Noel Odell's Final View of Mallory & Irvine, June 8th, 1924


August 2007
On June 8, 1924, Noel Odell made the final sighting of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on the summit ridge of Everest. What did he see? What could he have seen? And, what can we learn about this final sight, before Mallory & Irvine disappeared into the ether?

As many of you know, the mystery of Mallory & Irvine has been a major part of my life and passion over the years. I’ve written about it extensively here on The MountainWorld Blog, put together a Squidoo Lens a Squidoo Lenson the story, and been fortunate enough to take part in the 1999, 2001, and 2014 Mallory & Irvine Research Expeditions.

A few days ago I was chatting with some friends about Noel Odell’s famous final sighting of Mallory & Irvine on June 8, 1924. If you are not familiar with the story, Noel Odell was a strong climber and Himalayan veteran who was also a member of the 1924 Expedition. While he was not deemed “fit enough” to accompany Mallory on his final, fateful summit bid, Odell did climb up to Camp VI on Mallory & Irvine’s summit day to support them.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, Odell’s sighting of the duo going strong for the top would be the final sighting of them alive. Odell later wrote of the sighting:

At 12.50, just after I had emerged from a state of jubilation at finding the first definite fossils on Everest, there was a sudden clearing of the atmosphere, and the entire summit ridge and final peak of Everest were unveiled. My eyes became fixed on one tiny black spot silhouetted on a small snow-crest beneath a rock-step in the ridge; the black spot moved. Another black spot became apparent and moved up the snow to join the other on the crest. The first then approached the great rock-step and shortly emerged at the top; the second did likewise. Then the whole fascinating vision vanished, enveloped in cloud once more.
[From Gareth Thomas’ excellent website]

This final view, the last sighting of Mallory & Irvine alive, has forever been a source of great debate: Did Odell see them reach the top of the First Step, or the Second Step? If the former, at 12:50 PM, it is doubtful at best that they reached the top, for it would have been already too late in the day. But, if they were atop the Second Step at that time, it is almost unthinkable that they did NOT reach the summit: with all major challenges behind them, it would be smooth sailing from there to the top of the world.

I won’t give my full opinion here and now, but rather would like to share a couple of images with those who are interested.

I took these shots from roughly Noel Odell’s vantage point on the North Ridge while Dave Hahn and I were climbing in 2004. They were taken 2 minutes apart, one zoomed out to roughly the level of the human eye, and the second image zoomed in showing people quite clearly on the ridgecrest.

Take a look, zoom in, pan around, and enjoy the images.

Image #1: The Northeast Ridge of Everest taken at 11:31 AM on May 18, 2004, from roughly Noel Odell’s vantage point when he last sighted Mallory & Irvine on June 8, 1924. Note that this image was taken with a 50mm focal length which is the rough equivalent of the human eye, thus replicating approximately what Noel Odell would have been able to see.

View of the First, Second, and Third Steps of Everest from Noel Odell's vantage point on June 8, 1924, when he made the final sighting of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on their fateful summit bid.

View of the First, Second, and Third Steps of Everest from Noel Odell's vantage point on June 8, 1924, when he made the final sighting of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on their fateful summit bid.

Image #2: A panorama of the same view taken 2 minutes later at 11:33 AM on May 18, 2004, again from roughly Noel Odell’s vantage point when he last sighted Mallory & Irvine on June 8, 1924. Note that now climbers are clearly visible at Mushroom Rock, on the Second Step, on the Third Step, and one can be made out on the summit pyramid.

Panoramic view of the First, Second, and Third Steps of Everest from Noel Odell's vantage point on June 8, 1924, when he made the final sighting of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on their fateful summit bid.

Panoramic view of the First, Second, and Third Steps of Everest from Noel Odell's vantage point on June 8, 1924, when he made the final sighting of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on their fateful summit bid.

Do they spark any thoughts or theories? Please feel free to comment and share your views.

60 comments on “Noel Odell's Final View of Mallory & Irvine, June 8th, 1924”

  1. More to talk about...

    Good job, Jake, to take and post these shots. I really enjoy your postings. In part 3, your writing of the end of their attempt was thoughtful and poignant.

    My questions are these:

    Why the assumption...and it's practically taken as gospel, these days...that Mallory would have ignored Norton's advice to Mallory that the traverse-to-the-couloir route was doable, in favor of the much more difficult 2nd step? That has never made sense to Me.

    (Incidentally, when Sommervell dropped out, on his and Norton's attempt, he might well have been somewhere just below the Second Step, but wherever he was, both he and Norton surely got a good look at that headwall, as they traversed past it on their way to the couloir. Apparently, they wanted nothing to do with it. It would seem reasonable to assume that they would have informed Mallory of that "pass".)

    Also, nowhere around the first step, nor the second step, is there a snowfield that would match up with Odell's report of the last sighting of the two climbers. In fact, from the vantage point of your camera shots of the Northeast Ridge, it looks to me as if there is no "terrace" that would have supported a snowfield that might have been seen by Odell. All you have are two shots, including the one of people in profile against the skyline, until you get to the pyramid snowfield where you can just make out a climber, against the white snow.
    As what seems to me to be an irrefutable aspect of Odell's account of his sighting of Mallory and Irvine, it appears that there is just no place for a snowfield at either step, that would fit Odell's statement.

    Accepting Odell's initial report of what he saw, for me, puts Mallory and Irvine a short way into the snowfield that is just above the THIRD step. I know that over the years, his certitude on that changed, but I believe that there was a growing "agenda" at that time, to leave the summit unclimbed, for someone else to make it up, and back. As has been speculated, repeatedly calling into question Odell's sighting, e.g., as possibly being birds, etc., could have worn him down and led him to amend his initial statement to accommodate the idea that Mallory and Irvine had failed.

    It's as if people were attempting to push Mallory and Irvine up the second step, no matter that it was completely terra incognito, and very difficult terra, at that. His youth and strength notwithstanding,
    Irvine must have taken a look at that and realized that he'd never attempted anything like it.

    I understand the questions about the timing of the attempt; that is, their daylight start from camp VI.

    I've tried using a scale on some good photos of the NorthEast Ridge, and what I've come up with is that the traverse was about 900-1000 feet, horizontally, from directly below the second step, to the couloir. That's not "as the crow flies: it's adding a little, for up and down scrambling.

    I also scaled the distance from camp VI to the summit, adding in what I thought to be a fair amount of distance for moving up and down. It looks to me to be about a mile-and-a-half, roughly.

    Do you think that's "ballpark"?

    I'm just an armchair mountaineer ( :O) ), but I well understand that a mile-and-a-half, or even 900 feet, at 28,000-plus feet, takes a lot more energy and time, that it does at sea level, or the relative comfort of the Scottish Highlands, for example.

    So much hangs on what Odell saw.

    If his initial observations about their being at the snowfield just above what we now call the Third Step, and their being there at about 1PM, then the odds swing heavily toward their making the summit.

    Timewise, would it have been impossible for them to traverse to the couloir and regain the ridge just above the third step?

    I hope someone joins me on this. The mystery is endlessly fascinating.

    Thanks again, Jake!

    1. Hi L.D.,

      Thanks for your comment, thoughts, and all your research! You make a ton of good points, and I'll do my best to hit on them as best I can. In addition, you might want to take a gander at the new Virtual Mount Everest I just launched, as there's not only quite a bit of historic info in there, but some views of the upper mountain you may not have seen previously, or might not have seen in high res.

      Anyway, there is so much that hangs on Odell's final sighting - and so much we don't know or understand about it - that it all opens up additional tendrils of mystery and questions. And, as you point out, we've never known for sure (always just assumed, perhaps wrongly) that M&I would take the Ridge rather than the Norton route. Michael Tracy and others have well pointed out and uncovered the notes that imply Mallory may have been aiming for the Norton route afterall. I'm not entirely convinced, though, but still believe it to be a real possibility. Part of my hesitancy is due to Mallory knowing the Couloir had some sketchy snow that ultimately turned Norton around, and that that snow would not likely have changed much in 4 days time. Additionally, there is the question of Bottle #9, the ice ax, and the mitten, which all are definitively on the Ridge route, and if they went the Norton route, it seems unlikely they would have been out north of the First Step along the ridge, unless my mistake on return.

