Did 38-year-old George Mallory and 22-year-old Andrew “Sandy” Irvine reach the summit of 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) Mount Everest on June 8, 1924 nearly three decades before the first successful ascent in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary? This has been mountaineering’s greatest mystery.
On that fateful day, Mallory and Irvine, climbing without oxygen, left their high camp at 26,700 feet (8,138 meters) to attempt to climb 2,300 feet to Everest’s summit. The pair, “going strong for the top” according to the last man to see them, Noel Odell, disappeared in clouds somewhere around the Second Step on the Northeast Ridge at one in the afternoon. They were never seen again.
Well, actually George Mallory was seen again when his body was discovered high on the north slopes of Mount Everest by Conrad Anker in 1999. Anker and the rest of an expedition led by Eric Simonson were on Everest specifically to find Mallory and Irvine and their personal effects. After respectfully searching Mallory’s body, the team recovered several artifacts including a bundle of letters, his watch, meat lozenges, a pocketknife, and goggles. They didn’t find the collapsible Vest Pocket Kodak camera he carried, which could provide undisputed proof that the pair had reached the summit.