the north face uk Evidence on Everest
For he has spent more than 20 years trying to prove that Hillary was not the first man to reach the summit of Everest a feat that has always been viewed as one of the last century’s defining moments.
Mr Hoyland, a television producer, has always maintained that it was reached almost 30 years before Hillary and Tenzing, by the mountaineering pioneer George Mallory and a 22 year old Oxford student called Andrew ‘Sandy’ Irvine.
While he has risen within the BBC ranks to make programmes such as Dragons’ Den, Mr Hoyland’s quest to prove that Mallory and Irvine died only after reaching the summit has dominated his life.
It has led him to return again and again to the Himalayas.
He has climbed Everest wearing replica gear to that worn on the fateful 1924 expedition simply to discount the myth that 1920s climbers were ill equipped to reach the summit.
His search for the bodies was crowned with the discovery of Mallory’s body on the north face of Everest in 1999.
The death of Hillary last month, aged 88, has done nothing to deter him from a path that he hopes will end with the eventual discovery of the the body of the Oxford undergraduate, who long ago upset dons by climbing the walls of Merton College chapel.
Irvine’s body, he believes should present the irrefutable evidence that has proved so maddeningly illusive.
For he believes the chemistry student was carrying the camera that the pair took with them to record their historic moment on the roof of the world.
This Kodak Vestpocket camera has come to obsess him since he learnt of it from his relative, Howard Somervell, who had been on the 1924 expedition and was one of the last to see the pair heading for the summit.
“I was first told about the camera at the age of 12. Somervell told me that he had lent his camera to Mallory for the final assault,” said Mr Hoyland. Apparently, Mallory had lost his own at some stage earlier in the expedition.
Experts at Kodak have indicated that if the film had been exposed and then kept at sub zero temperatures, there was an excellent chance that, with careful handling, any photographs taken could be developed.
Little wonder, then, that it has become the holy grail of mountaineering.
When we spoke, Mr Hoyland was attending a BBC ‘hostile environment’ course being held near Reading.
But it turned out to be nothing to do with surviving Himalayan blizzards.
He is shortly flying out to make a documentary series about world religions and would be filming across the Middle East.
“They are teaching us how to avoid getting into trouble and getting ourselves kidnapped,” he said matter of factly.
But his mind is seldom far away from Everest and the death of Hillary has stirred him to contemplate one final search for Irvine’s body in three or four years’ time, perhaps to bring his career with the BBC to a spectacular end.
He has also been greatly encouraged to go up Everest for what would be the ninth time after finally meeting a Chinese climber who maintains he saw Irvine’s body.
“He was one of the climbers on a 1975 expedition. They went up a different way than climbers do now. He saw something flapping and it was a body with clothes. It was hidden in a crack in the rocks. Irvine’s body was the only one it could have been where they were.
“I believe that if I can find Irvine’s body, I will find the camera,” said Mr Hoyland.
Based on the information he was given, he puts his chances of finding the body at 50 50.
The position given to him which he declines to discuss in detail fits in with his own theory about how Mallory and Irvine met their deaths.
The pair had been spotted just 800ft from the summit by Noel Odell on June 8, 1924, who reported that they were “going strong for the top”.
The expedition which Mr Hoyland joined in 1999 found Mallory’s body, lying face down, covered in loose rocks and slate, the skin like alabaster, the bare hands brown and burnt by the sun at 27,000 ft. It was about 400 yards off their route.
Mr Hoyland believes that having reached the summit, the two men began their descent with darkness closing in.
But Mallory slipped, the rope snapped and he dropped to his death.
The theory is supported by the fact that Mallory’s goggles were in his pocket, for at night there would be no risk of snow blindness.
The boot top fracture of Mallory’s left tibia and fibula offers the clearest evidence that he had fallen and then slid some distance down the snow slopes.