      So, that's a lot of words to say: I have little idea!

      On the sighting, I agree with you that Odell's words do not completely align with the views as I've seen them. Indeed, the Third Step does seem to make the most sense from a visual perspective, although it is hard to figure out how they got there, that quickly, to be atop it at 1pm. But, perhaps they did. I also wonder if there was more snow on the climber's left edge of the Second Step in '24, and if there was more also in the platform below the final headwall against which they would be visible.

      Additionally, I'm on the fence as to whether or not the Norton route would truly be simpler than the Ridge - different, certainly, but maybe not easier per se. The traverses are horrifically loose and rotten, and exposure is vast (although using hobnails rather than crampons would made a lot of difference), and while the Ridge may be steeper (especially the 2nd Step), it is more secure in some ways. And, the snow in the Couloir would be a challenge for certain, but perhaps not insurmountable. As for the Second Step headwall, I still stand by the belief that they would not have had to climb it as we would today, but instead could've used a courte-échelle - much as the Chinese did in 1960 - to get up the final wall.

      Finally, on timing, I can see them getting to the Couloir, but am not sure they would double back necessarily to the Third Step from there, but rather go more the route Messner, Ershler, McCartney-Snape, and others went from the top of the Couloir out onto the upper N. Face and to the summit that way. It seems from a visual inspection (not in person) that the difficulty difference between the two options would be negligible, and thus the logical route would be to continue upward toward the top rather than back to the Third Step.

      Ah, so much to consider, and so much we've learned and yet still need to discover! Hope this helps some, though, and let's keep the discussion going!

      All my best,


  2. This is a really interesting question ie ridge or couloiur. I have read the michael tracy theory and find it compelling and incredibly well researched, claiming that Odell could not see climbers on second step, matching instead to third step. Tracy also claims to have found a possible site for irvines body, though its hard to tell.
    Thanks for your excellent website.
    Alex Kearns

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for the comment and thoughts. It is all difficult to figure out, as we have differing accounts of what and where. I agree that Michael Tracy has uncovered some great info pointing to M&I possibly having followed Norton's route rather than the NE Ridge as we had so long taken as gospel. I'm not certain they did so, but it definitely adds more possibilities to the story. While Michael's theory is solid and well researched, I do think he's a bit off on Odell's vantage point for the final sighting. Having climbed to and found the 1924 Camp VI in April, 2001, I believe Odell was higher and further to the north than the area Michael has him getting that final view. This location would change the view a bit, but regardless, I don't personally see a solid correlation to the Third Step, but neither do I for the First or Second in all honesty, as neither is climbed even today "with considerable alacrity."

      So many questions still unanswered! Personally, I still believe Irvine ended up in the Yellow Band, and may still be there, although having searched it fairly extensively, I'm more and more doubtful he still lays where he once might have.

      Thanks, and best regards,


  3. Thanks for your reply Jake. The amazing video on mallorys body has sparked my interest in this. I'm sure you've done it to death but I'm keen to follow this topic further.
    BTW your everest interactive page is top shelf.
    Alex Kearns
    Canberra, Australia

    1. No problem, Alex - so glad you're as fixated on the story as I am! I hope to write up more info in the future on the subject. Let me know if there are specifics you'd like to know about, discuss, etc!

  4. Thanks Jake. I hope you guys are coping ok with COVID. Australia seems well isolated from it all.

    Some thoughts/questions on M&I.

    The Tracy Theory is fixated on the search for rocks on mallorys (or irvines) body as proof of a summit, whilst others focus on the camera. My understanding is that no rocks were found on mallorys body, amongst the other artefacts and Tracy makes a big issue out of this but others less so. Is the rock test critical to whether they made the summit?

    Tracy Theory also points to a relatively straightforward climb beyond third step (assuming couloiur route), with no obvious impediments to the summit, plenty of oxygen, though late in the day. If mallory was so determined (as I have read), I would assume he made the summit, took a pic, collected rocks, then descended. But the body indicates otherwise ie no rocks and no summit.

    I realise its a difficult issue, but would appreciate any thoughts on rock samples and its relevance to M&I summitting. Tracy Theory seems compelling but I am keen to consider other (more balanced) perspectives.
    Thanks again
    Alex Kearns

    1. Hi again, Alex,

      We're coping well here - thank you; we are somewhat isolated here in our mountain town, feeling fairly bubbled, which is a blessing, but so hard to see all the suffering around the world and not far away and not be able to do much to move any proverbial needles. I'm so glad to hear you are staying safe in Australia, and hope it remains that way as the months tick onward.

      On M&I, the rocks question and Michael's theories in general are all very interesting, and he's definitely added a lot of good info, research, and new concepts to the story, the questions, the narrative, and more. I certainly appreciate all he has done. Personally, I find the rocks question a great one, but perhaps not as cut-and-dry/black-and-white as Michael tends to put it. Like the climbers of the '20s, I tend to collect rocks from summits, too. But, there's certainly times when I don't, either due to fatigue, time pressures, or simply forgetfulness.

      Personally, I would bet that Mallory and/or Irvine would have grabbed a pebble or two from the summit if they made it there. But, us not finding rocks in Mallory's pockets in 1999 I don't feel is conclusive either way. First off, as Michael points out (at times a bit harshly, in my opinion), we weren't specifically looking for rocks, but rather for artifacts and other material goods (especially the camera) that could tell us more of the overall story of their final days and hours. While we weren't looking specifically for rocks, I'm also not convinced the presence of rocks in his pockets would be in any way conclusive, as his remains were completely peppered with rocks and pebbles, detritus that had rained down on him from above over 75 years.

      And, to complicate things, in my (admittedly rudimentary) understanding, there is not a clear break between the rocks of the summit pyramid and those comprising the First and Second Steps: all of this area sits atop the Yellow Band, in what is known as the Qomolangma Detachment. (Below is the Rongbuk Formation.) The Qomolangma Detachment is sometimes called generically the "Grey Band," and is all a mixture Ordovician limestones, dolomite, and siltstone. So, my point is that if rocks had been found in Mallory's pockets in 1999, and we could determine that they were deliberately placed/collected rather than getting there by weather and time, we still could not say for certain they were from the summit versus the First Step, which Oxygen Bottle #9 tells us they arrived at (at least). Not sure if this all makes sense, but hopefully so. I know that I personally will collect rocks from summits, but also from high points reached (I grabbed a stone from Mushroom Rock in 1999, my high point on that expedition), and could see Mallory having done the same had his high point been the First Step, Third Step, or the Summit. And, if you're interested, these are some interesting geology references on the Everest strata:

      As for your second question, Alex, I definitely see no problem with M&I making the summit if we ever determine they got above the Second Step, whether via the Ridge or through Norton's route in the Couloir. Personally, having looked at that terrain angling back left from the Couloir toward the Third Step many times on my 5 north side expeditions, I am doubtful if that would have been the chosen route for Mallory versus continuing the way taken by Messner (1980), the Australians (1984), and Ershler (also 1984). Angling back left toward the Third Step has always looked to me to be more difficult - lower angle, but of the nasty, North Face type that is sharply downlsoping scree-on-slab and often more difficult and dangerous than steeper rock. Regardless, I feel strongly that if they got above the Second Step or above the difficulties of the Great Couloir exit, there would be nothing to stop them from reaching the summit except for prudence - although I find it hard to imagine Mallory or Irvine not pushing the needle in that situation, with the summit close at hand.

      Back to the body, I personally don't see anything that we found (or didn't find) that indicates they did reach the summit, nor anything that indicates they did not reach the summit. To me, it is still a complete mystery, and hypotheses of summit or not are no more than that - hypotheses, based on conjecture and our own beliefs. Without doubt, my own hypotheses are in that same bucket! In the end, what we found in 1999 (and didn't find) told us a great deal more than we had previously known about Mallory & Irvine's final days and hours, but in my mind still nothing definitive.

      I sure hope someday we'll learn more! Hope this helped some, Alex, and let's keep the conversation going!

