NEWS FROM THE NORTH SIDE:
Veteran climber and Everest summiter Eric Simonson [click for interview] leads a team of high altitude mountaineers up Mount Everest's North Ridge in a search of evidence of English climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, who disappeared in 1924 just 900 feet below the summit.
As leader of this spring's Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition, Simonson will head up a team not just of climbers, but also historians, filmmakers and even glaciologists, who will endeavor to determine once and for all the fate of the two English climbers who vanished 75 years ago.
For Simonson, the work he will conduct on Mount Everest this year is not so much a search for artifacts, but rather a "history lesson."
"The achievement of climbers such as George Mallory and Andrew Irvine," Simonson told The Mountain Zone, "is not fully appreciated. To get within a few hundred feet of the summit in 1924, wearing tweed clothing and using extremely heavy and primitive oxygen gear, was incredible. Our expedition to Everest this year will conduct important historical research, but in a way it pays homage to those guys, and to all the climbers who have gone before us."
Joining Simonson on the ascent of Everest's North Ridge will be Dave Hahn, Conrad Anker, Andy Politz, Tap Richards, Graham Hoyland, and Jake Norton. Also on the team are Everest historians Jochen Hemmleb and Larry Johnson, glaciologist Dan Mann and geophysicist Bernard Rabus. Hemmleb, a climber himself, will, from the lower camps, help direct the efforts of the climbing team as they look for evidence of the missing climbers or their camera. Rabus and Mann will study the Rongbuk Glacier related to global long-term climate change.
But high on the mountain is where the historical work will take place. It's on the upper Northeast Ridge, on the route's notorious "steps," where the climbers will face their greatest obstacles. And it is somewhere among those steps where the two bold English climbers disappeared in 1924.
Some evidence has already been recovered that hints to the fate of the two men. In 1933, an ice axe, identified as belonging to one of the missing climbers, was found near the first step. And in 1975, a Chinese climber found a body he described as "old English dead," but the climber who made the discovery died before he could describe its exact location.
The members of the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition expect to combine the best existing information, a thorough search, and even high tech equipment to uncover more evidence of the missing climbers. This strong team may very well put to rest the persistent mystery of Andrew Irvine and George Mallory.
Peter Potterfield, Mountain Zone Staff