Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mallory of Everest

Last photo of Mallory & Irvine by Odell

Exactly ninety years ago on this day George Mallory and Andrew Irvine vanished into the mists of Everest and were never seen again. Noel Odell, a climber from the expedition had the last sighting of the duo which is described below: 

“The entire summit ridge and final peak of Everest were unveiled,” Odell wrote to the Times a week after Mallory and Irvine had disappeared. “My eyes became fixed on one tiny black spot silhouetted on a small snow-crest beneath a rock-step in the ridge; the black dot moved. Another black dot became apparent and moved up the snow to join the other on the crest. The firs 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.”

 Mallory was a prolific writer and his letters from Everest to his wife Ruth make very interesting reading. In this post today I recall some of his best known quotes:

Ruth & George Mallory
What is the use of climbing Everest?
"It is of no use.'There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron... If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.” 


“How to get the best of it all? One must conquer, achieve, get to the top; one must know the end to be convinced that one can win the end - to know there's no dream that mustn't be dared. . . Is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We're not exultant; but delighted, joyful; soberly astonished...Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No..and yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction. . . fulfilled a destiny. . . To struggle and to understand - never this last without the other; such is the law. . .” 

Mallory & the sherpas  1922
“I suppose we go to Mount Everest, granted the opportunity, because—in a word—we can’t help it. Or, to state the matter rather differently, because we are mountaineers…. To refuse the adventure is to run the risk of drying up like a pea in its shell.”

Irvine & Mallory
  “For the stone from the top for geologists, the knowledge of the limits of endurance for the doctors, but above all for the spirit of adventure to keep alive the soul of man.” 

Mallory & his daughter Claire

 Why climb Everest?  “Because it's there.” 

"We will stomp to the top with the wind in our teeth"

"I look back on tremendous efforts & exhaustion & dismal looking out of a tent door on to a dismal world of snow and vanishing hopes."

"The highest of the world's mountains, it seems, has to make but a single gesture of magnificence to be the lord of all, vast in unchallenged and isolated supremacy."

1 comment:

  1. Good selection of Mallory's utterances! My favorite : "...We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live". How very true!



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