the north face borealis backpack ‘Who conquered Everest first’ debate hots up as team finds pioneer’s body after 75 years
Members of an expedition seeking to determine whether Englishmen George Mallory and Andrew Irvine were the first to summit Mount Everest say they have located Mallory’s body near the summit.
”They found a name tag sown into his clothing,” Peter Potterfield, editor of Mountainzone, a Seattle based Internet company relaying dispatches from the climbers, said yesterday. Eight climbers have been looking for the bodies of the Englishmen, who disappeared in 1924, and a camera that could contain pictures proving they reached the summit 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
They found the body on Saturday but have not yet found the camera or evidence to prove they had reached the summit, Potterfield said. The expedition is being documented by the locally produced television show Nova, and is sponsored by the Public Broadcasting Service, an association of government subsidised television stations, and Potterfield’s company.
Expedition leader Eric Simonson and fellow climber Dave Hahn, who was the first to come across Mallory’s body, described their excitement over the Internet. ”When we realised that it was George Mallory, we were really blown away by that,” Hahn said. ”We didn’t want to disturb him,
he’d been lying there for 75 years, but at the same time we thought what better tribute to the man than to try and find out if he had summitted Mount Everest in 1924,” he added.
The body was found about 800 feet (245 metres) from the windblown 29,028 foot (8,848 metre) summit not far from that of a Chinese climber, whose accounts were used by the Nova crew to locate Mallory and Irvine.
The two were last seen 500 feet below the summit on June 8, 1924
by the lone occupant of the assault camp. Whether they climbed Mount Everest is one of the greatest mysteries of mountaineering.
Jochen Hemmleb, a 28 year old German climber and Mallory historian, chose a location for the present team. The search was based largely on a report from climber Wang Hongbao about a body he had found on the north ridge route, a path Mallory and Irvine would ideally have taken.
Hongbao’s report mentioned ”an English dead . whose vintage clothing broke to pieces when touched.” The body was found on a snow terrace, just below the spot where an ice axe believed to be Irvine’s was discovered. The axe had three notches on the handle, which was how Irvine marked his equipment. Two days after Hongbao told his story in 1975, he died in an avalanche on Everest’s north face.
Nova has been posting online updates throughout the expedition. The climb, which began on March 29, is being made in six stages. With each stage the mountaineers establish camps at higher altitudes,
and then descend to the base camp to get acclimatised to the thin air.