A theory is defined by Webster as: The
analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another.
Our theory is based on the
assumption that Sandy Irvine died very high up on Everest on or near the
Northeast ridge and very far from where George Mallory's body was found. That the "old dead" reported to us
and/or the climber
the Chinese saw in 1960 was in fact Sandy Irvine.
If so, Sandy died on or near the northeast ridge,
above 8400 meters quite far from where George Mallory's body was found. George
Mallory's body is not on the fall line from this location. What's more
important, the condition of George's body in comparison to the other dead
bodies on Everest convinces us there is no chance he fell from the ridge. We
believe he could not have fallen more than a few meters.
Does this means George and Sandy
separated and then they took very different routes?
This is the key question. How did George Mallory end up 1000 feet lower than Sandy
Irvine, on a completely different line from the summit? Here is
our theory of how their last day played out.
George and Sandy left Camp VI on the morning of June 8,
1924. They were
probably well rested, having learned from George Finch that it is wise to spend the night on oxygen.
Mallory and Irvine made good progress that
morning. A 1924 oxygen cylinder was found just below the ridge in 1999 at
around 27,760 feet; It was one of M&I's cylinders. There
are some questions about exactly where the cylinder was found, but it
definitely puts Mallory and Irvine high on the Northeast ridge, above the Yellow Band.
And here they faced a dilemma.
The location of the oxygen
cylinder indicates M&I ran out of one cylinder and probably two (i.e. one
each) far lower than Mallory expected. Some have suggested M&I could have
taken three cylinders each. No one knows. But Mallory wrote in his note to John
Noel the night before, even two cylinders per person was a "bloody load for
So they probably each have one cylinder remaining, unless
they stored (an) other cylinder(s) for use, like the expeditions do today.
Sandy and George realize there is not enough oxygen for both of them to reach the
top. They decide to conserve what they do have, and at some point give what is
left to one of them for the push to the summit. They reach the Second Step on the ridge, not what is referred to today, as the
Step, which is an open-book on the North Face. The Second Step (for either of
them) is too difficult to overcome, both of the men cannot go
up (or up and around, as is more likely). Neither man can surmount the
Second Step alone. Sandy Irvine, being the good
soldier, volunteers to stay behind, and helps George up! George, with the
Summit seeming to be "right there", jumps at the chance, and with a boost
(there are few options for a possible route there) from his
buddy; George is over the Second Step and heading towards the Summit. (Helping some
one up by using a "shoulder stand" was a known technique of
Mallory’s and also used by the Chinese.) The summit appears so close, Sandy
and George both believe that Mallory will return in a relatively short period
of time. So Sandy waits. George, carries the rope, as he might need it later.
Second Step headed for the Summit ©EverestNews.com
We believe that George and Sandy are now
forever separated. George goes for the summit. Sandy is left behind. Let's
deal with what might have happened to each of them.
Mallory is now above the 2nd Step. He has the remaining
oxygen cylinder or cylinders. If we put stock in Odell's account, it is now
well past 12:50 p.m. Conditions up to now have been good: they
are still excellent. Mallory has put the last major obstacle – the 2nd Step –
behind him. What could stop him from reaching the summit?
Could it possibly have been the snow squall?
However, the squall did not hit until 2 pm. No one knows if it reached as high
as the 2nd
Step or higher. And in any case, it ended at 4 pm. Snow squall or not, Mallory
had time to summit before dark. And with everything written about him, we
believe he could not have resisted going for the summit.
In 2004, we have video of May 19th when several climbers
summited from the North side. Conditions appeared so bad from Camp 6,
Summiting Everest looked impossible, but it was not only possible, many
climbers summited (see the picture below).
