|Birth Day:||June 18, 1886|
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He traveled to the Alps while in college, sparking a lifelong interest in climbing.
In 1896, Mallory attended Glengorse, a boarding school in Eastbourne on the south coast, having transferred from another preparatory school in West Kirby. At the age of 13, he won a mathematics scholarship to Winchester College. In his final year there, he was introduced to rock climbing and mountaineering by a master, R. L. G. Irving, who took a few people climbing in the Alps each year. In October 1905, Mallory entered Magdalene College, Cambridge, to study history. There, he became good friends with future members of the Bloomsbury Group, including Rupert Brooke, John Maynard Keynes, James Strachey, Lytton Strachey, and Duncan Grant, who took some portraits of Mallory. Among these friends, particularly Strachey, his letters attest a flirtatious, homoerotic and "explicitly gay" friendship. Mallory was a keen oarsman, who rowed for his college.
After gaining his degree, Mallory stayed in Cambridge for a year writing an essay he published as Boswell the Biographer (1912). He lived briefly in France afterward. In 1910, he began teaching at Charterhouse, another of England's great public schools, where he met the poet Robert Graves, then a pupil. In his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, Graves remembered Mallory fondly, both for the encouragement of his interest in literature and poetry, and his instruction in climbing. Graves recalled: "He (Mallory) was wasted (as a teacher) at Charterhouse. He tried to treat his class in a friendly way, which puzzled and offended them."
In 1910, in a party led by Irving, Mallory and a friend attempted to climb Mont Vélan in the Alps, but turned back shortly before the summit due to Mallory's altitude sickness. In 1911, Mallory climbed Mont Blanc, and made the third ascent of the Frontier ridge of Mont Maudit in a party again led by Irving. According to Helmut Dumler, Mallory was "apparently prompted by a friend on the Western Front in 1916 [to write] a highly emotional article of his ascent of this great climb"; this article was published as "Mont Blanc from the Col du Géant by the Eastern Buttress of Mont Maudit" in the Alpine Journal and contained his question, "Have we vanquished an enemy?" [i.e., the mountain] to which he responded, "None but ourselves."
By 1913, he had ascended Pillar Rock in the English Lake District, with no assistance, by what is now known as "Mallory's Route"—currently graded Hard Very Severe 5a (American grading 5.9). It is likely to have been the hardest route in Britain for many years.
Mallory was born in Mobberley, Cheshire, the son of Herbert Leigh Mallory (1856–1943), a clergyman who changed his surname from Mallory to Leigh-Mallory in 1914. His mother was Annie Beridge (1863–1946), the daughter of a clergyman in Walton, Derbyshire. George had two sisters and a younger brother, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, the World War II Royal Air Force commander. He was raised in a 10-bedroom house on Hobcroft Lane in Mobberley.
While at Charterhouse, Mallory met his wife, Ruth Turner (1892–1942), who lived in Godalming, and they were married in 1914, six days before Britain and Germany went to war. George and Ruth had two daughters and a son: Frances Clare (1915–2001), Beridge Ruth, known as "Berry" (1917–1953), and John (b. 1920).
In December 1915, Mallory was commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery as a second lieutenant and was promoted to lieutenant on 1 July 1917. He served in France during the First World War and fought at the Battle of the Somme. He relinquished his commission on 21 February 1920, retaining the rank of lieutenant.
After the war, Mallory returned to Charterhouse, but resigned in 1921 to join the first Everest expedition. Between expeditions, he attempted to make a living from writing and lecturing, with only partial success. In 1923, he took a job as a lecturer with the Cambridge University Extramural Studies Department. He was given temporary leave so that he could join the 1924 Everest attempt.
