Monday, 7 November 2016

Plucky British mountaineer George Mallory - his saga of adventure

Mallory & his daughter Claire. Trekking and Photography in the Himalaya
George Herbert Leigh Mallory (18 June 1886 - 8 or 9 June 1924) was a well-known  English mountaineer  in the colonial time and was associated with  the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s. Being an active climber, it was  his passion to be the first to reach the summit, thus exhibiting the spirit of British adventurism and sportsmanship unmindful of risks involved.
Mt. Everest. phrases tattoos for girls
He was part of  the 1924 British Mt. Everest expedition to reach the summit via the North-East ridge. During their attempt to make the first ascent  both Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew "Sandy" Irvine  disappeared on the North-East ridge. They were last sighted  about 800 vertical feet (245 m) from the summit.

Whether Mallory and Irvine  had reached the summit or not  before their unexpected death is a moot question and is  debatable. The fact is the fate of both climbers had not been known for  75  long years, until Mallory's  body was discovered on 1 May 1999 by an expedition that had set out, looking for the  climbers' remains.

Mallory,  son of Herbert Leigh Mallory, a clergyman  and his wife Annie Beridge (née Jebb) was born in Mobberley, Cheshire. The couple had two sons and two daughters.  Trafford Leigh-Mallory, younger brother of George, was  the World War II Royal Air Force commander.
George Mallory. The Casual Observer
Educated at  Eastbourne on the south coast of England, and  West Kirby, he joined  the Winchester College when he was just 13 and it was here he leaned rock climbing and mountaineering  from one  R. L. G. Irving, who was an expert in mountain climbing. Later he joined Magdalene College, Cambridge,  where he was a keen oarsman and was a member of the college rowing team. His good, athletic  body  was quite helpful later in his adventurous life.  After graduation from Cambridge, Mallory (majored in History)  tried different jobs and in 1910 he became a teacher at Charter-house School, Godalming, Surrey. Here, Mallory married Ruth Turner in 1914 and the couple had three children.  

After a brief stint in Army,  Mallory returned to Charterhouse, resigning  his job in 1921 in order to join the first Everest expedition. Between expeditions, he earned money by way of writing and lecturing without any major success. In 1923, he  became   a lecturer  at Cambridge and the university gave him temporary leave so that he could pursue his passion - climbing the highest peak in the world - Mt. Everest.

In 1910 and 1911 he was part of a   mountaineering team led by Irving. Though in 1911 he had altitude sickness problem while climbing
Mont Vélan in the Alps, later  in 1911 he  climbed Mont Blanc,  making the third ascent of the Frontier ridge of Mont Maudit in a party again led by Irving.  He made history by ascending Pillar Rock in the English Lake District without any help whatsoever. The route taken by him is known as the Mallory route. It was considered as the hardest route in England in those days. 


 Mallory was a member of the 1921 British Reconnaissance Expedition - the earliest one  organized and financed by the Mount Everest Committee. They team explored safe  routes up to the North Col of Mount Everest. It was the first attempt by the expedition to produce  the first accurate maps of the  mountainous region  at the higher elevation , never tried before. Mallory, with support from other members like  Guy Bullock and E. O. Wheeler of the Survey of India,  carried out in depth exploration of several approaches to the peak. Besides, he and his group along with help from  one dozen Sherpas,  scaled several lower peaks near Mt.Everest feat no body ever tried before. Perhaps his group were the first westerners to view the western part at the foot of the Lhotse face, as well as trail blazing  the course of the Rongbuk Glacier up to the base of the North Face. After  going round the mountain from the south side, his party finally discovered the East Rongbuk Glacier—the  main arterial to the summit which is now being used by nearly all climbers on the Tibetan side of the mountain. By scaling  up to the saddle of the North Ridge (the 23,030 ft (7,020 m) North Col, they discovered a route to the summit via the North-East Ridge over the obstacle of the Second Step.
Mallory climbing in France in 1909The Times
In 1922 the expedition  to the Himalayas was led by Brigadier-General Charles Bruce and climbing leader Edward Strutt and Mallory  was part of it.  On this expedition, Mallory, along with Howard Somervell and Edward Norton almost made it to the crest of  the North-East Ridge without using bottled oxygen. They made history by reaching  the record altitude of 26,980 ft (8,225 m) before weather condition became unfavorable. They managed with thin air available at that elevation. Later, they gave up climbing.  

Later George Finch and his party  reached a height of approximately 27,300 ft (8,321 m)  at record speed, using bottled oxygen both for climbing and — a first — for sleeping.

The third party organized  during the Monsoon season made a futile attempt on the summit. While Mallory  and his group of porters  were on  the lower slopes of the North Col of Everest in fresh, waist-deep snow,  suddenly an avalanche swooped over the group, killing seven Sherpas. Immediately, the expedition was called off  and Mallory was accused of his poor judgement of the prevailing weather conditions and particularly one  Dr. Longstaff was harsh on Mallory. To the question "Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?', his reply  was simple." Because, it is there". Later it became a famous quote.

George Mallory, Andrew Irvine and fellow-mountaineer Bentley Beetham in 1924. The Telegraph
In June 1924 Gen.  Charles  Bruce led the expedition as he did in 1922 and as for George Mallory who  was 37 years old at that time, perhaps, it was his last attempt. The victory, that was within his reach, eluded him. He and Andrew Irvine  on June 6 set off from  Advanced Base camp (21330 feet  and they slowly climbed the mountain. On June 8,  around 12. 50 PM  when the weather was fairly clear, expedition member Noel Odell saw two tiny  black spots  silhouetted on the snow-crest trying to  move towards the great rock step and the  second one tried to join him . The rock step is the most difficult obstacle to the nearby summit. All of a sudden, the two spots vanished on account of cloud cover. Later  near the first step, the group found the spent oxygen cylinders used by one of them ans an ice ax used by Irvin. it is likely that Mallory and Irvine  might have died either late the same evening or on 9 June. They never returned to the base camp. 

Their disappearance in the Himalayas  near the summit  saddened the mountaineers  and the whole Britain mourned  their heroic death. Their mortal remains had been on the  snow-clad mountain for 75 years until Mallory's body was found on the 1st May 1999. Whether Mallory reached the summit  or not is an unsolved riddle surrounded by mysteries.There is no trace of Irvine's body on the mountain!
Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mallory