May 19th 2004©EverestNews.com
Our theory puts Mallory on
the summit, somewhere in the late afternoon or early evening. But it took him
far longer than either he or Irvine expected: The distance was much
farther than "just right there" as it appeared. Like nearly everyone at extreme altitude, he is not thinking
clearly. He had ran out of oxygen which greatly slowed him
down. Overjoyed at his success and considering his options for a safe descent, he
assumed that after all of these hours, Sandy would have headed back to camp
VI. Mallory must now get down as quickly as possible.
Mallory knows that without Sandy to help him, down-climbing
the 2nd Step will be hard or impossible. So he takes his other option: the route down through the
couloir. Since Norton had
previously described such a route to Mallory, he knows in a general way what
to expect. But instead of going down and then traversing high on the North Face
as Norton did, Mallory
goes down into the couloir, farther down, and across the snow terrace.
It is now night. There is little
light – the moon did not rise until nearly midnight. Mallory
descends alone through the couloir. He makes it to within an hour of camp VI.
But he is now exhausted; he had run out of oxygen hours before. In the dark, exhausted, confused,
fighting sub-zero temperatures, he falls. Or as has been recently suggested to
us, a rock might have come down and hitting Mallory in the head, causing him to
The condition of his body proves that he
could not have fallen far. Every body we saw that fell a long distance was
terribly mangled, twisted and broken. We believe George fell no more than a
few meters. He was a short distance away from the safety of his high camp. He
made it to the top, and nearly made it back down. George Mallory died
within a few minutes; either by falling or being hit in the head by a rock and
Now let us go back and look at what Sandy Irvine might have done.
Sandy was left alone at the foot of the 2nd Step. We see two likely
possibilities. He either waited for George or headed back towards camp VI. We believe he
at least initially waited there for Mallory to return.
The summit seemed so close he thought
George would be "right back". Both of them thought the Summit was so
close, that Mallory would be right back. As it turned out Mallory
never did return.
Yet Sandy waited. He would not leave his friend.
He was the good soldier; Of course, he did not know that his body and mind
were losing their ability to function by the hour. He
did not want to leave his friend with so much unknown. So he waited. At
some point, which is impossible at this point to say when, he realized George was not coming back. He got up and started
to try to walk, dropped
his ice axe and soon sat down again. He did not get back up. We believe Andrew
"Sandy" Irvine died
high on Everest, never knowing whether or not his friend and climbing partner,
George Mallory, fulfilled their dream and made it to the Summit.
We should add, this is our theory, it is not
proven that George Mallory summited, however, it surely is not proven that
he did not summit.
What is logical and what is illogical?
In this section we will go over key questions and facts about our
theory. Also we will look at some other theories as to what happened to George and Sandy on their
last day on Everest.
1.) Supporting evidence: The Ice Axe:
Wyn Harris, during the 1933 Everest Expedition, found an ice
ax at about 27,700 feet. The location is fairly certain: Harris took the ax he
found, and left his own ax in its place. The spot is about 20 meters below the
ridge, on a fairly flat, wide, open area nearly 300 meters above
Mallory's body. No one besides M&I was up that high before 1933. So it is
fairly certain the ax was either Mallory's or Irvine's. Three notches found on
the ax suggest the ax was Irvine's.
a.) To us it is not logical that Sandy dropped or left his ice axe going
up. His axe was too important to him. If he did drop it while climbing up, he
would retrieved it. The ice axe spot is relatively flat and wide. Sandy
would not have had a problem getting his ice ax back from there. It seems most
logical that Sandy would have dropped his ice axe coming down after being worn
out for some reason.
b.) It is not logical
that Sandy would have lost his ice axe if they simply went to the second step
and turned around. It is much more likely that Sandy would have lost his ice
axe if he went to the second step or higher, and was coming down after
waiting at the second step for George.
c.) Virtually every climber who has been to the ice axe spot
says the same thing: This is NOT
a place where climbers would fall. So it is logical to conclude something
other than a fall happened at the ice axe location that caused Sandy to lose his ice axe.
d.) Suppose Mallory did fall at the
ice axe location. He would not end up at his known
location. It is several meters off the fall line. Second, the injuries to his body
are far too mild to support a fall from the
ice axe location.
We believe the location of the ice axe is consistent with
the climber who waited at the second step and then retreated back at some
point after passing the point of "no return".
