The Worst Disasters on Everest: 2. Mallory and Irvine Disappear

With the 2012 climbing season underway, we look back at some of the most incredible moments to take place on the world's tallest mountain over the last 150 years

Summiting climbers

Summiting climbers via Shutterstock     Photo: Ladynin

The 1924 Everest expedition seemed full of promise. It was George Mallory’s third trip, and he believed he’d deciphered much of the route; the summit was indeed within his grasp. He was determined and didn’t want to come back again. What his climbing partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, lacked in experience he made up for in raw athleticism and mechanical skill (he was an expert with the oxygen system). The pair was last seen on June 8, around 1 p.m., by Noel Odell, a teammate who had climbed partway up the North Face and, during a break in the clouds, observed, “none other than Mallory and Irvine ... moving expeditiously” toward the summit before the clouds closed back in.

Mallory’s body was found in 1999, prostrate and well-preserved high on the North Face, broken bones indicated a lethal fall. Irvine has never been discovered. Nor, perhaps most tantalizing, has the Kodak Vestpocket camera the two men are known to have had with them. Although many experts seem to conclude that the chance Mallory and Irvine reached the summit is slim, the mystery endures—as do periodic searches for the camera and the further clues it might contain.

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