GEORGE MALLORY

 

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In 1924, with little to display for its unpleasant triumph in the WWI, Great Britain wanted heroes. The climber Mr Mallory, the original Westerner to endeavour to ascend Everest, delivered his country with a down-to-earth one, and he endures to exemplify the makings his fellow citizen believe define their race, amateurism, bravery, the ability to look good in tweed and dignity in the face of disaster.

 

Don't Be. Become.

 

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Mr Mallory's tale is one of inglorious failure. Born in the north of England in 1886 he was introduced to mountaineering by a teacher at Winchester, his public school. His strength was such that he rowed for his college, Magdalene, during the three years he studied at Cambridge University while remaining to climb in the UK and in Continental Europe. He became a schoolteacher after university and served as a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment during WWI.

 

In 1921 he focussed his mind to the trial that made him famous. Leaving from his teaching post, Mr Mallory joined the British Reconnaissance Expedition to map Everest and look for potential routes up to the summit. He wrote to his wife to tell her "we are about to walk off the map". A year later he returned to climb the mountain, and reached 8,225m (the summit is at 8,848m) before turning back due to bad weather conditions; at the time Mr Mallory objected to the use of oxygen. He was attempting to scale the highest mountain in the world without oxygen while wearing a wool suit and a felt hat. Failure was, arguably, the price Mr Mallory paid for elegance.

 

However, Mr George Finch, an Australian who was also a section of the mission, was more forward thinking and used oxygen (and the world's first goose-down jacket) to reach 8,321m. The notion that the first man to defeat Everest might be Australian was, it appears, intolerable to the Royal Geographical Society's Everest Committee, the organisers of the expedition. It viewed the facts that Finch was divorced and had accepted money for lectures as reason enough to bar him from taking part in subsequent expeditions.

 

Mr Mallory unenthusiastically decided to make another effort on Everest, but without Mr Finch in the group. On 8 June Mr Mallory set off for the summit accompanied by Mr Andrew Sandy Irvine, who had been carefully chosen because of his ability to get the best out of the primitive oxygen tanks. Mr Mallory was not then seen until 1999 when his well-preserved body was discovered at 8,160m by a team of climbers shooting a television documentary about him. His injuries suggest he was killed by a fall, but whether or not he was at the time climbing towards, or descending from, the summit is not known. Mr Irvine's body has never been found.

 

In an attempt to calm down the touchy question of whether or not Mr Mallory reached the summit, American historian Mr Tom Holzel is currently planning an expedition to find the body of Mr Irvine, in the hope of claiming his camera and so end the 87-year-old debate. However, regardless of what Mr Holzel discovers, Mr Mallory's gallant standing will be undiminished.

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A U T H O R
Donald Anthony

I M A G E 

Donald Anthony

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