2.) Could Mallory and Irvine have turned back at the 2nd Step?
It is not logical that George and Sandy simply went to the
second step, turned around and then died coming back. In all the years of
climbing, including all the large number of "rookies" who swarm the North side
of Everest today, very
very few have died when turning back at the Second Step.
Let's suppose, that George and Sandy did turn back at the second step. How
does George Mallory's body get to where it was found? It is very unlikely that
he climbed there from the ridge. It is too far off route. George would have
down-climbed the same route he took up, along the ridge. One answer could be
that George Mallory fell high on Everest. Then over time his body moved down
and across the mountain. This does not seem plausible and would require a
number of highly unlikely scenarios in our opinion.
One, if George fell from the ridge, what would have stopped
him from falling more than a few meters. (His lack of serious/catastrophic
injuries are inconsistent with a longer fall.)
Next, his body would later have had to have dropped 300 meters
in altitude and moved a large horizontal distance as well. It would have had to
all that distance, over rocks, scree and boulders, yet stay perfectly
preserved. His body would also somehow have to get in the position it was
We call this the magic bullet theory.
Lastly, how could Wang have found Mallory if the magic
bullet theory is true? This means
George's body would have had to come down the mountain and then
sit itself up or have been face up on the ground. If face up on the ground,
then Wang would have had to roll a frozen George Mallory's body over. We see the evidence
to be strongly against this.
3.) Was Mallory capable of climbing 2nd step?
Many have questioned whether George Mallory was a good
enough climber to climb the second step. But we believe he could have climbed
the Second Step (on the ridge) in
several ways. One, he may have tackled the Second Step on the ridge.
Mallory was known as a ridge climber. If George stands on Sandy's shoulders - a technique he used in the
past - he would only need to climb or pull himself up several more feet. Of
course, he could have gone around it and then up. Our climbers see a few
possible routes. This
might explain George taking the rope, as he would need to rappel down on the
In 1960, the Chinese climbed what is known today as the
Second Step. They used the same method Mallory used in other climbs: standing
on another climber's shoulders. The Chinese were said to be much less
experienced climbers than Mallory. Conrad Anker initially rated what is known
today as the Second Step as a 5.8, well within Mallory's abilities, even
without help from Sandy. Frankly, we believe Mallory attempted to climb the
Second Step via the ridge on Everest.
4.) Oxygen Bottle found in 1999
In 1999, Eric Simonson's team found an oxygen bottle high on
the Northeast Ridge. The bottle has been identified as a 1924 bottle. Its
exact location is not 100% sure, however, the bottle definitely puts George
and Sandy high on the ridge, above the yellow band.
This is key evidence together with the Odell's Sighting. It shows that Mallory
and Irvine took the ridge route.
And as we discussed earlier, there is almost no way George Mallory could have
fallen from the ridge, and ended up where his body was found. This strongly
suggests the theory that George Mallory climbed to within a short
distance of where he was found.
5.) Location of "old dead" climber
The "old dead" seen by our source and/or even the old dead
seen by the Chinese, point to Sandy dying high on Everest, in a location that
does not connect him to George's location; far away from where George was
found, and on a totally different line from the summit. In both cases these
locations indicate a separation of the climbers at some time during the climb.
This is really the key to our theory, the crux of our theory
if you will. How did George and Sandy get so far apart, and then what does
The fact that the bodies are so far apart suggests what must
have happened—and falling together is not part of this scenario...
6.) Did our source really see Sandy Irvine?
Let's look at each case: Based on testimony
from the climber who discovered “an old dead”, it was hard not to conclude
that he discovered Sandy Irvine's body. We interviewed this climber
several times before we went to Everest. Some of his words were that he came
across a “very old dead.” It was in a very exposed area, “unsafe to go further
interview he said the body was “leaning like this” as he leaned to his left
and put his hands up to the left side of his head and pulled his knees towards
his chest. He also said that he was on “lot of snow” (i.e., a snow slab, not on
rock). This would make sense if the “old”
person were on a steep area, trying to protect himself from the wind and cold,
leaning into the mountain trying to use the snow to shield him. He said
the body was
dressed in “army-colored clothes”.
