As many of you know, the mystery of Mallory & Irvine has been a major part of my life and passion over the years. I've written about it extensively here on The MountainWorld Blog, put together a Squidoo Lens on the story, and been fortunate enough to take part in the 1999, 2001, and 2004 Mallory & Irvine Research Expeditions.
A few days ago I was chatting with some friends about Noel Odell's famous final sighting of Mallory & Irvine on June 8, 1924. If you are not familiar with the story, Noel Odell was a strong climber and Himalayan veteran who was also a member of the 1924 Expedition. While he was not deemed "fit enough" to accompany Mallory on his final, fateful summit bid, Odell did climb up to Camp VI on Mallory & Irvine's summit day to support them.
Unbeknownst to him at the time, Odell's sighting of the duo going strong for the top would be the final sighting of them alive. Odell later wrote of the sighting:
At 12.50, just after I had emerged from a state of jubilation at finding the first definite fossils on Everest, there was a sudden clearing of the atmosphere, and the entire summit ridge and final peak of Everest were unveiled. My eyes became fixed on one tiny black spot silhouetted on a small snow-crest beneath a rock-step in the ridge; the black spot moved. Another black spot became apparent and moved up the snow to join the other on the crest. The first then approached the great rock-step and shortly emerged at the top; the second did likewise. Then the whole fascinating vision vanished, enveloped in cloud once more.
[From Gareth Thomas' excellent website]
This final view, the last sighting of Mallory & Irvine alive, has forever been a source of great debate: Did Odell see them reach the top of the First or Second Step? If the former at 12:50 PM, it is doubtful at best that they reached the top. But, if they were atop the Second Step at that time, it is almost unthinkable that they did NOT reach the summit.
I won't give my full opinion here and now, but rather would like to share a couple of images with those who are interested.
I took these shots from roughly Noel Odell's vantage point on the North Ridge while Dave Hahn and I were climbing in 2004. They were taken 2 minutes apart, one zoomed out to roughly the level of the human eye, and the second image zoomed in showing people quite clearly on the ridgecrest.
Take a look, zoom in, pan around, and enjoy the images.
Do they spark any thoughts or theories? Please feel free to comment and share your views.
- Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.