and sweats his way to the top - hence rust on the watch.

2. The Axe - Could the direction it (the handle) lay in be a signpost left by someone trying to lose height and dropping out of the wind. This scenario obviously puts Irvine going for the top and Mallory showing him the (his) way back to camp.

EverestNews.com: Based on the bodies assumed locations, we believe it is much more likely it was Mallory going up...

Reader's Letter continued: 3. I believe the wooden post commented on (Mallory's axe belay at 2nd step) and found by the Chinese was confirmed later as being a tent pole from the Wyn Harris expedition and obviously not above the 2nd step. Hope this helps, Regards

Reader's Letter: Hi, So now we know the details of your theory. However there are a few points which I'm not so sure about that I'd like to hear your comments on:

Firstly, all evidence points to the fact that Mallory thought it was essential to take Irvine along.  Irvine wasn't a very experienced climber but his knowledge of oxygen bottles was  important enough that Mallory took him along anyway.  Why would Mallory start planning a dangerous strategy of climbing alone comparatively early in the climb after he'd gone to all the effort of taking Irvine along?

EverestNews.com: Climbers are not known to make strategy at 8400 meters, they are just known to do stuff. Many times they do not make any sense at all. Keep that in mind. This year like always we have stories from climbers, know were "out of it". Some say they summited first that day, but we KNOW others who were there before them and passed them. But they don't recall seeing the other climbers!! In one case 8-10 people!!! These are real life stories we heard every year...

Reader's Letter continued: That sounds more like an act of desperation in a situation which wasn't at all desperate.   Did he really think they wouldn't have enough oxygen to reach the summit? Mallory had always underestimated how long it would take (at one point he thought they could reach the summit directly from the North Col).  His notes indicate he seriously considered that one bottle each might be enough but he probably went with two (a bloody load) just to be safe.  Even if he was behind schedule when the first oxygen bottle was used up, he would probably have assumed that the remaining bottle would be sufficient as he was already taking up to twice as much oxygen as he considered might be necessary.  In any case, the speed Odell saw them moving at would indicate they were both using oxygen at that point.

Secondly, how could Irvine have just waited anywhere?  The clothing wasn't good enough for people to just "wait around".  It wasn't warm enough to climb in May when modern climbs with better clothing take place, and they had to wait until June when the weather was warmer and risk the monsoon just to stand a chance of success.  Even then the clothing probably wasn't warm enough unless they kept moving.  If they were still able to climb without oxygen at the second step, isn't it more likely that Mallory would have lowered a rope after Irvine helped him up, and pulled Irvine up as well?  (Come to that, even with oxygen.)

EverestNews.com:  Sandy died, that is fact. The evidence is points to him dying high on Everest, meaning that he did not make it very far down at all. Think about what that tells you.

Reader's Letter continued: "That" oxygen bottle is somewhat of an enigma.  Why should a bottle unrelated to Irvine be exactly where his body probably was?  It seems it wasn't from 1924 and wasn't Chinese so it could have only got there if one of the Chinese had picked it up and carried it uphill.  In that case maybe one could argue the Chinese climber was so surprised at finding an old dead that he forgot the bottle at that point, but why would he carry it in the first place? It would be unnecessary weight to carry uphill and if he wanted it as a souvenir wouldn't he have waited until he was on the way down to take it?  Even if as has been suggested it still had oxygen in it, why would he need it when he presumably had enough of his own oxygen?  If he was running out of oxygen, wouldn't he have been more interested in going down?

EverestNews.com: We know the Chinese picked up other 1938 equipment including oxygen bottles and bought them home. We don't know for sure, at this point if they carried this bottle.

Reader's Letter continued: Another thought occurs to me BTW. People generally assume M&I were in good health but how would it fit in if Irvine had started to suffer from HAPE/HACE? Hope to hear your comments on these points in due course.  Keep up the good work. Best wishes

Reader's Letter: Amazing !!

