Tuesday, July 07, 2009

In Search of the Elusive Mallory Camera on Everest


It has been called the Holy Grail of Mountaineering, and for some it is an item worth searching for with the same fervor as Arthur's knights. I'm speaking of the camera that accompanied George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on their ill fated expedition to Everest back in 1924. The pair never returned of course, and the mountain would remain unclimbed until Hillary and Norgay topped out in 1953. But questions have always remained. Did Mallory reach the summit? Many believe he possibly did, and that the missing camera may contain some images that would prove that he had.

There have been a number of expeditions to the mountain over the years searching for the bodies of both Mallory and Irvine. A talented group of climbers did discovery Mallory's body back in 1999, but a decade later, Irvine and the camera remain missing. Now, two new climbers who bonded in the midst of the K2 tragedy last year, aim to go searching for Irvine, and one of them says he thinks he knows where he is.

The mountaineers are Dr. Eric Meyer and Sherpa Chhiring Dorje, both of which were on K2 last year and played pivitol roles in how things played out on that deadly mountain. Now, the two men who have both summitted Everest before (Chhiring 10 times!) are making plans to go back once again to look for the missing body, and more importantly the camera. Chhiring says that he believes that he has seen Irvine's remains on the mountain before at 27,900 feet, but at the time he didn't think anything of it. It wasn't until later, upon reflection, and learning more about the Mallory expedition, that he began to put the pieces together.

You can read more about both of these men and their plans in this article over at the Denver Post. It is interesting stuff, and it is remarkable to think that Chhiring may know exactly where Irvine and the "Holy Grail" are sitting. But will it change anything if he does?

Lets say, for arguments sake, they find the body. And lets go so far as to say that the camera is still with it and at least intact enough to not have ruined the film. And what if that film is successfully developed after all these years, and it does indeed show Mallory on the summit. Does that change anything? I suppose it does give him the distinction of being the first man up there, but as many mountaineers say, the summit is only the half-way point. The fact remains that they didn't get down alive, which is part of the criteria for a successful climb in my mind. There are a lot of "ifs" in this paragraph though, and I'd be astounded if the camera was still in one piece and hadn't exposed the film by now. Of course, they still have to find it regardless.