In 1922, Mallory returned to the Himalayas as part of the party led by Brigadier General Charles Bruce and climbing leader Edward Strutt, with a view to making a serious attempt on the summit. Eschewing their bottled oxygen, which was at the time seen as going against the spirit of mountaineering, Mallory, along with Howard Somervell and Edward Norton, almost reached the crest of the North-East Ridge. Despite being hampered and slowed by the thin air, they achieved a record altitude of 26,980 ft (8,225 m) before weather conditions and the late hour forced them to retreat. A second party led by George Finch reached an elevation around 27,300 ft (8,321 m) using bottled oxygen both for climbing and—a first—for sleeping. The party climbed at record speeds, a fact that Mallory seized upon during the next expedition.
Mallory joined the 1924 Everest expedition, led, as in 1922, by Gen. Charles Bruce. Mallory, who was 37 at the time of the expedition, believed his age would make this his last opportunity to climb the mountain, and when touring the US, he proclaimed that the expedition would successfully reach the summit.
On 4 June 1924, Mallory and Andrew Irvine set off from Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 21,330 ft (6,500 m) and had already begun using oxygen from the base of the North Col, which they climbed in 2 ⁄2 hours. Mallory had been converted from his original scepticism about oxygen usage by his failure on his initial assault and recalling the very rapid ascent of Finch in 1922.
If evidence were to be uncovered that showed that George Mallory or Andrew Irvine had reached the summit of Everest in 1924, advocates of Hillary and Norgay's first ascent maintain that the historical record should not be changed to state that Mallory and Irvine made the first ascent, displacing Hillary and Norgay. Mount Everest summiteer in 1965, Major H. P. S. Ahluwalia, claims that without photographic proof, no evidence shows that Mallory reached the summit and "it would be unfair to say that the first man to scale Mount Everest was George Mallory". George Mallory's own son, John Mallory, who was only three years old when his father died, said, "To me, the only way you achieve a summit is to come back alive. The job is only half done if you don't get down again". Sir Edmund Hillary's daughter, Sarah, when questioned regarding her father's take on the debate, said, "His view was that he had got 50 good years out of being conqueror of Everest, and, whatever happened, he wasn't particularly worried. That's my feeling as well."
At the time, Odell observed that one of the men surmounted the Second Step of the northeast ridge. Apart from his testimony, though, no evidence has been found that Mallory and Irvine climbed higher than the First Step; one of their spent oxygen cylinders was found shortly below the First Step, and Irvine's ice axe was found nearby in 1933. They never returned to their camp.
From the discovery of a serious rope-jerk injury around Mallory's waist, which was encircled by the remnants of a climbing rope, Irvine and he apparently were roped together when one of them slipped. Mallory's body lay 300 m below and about 100 m horizontal to the location of an ice axe found in 1933, which is generally accepted from three characteristic marks on the shaft as belonging to Irvine. The fact that the body was relatively unbroken, apart from fractures to the right leg (the tibia and fibula were broken just above the boot), in comparison to other bodies found in the same location that were known to have fallen from the North-East Ridge, strongly suggests that Mallory could not have fallen from the ice axe site, but must have fallen from much lower down. When found, his body was sun-bleached, frozen, and mummified.
After their disappearance, several expeditions tried to find their remains, and perhaps, determine if they had reached the summit. Frank Smythe, when on the 1936 expedition, believed he spotted a body below the place where Irvine's ice axe was found three years earlier, "I was scanning the face from base camp through a high-powered telescope...when I saw something queer in a gully below the scree shelf. Of course, it was a long way away and very small, but I've a six/six eyesight and do not believe it was a rock. This object was at precisely the point where Mallory and Irvine would have fallen had they rolled on over the scree slopes," Smythe wrote in a letter to Edward Felix Norton. He kept the discovery quiet as he feared press sensationalism, and it was not revealed until 2013, after the letter was found by his son when preparing his biography.
Tragedy in the mountains has proved a recurring theme in the Mallory line. Mallory's younger brother, Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, met his death on a mountain range when the Avro York carrying him to his new appointment as Air Commander-in-Chief of South East Asia Command crashed in the French Alps in 1944, killing all on board. A memorial window to George Mallory along with a memorial plaque to Trafford can be found at St Wilfrid's Church, Mobberley, where their father, Herbert, grandfather, also called George, and other family members had served as rector. Mallory's daughter, Frances Clare, married physiologist Glenn Allan Millikan, who was killed in a climbing accident in Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee.
