Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Mallory and Irvine | 8th June 1924 | 98 Years After

 


On 8th June 1924, two men left  Camp VI (26,700 feet)  to make an attempt for the summit of Everest. 


Camp VI  was the highest camp of the British 1924 Everest expedition.

On the same morning, another British climber, Noel Odell, was making his way up from Camp IV to Camp VI. Odell was a geologist and he was collecting fossils from the slopes of Mount Everest. Odell recalls that it was not the perfect morning to climb Everest. " Rolling banks of mist" were sweeping  across the mountain and covering the north face. Neither the face nor the summit ridge could be seen by Odell. There was also a sharp wind which was making climbing very difficult.

Suddenly at 12.50 pm the mist cleared and Odell spotted high above on the ridge, a black dot climbing a rock step, which Odell at that point identified as the Second Step. Soon after Odell saw another black dot following the first black dot. But before Odell could be sure that the second black dot had joined the first,  the mist rolled in and blanketed the mountain and this fantastic vision was lost forever.

The two dots that Odell saw were George Mallory and Andrew Irvine "going strongly for the summit of Everest". 

Mallory and Irvine were never seen again.

Mallory body was found by Conrad Anker in 1999. Irvine has not been found. A few weeks ago some startling news emerged from Mark Synott who was part of a Nat Geo expedition to find Andrew Irvine in 2019. Synott mentioned that he had evidence to prove that Irvine had been found by the Chinese and also his camera. The camera film could not be processed by the Chinese and with it died the secret of the last climb of Mallory and Irvine.  See the link below for the article.

https://www.salon.com/2022/04/08/the-third-pole-mount-everest-mark-synnott-mystery-china/

But the legend of George Mallory and his last climb lives on.


In this post we take a look at some photographs and other memorabilia from the Everest expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924.


The 1921 expedition team - Mallory sitting first left



Mallory and Irvine boarding S. S. California on their way to India in 1924 




Irvine working on oxygen cylinders  on the1924 expedition




Members of the 1924 expedition - Standing from left Irvine, Mallory, Norton, Odell, Macdonald. In front: Shebbeare, Bruce, Somervell, Beetham. Members not in the photo : Noel, Hingston, Hazard.
Norton and Somervell with their sherpas before the summit attempt

Route map of Norton and Somervell's attempt
Norton set an altitude record  in 1924 without oxygen reaching 8570 metres which remained unchallenged until Messner and Habeler climbed Everest in 1978 without oxygen



Last photo of Mallory and Irvine leaving for Camp VI 1924


The list of provisions for the summit climb found on Mallory's body  - he planned to be on 2 cylinders of oxygen. Please note the rations on the left!


The 8 pm in the note to Noel should be 8 am


Mallory had no compass on his last climb



Map showing position of Odell and the last sighting of Mallory and Irvine





                                  "..... some day you will hear a different story..." George Mallory

All photographs reproduced above are copyright of Royal Geographical Society, John Noel Photographic Collection and their respective owners. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti | Book Review

 Members of the 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Expedition 

This review was first published in The Hindu on  August 7th 2021

https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/the-hunt-for-mount-everest-review-the-giant-among-pygmies/article35759391.ece

For most climbers and armchair mountaineers, the history of Everest begins with an Indian surveyor named Radhanath Sikdar rushing into the office of the Surveyor General of India around the 1850s, and announcing “Sir, I have found the highest mountain in the world!” Craig Storti  in his opening chapter “Peak XV” casts his doubts on this story  and attributes the discovery of Everest to the Surveyor General Andrew Waugh jointly with John Hennessey and Sikdar.

 In 1921, around seventy odd years later, the British launched the first expedition to find the route to the mountain.  But, the extraordinary events which took place in between remain largely unknown, other than through some books on Tibet, The Great Game and early Himalayan expeditions.

In his book, Storti  brings this all together and conjures up a racy narrative with larger than life characters that tells this story starting with an audacious mission to Lhasa in 1903 by Sir Francis Younghusband which in fact unlocked the key for the British to claim Everest as their  own mountain. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Mardi Himal Trek Nepal December 2021 | Route and Timings

 


A South Col team walked to Mardi Himal in December 2021 in perfect weather. Here is the detailed description of the route and the timings. 