      All my best,


  5. Am now a paid up subscriber. Happy to help out your excellent website. Alex

  6. Thank for the detailed response Jake. Much appreciated.

    The Tracy Theory makes everything seem so cut and dried ie the route, the rocks, the body, timing and sightings on third step. As a casual observer, I have been drawn to his work as it seems so well thought out, but answers are not that simple, as you have detailed. I probably need to consider Tracy Theory with a more critical eye.

    I suppose my other nagging question is on Mallorys body ie location so close to camp VI, artefacts, broken rope, how he died etc (head injury, fall or exposure). Again I suspect its all inconclusive and open to theories. If he was with irvine at axe site, he fell quite a distance, but body seemed relatively intact. More theories and speculation.

    Regards Alex Kearns

    1. My pleasure, Alex. I think Michael has a lot of solid info and has thought through his theory very well with great detail (although I disagree in lots of ways with his statements about our '99 expedition, motives, actions, etc., but that's for another discussion!). However, I still feel very little - if anything - is cut-and-dry in this story with the very limited evidence we have.

      As for Mallory's body, I find it hard to imagine - as you note - that GLM could have fallen from the ice ax site and been as intact as he was when we found him. I can't say with certainty he didn't fall from there, but having seen other bodies (namely, Sergei Arsentiev) who did fall from the ridge crest, there is such a stark difference in body posture, condition, damage/injury, etc., that it makes it very difficult for me to imagine GLM falling from the Ridge and ending up relatively intact. Still so many questions!

      Have a great day (or night for you, I guess)!

    1. I'll give them a look. I've read through a lot of comments over time, and as seems to be the case here, many - from Michael and others - are made without talking to folks (like me) who were on the expedition, etc. Ke garne, as we say in Nepal. Be well, Alex, and all my best,


  7. Hi Jake
    Hope you are well.
    I see you have responded to Michael Tracys comments on the 1999 expedition. Though I am not qualified to make informed comment, I was quite surprised by the vitriol of his attacks and found them hard to believe (am always sceptical of conspiracy theories). It seems you guys did your absolute best under very difficult conditions and treated mallory with respect. The video of the mallorys discovery and burial was amazing but very respectful.

    Regards Alex

    1. Thanks for the thoughts and kind words, Alex. I, too, tend to be skeptical of overly angry attacks. Michael definitely has a lot of good thoughts, has uncovered some really great information, and more, and I appreciate all of that. But, I do feel his (and others') attacks on our 1999 expedition were a bit over the top; we definitely made mistakes, and would do things differently in hindsight, but, alas, did the best we could at the time.

      Thank you again, and hoping all is well down under!

  8. Hi Jake,
    Really great website you provide for the mountaineering community. Now that I have learned to navigate it, I'll enter some comments. First, on this June 18 anniversary of the birth of George Mallory, I would like to recommend that we all show each other our best manners and cordiality in the tradition of the Everest explorers of the 1920s, out of respect for Mallory and his memory, regardless of one other's opinions on controversial matters.Now a little about myself. Living in the Sierra Nevada for the past 30+ years has made me grateful for the mountains themselves, and has piqued my interest in mountaineering itself. I have made numerous hike and climbs in the Sierra over the decades -of minor significance compared to the Himalayas- and have little experience with altitude. (My highest was Donohue Pass, just over 11,000 ft.) Otherwise, I am largely another 'armchair mountaineer' --now with an obsessionwith the Mallory mystery.After much independent study, I came to regard a successful summit by Mallory and Irvine as a real possibility. I felt I was alone in this at first, but was subsequently pleased to find others who shared my views. I now believe in Mallory's success with near certainty. Over the coming weeks and months I hope to share my research on this and other sites. For now I have just a few brief remarks. In response to another armchair mountaineer, L.D Dunnagan, March 2021, I believe the North Face 'traverse' hypothesis is neglected not for lack of reason or evidence, but simply for aesthetic prejudice: proponents of the Ridgewalk merely wish to envision Mallory more dramatically ascending skyline atop a narrow ridge than scrambling over slopes of scree and slabs, and 'manfully' confronting and overcoming the Great Steps along the way. This vision has nothing to do with the immense practical difficulties that M&I faced at 8300+ meters in 1924. I intend to develop the Traverse Theory and refute the Ridgeline Theory in a fully scientific manner, based on two essential premises, now cryptically stated as 'The Elephant in the Living Room' and 'The Dog that Didn't Bark'. See if you can guess what these are in the meantime --they constitute evidence indeed 'hidden in plain sight'.
    S.I. Wells, Donner Pass, June 18, 2021

    1. Again, thank you, Stewart. I wholeheartedly agree with the need to come to this discussion as you have, with grace and good manners and respect for all theories and opinions. After all, none of us know the answers - despite what we might convince ourselves of in terms of truth or inaccuracy - and all information and thought on the subject has the potential to be enlightening. So, again, thank you.

      I'm always delighted to have new insights and research on the subject. I only know what I know from experience having been there, but often the biggest revelations have come from people like you - who have not been there, and thus approach the subject with less tunnel vision and preconceived notions.

      I'm eager to hear what your thoughts are. I agree with you (and others who feel the same) to some extent about the Ridge, namely that many/most of us have gone forth with the belief that M&I took the Ridge simply because we never thought otherwise, we interpreted things to have Mallory saying he was going there, and, yes, it is a more dramatic and romantic image to have them combating the Second Step rather than slogging across scree. (That said, one of my favorite, most impressive and daunting photos from all of Everest is Somervell's shot of Mallory traversing the YB - it puts the heroics into perspective more than anything else I've seen (see it here for those who don't know the shot:

      All of that said, I'm still not personally convinced that the traverse would be easier or safer than the Ridge...but, I'm open to convincing and look forward to you convincing me!

      And, as for your riddle of the 'The Elephant in the Living Room' and 'The Dog that Didn't Bark', I'll think on both. But, I've killed far too many brain cells up high, so might not be able to figure them out. Any hints?

      Thanks again, and take good care!

  9. Happy Solstice everyone, and Happy Father's Day Jake and all other fathers. I have been reviewing intently the various site pages on the M&I mystery, and am quite impressed with the work of dedicated researchers, regardless of their views. I believe that through forums such as this one we will collectively sift through the possibilities and provide search suggestions which will lead to a solution. I will need to organize my collected material just a bit more before laying out my own analysis and proposals. One more hint: the elephant in the living room actually makes two appearances, and there is another dog that didn't bark --even more 'loudly' than the first one!

    S.I. Wells, Donner Pass, June 20, 2921

    1. Thank you, Stewart, and apologies for my long-delayed reply to this and your other comment. I agree with you on all the research, and as I mentioned in another comment/reply to Alex Kearns, I'm thinking about setting up a forum community here where all of us M&I sleuths can gather, share info and ideas and theories, collaborate, and discuss, all in a civil manner. Would this be of interest to you? They have been out there in the past, but most are defunct for the most part. Thanks!

  10. Jake,Thank you for showing interest, and for your insights. True, no one yet knows the fate of M&I in 1924, and I trust everyone will keep in mind that we are all speculating on it. I appreciate your gracious acknowledgement of mere armchair mountaineers like myself with regard to the Himalaya, and the contributions we might be able to make. Here is an example: with respect to the 'Elephant in the Room" (something obvious that everyone pretends not to notice), I'll not keep you in suspense; Odell's watch had essentially blurted it out loud. The hike from Camp VI to the 1st Step takes at most two hours; M&I were set on starting early, by 6.0 a.m. at the latest. Odell saw them on the Ridge at 12.50 p.m. --nearly seven hours later! This leaves M&I with some five hours of 'missing time'! What were they doing with those hours? Sipping tea? Hardly-- those five hours were spent ascending from the base of the 1st Step to the base of the 3rd Step, near the top of the Couloir, which was about the amount of time Norton took to make his traverse to a point below 3rd Step. (I'm sure you meant your namesake Norton and not Mallory in Somervell's iconic photo.) I believe that M&I must have taken a similar traverse, not because of any detailed analysis of on-site climbing conditions or oxygen consumption rates, but because of the Holmesian 'Dog that didn't Bark'. This was provided to us by Noel's telescope: the image of M&I that didn't appear, anywhere on the Ridge. (This image was doubtlessly expected to be the high point of Noel's career as a mountain photographer, and we can scarcely imagine his disappointment.)
    As for the second appearance of the Elephant, and the other Dog that didn't Bark, I will save those for a future installment.
    Best regards-- S.I. Wells, Donner Pass, 24 July 2021

    1. Hi Stewart, thanks again for your reply, and sorry for the long delay in responding. I was off in Tanzania and out of comms for a bit!

