"'Ghosts of Everest' unravels one of the most puzzling and compelling adventure mysteries of all time. On June 6, 1924, George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Comyn Irvine were only a few hundred feet short of becoming the first men to reach the highest spot on earth when they simply walked into the mist, never to be seen again."--Container.
In 1999, seventy five years after they vanished, a team of expert climbers and one obsessed graduate student set out to answer those questions. This fantastic account of the Mallory and Irvine Research expedition meticulously documents the search and, most importantly, the findings.
--Andy Politz at the grave of George Mallory on Mount Everest
Politz, who was in the expedition that discovered the body of Everest pioneer George Mallory last summer, is shown reciting these words in a committal ceremony for Mallory in the special that Nova did on the expedition. I was touched by the beauty and reverence of this ceremony that these climbers carried out under treacherous circumstances at 27,000 feet on the north face of Everest and decided I wanted to read more.
_Ghosts of Everest_ is a well-written and visually-stunning book about Mallory, who died in a summit attempt in 1924, and about the expedition to search for his body and for clues as to whether or not he reached the summit (29 years before Hillary). The organizers of the expedition told their story to a professional writer, William Nothdurft, who then wrote this
The stories of the 1924 expedition and the 1999 expedition are partially told in parallel and it is interesting to compare the two. The 1999 climbers were wearing thick down suits when they discovered Mallory's body clad in flannel, canvas, and wool equivalent to "two layers of fleece". In contrast to the apparently overwhelmingly good spirit of the 1924 expedition, the 1999 expedition was beset with feuds over funding, filming rights, etc.
_Ghosts of Everest_ is inconclusive about whether Mallory summitted, although the authors make a strong case that he got beyond the "Second Step", the main obstacle on the summit ridge, and that it is plausible that he made it all the way to the top. As I understand it, Conrad Anker, who (essentially) free-climbed the Second Step on the 1999 expedition and who initially concluded that Mallory could have done the same, has changed his mind. (Anker has his own book out entitled _The Lost Explorer_.)
The ice axe of Mallory's climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, was discovered on the summit ridge below the "First Step" in 1933. In 1975, a climber in a Chinese expedition stumbled upon what appeared to have been Irvine's body, but he didn't investigate the remains closely. The 1999 expedition was actually looking for Irvine's body when they discovered Mallory. Limited time and bad weather prevented them from continuing the search for Irvine. It seems to me that discovering Irvine's body might help to resolve the mystery of whether the summit was reached, but the book doesn't really go into this.
When discussing possible scenarios for the deaths of Mallory and Irvine, Nothdurft talks about Irvine "yield[ing] to the mountain, clos[ing] his eyes, and slip[ping] into a darkness
for which there will be no dawn." As the Easter season approaches, I am grateful for the assurance that there really will be a dawn to end all darknesses.