« What Really Happened to George Mallory & Andrew Irvine? Part II | Main | Thursday Thought: A Commencement Inspiration for The Bosque School »

May 20, 2010


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Eugene Constant


Your ideas are great. Your pictures too and make me sad because I cannot climb Everest North Side with Himex in 2008 as Chinese closed Tibet borders.
I would like to see this area with my eyes and try to understand what could be happened this 6th june. (Sorry if I make some errors, I am french).
Thank you for your high res pictures.

I also have an opinion. I agree with you until they reach the summit. But I am trouble by the place you found George. He is too west. I think they try to climb down by norton couloir and avoid the second step. They know there is a route there as Norton said to them and Messner climbeb it later. Perhaps Irvine is here !

It was a pleasure to read you and I regret not seeing last year on south side. (I was with Himex).

Best regards.


Pete Poston

Great job Jake! Especially the part about an accident before the fatal fall. I believe it was at the ax site, however, to explain leaving it behind, but I'm sure you have some ideas about it! -Pete

Ajay Dandekar

Hi Jake
i have religiously followed your research and your blog. In the eariler ones you had refrained from expressing your opinion but here you do finally. Great work, and especially coming from someone as experienced as you,it is of immense value. Finally we have Odells final opinion too, sighting them at the second step. That was always on cards given the timing and the location of the oxygen bottle and the climing rates ensuing thence, as well as the timing of the sighting by Odell. There has been credible research done by Phil Summers to suggest that they did take a sleeping bag with them and dumped that near the first step. Ice axe as a marker. Gave them the extra window of time and an extended turn around. Would you say that researchers need to look for the 1924 oxygen sets and bottle above the third step? Did irvine carry another oxygen bottle?
Once again, great work and hope you go back and discover the resting place for Andrew Irvine. with warm regards


hi, thanks for sharing your perspective. question: was the oxygen container you found in 99 completely empty? A non-empty bottle could have been left behind to lighten the "bloody" load and to provide a cache of o2 to the pair on descent.


speaking of the axe, what are the chances a climber going uphill with the view of snowy terrain ahead will consciously leave his pick behind. with no fixed ropes and no crampons, the pick might be your only lifeline up there, no? Do you see any chance it could have been left deliberately? Couldn't something else be left to dump weight or as a marker (a cairn, a sleeping bag, if they indeed took one along, an empty o2 bottle, which they apparently left pretty close to the axe - do you remember how close, btw?)

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interesting post! I hadn't seen the artifacts we collected on the expedition since we left Basecamp, and thus had forgotten about the blood on Mallory's lapels.


Ironic that after Sir Edmund Hillary has died, and has been treated as one of New Zealands great heroes, that it may turn out his achievment was an illusion.

Chris Sampson

Great articles, good to hear some fresh views from someone who's been there.

A couple of thoughts:

1) Oxygen. Assuming 2 cylinders apiece, it would have run out somwhere above the 2nd step. How tough would it have been to carry on up the summit pyramid with no O2?

2) Odell. Odell was watching the upper slopes pretty intently through the afternoon after the snow squall cleared, but saw nothing. If his eyes were good enough to spot them in shadow beneath the second step, surely he'd have seen them ascending or descending the pyramid?

Joe Hoy


Sorry for posting so long after the last comment - I've only just found these wonderful posts - so thanks Jake!

I'd love to think that Jake is right - though it's possible we'll never know, even if Sandy Irvine is finally located.

But in answer to Chris's first question, my theory (despite only having followed this story in pieces through the last few years) is this : We know from the pieces of paper that George Mallory was carrying (see Ghosts Of Everest) that they had brought at least 6, if not 7 canisters of oxygen with them, which meant they had at least 3 available to each of them. We know that the received wisdom of the time was that oxygen was considered of no use on the descent. Odell mentions that he saw pieces of oxygen equipment scattered around the tent, which concerned him. We also know that Irvine was something of a mechanical genius and had already reconfigured the apparatus once - to make it lighter and more efficient. I think one possible reason for pieces of apparatus in the tent is that Irvine made a second attempt to reconfigure the kit and make it possible for them to take three canisters each - for at least part of the way. This could easily have got them closer to the summit, if not all the way there.