      As I said before, I believe everyone can and should have opinions, theories, and solid ideas on this mystery. So many of us who have been there...while we may have direct knowledge of the route, terrain, etc., it's also easy for us to get caught up in our own preconceived notions and ideas, mired in a trajectory we believe or want to believe, thereby missing key possibilities along the way. So, long way of saying thank you for your contributions!

      I like all your ideas in your comment. I would not that the timing from the 1924 Camp VI to the First Step could have taken more than 2 hours (in my opinion), especially in '24, as figuring out the path through the Yellow Band is not simple or straighforward. Today, even with a higher (and closer) Camp VI and fixed lines, it takes climbers well over an hour on average to get to the First Step. M&I would've been coming from lower and further to the North, and accessing the Ridge via unknown terrain. So, I can personally see them taking more than 2 hours to get to the Step, although that still doesn't account for those missing hours. If we presume they took the Ridge, and let's call it 2 hours from CVI to the First Step, and they left at 6:00 AM or so (enough light by then for travel without head torches, which were left behind), then they're at the Step by 8:00 AM. No one had been there before, so they'd have to figure out how to climb it, which aspect to climb, etc. I could see ascending the Step taking the better part of an hour, so maybe reaching the top at 9am. Then, onward along the ridge, past Mushroom Rock (with likely a good pause there), and to the base of the Second Step, getting there at 10:30 or 11. We're getting close to Odell Sighting Time, but not there yet. Did it take them another nearly 2 hours to figure out the intricacies of the Second Step? Seems like an eternity, but it took the Chinese some 3 hours to get up the final headwall of the Second Step in 1960 (see, so it is possible to make that timing work. But, again, my own preconceptions may be getting in the way!

      If they took Norton & Somervell's route, I'm still unsure/unconvinced of the route above Norton's highpoint that would get them into view of Odell at 12:50pm. From what I've seen of it, a traverse back to the Third Step look terrifyingly dubious, and I still feel the Second Step aligns more with Odell's account of the final view than the Third Step. But, again, my own biases may well be playing into the scene. Ah, so many unanswered questions!



      True, Irvine was not experienced per se, but had proven himself time and again as immensely strong and technically proficient (see Julie Summers' book "Fearless on Everest"). As for his acclimatization, while he hadn't spent as much time high as Mallory, one could argue that he might be stronger having not made a prior attempt. If Mallory did manage - via court echelle or otherwise - to get up the Second Step, I think his belay and Irvine's strength could have gotten him up the Step as well. And, indeed, it is still a long way from the Third Step to the summit - especially when you're routefinding. If the upper snowfield was avy prone, and they went that way, it would certainly be problematic. But, they may well have taken the modern traverse onto the Face and up that way, which would offer lots of protection. Lots still unknown! Obrigada!

  12. Hi all
    Great to see some more discussion on the route. I have been a believer in the couloir route but some nagging doubts have crept in ie location of ice axe, bottle and even the mitten all found high on the ridge and pointing to ridge route. I keep changing my mind every day. would be keen to discuss others thoughts.
    Jake's theory that they made the second step and onto the summit but struggled back down looks pretty good too.
    We have gone into lockdown for a week in Canberra so have some time to ponder things.
    Regards Alex

    1. Hey Alex, I'm with you - vacillations at every turn and moment! But, so much seems to me to point to a Ridge attempt, but nothing is definitive in my mind either. So much to still think about! Hope lockdown is alright and you and yours are staying healthy, happy, and safe!

  13. Hi all
    Another video from Michael Tracy has popped up, this one about a part filled O2 bottle from the 1924 expedition found below the first step. It seems the fact it was part full is a major reveal. Link below.
    He also dismisses findings of blood on the jacket and the hole in mallorys head.
    Again I'm not sure what to make of it all but would be interested in the views of others. Does the fact that O2 was found make any difference?
    Regards Alex

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for sharing this and bringing in the questions raised. As I've said on the Facebook comment string where this was shared, I was mistaken in how I characterized the bottle having gas still in it. As Jochen noted, when Eric Simonson held the bottle up at a press conference in Kathmandu once we returned from the mountain, he turned the valve and everyone could hear the hiss of air movement. But, that was at 4600 feet, and the bottle had come from much higher when the valve was closed (either it was open when found and closed at ABC or BC, 21,200' and 17,200' roughly; or it was closed where found at the base of the First Step), so the "hiss" can be attributed not necessarily to O2 still being in it (as I said in the comments Michael referenced), but rather pressure equalizing from within the bottle and outside.

      In hindsight, I admit fully that we made errors in 1999. We should have been more regimented in our documentation of the things we found, photographing each one, taking GPS data, filming, noting everything down with precision. We didn't. I'm sure as a result things were missed that, regrettably, should not have been. I'm happy to take blame for that, as I'm sure the rest of our team will. I guess where I take issue with Michael's analysis is there is always an underlying conviction that we - or portions of the "we" - are engaged in a massive conspiracy to hide the truth about 1924, about what we found and what we know. We made mistakes for certain. After 22 years, our individual and collective memories of what happened, when and where precisely it happened, and every tiny detail about all the events are admittedly hazy at times.

      So, I don't really know what to make of Michael's continued insistence that I, or Jochen, or Eric, or Conrad, or Andy, Tap, Dave, Thom, or anyone else on the 1999 team is lying, hiding the truth, conniving the deceive people. What would there be to gain?

      Back to the O2 bottle and the inaccuracy of where I located it on the Virtual Everest Tour, I admit it was likely not in the right location. To be honest, I wasn't focused on precision of every single POI I added to the tour - I was more concerned with getting it all done and finished and coded and working. That was a mistake. I should have worked with Jochen to pinpoint the location as best I could. I didn't, and that was a mistake...but not deceit.

      When we found the bottle - it was Tap who actually located it - we were descending in storm after our aborted summit attempt. We had rescued a couple of Ukranian climbers a few days before, one had disappeared - Vasili Kopytko, who I knew fairly well from Cho Oyu in 1997. Minutes before Tap found the bottle, I had nearly fallen through a human-sized hole in a cornice below the First Step while searching for the bottle (which Eric had likely seen in 1991). The hole was most likely made by my friend, Vasili, falling through the cornice and down the Kangshung. It was a whiteout, flat light, and I almost ate it, so my recollection of the time right after when Tap announced he had found the bottle is admittedly not clear. Tap likely remembers more accurately, and conveyed what he knew to Jochen. But, we didn't have GPS with us. We were going for the summit that day, not searching. The bottle search came as a result of Tap and I aborting our summit plans (while Dave and Conrad went on). I didn't take a shot - my last shot from the day was from Mushroom Rock of Conrad attempting to free the Second Step. Once the bottle was found, we kept descending in deteriorating weather. I stopped only once, midway through the Yellow Band, to pull out the bit of iron that had tripped me earlier in the day, which turned out to be the pack from from 1933 and the 1933 Camp VI. Then, we got back to our Camp VI and waiting, tensely, for Conrad and Dave to return.

      So, my memory is what it is. Did we check the bottle to see if it had O2 in it? I didn't, not sure if Tap did. Should we have? Yes. Did we take GPS and do a thorough photo recording? Nope. Should we have? Yes. Did we find an oxygen bottle from 1924 on the Northeast Ridge at the base of the First Step on May 17, 1999, along with countless other artifacts and information over the years to add to our knowledge of what happened to Mallory and Irvine, thereby opening the door to some degree to great minds like Michael's to how much is still up there, that answers may still lurk up high, that most people plod onward, focused solely on the summit, and miss everything else along the way? I think so.

