Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Last Photograph of Mallory & Irvine

I've talked a lot about George Mallory and Andrew 'Sandy' Irvine since starting the blog; they're major figures in climbing history and the story has always interested me. I just bought the complete writings of George Mallory which I'm thoroughly looking forward to reading.

As the story goes Mallory and Irvine were last seen on 8th June 1924 when Noel Odell spotted them high up on the ridge leading to the summit of Everest. They were never seen again and whether they reached the summit of Everest is a mystery known across the world. Odell's account goes as follows:

"At 12.50, just after I had emerged from a state of jubilation at finding the first definite fossils on Everest, there was a sudden clearing of the atmosphere, and the entire summit ridge and final peak of Everest were unveiled. My eyes became fixed on one tiny black spot silhouetted on a small snow-crest beneath a rock-step in the ridge; the black spot moved. Another black spot became apparent and moved up the snow to join the other on the crest. The first then approached the great rock-step and shortly emerged at the top; the second did likewise. Then the whole fascinating vision vanished, enveloped in cloud once more."

Where exactly Mallory and Irvine were seen has since been disputed as Odell's account changed slightly on return home - no one really knows exactly where they were and no one knows whether they ended up summitting Everest. Famously the two of them were captured in a photograph by Odell two days before their last sighting; they can be seen fully laden with Oxygen tanks, wrapped up in layers of clothing and leaving camp.

The last photograph of George Mallory (left) and Andrew 'Sandy' Irvine. Courtesy of Royal Geographical Society

The two men are clearly making last minute checks to their equipment before heading off further up the mountain. Mallory faces towards the camera whilst Irvine is looking away. Did they go on to reach the summit? Who knows! As always I'll point out that I strongly hope they did! 

I'll be writing a post just on Irvine soon; people always seem to concentrate everything on Mallory and his death so i'll be looking at Andrew Irvine instead.

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