There have been 4,000 successful climbers who reached the top of Mt. Everest. When you only consider this, you might think that any expedition can be successful, given the money, equipment and technology that many aspiring climbers acquire to fulfill their wildest dreams. But only 29% of climbers reach the summit, for a variety of reasons. Many return home with memories of seeing the summit and very few others make the return journey. To date, more than 300 people have died on the mountain, and all of them are still there. One of them was the pioneering English climber George Mallory.
Everest and Mallory
George Mallory was one of the most inspiring climbers who came out in the early 20th century. His methods and character made him widely known in the heydays of exploration, and his reply to reporters regarding his reason to climb the mountain has been immortalized: “Because it’s there.”
But his 1924 expedition to the mountain with Sandy Irvine was his last, and whether they reached the summit remains a mystery to this day. In 1999, there was hope that the question would be clarified when Mallory’s body was found at 8,155 meters. The discoverers thought it was Sandy Irvine, as his axe was found near the area in 1933. But as the mountaineers searched the body, they found letters and equipment with the name of George Mallory.
Mountaineering Gear Tells the Story
The expedition leaders found Mallory had several injuries. He had a broken leg, a head injury, and some hand injuries. There was a rope around his waist, with signs of bleeding around the area. It suggested that Mallory and Irvine might have fallen, with Mallory clutching at the rock face until his hands were injured.
When they searched his body, they found several things that confirmed his identity and proved how much his experience in climbing molded Mallory’s mountaineering methods. Modern climbers have always thought that the English climber’s gear was no match for today’s equipment, such as puffer Obermeyer jackets or mountaineering boots.
But the discovery of his body enabled researchers to create replicas of his gear. His clothes were made of several layers of gaberdine, cotton, wool and silk. His outer jackets and trousers were made of gaberdine, which is resistant and durable. Wool and cotton kept moisture and warmth in, while silk protected the other layers from the cold wind. He was dressed lighter, so he could carry several things if he ever reached the summit.
Mallory had his goggles inside his pocket, which proved that near the time of his death it was nearly nightfall. He also carried a watch and altimeter, but the first was broken and the second lost its hands. Finally, there were no traces of the camera Mallory and Irvine had taken with them in case they reached the summit.
The Mystery Deepens
One final clue is the missing picture of Mallory’s wife, Ruth, which he carried with him on any climb. He had promised he would leave it on the top of Mt. Everest, which made many people consider that he might have reached the top of the world. But his position on the mountain and the way his equipment was found offers no confirmation.
But even if George Mallory and Sandy Irvine were unable to climb the highest mountain in the world, they are still remembered with respect and admiration, as they were one of the firsts who aspired to reach one of the deadliest mountains in the world.