      Anyway, I digress - but am getting tired of Michael's incessant accusations as to our honesty and integrity and his conviction of some grand conspiracy! Sorry if I'm ranting!

      As for the blood on the lapels of Mallory's jacket, I don't see how or why that can be dismissed. Whether or not it is a telling bit of evidence or not I cannot say with certainty, but I do know what the King County Coroner, who Jochen and I sat with in the fall of 1999, thought the blood looked more deliberately placed - as if the lapel was used to blot blood, either from Mallory himself or from Irvine - rather than splattered like from the head injury Thom Pollard reported. It looked that way to me, as a non-forensics expert, and in Seattle a forensics specialist backed that up, but of course with no authoritative accounting. So, I think the blood on the lapel is an important part of the story, I just don't know how.

      Sorry for the long reply, Alex! Hope it all makes sense, and eager to hear your thoughts on it all.

      All my best,

  14. Thanks for the detailed response Jake. I appreciate that you are willing to engage so openly on this.

    It seems we cannot draw too much from the 02 and it's hard to say if it was filled or seems they just dropped the bottle once it was used. Whether it points to the ridge route or couloir I don't really know.

    It is hard to ignore the blood on the jacket and the hole in the head - I won't argue with a coroner's opinion. My interpretation is they had a difficult climb/descent which drew blood and then they had the fatal fall late in the day or at night, with the severe head wound to Mallory.

    Some thoughts on the 99 Team
    Your account of the descent after the aborted climb sounds harrowing - I didn't realise you had a brush with death! I have read Anker's book which details the rescue of the Ukrainians, his summit climb with Dave Hahn and the very difficult descent, with Dave struggling and needing help to be dragged home by you. An incredible effort.

    I can vaguely recall the media interest after the Mallory find in 99, but didn't really appreciate the full ramifications. From reading the accounts by Hoyland and Anker and talking to Thom Pollard, the media circus and controversy (including in Australia) was intense and took a huge toll on the participants. Thom tells me he was especially impacted and I understand Anker has moved on from it all. I have to admire their (and your) work and can appreciate the human and historical significance of the find. As you detailed, some of the criticism was perhaps valid (from recollection of their accounts, Hoyland and Anker criticized Hemmleb at times), but its hard to accept the conspiracy theory angle. I can certainly understand your frustration here. Apparently, Michael T is planning to produce yet another video, focusing on the 99 Team - I assume it will be more of the same. I will read with interest but also a degree of caution. Michael T has actually softened in his criticism of you on his YouTube channel - he even throws some compliments at you! He seems more critical of the 99 Team leadership.
    Regards Alex

  15. Just a quick thought from an armchair mountaineer - I understand Howard Somervell had lent Mallory the small Kodak camera. So if we assume it was in his possession when he and Irvine left camp VI, then what conclusions can we draw when we now know it was not with him when he fell? Is it reasonable to assume that on the summit, he might have first taken a picture of Irvine, then passed the camera so that Irvine could take a picture of him. Irvine quite naturally would have then tucked the camera away in one of his pockets. I can’t think of any other reason for Mallory passing the camera to Irvine.

    1. Indeed, as far as we know Somervell's camera did go with the duo on summit day. My hunch, and that of others, is that Irvine would likely have been carrying the camera. Some of this is based on the idea that Mallory was the "hero" and the one "supposed" to be on film, as opposed to Irvine who was less well known, so logical he would carry the camera and take shots of Mallory. Additionally, Mallory, while he took some stunning images on earlier expeditions, also messed up many plates in the Central Rongbuk in 1921, and was quite the Whirling Dervish of forgetfulness, so it also seems logical that Irvine would have the camera from that perspective. The hope has always been to find Irvine and thus find the camera, but Irvine has been decidedly uncooperative in the search! Maybe someday... Thanks for your comment, and be well!

  16. If I'm being completely open-minded, there's a rock structure just between what we now call the 1st step and the 2nd step that also resembles a "step" from Odell's vantage point. There appears to be a small snowfield and the climbers probably emerge at the top against the sky. The problem is that we are already "hardwired" in a certain way, assuming the modern route and modern nomenclature. In my opinion, we shouldn't even assume that Odell's report is necessarily correct. It was changed at least once and we should also evaluate the personal motivations of individual members of the expedition.

    1. We are definitely hardwired, myself very much included. I believe the rock structure you are referring to is Mushroom Rock, no? Or, are you referencing the "rock hump" between Mushroom Rock and the Second Step?

      I have considered the latter in the past, but it's not very inviting terrain, and the "ledges" lead pretty invitingly toward the Second Step on relative sidewalks below this feature. Here's what that feature looks like from Mushroom Rock, taken at sunrise on May 30, 2003:
      Gazing up the sweeping cornices and rock steps of Mount Everest’s Northeast Ridge from Mushroom Rock at 28,300 feet. Lhotse rises behind and left.

      That said, now thinking about it without my "hardwiring," it would make sense for M&I to have climbed this feature at 12:50 PM when Odell famously saw them if they were doing to to get a better, clearer view of the Second Step and the terrain that lies directly beneath it, as well as the potential for following the ridge crest all the way. Very interesting. Thanks, Milos!

  17. Jake,
    First of all, thank you so much for your extensive research on this topic. Being raised in SW Arkansas, mountain climbing is not something I am familiar in the slightest. However, I came across this story a few months back and have read every article I can regarding the topic. I have also spent countless hours watching videos across the Internet. Both of which, have led me to you and your research. As far as everything I have come across, yours is the most engaging and more importantly, informative. Great work!

    I read earlier in your comments that you think Irvine's body may not be in its originally place in the yellow band. Forgive me if this is a stupid suggestion or internet rabbit trail, but I have read several articles where the Chinese government may have moved his body to cover up there ascent. What are your thoughts regarding this theory?

    In addition, if this were not the case, what are the thoughts on the chances his body being recovered? Due to your extensive searches in the yellow band, a reader like me grows discouraged because there has to be only such much mountain to cover. I have also read several articles where his body could be lost to the mountain due to snowfall and washed out literally hundreds of years later. Are there passages we have not visited? Could he have plummeted into some unknown crevice? Again, although daunting, there is only so much passable land mass.

    I realize no one can give a definite answer but from someone who has actually been there I believe you can give as good of answer as any. Any pictures with topography information would be awesome! Thanks again for all your work on the subject. It truly inspires and reaches far more than you know!
    - Clayton

    1. Hi Clayton,

      Thanks for your note and questions, and welcome! I'm soon to launch a new community with a special section focused on Mallory & Irvine, so discussions can take place there in a more organized fashion. Stay tuned!

      As for your very relevant questions: I, too, have heard discouraging stories and whispers about Irvine's body possibly being moved long ago (or perhaps not so long ago) by the Chinese. There has been no confirmation of this information, just stories and whispers, so hard to know for sure if it is true, but there's been enough over the years to make it at least a strong possibility. From what I've heard, his body might have been (a) removed completely from the mountain and brought to Rongbuk, Tingri, Lhasa, or elsewhere, or (b) been removed in a less kind way, pushed off and down the North Face. In either situation, if true, it does not bode well for learning more about their final days and hours.

      On other places to search, I personally am becoming more and more discouraged about the potential of finding him high on the mountain. I certainly don't rule it out, and try to remain optimistic about the chance, but having personally searched a lot of area in the Yellow Band over the years, and others having done the same, it seems less and less likely that he could still be up there. There are indeed a lot of places which have not been searched in the YB, but most of those areas are not logical places for Irvine to have ended up.

      Back to the community, once launched - and hopefully soon - I'm going to share all the info I've gathered over the years, including the high-res satellite imagery I've worked on for 6-7 years, and hope to turn it to crowd-sourcing to see if we can collectively find things I individually missed!

      Thanks again, and best regards,


  18. The possibility of the traverse route is fascinating, but Norton had suggested a zig zag route to the left of the Couloir rather than an exit to the right as has been done by others. If Mallory went on the traverse, I would assume he would try Norton's suggestion rather than venturing off to explore unknown terrain to the right. He would have to get very lucky to find a route that goes without losing much time in doing it.

