Have You Read?: Chasing Mount Everest’s ‘Ghosts’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Have You Read?: Chasing Mount Everest’s ‘Ghosts’

“Ghosts of Everest” by Jochen Hemmleb, Larry A. Johnson and Eric R. Simonson

“Ghosts of Everest: the Search for Mallory and Irvine” is a book about mountaineering’s greatest mystery. It attempts to answer what happened to George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on Mount Everest.

On the 75th anniversary of the 1924 Mallory and Irvine expedition, a group of climbers and Everest experts formed the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition of 1999. The group was started by Hemmleb, a longtime climber and expert on past Everest climbs. Other members of the team included Johnson, a self-professed “Everest armchair historian,” and Simonson, a professional Himalayan mountaineering team leader.

In a tale of adventure, the authors intertwine earlier Everest climbs with their own 1999 journey. The book provides biographical details about George Mallory, explaining that he was a great natural climber but absentminded about important details. His partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, was a novice climber, eager and hardworking, who got along well with Mallory. Irvine also was the most familiar with the primitive oxygen apparatus that was essential for the summit attempt.

On June 6, 1924, at 12:50 p.m., another expedition member, Noel Odell, sighted the two climbers on a rocky step near the summit. It was the last time either man ever was seen. With photographs and details from contemporary written accounts, the authors reconstruct a sense of this early summit attempt.

What the 1999 expedition found was both fascinating and morbid. On a slope down from where Odell had sighted the two climbers lay the mummified body of George Mallory, in a position of self-arrest trying to stop his slide down the mountain. The climbers who found the body approached it with respect and reverence. Artifacts on the body, such as a wristwatch, hobnail boots and some of Mallory’s notebooks, were well-preserved and provided some insights to what may have happened to the two climbers.

In the last section of the book, the authors piece together a credible idea of what Mallory and Irvine’s last hours were like. What is known from the available evidence is that Mallory and Irvine were closer to the top than previously thought. The big mystery of whether they made it to the summit still remains. This book is a combination of historical mystery and adventure that will fascinate outdoor enthusiasts and armchair adventurers.

This book and other books on mountaineering are at the Zephyr Cove Branch Library, 233 Warrior Way in Zephyr Cove. For more information, call the library at (775) 588-6411.

– Dan Doyle is a senior library technician at the Douglas County Public Library.

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