AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Asia, Tibet, Mount Everest, Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition

Mount Everest, Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition. The 1999 Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition was conducted to search for evidence of the 1924 British attempt on Mt. Everest and to recover information about the high point reached by George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Comyn Irvine during their ill-fated summit bid. Our predominantly American team consisted of climbers Conrad Anker, Dave Hahn, Graham Hoyland (UK), Jake Norton, Andy Politz, Tap Richards and Eric Simonson, expedition leader. In addition, we were joined by historians Jochen Hemmleb (Germany) and Larry Johnson, along with film crew members Liesl Clark, Peter Firstbrook (UK), Ned Johnston, Thom Pollard and Jyoti Rana (Nepal). Assisting us were 12 Sherpas led by Sirdar Dawa Nuru.

The team left Kathmandu on March 23, traveling overland to Rongbuk Base Camp (Tibet), which was established on March 30. For the next month, the entire team worked steadily on the North Ridge/Northeast Ridge route to establish the Advance Base Camp (6460m), Camp IV (7070m) and Camp V (7800m), eventually fixing this part of the route with 2500 meters of rope. During this period, the weather was quite good, and the upper mountain remained remarkably snow-free.

The first search team (Anker, Hahn, Norton, Politz, Richards) reached CV on April 30 and located the 1975 Chinese Camp VI the following day. That camp site was where Chinese climber Wang Hongbao started his famous “short walk” in 1975, during which he had reportedly come across an “English dead.” After finding the Chinese campsite, they began searching to the west. Several hours later, Anker found the body of George Mallory at 8160 meters (see accompanying note by Anker below). The team spent three hours on site and buried Mallory’s remains under stones before descending to CV. That night the weather worsened, with several feet of snow accumulating over the next two weeks. This effectively ended further searching.

On May 13, the team was back at CV for a summit attempt. Pinned down by high winds for three days, they were able to push to CVI on May 16, where Anker, Hahn, Norton and Richards remained to attempt the summit with Dawa Nuru and Ang Passang. Politz and Pollard, in support of the climbers, descended to CV, returning via the Mallory site on the way down to recheck the area with a metal detector for anything missed from the first search. On May 17, Anker and Hahn reached the summit in marginal weather, and returned to CVI. In the process, Anker attempted to free climb the Second Step. (His thoughtful analysis follows.) Norton, Richards, Dawa Nuru and Ang Passang abandoned their summit bid below the Second Step but recovered a 1924 oxygen cylinder on the North Ridge just below the First Step.

Interesting evidence of the 1924 climb was discovered by our team. In addition to the 1924 oxygen cylinder, we recovered various items of personal equipment from Mallory’s remains, including an altimeter, goggles, a pocket knife and a complete inventory itemizing the provisions carried to CVI by the porters on June 7, 1924, for their summit bid. However, nothing recovered has definitively proven the high point of Mallory and Irvine’s climb, and nothing about their route or summit bid is certain other than their ultimate demise on the mountain.

Eric Simonson