    Can the O2 bottle presumably dropped on the way up near the first step be reconciled with a traverse route? I have not seen this explained.

    To my knowledge, no one has climbed in this zig zag area to the left of the Couloir. Tracy seems fixed on the alleged certainty of this possibility, but also has no information as to the difficulty of this route. I have asked him (politely) if he knows anything about that specific area, only to be cut off and deleted because I questioned his wisdom. He is convinced from long range pictures that there is a no-problem route. I find that suggestion ridiculous, to be honest. He is also convinced that no one checked Mallory's pockets for rocks, and therefore allegedly no one can say whether or not he was carrying rocks. And allegedly the evidence is now too tainted to know. Really?

    1. Hi David, thanks for being here, and thanks for your comment and thoughts.

      On the traverse, like you I have reservations about the feasibility of the zig-zag route. Certainly not saying it's not possible, but from all I've seen of it - looking in person over the years, viewing in my images, looking on satellite imagery - it looks pretty beastly at best. Again, maybe possible, but I'm not convinced it would be any easier than the NE Ridge, and like you I have trouble reconciling that route with bottle #9 being by the First Step base and the mitten I found in 2001 to climber's left of the top of the climbers' gullies/exit cracks. My feeling is that if one was headed to the Couloir, it would not make sense to go all the way to the NE Ridge crest - where the bottle and the mitten were found - but instead take a lower traverse route similar to Norton & Somervell as well as Smythe-Shipton.

      And, I know what you mean about Michael not taking much to any difference of opinion. I applaud him on the information he's unearthed, his thought and passion for the subject, and the time he's put in, but to my mind it serves no one to be quite so confrontational on the subject and focused on conspiracy theory. Ah, well.

      As noted in other comments, I am about to launch a new M&I community/forum, hopefully later today, and would love to have you visit, chime in, and share.


  19. I stumbled across your amazing videos while looking at the early expedition pipe photos. I really want to say thank you for all you share on this. It’s a subject I know nothing about, I get winded walking up a hill at work, but you have opened up something that’s been so educational and entertaining for me here during our lock down again in Canada. Thank you

  20. Dear Jake; this is a pot that just never seems to stop bubbling, right? :o)

    First, let me thank you for this excellent site, and then, for your thoughtful and well-reasoned replies to the questions and points that myself, and others on here, have raised. I have the utmost respect for you and the other guys on the 1999 crew.
    Also, major kudos for your admission that mistakes were made, in the "handling" of the finding of Mallory. As to that, I would say, how could there not have been? Would there have been ANY climbers, whom, on discovering George Mallory's body, have been "cool, calm, and collected" enough, to get it all right?
    Would they have said, among themselves:

    "Let's not touch anything, until we can get down and get a team of professional forensic investigators up here, to work the scene..."?

    Given the interest in this, leaving it to the chance that someone else would find him, and do any better that you and Dave and the rest did, to me, is nonsensical. You were there; you had found him. Do the best you can...and, by me, you did.

    I think that Michael Tracy has done some excellent research and, like you, I respect his passion and diligence. Your words of praise for Michael, were accurate and kind. I also think that he would get a better hearing if he would reign himself in on the personal commentary on his site(s), instead of being so quick to go off on people with whom he disagrees.
    I say this at the same time that I think the question of choice of route for Mallory and Irvine, is worthy of a legitimate extended debate.

    Norton's account of his and Somervelle's attempt, on Mallory, in particular, is debatable, but the fact that Norton and Somervelle got the best look at the second step that anyone had seen to that date, and wanted nothing to do with it, is, I believe, a matter of record. Norton later said as much.
    But how much would his saying that the traverse/couloir route was a viable one, have resonated with Mallory? I don't know how we can know the answer to that.

    How about this; I matched up that wonderful, timeless, photo that Somervelle took, of Norton, bravely striking out on his own, with a similar shot of yours. The contours and crevices of that part of the North Face, which looks to be pretty much the top of the yellow band, are easy to identify and compare. It appears to me that when Somervelle took his shot, he was almost directly under the second step, at the same time that Norton had moved further west, and out onto the scree of that 1-to-1 (?) slope, with, as Norton later pointed out, and as you perceptively used for the lead in your "part III" of your view of what happened to Mallory and Irvine, it's implications for a single, unroped, climber.

    Of Mallory and Irvine, clearly, the time that they arose from camp VI, on June 8th, and began their
    summit attempt, is of great relevance in trying to resolve the question of their making it to the top. Is that time known, with any degree of surety? I agree with you that making it atop the third step by 1PM (just to round it off...) is something of a stretch.
    I seem to remember that Tracy said in one of his pieces, that they were up and about, around 6 AM. If I'm right, and again, I'm not sure of it, how did he come to that, and how does it square with the note to O'dell telling him that such-and-such "was not too early to be looking for them..."

    Enough, for now. By all means, keep up the good work.

    Have you got a snail-mail address? Best, L.D.

    1. Hi L.D.,

      First off, thank you for the detailed comment and kind words. I truly appreciate it! We seem to live in a world where anger, allegation, and accusation tend to be the first step in many interactions, often without personal direct contact or attempt to get the whole story. Ah, well!

      Like you, I admire so much of what Michael Tracy has done, uncovered, researched, and shared, and much of it is both important and enlightening, shedding new light on old stories and accepted narratives. That said, if I'm being honest, I've largely stopped paying much attention to his material as so much seems to be focused less on figuring out the answers to what happened to Mallory and Irvine, and more on "proving" that Norton was a scoundrel, we moved artifacts, stole gloves, and have somehow (and for some reason far beyond my comprehension) engaged in a deep state style game of concealing truth for 23 years. Sadly, the focus on those narratives overshadow (for me at least) the relevant information he shares, and makes me for one take all he says with a healthy few grains of salt.

      Anyway, I'm still happy working on the story when I have time, contributing the little I can, and thinking and collaborating openly with folks like you...So, thank you again!

      I would love to see the image comparison you made from Somervell's photo and my later one. I remember speaking with Jochen not long ago and he indicated the same general location of Somervell being underneath the Second Step. I wish there were more images from that day!

      As for M&I's departure time, I know of nothing that can tell us a concrete departure time, but I've always assumed (with solid awareness of the dangers of assumptions!) that they likely left around first light. Sunrise for June 8, 1924, was about 4:45 AM (see here), but Camp VI is in the "shadow" of the mountain, and the waxing gibbous moon set at 10:54 PM and thus would offer no help, so perhaps they headed out from Camp VI at 5:30 AM when it was just light enough to see and climb safely without aid. I can't imagine them leaving any earlier, and Michael could be correct that it was more like 6:00 AM. If we assume a 6:00 AM departure from Camp VI at 26,800 or so, they've only got 6 hours 50 minutes to make it up to the Steps to be seen by Odell. First Step is not a problem for that timing. Second Step within reason in my opinion (if one believes they went that way). The Third seems like a stretch by any measure: Norton and Somervell left at 6:40 AM, and Norton "only" made it to his highpoint - still a long, tricky way from the Third Step - by 1:00 PM after 6 hours 20 minutes of climbing. To me, the numbers don't add up for them to make it to the Third Step in time to be there for Odell to see them. But, there is so much yet unknown!

      As you may know, L.D., there's quite a lively discussion of all this going on in the community I started recently. It's totally free - you just need to register (I do that so I can control/moderate more easily). Please come on over and join in the discussion at!

      Thanks again, and all best,


  21. Thanks for the website Jake.

    Thinking about what Odell's sighting, I find it interesting that the 1933 expedition had an initial strategy of tackling the 2nd step (devisen before leaving England)

    I would have thought part of there climbing strategy would have included private conversations with Odell - pumping him for information about where he saw Mallory and Irvine.

    I'm not particularly suprised that he became vague in public on return to England as the information was pretty strategic - you wouldn't want to give the strategy away to God forbid the French or worse, the Americans.

