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  George Leigh Mallory

Hazard, Mallory, Beetham and Irvine aboard SS California, Liverpool 29th February 1924, en route for Darjeeling © The Sandy Irvine Trust, UK.  Not to be reproduced without permission

"Because it's there,"  - George Leigh Mallory

By the time George Leigh Mallory first set foot on Everest in the early 1920s the world was on its way to becoming a pretty well known place. Most of its far reaches and secluded spots had already been, or soon would be explored, mapped and recorded; all their mystery laid bare.


Such was not the case for the worldís third pole. At this point in time the redoubtable Everest had yet to be summited though many men had already lost their lives in the attempt. Mallory was thirty-seven at the time of his final expedition and his historic attempt at the first summit of Everest. He was a member of a 1921 Everest expedition, which had studied the mountain from the Tibetan side and was widely recognized as perhaps Britainís best climber.


Mallory returned to Everest in 1922, reaching a height of 27,000 feet before retreating from the attempt and after losing seven Sherpa in an avalanche. Finally in 1924 Mallory would make an assault on the summit along with teammate Andrew "Sandy" Irvine. They left high camp on June 8th and were last seen by geologist Noel Odell through a momentary parting in the blowing snow and mist as they approached the Second Step. Though Odell says they were later than he expected the two men appeared to be climbing strongly toward the peak. They were never seen again and were lost on Everestís vast North Face.


Speculation on whether or not Mallory & Irvine actually summited Everest decades before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay continues to this day. It is thought, based on Odellís testimony that the two men may have climbed the difficult Second Step obstacle, but what happened after that remains a mystery. However a few clues to the mens' fate and one startling discovery lay in wait for later climbers.


An Ice Axe was found in 1933 at 27,750 feet on the route Mallory and Irvine took. The Axe was etched with three marks as was customary for Sandy Irvine. The Chinese completed Mallory & Irvineís route in 1960. However it appears that without the necessary equipment, a climb of the Second step by Mallory & Irvine would have been extremely difficult. A body, thought to be Irvineís was reportedly found by a Chinese climber 750 below the ice axe and finally on May 1, 1999 George Malloryís body was discovered at 27,000 feet on Everestís North Face.


Did the men reach the top and die on the way down? No one knows. Tantalizingly, a camera Mallory took with him still waits to be found somewhere on Everestís towering slopes. If that camera is ever recovered the film inside may finally put the mystery of Mallory & Irvineís summit to rest.


Malloryís grandson, George Mallory II, summited Everest in 1995.

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