I have been following this great mystery since the 1999 M&I Expedition. Your integrity on dealing with this delicate issue is outstanding. Great work!  In my opinion one more trip seems imminent.

1) Searching below the "old dead" location at 6000m with a metal detector.

2) Investigating the "Couloir" for George Mallory's old oxygen apparatus.

Question: If George Mallory took the remaining bottles of oxygen, would Sandy Irvine have abandoned his oxygen apparatus below the 2nd Step?

EverestNews.com:  Of course, no one knows at this point.

Reader's Letter continued: 3) References to equipment that was collected by the Chinese Expeditions have popped up a few times. I am sure the Chinese were not discarding or destroying equipment but gathering knowledge on the relatively new technology of using pressurized oxygen. Who knows maybe there is an old oxygen apparatus with E.O.C. stamped on it gathering dust somewhere in China. May they rest in peace.  

Reader's Letter: We need to forget about the cameras! How many times has it been said that there is no proof that they even had one or took it with them?

As for the camera not being on Mallory's body? I have explained the effects of altitude and oxygen deprivation. It assumes a lot to think that IF Irvine had a camera, he would have given it to Mallory. Then when Mallory fell, it is very likely that the camera was separated from his body during the brief fall. They have had metal detectors up and down that area where he lies and no results so far. Forget the camera. Not gonna happen.

Reader's Letter:  First up, I have read in the past that the 1920s oxygen rack supposedly found at the base of the Kangshung face was found by Sue Giller during the 1981 American expedition to scout the face for the 1983 attempt - it seems that her sighting has never been followed up - perhaps back then it was considered unimportant?

EverestNews.com:  We asked Tom Holzel again about this issue, here is his reply, "Back in the mid-1980s, a rumor wafted through the mountaineering community that elite climber Sue Giller had once found a part of a pre WW-II oxygen apparatus at the base of the Kangshung side of Mt. Everest, as if it might have fallen from the NE Ridge.  Sue was on our 1986 MENFREE (Mt. Everest North Face Research Expedition) and I asked her about this discovery.

Sue replied, that, yes, she did recall finding some old bits of leather that might have been strapping or webbing of some kind, but it was in no way identifiable as coming from any oxygen apparatus. It could as well have come from a rucksack, or a Yak harness.

Yet the rumor was too fragant not to be true to those who wanted to believe that Chinese climbers of 1960 or even 1975 had discovered Mallory & Irvines' abandoned apparatus--preferably above the Second Step--and had ruthlessly kicked it over the Kangshung side to hid evidence of their having possibly summited.  So the story keeps appearing, and reappearing, like cockroaches from under the stove, always scurrying quickly from direct challenge, (much like the supposed secret "Second diary" of Maurice Wilson)."

EverestNews.com: While Tom's opinion might be a bit strong there, it sounds as if that evidence goes into the rumor column at this point.

Reader's Letter continued: I think you misinterpreted what another mailbag poster had earlier asked - why more modern expeditions don't go down the Norton Couloir - to which you replied that it would be more interesting if more people attempted *harder* routes. Is the mailers point not that in your theory Mallory considers a descent down the couloir *easier* than that along the ridge. If this was the case then would it not make sense that the standard north route today would ascend the ridge and descend the couloir?

EverestNews.com: Today a climbers have a ladder to go up and down. This makes downclimbing the Second Step much easier than going through the couloir!, so it is much easier than the couloir, with the ladder! But Mallory DID NOT have a ladder, we know that. Therefore coming down the Second Step, would be very hard. Much harder in our opinion coming down than going up the Second Step. IF, Mallory was thinking straight, once he made it above the Second Step, we think he would have knew he had to find another way down... But that is only an opinion....

Reader's Letter continued: The Yugoslavs did similarly on the other side of the north face in 1979 in ascending the west ridge but descending the Hornbein couloir. 

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

Dispatches

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