He also said that if something fell from this area there is
nothing to stop its fall. Whatever fell would wind up at 6000 meters or below. “It is very
steep here”, he said, and very exposed. The fall line is uninterrupted, no obstructions
at all. The climber marked the location on a map for
us. He stated he did not see the climber's face.
There are 3 possibilities to this story:
One, he made it up (lied); Two in the thin air of Everest he thought he saw
something that he did not (which seems very unlikely at that location); and
Three, he found Sandy Irvine. If he found a body, only Sandy's body was up
that high on Mt Everest at that point. How do we know that? Because only 3 climbers died
up high before that point, and we know with certainly where the other
two (George Mallory and Wu) are. If it is true that he saw a body, we must conclude he saw Sandy
Irvine. There are no other options, if his statement IS TO BE TAKEN AS TRUTH.
The Chinese story corroborates his story somewhat. A Chinese climber from the
expedition said he found an old body high on Everest. We did not interview the Chinese climber;
therefore it is difficult for us to judge his story. But the fact is a
Chinese climber places an old dead climber up high on Everest. This is a
second source that places an old dead climber high on Everest, far from where
George Mallory's body was found. The same
possibilities would apply to his story. Did these two climbers both see the
same body, and in the intervening years, mix-up where they thought they saw
them? Other details of the 1960 climbers were also mixed-up in their
locations. If it is true that he saw a body, we must conclude he saw Sandy
Irvine. Again there are no other options, if his statement IS TO BE TAKEN AS TRUTH.
Taken together, it would seem highly
likely that one or both of these men saw the body of Sandy Irvine high on
Everest years after his death. This is extremely important because this
places Sandy's body far away from George's body. The
locations appear to have no apparent connection. This indicates to us that the
climbers separated at the Second Step.
If you believe Sandy Irvine did not die high on Everest,
have to believe BOTH of these climbers did not see a body and "got
Possible additional evidence that might corroborate the
location of this "old dead" is developing, it would probably
require a second trip to Mt Everest to confirm.
7.) Odell's Sighting
Wherever Odell saw Mallory and Irvine, he saw them on the ridge at some
point. This, along with the oxygen bottle found in 1999, establishes the base
of the route up the mountain.
How much faith can you put into Odell's sighting? He changed his mind
back and forth about where he
saw M&I. Our theory does not
depend much on Odell. But his version, no matter how you interpret it, helps somewhat, by putting M&I somewhere high on
Everest going up the
ridge at 12:50 pm. It makes it very hard to explain how George fell at a point
so much lower than Sandy, not even close to his fall line.
Odell's first account, by the
way, appears in his diary. There he simply writes that at 12:50 pm he "saw M&I
on the ridge, nearing base of final pyramid." It speaks nothing about rock steps, or
This supports a late summit by Mallory, where
he would descend in darkness and simply run out of gas at some point and fall
in an area, where you would not expect him to fall (where his body was found).
Therefore, one does not need a "moving body theory" to get Mallory's body to
where it was found.
We agree the Odell sighting has many issues, but it confirms
the route up.
8.) George's Mallory body's location
It's hard to
believe that George
would have down-climbed from Sandy's location, and ended up where he did.
Suppose George did not go beyond the 2nd Step, and instead retreated. How could he have ended
up so low, under even the Yellow Band, unless he had been following the couloir
How would he get to couloir route in the first place? Unless
have heard suggestions that
Mallory might have found the 2nd Step too difficult. (We were in this camp until
we studied the evidence!) But then if they turn around there, how does one explain
the location of the bodies? Or the suggestion that Mallory might have found
the 2nd Step too hard and left the ridge on the ascent and tried to drop back
down through the Yellow Band to follow Norton's route up. We don't believe
that. Mallory would know, both from what Norton told him and what he could see
with own eyes, that there was not enough time. Two, you can't really go from
the ridge from above the first step to this area, unless you backtrack.