    It was a very important nationalistic prize that wasn't claimed till 30 years later- No way would he have given the key to the roof of the world to a "damn foreigner"


  22. Thanks for the website Jake.

    Thinking about what Odell's sighting, I find it interesting that the 1933 expedition had an initial strategy of tackling the 2nd step (devisen before leaving England)

    I would have thought part of there climbing strategy would have included private conversations with Odell - pumping him for information about where he saw Mallory and Irvine.

    I'm not particularly suprised that he became vague in public on return to England as the information was pretty strategic - you wouldn't want to give the strategy away to God forbid the French or worse, the Americans.

    It was a very important nationalistic prize that wasn't claimed till 30 years later- No way would he have given the key to the roof of the world to a "damn foreigner"


  23. […] I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it recently, and have come back to a theory which hit me on April 28, 2001, as Brent Okita and I moved up the North Ridge toward the 1924 Camp VI, while following a similar path to Odell 77 years before. I fairly quickly dismissed it as folly, for everything seemed to point to Odell seeing Mallory and Irvine on either the First, Second, or possibly Third Steps. (In October 2021, I was reminded of this old thoughts by a comment from a reader, Milos, on an old Odell post.) […]

  24. Hi Jake

    Great website. I stumbled across your page and it's great to see people are still interested in finding Sandy Irvine. I have long believed for all of the reasons you mentioned above that Irvine would have carried the camera.
    Irvine carrying the camera or any other extra kit would free up Mallory to lead the crux of the climbs "if" they did stick to the ridgeline.

    Where do you think Mallory fell from?
    I still have an open mind because Irvine's axe was found above the fall line.
    Maybe a relaxed unconscious body would have reduced Mallory's injuries.

    Do you know how long the rope was that was attached to Mallory?

    When you said the rope was cut I ruled out Mallory cutting the rope because his knife was found closed in his pocket. Those ropes sometimes snapped when loaded.

    Personally, I believe they both made the summit.

    Maybe Mallory lowered Irvine on the descent (with a basic body or bollard belay) down the main steps and Mallory down-climbed any difficult steps with both of their ice axes? I've done that in the past.
    If Mallory slipped while down climbing he may have broken his leg.
    This might explain Mallory's broken leg. His arms were probably broken in the final fall.

    Maybe initially Mallory lowered himself down the step by allowing a rope to run around a spike which had a disastrous result.

    In a "two falls" situation, Irvine may have attempted to assist and lower Mallory and then ultimately cut the rope.

    Do you know whose glove was found near the oxygen bottle?

    I'm thinking the glove was removed to photograph the difficult step climb prior to the actual ascent of it or maybe the owner needed a toilet break. I would like to think most other actions could be done with gloves worn.

    I'm surprised the second step was not photographed in detail by Norton and Somervell. Unless of course they really had viewed it as impossible as reported.

    I hope somebody loaded the film into the camera properly. I actually bought a Kodak vest pocket to see how easy it would be to use at high altitudes. If it was used on the summit in a whiteout even a photo may not prove anything. I hope the film was loaded correctly. I believe the camera will be found with Irvine unless it was cached near an object like an oxygen bottle.

    Is it true a Chinese guy spotted a body face up and thought it was a victorian climber a while ago before Mallory was found? Do you know if there are any expeditions going out this year to look for Irvine again?

    Maybe it's time to break out a military global hawk or military drone to map the area with high-resolution optics. The world could do with some good news.
    It 100 years next year since these brave warriors were sacrificed.

    Apologies for so many questions If had the funds I would be out there looking myself.

    1. Hi Neil, thanks for being here, for your comment, and no worries at all on all the questions...I have about 10,000 more to add!

      I'll do what I can to answer most of them. Not sure if you have come upon it, but years back I wrote a 3-part series on my thinking of what happened to M&I in 1924. You can find Part I here, and there are links at the top to Parts II and III. While some of it is outdated, the key parts are in my opinion still relevant and what I believe happened in their final days and hours on the mountain. On your questions:

      Where do you think Mallory fell from? I still feel he must have fallen from 1/2 way down through the Yellow Band, or even lower. I just cannot see how he could have fallen from higher and been in the relatively good condition in which we found him in 1999. A good comparison is that we found - most likely - Sergei Arsentiev, who died in 1998 in a fall most likely from near the ridge crest below the First Step. His remains were in very rough condition, not at all like Mallory, and given the caliber of climber that Sergei was, that tells me personally a lot about where Mallory must have fallen from.

      Do you know how long the rope was that was attached to Mallory? I honestly don't know with precision. My recollection is that we brought down about 12 feet of rope, including that which was tied in a bowline around his waist. I'm guessing our book, Ghosts of Everest, has more precise info in it about the exact length. Of course, this was just what was still with him. Some could have been carried off over the years, and presumably a bunch of rope remained with Irvine.

      Do you know whose glove was found near the oxygen bottle? I don't/we don't. It was a weird find, definitely a fluke of sorts. Brent Okita and I had been searching for Wyn Harris' ice ax (as I learned later, a fool's errand as Percy had brought it down to the '33 CVI and left it there), and as we returned to Camp VI, I went off roading a bit more to meander toward the Warts, and randomly found the mitten held down in the rock not far, but far enough, off the main route. There was, sadly, no indication of whose it was.

      Is it true a Chinese guy spotted a body face up and thought it was a victorian climber a while ago before Mallory was found? Do you know if there are any expeditions going out this year to look for Irvine again? Yes, Wang Hung Bao reported finding a body in 1975, roughly 20 minutes from their Camp VI. Wang did not tell anyone (as far as we know) for 2 years, and then told a Japanese climber, Ryoten Hasegawa, about his discovery, and 2 days later Wang was killed in an avalanche. So, the story is second hand, or perhaps more as they did not share a common language. But, as the story goes Wang found a body lying in the rubble, and he noted it's "cheek" was pecked at by birds. That would indicate the body being face-up - which could not be Mallory. But, I wonder if it was a lost in translation situation, where either Wang or Hasegawa said "cheek" meaning not the facial cheek, but the butt cheek in English parlance, which would indeed correspond to Mallory's remains. Hard to say for sure, though. But, the general consensus is that Wang did find Mallory, and not Irvine.

      Hope this helps a bit, and fire away with more questions! And, you might enjoy diving into some of the discussions on the unDefined Community - lots of Mallory and Irvine talk there!

      Thanks again, and take good care!

  25. Michael Tracy's attack on you Jake are very harsh. I personally believe he is extremely hypocritical in his search of the truth.

    Michael claims (in this video at minute 7.44 : Rehinold Messner said that Mallory and Irvine could have made it through the couloir, reposting a clip of a longer video of Messner.

    However, if you watch the entire video (minute 23.30 : you will clearly see that Messner says exactly the opposite (i.e., that Mallory and Irvine could not have made it) and that Tracy's clip is a surgically cut clip taken out of context to boost his theory.

    When I pointed that out he removed my comment and blocked me. I then noticed that he was eliminating all negative comments and leaving only flattering ones cause he does not like his ideas to be challenged in any way

    1. Thank you, Antonio. I'm with you: While Michael seems to have some good and new ideas, and does some fairly thorough research, his ideas and credibility are always suspect due to his vitriolic attacks on anyone who disagrees with him. It's quite Trumpian, actually, and sadly I think shows an deep insecurity and desire to just simply be right, always, without question. Ah well, I have tried to be reasonable with him but always with the same result, so have given up on any interactions. I think honestly Michael is more interested in a monetized YouTube channel than being accurate and ethical.

      Anyway, I will have to watch the Messner interview you linked in full. But, in a quick look, an interesting bit is when Messner says that with good snow, the Couloir would be possible for Mallory & Irvine, but with bad snow - either ice or unconsolidated snow - it would be impossible. As we know from Norton's attempt 4 days prior, the snow conditions were awful. So, seems Messner is confirming that the Couloir, the ZigZag in Michael Tracy parlance, would be highly unlikely on June 8, 1924. All very interesting, and thanks again for sharing!

      Stay well, and don't take Michael's attacks and banishments to heart - it's his own issues, and no one else's!

