George Mallory
image source

George Mallory, an English mountaineer, succeeded in writing his name in the sands of time by taking part in the first three Mount Everest expedition in the early 1920s. Even though his attempt at getting to the summit of the mountain eventually claimed his life, he is still considered to be a hero in Britain and also in the world.

In the course of the 1924 British Mount Everest expedition, George and his climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, disappeared. George’s ultimate fate remained unknown for 75 years until his body was eventually found on 1 May 1999 by an expedition that had set out to search for the climbers’ remains.

George Mallory Biography

Born in Mobberley, Cheshire, as George Herbert Leigh Mallory around 18 June 1886 – 8 or 9 June 1924, the mountain climber is the son of clergyman Herbert Leigh Mallory and Annie Beridge, daughter of a clergyman. He has three siblings – two sisters and a younger brother named Trafford Leigh-Mallory. He, alongside his siblings, grew up in a ten-roomed house located on Hobcroft Lane, Mobberley.

In 1896, George Mallory transferred from a prep school in West Kirby to a boarding school in Eastbourne known as Glengorse. Being brainy, he won a mathematics scholarship at the age of thirteen and this gave him an opportunity to study at Winchester College. During his final college year at the school, a master, R. L. G. Irving, who usually took a handful of people climbing every year, introduced him to rock climbing and mountaineering.

Upon his graduation from Winchester, George continued his education at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he studied history. There, he met and became close friends with the six men who eventually became members of the Bloomsbury Group, made up of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists who were all English.

After bagging a degree in history, the Mountaineer remained in Cambridge for one year, writing an essay titled Boswell the Biographer, which he later published in 1912. Moving forward, Mallory took up a teaching job at Charterhouse in Godalming, Surrey, South East England. While there, he gave his all, according to his then pupil, poet Robert Graves. George also met his wife, Ruth Turner, during his time at the school and they got married in 1914.

George Mallory
George Mallory, far right in the back row, during an Everest expedition in 1921 image source

The couple was blessed with three children- two daughters named Frances Clare (19 September 1915 – 2001) and Beridge “Berry” Ruth (16 September 1917 – 1953) and a son, John (born 21 August 1920).

George Mallory was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery in December 1915 and in 1917, he was promoted to lieutenant. He fought in the Battle of the Somme (the battle of the First World War), serving in France. He continued his teaching job at Charterhouse after the war and later resigned in 1921 so as to join the first Mount Everest expedition.

Between the expeditions, there was still need to make ends meet so in order to earn a living, the climber took to writing and lecturing though with little success. He later took a lecturing job at the Extramural Studies Department of the Cambridge University in 1923 but took a temporary leave the following year to take part in that year’s Everest attempt.

Facts You Need To Know

1. Mount Everest wasn’t the only Mountain he climbed

Before the 1924 Mount Everest expedition, George had been involved, either individually or in a group, in climbing other mountains, including the Mont Vélan in the Alps (1910), Mont Blanc (1911), Pillar Rock in the English Lake District (1913) and the initial 1921 British Reconnaissance Expedition.

2. Did Mallory and his partner make it to the summit of Mount Everest?

By the time he joined the 1924 Everest expedition, led in 1922, by General Geoffrey Bruce, he was 37 years old and he believed it would be his last chance to climb the mountain considering his age. While touring the United States before the expedition took off, he declared that the team would successfully make it to the summit. However, as it stands today, the question of whether he and his partner reached the summit of Mount Everest remains a topic of debate and research.

This is because Mallory and his partner, Andrew Irvine did not make it back alive from the journey. They were presumed to have died either late in the evening of June 8, 1924, or June 9th as they were both last seen on the former date by Noel Odell, a member of the expedition who was moving up behind the duo.

3. A memorial service was held in his honour 

Following the news of their disappearance, George Mallory and Irvine were widely mourned and praised in Britain as national heroes. On the 17th of October 1924, a memorial service was organized at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, with a host of family, friends, and highly-placed people such as King George V and some members of the royal family, in attendance.

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4. How his corpse was identified

Several expeditions were made to find Mallory and his partner’s body and, if possible, determine if they had made it to the summit. Finally, in 1999, the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition found a frozen body at 26,760 ft (8,157 m) on the north face of the mountain. Although it was initially thought to be Irvine’s body because it was found below where his axe had been found, a name tag on the body’s clothing revealed it was “G. Leigh Mallory”.

As a result of the freezing conditions in the area, the body was very well preserved and from the pockets of the clothing were recovered a brass altimeter, a stag-handled lambsfoot pocket knife with leather slip-case and a pair of snow-goggles among other personal belongings.

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