It was on this day (June 18th) in 1886 that George Herbert Leigh Mallory was born in Moberly, Cheshire to a clergyman.
I have written plenty about he and Andrew Irvine’s fateful summit bid on Mount Everest on June 8, 1924, and won’t repeat myself here. But, in some pretty exciting news, my friend Conrad Anker along with star climber Leo Holding and a team of strong Sherpa and cameramen just climbed the Second Step, trying to decide whether or not it was within the ability of Mallory (and Irvine) back in 1924.
According to Conrad and Leo’s analysis (see the dispatches on the website at www.ueverest.com), the pitch went at roughly 5.9 on the American rock climbing scale – definitely within Mallory’s climbing ability. This is something that I and others have thought for a long time, and it supports Oscar Cadiach and Theo Fritsche’s take on the difficulty of the step as well. (See my post of a few days ago for more information on this.)
But, on this day, Mallory’s birthday, I thought it fitting to cast some light on his climbing philosophy. Memory of Mallory has been wrapped around two things for the past 83 years:
- The question of whether he and Irvine reached the top in 1924.
- His misquoted, but oft-quoted, saying: Because it’s there.
Mallory, however, had very deep philosophies about climbing, about what was important on a mountain and in life, and as I think back remembering the man on his birthday, one of my favorite Mallory quotes comes to mind. He wrote this regarding an ascent of the Mont Blanc in France in 1918:
How to get the best of it all? One must conquer, achieve, get to the top; one must know the end to be convinced that one can win the end — to know there’s no dream that mustn’t be dared…Is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We’re not exultant; but delighted, joyful, soberly astonished. Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No…and yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction…fulfilled a destiny. To struggle and to understand — never this last without the other; such is the law.
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