Climbers do not have a habit of backtracking and then going forward. They
especially hate to give up altitude to find a new route.
The best explanation we see
is that George got above the 2nd Step. From there the summit – his obsession
-- would have called out its siren song to him. The biggest problems were
behind him. To us, the best explanation is that George Mallory summited
Everest, and then took the couloir down.
That would explain the location of the body. That Sandy gave George a
boost over the second step and George summited Everest and descended via the
couloir which would explain the location of George's body in the known
location and in the condition found. It would also explain Sandy's body
location as below the Second Step, but still high on Everest.
possibility, could be that Sandy somehow got injured or sick on the ridge and George left him and
descended alone after turning around at the second step. George then would
have had to get lost and turn away from his high camp and head into the snow
terrace. Possible, but is seems FAR less likely.
9.) Reviewing/Rehashing Details: (In case you are lost on
the snow terrace by now!)
Back to the ice ax. Wyn Harris, during the 1933 Everest
Expedition, found an ice ax at 27,700 feet. The location is fairly certain:
Harris took the ax he found, and left his own ax in its place. The spot is 20
meters below the ridge, on a fairly flat, wide open area. Nearly 300 meters
above, but not directly above, Mallory's body. No one besides M&I were up that
high before 1933. So it is fairly certain the ax was either Mallory's or
Irvine's. Three marks found on the ax suggest the ax was Irvine's. Many say
Mallory must have fallen from the ice ax spot. Two major problems with this
If he had, his body would have been way, way more broken up. Also, Mallory's
body is not on the fall line from the ice ax. It is well off to the left of
the perpendicular to the contour lines. So he not only had to fall. His body
would have had to move some 100 meters horizontally as well. We do not believe
the ice ax spot has anything to do with Mallory's fall. Harris, the man who
found the ax, said no climber would ever intentionally leave his ax there. We
don't believe Mallory or Irvine lost it due to a fall, because neither of them
fell there. How did it get there?
We believe the location of the ice axe, believed to be
Sandy's is consistent with the climber who waited at the Second Step and then
retreated back at some point after passing the point of "no return".
The "very old dead" was seen above 8400 meters which is
consistent with our theory and with a climber who waited on the ridge and
dropped his ice axe on the return when he figured out his partner was not
While the Chinese location is far from certain, a body in
that area would also be very consistent with our theory here. So whichever
correct, the theory is supported.
10.) The oxygen bottle our team found in 2004
Oh that oxygen bottle! While little is known about the
bottle, what is known is that oxygen bottles do not roll up hill!
This bottle from the 1920's or 1930's had to be carried there by someone!
Only the Chinese and George and Sandy went that high. These are the
While some find it hard to believe a Chinese climber would
pick up items and carry them. We know for a fact that that the Chinese
climbers picked up evidence/artifacts from the early British expedition and
took artifacts back home, as they took two 1938 oxygen sets and send them back home.
By the bottle being at the "old dead" climber's location, we
tend to believe our climber's theory: that a Chinese climber
left it while visiting Sandy's body. If it turns out to be Sandy's bottle,
then it would be significant evidence as to of the location where Sandy Irvine
Again we should add, this is our theory,
it is not proven that George Mallory summited, however, it surely is
not proven that he did not summit.
Other theories to explain the locations of
We would love to see and hear them! With hundreds of e-mails a day it is tough to keep up with
the EverestNews.com e-mail. So submit your questions and or comments to
and we will
try to answer them as a group to be more effective. We have received several
excellent comments from our readers. We will try this week to publish some
more photos including a possible route map.
We went to Mount Everest in search of an answer.
Digital Altimeter, Barometer, Compass and Thermometer. Time/Date/Alarms.
Chronograph with 24 hour working range. Timer with stop, repeat and up
function. Rotating Bezel. Leveling bubble. Carabiner latch. E.L. 3 second
backlight. Water resistant. 4" x 2-1/4" x 3/4" 2 oz. Requires 1 CR2032
See more here.