Everest Searches: 1999-2019

by JAKE NORTON

May 2022
Explore the areas searched and discoveries made high on Mount Everest from 1999-2019.

There's been a lot of chatter recently about the story of Mallory and Irvine and the mystery surrounding their disappearance on June 8, 1924. Much of the recent discussion has been sparked by the recent revelation by Mark Synnott that Chinese climbers may have found - and removed - Andrew Irvine's remains from the mountain back in 1975.

Entering the search terrain covered by Jake Norton in 2004 high on Mount Everest, Tibet.

This news is huge for the mountaineering community, as it's highly likely that the only proof of whether or not Mallory and Irvine reached the summit 98 years ago would have been with Irvine, contained in the Kodak Vestpocket camera the duo carried with them. If Irvine is gone, the camera likely is as well, and with it any definitive proof of a summit or not.

There is a lot more to tell on this story, but I'll save that for another post soon. In the meantime, I decided to put together a comprehensive, interactive map of all the searches and findings related to Mallory & Irvine and the pre-World War II and pre-modern era Everest expeditions on the north (Tibetan) side.

It took a while, and I by no means purport this data is 100% complete or 100% accurate. But, it's a start, and hopefully a good resource for all those interested in the history and mystery of Mount Everest.

Please take a look at it below, explore, and let me know what I've missed, where I've made mistakes, and what else needs to be added. And, for those of you who want to go deeper, please head on over to the unDefined Community where there's a ton of discussion on Everest 1924 and the pre-War era.

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12 comments on “Everest Searches: 1999-2019”

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your note, and great to hear from you! I hope you are doing well!

      I didn't put in the ax location from '33, but probably should. I've never had a good, concrete location for it, but will put it in nonetheless as it's important data. I think I should also add in the general idea of where Odell reported seeing them, as well as his possible location when he made the sighting.

      Let me know what else you think I should add!

      Thanks, and best,

      Jake

  1. Great work 👍🏻 Do you know if anyone has plans to explore the Norton Route in search of evidence of whether Mallory and Irvine took this route instead of the ridge?

    1. Thanks, Alex. I don't know of anyone planning to search the Norton route. The challenge with that is the Chinese now do not like anyone doing anything "extra-curricular" on the mountain, and keep a pretty tight leash on all climbers up there, so searching off-route would require either (a) permission, which is difficult to obtain, or (b) doing it in secret, which is nearly impossible on Everest these days.

  2. Jake was there ever a search along the fall line of Mallory for a possible location of where he fell from?

    1. Hi Michael, Yes, to some degree. The general fall line below the steep parts of the Yellow Band were searched in 1999 and 2001, and again in bits in 2004. In the steep YB, I can't say a precise fall line was searched, as the terrain doesn't really allow for that, but a lot of the possible fall line areas have been searched over the years. Hope this makes sense!

  3. Nice work on your interactive map of Everest and its climbing mysteries and history. This has doubtless been noted many times in the past (though I have not seen it); I'm wondering if (1) a scale and orientation (particularly a fine scale) could be superimposed over your interactive map and (2) if the major structures of the Everest topography could be identified. The lower sections are of significant size (the icefall, etc) and thus readily identifiable but locating the principal components of the portions above 8,000 meters (as the mountain gets smaller and smaller) are not so easy. Very difficult to know the first step from the second, which direction you are traveling, and how far apart they are (100 meters, 1,000 meters...)? If there is another annotated reference I haven't found, I'd love to know of it, otherwise I'm hoping you can help.

    1. Hi Lee,

      Thanks for the comment and suggestions. I will work to make it a bit more comprehensible, as I know it can be quite confusing to say the least. I have added another view of the mountain with all the findings over the years, one which should be a bit more logical as it's the "standard" view from the North. But, I'll work to better it as much as possible!

  4. Hi Jake, even though I‘m not Chris I would love to have the two locations -or an idea of them - added!

    And thanks a lot for that great overview.

    All the best

    Gudrun

    1. Hi Gudrun, thanks for your comment, and I'll work to add those. I did add a more head on view with all the findings, but will add those two locations as well as best I can. Thanks!

  5. Hi Jake, some researchers (https://thewire.in/history/mallory-irvine-second-step-everest) have suggested the terrain below and to the right of the third step ("Olga's" boulders) as a possible site of interest! It's speculative of course, but the idea, as I'm sure you know, is that Irvine might have waited for Mallory somewhere around there, resting in a sleeping bag, and/or that they might have possibly dumped oxygen as well as other things (tins etc.) in that region.

    Do you know if anyone has looked at this site as of yet, or how challenging that would be? It seems like a place where you could veer of course and have a look without anyone really noticing it! If something was found there it would basically prove that one or both summited.

    1. Hi Jon,

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, Phil and Ajay's writeup has a lot of merit, and the boulders near the Third Step - as well as all the terrain above the Second Step - have long been important search areas I think. We sent a search team to that area in 2019 - David Morton, Adrian Ballinger, and cameraman John Griber - but they did not find anything. That said, with the little time they had, coupled with the rough weather and crowding on the route, they were not able to search as thoroughly as I would've hoped. I think that area is still one of high interest, and where it is likely M&I might have dropped O2 or some other evidence of their passing. Like you said, finding any evidence putting them above the Second Step would be ground breaking, and prove almost beyond a shadow of doubt that they reached the top in '24. Maybe one day the Chinese will reopen the North Side and allow for some more searching...but I'm not going to hold my breath!

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