Thursday, June 07, 2007

Everest: Free Climbing The Second Step


Tomorrow, Conrad Anker's Altitude Everest Team will being their summit push, with the hopes of being on top by the weekend. As I've mentioned before, the team will be going up in vintage 1924 climbing gear and will be re-enacting the climb of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine for a documentary film. The team arrived late at the mountain, and just recently finished acclimatizing, because they wanted to let everyone else on Everest summit and get down before they began their climb.

One of the big challenges for re-creating Mallory's climb is that there wouldn't have been a ladder at the Second Step to assist he and Irvine as they went up. So, when the Altitude Team reaches that point on the mountain, they will remove the ladder, and attempt to free climb that trick secition, in order to prove that Mallory could have done it back in 1924 and possibly gone on to the summit.

The Second Step is a steep, 40m high rock outcropping that is a challenging free climb due to the high altitude. Most climbers wouldn't likely get past it without the ladder in that is in place there now.

This isn't the first time someone has free climbed the Second Step however. MountEverest.net has posted an interesting article on others who have done it before, including Oscar Cadiach, who accomplished the task back in 1985 in monsoon conditions with out supplementary oxygen. The climb was later duplicated by Theo Fritsche in 2001, but the real question is: Did Mallory do it?

Cadiach may be the best person, at least right now, to answer that question. He returned to Everest in 2000 to do a similar climb to the one Anker and his team are attempting now. Dressed in vintage gear, Cadiach went up the mountain, but only got as far as the First Step, while his climbing partner, playing the role of Irvine, went up to the Second Step before turning back. Cadiach says they turned back due to bad conditions and bitter cold in the gear they were wearing, and he seriously doubts that Mallory topped out, and in fact he believes that died from the extreme cold that their gear did little to protect them from.

7 comments:

Bill Jordan said...

One thing that is never referred to when people are discussing whether Mallory and Irvine got to the top of Everest is the climbing ability of Andrew Irvine. Quite simply, he had virtually no rock climbing experience. It would have been absolutely impossible for him to climb the second step. A person of his ability could not climb a 5.08 route at nearly 8,000 meters with their heavy oxygen equipment. Yes perhaps George Mallory could have made it but he would have had to leave Irvine behind. This is something Mallory would never have done.
When Mallory's body was found it was roped which meant Irvine was with him when they had the accident.
It always amazes me that in all the literature I have read, Irvines inability to climb the second step is completely glossed over. Irvine could not get up the second step therefore they never got to the summit. It really is as simple as that.

Adventure Junkie said...

Good insights Bill! Now that you mention it, I don't think I've ever heard anyone make mention of Irvine's rock climbing skills, only Mallory's, which were said to be very good.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. I think once at the second step Mallory (After an assist from Irvine up it) would have gone on to the summit leaving Irvine to wait there for him as they would have assumed it wasn`t that much farther to the summit and that George would be "right back"

Adventure Junkie said...

It certainly is a possibility Sara, but with out that darn elusive camera, we'll never know for sure. For the record though, Conrad Anker, who always thought there was a possibility of Mallory and Irvine reaching the top, changed his mind after last year's climb. He thought that it was very unlikely that either man would have reached the summit with the gear and equipment they were taking up with them.

Guess we're simply left to speculate at this point.

Misty Lynn said...

I hope he did stand on top of the summit. I have never climbed anything but stairs. That does not mean I will never know what determination Mallory must have had. I will be waiting on word of Ruth's photo being spotted under a patch of snow in the dead center of the summit! God Speed!

Misty Lynn said...

I hope he did stand on top of the summit. I have never climbed anything but stairs. That does not mean I will never know what determination Mallory must have had. I will be waiting on word of Ruth's photo being spotted under a patch of snow in the dead center of the summit! God Speed!

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