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  Mallory and Irvine The Final Chapter: Noel E. Odell


Among all the surviving members of the 1924 Third British expedition to Everest in 1924, Noel E. Odell holds the distinction of being the last person to see George Mallory and Sandy Irvine alive as they made their attempt at the summit. Much of what is known and conjectured about Mallory & Irvineís final hours is based on Odellís testimony. Mallory and Irvine were camped at 26,800 ft on the North Ridge of Mt. Everest. On the morning of the 8th they broke camp and headed for the summit.

Odell reports seeing two black figures through a sudden break in the clouds and mist (who could only be Mallory & Irvine) on the afternoon of June 8th, 1924. He watched as they approached and climbed the Second Step. Though he would later change this to the First Step some believe that his initial report, as given in the 1924 Times of London, is the correct one and that his description of the terrain rules out the First Step.  Regardless of where they actually were on the mountain it seemed to Odell that they were going strong and he thought they would make it to the summit though they were hours behind schedule and much later than he expected. The mists closed back in and Mallory and Irvine passed out of view and into history.

Odell reported finding oxygen equipment and supplies strewn about Mallory & Irvineís tent at their high camp indicating that Irvine had been hard at work on their breathing apparatus before they left on their final climb, perhaps putting their start for the summit too late in the day. Odell spent two days waiting for the men to return to their high camp but no sign of them was found.

As a geologist by trade, Odell presented a collection of the rock samples he collected from the slopes of Everest to the British Natural History Museum in 1926. Although he was hired for his expertise in dealing with the balky oxygen gear of the era rather than as a geologist he was still able to devote some time to the geologic study of Everest.

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