However far they got though, they would have had to abandon the kit at some point and we know they were in the "Death Zone" far a longer period of time and far later in the day than would be considered wise in this day and age. Combine that with Mallory's first injuries and you have the stage set for tragedy - though having said that, the discovery of Mallory's body heartbreakingly close to Camp VI is a testament to how determined and capable these men were.


"Irvine knows he needs to move, he needs to get down, get help, send a signal to Odell. Maybe Mallory is still alive, down in the darkness. But what to do? Irvine struggles for a while in the gully, his lack of climbing background amplified by the current situation. Maybe there's another...."

Seems like its here either that Irvine lost his Ice Axe or droped it as marker...???
Maybe ooo any way I am terrible at making logical conclusions but love the post


Jake, really well written and thought out. It seems to me the whole thing turns on whether Odell saw them above the 2nd Step. If he did, your theory sounds real likely, and they probably made the top. If he saw them lower than the 2nd Step, I doubt they summited.

It's hard for me to see how "a short distance from the final pyramid" can mean the 1st Step. I've seen photos from where Odell was watching. The 1st Step is a long way from there. Of course, it's not certain that Odell was anything.

Btw, Mallory had used the "shoulder boost" technique before. Even without it, though, George should have been able to climb 5.8.

David A.

robler, that's right the photos taken from where Odell was watching clearly show they had to have been beyond the second step and IMO, beyond the third step. That photo should be more widespread. I also agree with the view they did not descend via the Second Step but look for a better route down. However, if they did, maybe Irvine fell at that point and his body went all the way down and the body others have seen was Mallory's. Could the "hole in the cheek" refer not to the face cheek, but to the hole in Mallory's arse cheek (sorry if it sounds less than tactful) and the meaning got lost in translation?

Very interesting about the blood spotting. More research into that might be revealing. The frustrating thing about reading about the route possibilities and location of the tanks, ice pick, glove, and Mallory is that the maps shown are also very small and frankly, lousy. Better maps and clear pics of the terrain/routes at critical points would make a wonderful new book. I want to be able to read and see the choices clearly, not thru a fog which is where all readers are unless they have been there.

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Ultimately, the question of whether they reached the top or not doesn't really matter. For me, it is the simple fact that they tried, that Mallory, Irvine...and Norton, Somervell, Odell, Hazard, Finch, Shipton, Smythe, Wager, Wyn-Harris, and all the others bothered to push their limits, to try what many said was impossible. To me, this is the nugget of importance in the whole story.


Hi Jake! Would Mallory's altimeter if it was found intact could have solved the mystery once and for all?

Stephen Burns

Hi Jake,

Enjoyed this post. Here's a question for you. As someone who's climbed everest and spent time on the north col route, what do you think the timeline would be for these events, given Odell's time of sighting? How long does it take to get from top of second step to summit and back down and what do you think those times would be?



Very interesting. As an armchair historian, I have always been fascinated by Mallory and Irvine. Do you happen to have any photos of the gullies that you believe Mallory and Irvine mistakenly took? It would aid immensely in visualizing their possible route down.

Also, if they did take that mistaken gully and fell from there, what connection, if any, is there to the location of Irvine's ice axe? Percy Wyn-Harris said that he found the axe about 60 ft from the crest of the ridge, if I am recalling correctly (and please correct me if I am not). The axe's lateral position along the axe along the ridgecrest may be debated, but he's pretty clear in saying how far down the ridge it was found. That being the case, if the gully system is lower down the mountain than the axe's location, is it possible that the axe, however unlikely, was left behind as a trail marker by Mallory and Irvine on their way up? If they were climbing up very late in the day, they would need a marker to help guide them back down, and an ice axe, though an unlikely piece of equipment for that purpose, would be large enough to be seen and recognized. This is all speculation, of course, but I'm curious what your thoughts would be on this amateur's speculations.

Many thanks!


I wouldn't have a clue what happened to mallory and irvine, although the story is very interesting. it seems to me that your explanation of what happened to them is just about credible, but at the same time runs along the boundary of optimism, in other words everything would have had to go right for them, for the story to have unfolded just as you said it (apart from the very end of course.)

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