Monday, 10 January 2011

Andrew 'Sandy' Irvine

Andrew 'Sandy' Irvine

When my father sent me off to school I remember him saying that he'd regularly sat next to a plaque in remembrance of Andrew 'Sandy' Irvine in the Chapel when he had attended the same school as a boy; I probably knew more about Irvine than I did about Mallory when I was younger. Despite this I still knew very little of Mallory & Irvine, and their famous story, at this point but have since read an incredible amount about them. One thing i've noticed is the overwhelming majority of books, articles etc about Mallory and barely a mention of Irvine! Admittedly Mallory had a history with Mt. Everest, was an extremely talented climber and a famous figure for the day but they died together, they could together have been the first men on top of the world.

Irvine was a shock addition to the 1924 Everest expedition as he'd barely climbed; he was there for his incredible mechanical and engineering talents - these proved very useful in relation to Oxygen apparatus! Irvine was obviously bright enough to have studied Engineering at Oxford and a competent enough sportsman to row in the Boat Race. These traits probably allowed for an inexperienced climber to be taken along with the expedition.

The relationship between Mallory and Irvine was a strong one from the boat out to India and the trip on to Tibet. This is probably part of the reason Irvine was chosen to accompany Mallory rather than Noel Odell or another expedition member. Irvine may not have been the most accomplished climber but was obviously determined and had worked so hard on the Oxygen apparatus to get them to work efficiently.

Sadly, as the story goes, Mallory and Irvine never returned and no one knows whether they really reached the summit of Everest or came to their final resting places before having done so. Irvine's body has never been found, maybe it never will, but Irvine is said to have had the camera that would prove whether the two men reached the summit or not. Irvine was only 22 when he died; so young for someone clearly so bright who had a promising future ahead of him - he should be remembered as much as Mallory and not be overlooked as often seems to be the case! Even if the summit wasn't reached back in June 1924 Andrew Irvine achieved an incredible amount in getting so high on the mountain without prior experience. We may never know if they summated but we do know that they both achieved an incredible amount and deserve a huge amount of respect individually and as the famous pairing they were.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.Iv climbed a lot of the crags Mallory climbed in the Lake District in England and in Wales.Iv always found it ridiculous the claim they couldnt of climbed the 2nd step.People talk about the exposure but what does that matter?Mallory climbed Pillar rock a fall of 500 feet if he fell.The result is the same as falling from the second step,death.Mallory fought in the trenches in the first world war and it was well known he had no fear at height.I also think people forget how fit Irvine was.He was in the boat race,that alone shows his supreme fitness and lung capacity.People look at the 2nd step issue with modern thinking,but Mallory would of looked at it as something he HAD to climb to get to the summit.I have no doubt at all if they did go the ridge route Mallory climbed the 2nd step and with rope Irvine would of followed.I hope one day they find Andrew as well.Where he is will help explain the mystery a bit more.We know Mallory died on the way down,that is now certain,so did he/they turn back at some point,or did they summit?.If i was betting id say they did reach the top.Id say they should of turned back but didnt,and that out of oxygen,coming down in the dark they had nothing left,Mallory was leading and fell,Andrew out of energy and alone and not understanding he couldnt survive a night that high took some shelter and fell asleep hoping to surive until light.Somewhere high up on the ridge.
    Two incredible men,forever legends for all time.

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