Mallory and Everest, a family affair

See Mallory: Beyond Everest  my play about George Mallory Eden Court Inverness on 10th November and Dundee mountain Film festival  26th November.  More dates soon.

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Some men cast shadows that linger for generations after their death.  George Mallory was such a man. While researching my one man play about him I discovered that his family’s quest for the summit of the mountain has carried on for over 80 years since his lonely death high on Everest in 1924.  Since he and his climbing partner, a young Oxford rower, Sand Irvine, vanished into the mist that day in June, debate has raged over whether they were the first men to stand on the summit of the highest mountain on Earth.

Andrew Irvine, left, and George Mallory

Andrew Irvine, left, and George Mallory

What happened to the pair is a question we will probably never be able to answer.  Mallory’s body was found, his leg broken and a snapped rope tied to his waist, suggesting a fall, by an expedition in the 90’s.  Tantalisingly his camera was not with the body, would it contain that all important summit photo?  There are plans to search with metal detectors, so great is the curiosity of the mountaineering world to know if the pair were the first to conquer the mountain.

Mallory had promised his wife Ruth that he would place her photograph on the top of the mountain.  Her picture was not found on his body, another clue that points to success on the climb.  Surely Mallory, famous as he was for his carelessness with equipment, would not have lost the picture of his wife, a precious memento of a life beyond the mountain.

Another clue that suggests he and Irvine were coming down the mountain is that no snow goggles were found with his body.  If he were descending, in fading light, he might have removed these, on the way up he would have needed them without doubt.

John Mallory (seated)  George's son

John Mallory (seated) George’s son

Mallory had three children, two girls, Clair and Berry and a boy, John.  After his death the two girls went on to become accomplished rock climbers.  Finally, in 1995, his grandson, and son of John, also reached the summit as part of an American expedition over seventy years after his grandfather lost his life.  Read more here

Book Poster

Now another branch of the Mallory family have put four of their family members on the summit, an incredible achievement and one that has never been equalled.

Did Mallory reach the summit of Everest?   We will never know and I hope that we never find the definitive answer.  Some questions are better left unanswered.  It was almost thirty years after Mallory’s bid that Hillary and Tensing stood on the summit, a great achievement, yet had they faced the same challenges as Mallory?  Their equipment was better, and more importantly, metaphorically they stood on the shoulders of the men who had gone before and the knowledge they gained.


3 responses to “Mallory and Everest, a family affair

  1. I’ve just finished a book about Sandy Irvine’s attempt on Everest – written by a young female relative (neice?). I always felt that they didn’t actually make it but didn’t know about the missing photo of Mallory’s wife – that makes it sound like they did!

  2. Still reading the book. But George was an experienced climber. I do not believe he died accidentally. I truly think he was murdered. Look at the facts.

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