December 6th 2021 Pokhara to Kande by road and walk to Pitam Deorali 

We left Kathmandu for Pokhara by the 8 30 am flight - luckily for us the weather was good this morning and we reached Pokhara by 10 am - a micro bus was waiting for us and we drove upto   Kande in a hour - the road was very good upto Kande and had been newly resurfaced. We started out from Kande at 11 15 am and climbed steeply for the first 45 minutes mainly on steps; there were very few trekkers on the route - we got to Australian camp in an hour and 15 min - the clouds had come in by noon and the famous view from there  we did not see this time.  We  took a short break and then walked down to Pothana in 25 minutes through a beautiful forested section. We stopped for lunch at Heaven’s Gate, our usual lodge, in the sunshine.  From Pothana the trail to Pitam Deorali had large sections where a new road is being built and there are signs in yellow pointing the trekker to the forest trail which criss-crosses the road - on the way soon after Pothana a new lodge was being built in the forest sadly cutting a number of trees - a lodge so close to Pothana did not make sense as Pothana has a number of good lodges.  Again just before Pitam Deorali there is a new lodge which has been built in a clearing again by cutting down part of the forest. The weather was breaking when we reached Deorali and in the evening there was a heavy thunderstorm with lightning and thunder and rain for around two hours which would have deposited a lot of snow in the higher altitudes around Mardi High camp - in the evening after the rain we could see all the lights of Pokhara valley and on the other side across the valley the lights of Ghandrung as well - the stars were just coming out in the sky and clouds studded across the rapidly clearing sky.

 Kande to Australian Camp  2050m  28 18 13N 83 49 40E  1 hr 15 min to 30 min Australian Camp to Pothana 25 min 1950m 28 18 47 N 83 49 49E
Pothana to Pitam Deorali 1 hour 2140m 28 19 48N 83 49 47E 2100 metres

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Ama Dablam Base Camp | Update October 2021

The lodges of Ama Dablam base camp

 October 27th 2021

The information available on Ama Dablam Base Camp on the internet has mostly been sketchy and so I decided to go up with my group to see the base camp and check the route and the new lodges built there. 

We left Pangboche around 7- 15 am walked to the end of the village and passed the last Sonam Lodge. A little ahead of the Sonam Lodge there is a path going down to the river - take this path and in 5-10 minutes you are down to a bridge across the Imja Khola - cross the bridge and then start climbing steadily uphill for 30-45 minutes to reach the ridge line - there are some multiple trails but the general direction is uphill. 

Reach the ridge and swing left on a flattish trail for about 15-20 minutes. This trail then drops into a broad meadow where we found yaks grazing and a view to the west including Pumori on the Khumbu Glacier. From this point Pheriche could also be seen below. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Kashmir Great Lakes Trek | August 2021 Updated Route and Timigs

 


The Great Lakes is one of the signature treks in Kashmir and has become extremely popular especially in the busy summer season of July and August. There have been reports that in late July this year there were more than four hundred trekkers on the trail at one time! However, our South Col Expeditions team went in second half of August 2021 and we did not encounter many groups - the rush had eased  by then. This is very rewarding trek and more so if done in the shoulder seasons - last week of June and last week of August into mid September. 

The trek is usually done in six days - some of the days are long and tedious - but we did the route in seven days breaking up the first day into two days for better acclimatisation as we were flying straight into Srinagar and then driving immediately to Sonamarg. This approach gave a gentle start to the walk and was appreciated by all our trekkers. 

The timings for the walk was recorded on Strava by one of our trekkers Dr Rajesh Tope and these screenshots are included here for reference. It should be noted that the timings recorded by Strava are the actual walking timings so stops for rest,  lunch, photographs etc. should be added.

 Day 1    Srinagar to Sonamarg Altitude: 2670m        Time taken: 3 hours drive - 

We fly into Srinagar by noon and then after quick lunch we drive from Srinagar airport to the base camp at Sonamarg which is called Shitkadi.Night at Shitkadi campsite.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Ladakh | Markha Valley Route and Timings Update July 2021

 

Update- Though we did the trek from Skiu, the road now goes as far as Sara and possibly if the river is low as far as Markha. We therefore suggest that to drive from Leh to Sara on the first day (around 3 hours) and then walk after lunch to Markha. This will reduce one day from the trek and it will now become four to five days. Due to the pandemic the home stays were closed but it is possible to do this trek as a full home stay trek without tents and pony support once the covid situation eases up.

View of the peaks from Leh



Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Mallory and Irvine | Everest Tibet side 8th June 1924

 


‘The question remains – “Has Mt Everest been climbed?”  It must be left unanswered, for there is no direct evidence. But bearing in mind the circumstances ….. and considering their position when last seen, I think myself there is a strong probability that Mallory and Irvine succeeded.’ Noel Odell, The Fight for Everest 1924.

On 8th June 1924, two men left Camp VI (26,700 feet) to attempt to reach the summit of Everest, 29,029 feet. Camp VI was the highest camp of the British 1924 Everest expedition.