Experienced modern climbers have mixed views on whether Mallory was capable of climbing the Second Step on the North Ridge, now surmounted by a 15 ft (4.6 m) aluminium ladder first permanently fixed in place by Chinese climbers in 1975 to bridge this very difficult pitch. Austrian Theo Fritsche repeated the free climb solo in 2001 under conditions that resembled those encountered during the 1924 Everest expedition, and assessed the climb as having a grade of 5.6–5.7. Fritsche completed the climb without supplementary oxygen and believes that Mallory could, weather permitting, have reached the summit.
In 1979, a Chinese climber named Wang Hungbao reported to a Japanese expedition leader that, in 1975, he had discovered the body of an "English dead" at 8,100 metres (26,600 ft). Wang was killed in an avalanche the day after this verbal report, so the location was never more precisely fixed. The Chinese Mountaineering Association officially denied the sighting claim. In 1986, Chinese climber Zhang Junyan—who had been sharing the tent with Wang in 1975—confirmed, to Tom Holzel, Wang's report of finding a foreign climber's body. Zhang stated that Wang had been out for only 20 minutes. If this report was accurate, at that altitude and date, the body must have been that of Irvine.
In late 1986, Tom Holzel launched a search expedition based on reports from Chinese climber Zhang Junyan that his tent-mate, Wang Hungbao, had stumbled across "an English dead" at 26,570 ft (8,100 m) in 1975. On the last day of the expedition, Holzel met with Zhang Junyan, who reiterated that, despite official denials from the Chinese Mountaineering Association, Wang had come back from a short excursion and described finding "a foreign mountaineer" at "8,100 m." Wang was killed in an avalanche the day after delivering his verbal report, so the location was never more precisely fixed.
Frances Mallory's son, Richard Millikan, became a respected climber in his own right during the 1960s and '70s. Mallory's grandson, also named George Mallory, reached the summit of Everest in 1995 via the North Ridge with six other climbers as part of the American Everest Expedition of 1995. He left a picture of his grandparents at the summit citing "unfinished business".
In 1999, the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition, sponsored in part by the TV show Nova and the BBC, and organised and led by Eric Simonson, arrived at Everest to search for the lost pair. Guided by the research of Jochen Hemmleb, within hours of beginning the search on 1 May, Conrad Anker found a frozen body at 26,760 ft (8,157 m) on the north face of the mountain. As the body was found below where Irvine's axe had been found in 1933 at 27,760 ft (8,461.25 m), the team expected it to be Irvine's, and were hoping to recover the camera that he had reportedly carried with him. They were surprised to find that name tags on the body's clothing bore the name of "G. Leigh Mallory." The body was well preserved, due to the freezing conditions. A brass altimeter, a stag-handled lambsfoot pocket knife with leather slip-case, and an unbroken pair of snow-goggles were recovered from the pockets of the clothing. Personal effects, including a letter and a bill from a London supplier of climbing equipment, confirmed the identity of the body. The team could not, however, locate the camera that the two climbers took to document their final summit attempt. Experts from Kodak have said that if a camera is ever found, some chance exists that its film could be developed to produce printable images, if extraordinary measures are taken, and have provided guidance as to handling of such a camera and the film inside, in the event that such were found in the investigation. Before leaving the site of Mallory's death, the expedition conducted an Anglican service for the climber and covered his remains with a cairn on the mountain.
The 1999 research team returned to the mountain in 2001 to conduct further research. They discovered Mallory and Irvine's last camp, but failed to find either Irvine or a camera. Another initiative in 2004 also proved fruitless.
