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Great Adventures: Everest

Pat Kinsella explores a high-altitude enigma, which might one day see the history of Earth’s highest mountain rewritten

MYSTERY ON EVEREST: MALLORY AND IRVINE’S CLIMB TO THE TOP

ON THIN ICE A 1924 Everest expedition team member picks his way through jagged ice pinnacles
ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY X1, GETTY X1

“What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life”George Mallory

Around 1pm on 8 June 1924, George Mallory, one of the era’s leading climbers, and his young companion Andrew Irvine, were spotted as tiny black specks clinging to Everest’s towering Northeast Ridge, just a few hundred metres from the summit. And then the clouds closed in. Irvine has never been seen since, while Mallory’s frozen corpse was finally found in 1999.

Their unfinished story is mountaineering’s greatest mystery. That they died on the mountain over 90 years ago isn’t in doubt, but what exactly happened up there, on the roof of the world, has been argued about endlessly by alpinists and armchair observers for decades.

Did they reach the top of Everest – 29 years earlier than Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s accepted first ascent of the planet’s highest peak – before tragedy struck?

When Mallory’s perfectly preserved body was discovered, the photo of his wife that he had sworn to leave on the summit was the only thing missing. at and a Kodak camera carried by the climbers, which remains lost – presumably buried in the ice with the as-yetundiscovered remains of Irvine. at camera is the Holy Grail of the adventure world.

THE 1924 EVEREST TEAM BACK ROW L-R: Irvine, Mallory, Norton, Odell & Macdonald FRONT ROW L-R: Shebbeare, Bruce, Somervell & Beetham
J.B. NOEL/ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY X3, ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY X1, GETTY X2, REX/SHUTTERSTOCK X1, TOPFOTO X1
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The SAS in World War II, Athens vs Persia, Jack the Ripper and the tragedy of the forgotten queen in this month's issue