I take up the keyboard this evening surrounded by thunder, lightning, and heavy rain. It’s another one of those “heckuva” storm nights, where cell after cell comes rumbling through. I try to ride my bike to work 3 or 4 times a week, but I have a big goose egg to show for this week. Blistering heat to begin it, and then storms to finish it off. Tomorrow morning’s ride is already in doubt. I can live in hope for next week.
Several years ago, I watched a show on Public Television about the search for George Mallory. In case you don’t know, Mallory was one of the first men (or maybe he was the first) to attempt to climb Mount Everest. Back in May, I mentioned Junko Tabei’s successful ascent as the mountain’s first female conqueror. Unfortunately for Mallory, his success is shrouded in mystery.
He made three attempts to reach the summit. The first, in 1921, ended 6,000′ short of the summit due to high winds. The following year, a second shot ended in an avalanche that killed several members of the party. It’s the third attempt that narrows our focus.
In 1924, Mallory again attempted the summit. The first week of June saw he and his men make their initial approaches, but weather again forced them down. On June 4th, a lack of oxygen forced Edward North and Howard Somervell (Mallory’s co-climbers) to stop less than 1,000 feet from their elusive goal.
On June 8th, it was Mallory’s turn again, this time with Everest rookie Andrew Irvine, and it’s here that the “shrouded in mystery” part takes over. At just before 1:00pm, Noel Odell (a support climber) spotted the two men well above him nearing the final climbing area to the summit…
…and that was the last they would be seen for a very long time.
A storm moved in, forcing Odell to take cover. Four hours later, when the skies cleared, no sign of Mallory nor Irvine was seen. On June 9, 1924, Odell climbed back up a ways, but still could see nothing of the two men. And in those extreme conditions, Odell pretty much knew the score. George Mallory and Sandy Irvine were dead.
It turns out that Odell was right, of course. Both men had died. But where were they? And just as important, had they reached the summit? Until their bodies could be found, no one would know for sure. The two men had a taken a camera to record the event, so if one of them could be found with the camera, the end of the story might be developed through pictures.
And this was where the show on Public TV picked up the story. A subsequent expedition (or maybe several of them) had come back with the report of seeing a body on the mountain. The relative location led experts to believe that maybe it was Mallory, but until a formal search could be made, the mystery, now more than 70 years old, would remain.
So the search began, and…well…let’s look at that when the time is more appropriate…