Although he may have been the first to climb the peak, he unfortunately died on the descent.
“Why would you want to climb Mount Everest?”, George Mallory was once asked.
He simply responded “Because it’s there“
Coming from a relatively simple background, Mallory’s climbing talent revealed itself early on.
At just seven years old, sent to his room due to bad behaviour, he appeared soon after on the roof of the church.
Climbing down the rain gutter of the parsonage and then up the vertical facade of the old bell tower, it was not long before he transferred these skills to the mountains.
One of Mallory’s tutors at college was Graham Irving, an avid alpinist but somewhat unorthodox climber, who took two of his students climbing in the Mont Blanc area and further ignited Mallory’s passion for the great outdoors.
After summiting various four-thousand-metre peaks of the Swiss Alps between 1904 and 1910, Mallory started to explore further afield and earned himself a name within the climbing community.
As a result, he was invited to participate in the 1921 British Everest expedition organised by the Royal Geographical Society and Alpine Club.
The aim was to explore the Everest massif and define a possible route to the summit and was, in part, a success.
Not equipped to make it right to the top, the team did manage to identify a route and returned the following year to give it another try.
Unfortunately an avalanche called an early end to this second attempt.
Despite reaching 8,300 metres, several porters died under Mallory’s leadership, forcing the team to turn back.
In honour of their efforts, 1924 saw Mallory and the other participants of this expedition recognised at the Chamonix Winter Olympics with the first Olympic Mountaineering Prize – Prix Olympique d’Alpinisme.
Later that year, Mallory decided to try one last time to summit Everest – feared his advancing age would make it impossible in the future – but the expedition would prove to be his last.
Along with his climbing companion Andrew Irvine, a team set out at the end of May, reaching the campsite at 6,000 metres without much difficulty.
On June 4, Mallory and Irvine left the Advanced Base Camp and set out on their own, certain that they would be able to summit the mountain and make it back to the camp before nightfall.
They disappeared in the fog and were not seen alive again.
Despite various dedicated expeditions, it took more than 70 years for anyone to find their bodies.
In 1999, climbers working on the BBC’s “Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition” arrived at Everest with the sole purpose of locating the pair, and were successful.
The constantly freezing temperatures and layer of permafrost had helped to preserve Mallory’s body, though Irvine’s was never found.
No one will ever know whether or not George Mallory and Andrew Irvine ever reached the summit and the mystery remains a source of controversy.
However, experts have speculated that the position of the body suggests that Mallory was climbing down the mountain, rather than up.
And for such an incredible adventurer, climbing without the aids of modern technology, it seems unfair to take that away from him.
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