  26. I'm very late to the discussion and I'm also just a couch mountaineer, so forgive me for a possibly stupid comment, but I wonder: If Odell had seen Mallory and Irvine at the first step at 12.50pm, wouldn't he, with his experience, immediately have realised they were way too late for a summit and added a remark about it? Him describing their progress as "going strong" IMO is a clear indication, that he saw a real chance for them. He wouldn't have if he'd seen them just at the first step at 12.50.

    1. Hi Nicole,

      Thanks for your note, and not a stupid comment at all! I had not thought about that aspect before, and it does make sense. In one description of the sighting, published in The Alpine Journal, Volume 36, Number 229, Page 41, Odell goes into some more detail about the timing and what he thinks might have transpired:

      At 12.50, just after I had emerged from a state of jubilation
      at finding the first definite fossils on Everest, there was a sudden
      clearing of the atmosphere, and the entire summit ridge and
      final peak of Everest were unveiled. My eyes became fixed on
      one tiny black spot silhouetted on a small snow-crest beneath
      a rock-step in the ridge; the black spot moved. Another
      black spot became apparent and moved up the snow to join the
      other on the crest. The first then approached the great rock-
      step and shortly emerged at the top; the second did likewise.
      Then the whole fascinating vision vanished, enveloped in cloud
      once more.

      There was but one explanation. It was Mallory and his
      companion moving, as I could see even at that great distance,
      with considerable alacrity, realising doubtless that they had
      none too many hours of daylight to reach the summit from their
      present position and return to Camp VI. by nightfall. The
      place on the ridge referred to is the prominent rock-step at a
      very short distance from the base of the final pyramid, and it
      is remarkable that they were so late in reaching this place.
      According to Mallory's schedule, they should have reached it
      several hours earlier if they had started from the high camp as
      anticipated. That they had encountered bad conditions and
      snow-covered rocks and other obstacles was likely. However,
      in my opinion, from the position at which they were last seen,
      they should have reached the summit at 4 P.M. at latest, unless
      some unforeseen and particularly difficult obstacle presented
      itself on the final pyramid. This seems to be most unlikely,
      for we had scrutinised the last slopes with telescopes and
      binoculars and had seen that technically the climbing was easy.
      Perhaps the two most likely explanations of their failure to
      return were a fall or inability to reach camp before darkness set
      in. I rather incline to the latter view, and consider it very
      probable that they sheltered in some rock recess and fell asleep,
      and a painless death followed, due to the excessive cold at those

      So many questions still swirl around this story and mystery! Keep your thoughts and ideas going, and never think they may be stupid - I think many of us in this field are prone to think with blinders on given what we've believed for so many years, and often relative newcomers can shed new light and new ideas others never think about!

      Thanks again,

  27. Hey,
    I am very late to this and have no climbing experience since I am still young so forgive me if I do not know a lot. Just some thoughts I had on the situation. First off I feel like the main thing many people neglect is the physiological aspect of if Mallory would have turned around or not. It just seems that he had become obsessed with the mountain and triumphing it. And there's summit fever which to be fair I have never experienced so take that opinion lightly.
    Secondly I just find it hard to believe that Odell saw them on any other step than the 3rd step. I understand that later on he changed these views but as stated the same year the expedition took place in the dispatches Odell states when talking about where he saw Irvine and Mallory was "The place on the ridge mentioned is a prominent rock-step at a very short distance from the base of the final pyramid". I find it impossible to believe that Odell who understood and surveyed the mountain could have seen the first or second step as being a short distance from the base of the final pyramid. Again there is the point of the oxygen bottle and the axe found of the ridge route which are vary valid arguments. Also on what Nicole said that were Odell saw them he believed that they would have still made it to the summit by 4 pm. He states in the same article from earlier that "however, in my opinion, from the position in which they were last seen, they should have reached the summit at 4 p.m. at latest, unless some unforeseen and particularly difficult obstacle presented itself on the final pyramid". I just find it hard to believe that Odell with all his experience could truly believe that they would have made the summit by 4 if they were on any other step other than the 3rd step. Then again birds could be the possibility we will probably never know.
    Finally this is not disagreeing with anything you said I just wanted to see your view on that as someone who has actually been there. I just find in most situations, I like to go to the source, and I find it crazy that some people can discredit what he said when he's the last person to ever see them alive.
    I hope one day this mystery is solved.


    1. Thanks, Thomas, and apologies for the delayed reply. Your thoughts are all very solid in my opinion, and I appreciate you sharing them. Like you, I have a hard time believing Odell would have gotten confused about the structure of the upper mountain, the steps, pyramid, etc. Afterall, they had all been staring at it for weeks, searing every feature into their memories. I remember well my first trip to Everest: I couldn't keep my eyes off the upper mountain, fixating on every aspect of it. After a week there, I likely could have drawn it out to scale with my eyes closed. That's what we learn to do as climbers going into a new realm: learn it, memorize it, commit it all to memory. I'm certain Odell would have done the same, and thus I - like you - doubt he got confused about which step or feature he saw them on, even if it was brief and/or partly obscured by cloud. The three Steps are really quite different and distinct, and fairly unmistakable especially when viewed from below, as Odell saw them. (They get far more confusing once on the Ridge, but that is not the case here.)

      As for "a prominent rock-step at a very short distance from the base of the final pyramid," I think an argument can be made for that describing both the Second and Third Steps. As you note, for it to be the Third, it is the only major feature at the base of the pyramid, so that makes a lot of sense. However, I often see the pyramid as ending with the Third Step, with it being the pyramid's base, and thus the Second Step would be the prominent one a short distance away. This is especially true when looked at from roughly Odell's position; in this case, the Second Step looks quite close to the base of the pyramid, and to my eye the Third Step seems even more like the base of the pyramid. See the photo below, and full size here.
      Dave Hahn climbs up the North Face of Everest toward Camp VI on May 18, 2004. Similar to the location where Noel Odell famously made his final sighting of Mallory and Irvine on June 8, 1924.

      As for the glove you mentioned in your second comment, are you meaning the mitten I found in 2001 on the Northeast Ridge? If so, here is a photo of it, and the full size here:
      Mitten discovered by Jake Norton on the Northeast Ridge of Mount Everest in 2001. This mitten is believed to have been either George Mallory or Andrew Irvine's, left on their fateful, final day on June 8, 1924.

      Hope this all makes sense, and thanks!

  28. I also didn't read your whole comment before and quoted the same thing my bad. Still just wanted to give my thoughts on it. And how have I never heard anything about the glove before now. Do you have any photo's of it just curious?

    Also I very much appreciate that you are willing to respond and give your thoughts on questions people have. Keep up the great work.


  29. Jake

    My name is Mark Burbridge. I am a retired Homicide Detective. I follow the search for mallory and Irvin out of historic curiosity.

    I have processed hundreds of serious crime scenes and often it is the items that are missing that are of the most interest.

    I am curious why Mallory did not have his oxygen equipment or pack with him when found. A very reasonable guess would be that they had run out of oxygen and had no need to carry the weight.. this would mean it was very late in the day when this happened...maybe leading one to believe they had reached the top of the world and the fall happened on the way down


    Mark Burbridge

    1. Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your note, comment, and insights! Sounds like you have a lot of experience in this realm and could offer some compelling insights into this enduring mystery! If you haven't already, please consider dropping by the community I built which has some great threads and contributions from those of us fairly steeped in the story of 1924. You can find the community - and the Everest 1924 section specifically - here (, and it just takes a second to register and get in.

      Anyway, as for your question, it's hard to say with certainty (as is the case with so much of this story). But, M&I presumably would have run out of oxygen somewhere near the summit if we assume that Bottle #9 was the first one they dropped and that they climbed via the NE Ridge. Thus, as you note, it would make sense that they would have jettisoned the entire apparatus rather than climbing up or down with essentially dead weight. With that, it doesn't tell us conclusively that they were climbing late into the day/evening/night, but suggests that they at least had a long day on the hill, long enough to burn through their O2 supply. The issue of his goggles being tucked away in a pocket is, to me, more of a concrete bit of evidence suggesting a descent after dark and thus a long day on the hill.

      Hope this all makes sense, and thanks again!

      All my best,

  30. Thanks a lot Jake! I didn't take into account that the 3rd step can be seen as the start of the final pyramid. And thanks for replying.


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