Conrad Anker, who found Mallory's body in 1999, free climbed the Second Step in 2007 and has worn replica 1924 climbing gear on Everest, said he believes, "It's possible, but highly improbable, that they made it to the top", citing the difficulty of the Second Step and the position of Mallory's body. He stated that, in his opinion:
Ang Tsering, a Sherpa member of the 1924 British Everest Expedition, was interviewed in 2000 by Jonathan Neale, who recounted:
In 2001, another Chinese climber, Xu Jing, claimed to have seen the body of Andrew Irvine in 1960—reported in Hemmleb and Simonson's Detectives on Everest—although testimony is uncertain with regard to the location of his find. On two occasions, Xu placed it between Camps VI and VII (the Yellow Band, around 8,300 metres (27,200 ft)), though later changed it to the NE Ridge between the First and Second Steps (near 8,550 metres (28,050 ft) and directly on the NE Ridge. In spite of several such rumoured and reported sightings, subsequent searches of these locations on the North Face have failed to find any trace of Irvine.
Mallory was captured on film by expedition cameraman John Noel, who released his film of the 1924 expedition The Epic of Everest. Some of his footage was also used in George Lowe's 1953 documentary The Conquest of Everest. A documentary on the 2001 Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition, Found on Everest, was produced by Riley Morton. Mallory was played by Brian Blessed in the 1991 re-creation of his last climb, Galahad of Everest. In October 2013, Benedict Cumberbatch was tipped as the front runner to play the role of Mallory in a new Hollywood version of the attempt on Everest in 1924, to be directed by Doug Liman and adapted from Jeffrey Archer's 2009 novel Paths of Glory.
In July 2005, the Alpine Club of St. Petersburg, Russia, published an article to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the North Face climb by the Chinese expedition in 1960. The article referred to the presentation by Wang Fuzhou—a member of the group which reached the summit of Everest on 25 May 1960—given by him in Leningrad before the USSR Geographical Society in 1965. It claims that Xu Jing had seen the body of a European climber at an altitude of some 8,600 metres (28,200 ft), just below the notorious Second Step.
In 2007, the Altitude Everest Expedition, led by Conrad Anker, who had found Mallory's body, tried to retrace Mallory's last steps.
In June 2007, as part of the 2007 Altitude Everest expedition, Conrad Anker and Leo Houlding free-climbed the Second Step, having first removed the Chinese ladder (which was later replaced). Houlding rated the climb at 5.9, just within Mallory's estimated capabilities. The climb was part of an expedition which tried to recreate the 1924 climb. Eight years earlier, Anker had climbed the Second Step as part of the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition, but had used one point of aid by stepping on a rung of the ladder, which blocked the only available foothold. At that time, he had rated the climb at 5.10, which he considered to be beyond Mallory's capabilities, but after the June 2007 climb, he changed his view and said that he "could have climbed it".
A range of different outcomes has been proposed, and new theories continue to be put forward. Most views have the two carrying two cylinders of oxygen each, reaching and climbing either the First or Second Step, where they are seen by Odell. At this point, two main alternatives remain: either Mallory takes Irvine's oxygen and goes on alone (and may or may not reach the summit); or both go on together until they turn back (having used up their oxygen, or realising that they will do so before the summit). In either case, Mallory slips and falls to his death while descending, perhaps caught in the fierce snow squall that sent Odell to take shelter in their tent. Irvine either falls with him, or in the first scenario, dies alone of exhaustion and hypothermia high up on the ridge. The hypothesis advanced by Tom Holzel in February 2008 is that Odell sighted Mallory and Irvine climbing the First Step for a final look around while they were descending from a failed summit bid.
Belgian rock band Girls in Hawaii's song "Mallory's Height" on their 2013 album Everest is a homage to Mallory. Extracts of the Nova / BBC broadcast can be heard (around 3:35).
George's father and grandfather were both clergymen.
Currently, George Mallory is 136 years, 7 months and 18 days old. George Mallory will celebrate 137th birthday on a Sunday 18th of June 2023. Below we countdown to George Mallory upcoming birthday.