On the same morning, another British climber, Noel Odell, was making his way up from Camp IV to Camp VI. Odell was a geologist and he was collecting fossils from the slopes of Mount Everest. Odell recalls that it was not the perfect morning to climb Everest. “Rolling banks of mist" were sweeping across the mountain and covering the north face. There was also a sharp wind which made climbing very difficult. Neither the north face nor the summit ridge could be seen by Odell. 

At 12.50 pm, there was “a sudden clearing in the atmosphere” and “the whole summit ridge and the final peak of Everest unveiled.”  Odell spotted high above on the ridge, a black dot climbing a rock step, which Odell at that point identified as the Second Step. Soon after Odell saw another black dot following the first black dot. But before Odell could be sure that the second black dot had joined the first, the mist rolled in and blanketed the mountain and this fantastic vision was lost forever.

The two dots that Odell saw were George Mallory and Andrew Irvine "going strongly for the summit of Everest".  Mallory and Irvine were never seen again.

But even today, ninety seven years after the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, the legend of George Mallory is still alive. Books are being written about Mallory, expeditions are being planned to find Andrew Irvine and his camera because Everest researchers believe that the camera will unlock the secret of Mallory's last climb. 

In 1999, Conrad Anker found Mallory at 26,750 feet lying face down on the slopes of Everest - Irvine has not been found.

In 2019, an expedition  was organised to climb Everest from the North side and attempt to find Irvine. The team summitted Everest but Irvine was not found. Mark Synnott one of the expedition members has written a book on the expedition which has been recently released: The Third Pole. The detailed account of the expedition is here https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/our-team-climbed-everest-to-try-to-solve-its-greatest-mystery-feature

This year 2021, is the centenary of the first Everest Reconnaissance Expedition 1921. To commemorate the event the Alpine Club has organized an exhibition in London and released a book in two volumes on the Everest Expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924. 

The link is here http://www.alpine-club.org.uk/news/club-news/825-everest-by-those-who-were-there

In this post we take a look at some photographs and other memorabilia from the Everest expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Everest | 29th May 1953 - The First Ascent


 
Today is sixty eight  years since the first ascent of Everest.

On 29th May 1953 at 11.30 am, a Sherpa and a New Zealander became the first men to stand on top of the highest peak on this planet.  However the intervening years has seen a sea change as far as Everest is concerned. The mountain  has now become a playground for guided expeditions, with clients paying between thirty thousand  to  eighty thousand dollars or more to stand on the highest point on earth. The South Col route climbed in 1953 is now disdainfully referred to as the “yak trail”. The dangerous icefall below the Western Cwm is maintained by a team of sherpas right through the season led by a senior “Icefall Doctor.” and ropes are fixed from Base Camp to the summit to allow "clients" to reach the top of the mountain. 

Due to the covid pandemic there were no attempts on the mountain in 2020. 

A record number of 400 plus climbers and 40 plus expeditions were  issued climbing permits in 2021 despite the covid wave. 

The large number of climbers, sherpas and support staff at base camp around 1500 or so resulted in a covid outbreak at Base Camp  and as per information received around 100 to 150 covid cases were detected – a majority were evacuated to Kathmandu hospitals and the rest which  were milder cases remained isolated in tents at base camp. Lukas Furtenbach, an Austrian operator, decided to cancel his expedition midway due this high covid risk which he deemed unacceptable.

In an interesting development, a team from Mountain Professionals set out from the South Col at 5 am on May 23rd 2021 and reached the summit by afternoon - possibly the first time in many, many years that a team has climbed Everest in the day enjoying sunny weather, gazing at the magnificent views, warmer temperatures and above all no long lines, headlamps and struggling along in the cold dark night.  There were advised by a  meteorologist  that there would be a day window on the 23rd May and they gladly seized the opportunity and had the mountain to themselves.

However the effect of the two cyclones over India and Nepal hampered the progress of the teams. As I write this post Cyclone Yaas is over Nepal and depositing heavy snow on the slopes of Everest. 

For the first time the Icefall Doctors team have agreed to keep the Icefall open until 3rd June 2021, to allow the remaining teams on the mountain a chance to summit if they are able to get another weather window on 30/31st May 2021.

 Kami Rita Sherpa created a new record this year by summiting Everest 25  times as a part of the Sherpa team who fixed the ropes to the summit  -  perhaps next year Kami will break his own record.

However, this post recounts through photographs,  the 1953 climb, the historic ascent of the first two men to summit Everest and the team of climbers and sherpas who supported them through this endeavour.

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