In memory of George Leigh Mallory

He may not have the grandest memorial at Everest Base Camp North, but of all the mountaineers who have died trying to climb Everest from the north side, George Mallory made the most significant contribution to future climbs.

The memorial to George Mallory and Sandy Irvine at base camp on the north side of Everest
The memorial to George Mallory and Sandy Irvine at base camp on the north side of Everest

In three expeditions in 1921, 1922 and 1924 Mallory discovered and pioneered the route up the East Rongbuk Glacier, North Col and Northeast Ridge most people now use to climb Everest from Tibet. He was also a convert to the use of bottled oxygen, having been impressed by the performance of rival climber George Finch when he used it on the 1922 expedition. He chose as his climbing partner in 1924 the youngster Sandy Irvine because he was good with the oxygen apparatus. The two of them were last seen alive by teammate Noel Odell climbing a prominent notch on the summit ridge. Then the mist swept over and they were never seen again.

Mallory’s body was found in 1999. He had taken a fall. A broken rope was tied around him, and there was a large hole in his cheekbone. His sunglasses were in his pocket, indicating that he was probably descending in the dark. Irvine’s ice axe was found above, but his body has never been found. It’s likely he fell all the way down the North Face. There has been speculation ever since whether the pair made the summit. Many people believe Irvine was carrying a camera which would confirm the speculation once and for all.

Controversially many people may be looking for Irvine’s body even as we speak, but many people think he should be let to rest. In my opinion it doesn’t matter. Mallory was a great climber whose name is synonymous with the history of Everest. He may have made the summit, but he didn’t get down. The bewildering array of memorials at Base Camp are a reminder that reaching the summit is only half the climb. For lesser climbers like myself getting down is the important bit.

To receive email notifications of my blog posts about mountains and occasional info about new releases, join my mailing list and get a free ebook.
Note: I get a very small referral fee if you buy a book after clicking on an Amazon link.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published, but it will be stored. Please see the privacy statement for more information. Required fields are marked *

Lively discussion is welcome, but if you think your comment might offend, please read the commenting guidelines before posting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.