Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine

by Jochen Hemmleb

Hardcover, 1999

Call number




Mountaineers Books (1999), 205 pages


The dramatic account of the search for the bodies of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on Everest.

User reviews

LibraryThing member riverwillow
This is a detailed account, written in the third person, of the 1999 expedition which set out to search for Andrew Irvine's body on Everest. The expedition eventualy found Mallory's body, which may have raised more question than it answered. This is a factual account of the expedition's search, interwoven with an account of the events of the 1924. Fascinating.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jen42
This is a fascinating story, and it very much got me interested in stories of Everest - I recommend reading Conrad Anker's book "The Lost Explorer" in tandem with this one - I think it balances the picture of Mallory's death and whether he made it to the summit or not.
LibraryThing member FireandIce
On June 8, 1924 George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared high on Mt. Everest. Ever since that day two mysteries have surrounded these Everest pioneers: Did they make it to the summit? and What happened to them?

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member cpg
"The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Slow to anger and of great goodness. As a father is tender towards his children, so is the Lord tender to those that fear, for he knows of what we are made."
--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.
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LibraryThing member LibraryCin
In 1999, the authors, along with others including a crew from the BBC, got together to climb Mount Everest, not necessarily with the plan to summit, but wanting to find clues to George Mallory’s and Andrew Irvine’s disappearance and the mystery as to whether or not they’d actually been the first to summit the mountain in 1924. This book details that expedition, in addition to telling the story of Mallory and Irvine, in general.

The first half of the book – including preparation and parts of the known portions of Mallory and Irvine’s story – I would rate 3.5 stars (good), but it really picked up for me in the second half when the group searching for clues got climbing. And they did find quite a few things, and a couple of them even managed to summit afterward. This book contains some of the best photos I’ve seen of Everest in the books I’ve read; they really gave me a better perspective than I think I’ve realized before, possibly due to the fact that all the photos are in colour. It’s easier to see details in the colour photos. The second half of the book and the photos upped my enjoyment and rating of the book.
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