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Questions and Responses
Set 5, posted May 11, 1999
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Question:

Disgraceful behavior—selling pictures of George Mallory's body. It is the family who should have decided whether or not they should be released. Bad show, Nova.

Peter Edwards
Bern, Switzerland



Response from NOVA:

NOVA was not involved in selling the photos of George Leigh Mallory's body. As we proceed to cover this story on this Web site and in the upcoming NOVA program we will endeavor to take into consideration the wishes of the Mallory family and the dictates of good taste and journalistic responsibility.



Question:

The climbers mentioned seeing other bodies while searching for Mallory. Did they attempt to identify them or at least gather info so that others might know who they were? What will be the focus on their second search attempt in that same area?

(name witheld by request)



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

On the first search effort no attempts were made to identify the bodies specifically. The body of Andrew Irvine will be the focus of our second search.



Question:

What would your feelings be if the results of your expedition were to displace Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's place in history?

Larry Buttrey
Long Beach, CA



Response from Ned Johnston, expedition cameraman:

In the unlikely event that we find conclusive proof that Mallory and Irvine made it to the summit, Hillary and Tenzing's place in mountaineering history will in no way be diminished. They are still the first climbers to make it to the summit and return successfully.



Question:

I am a writer working on a novel about a mythical British Everest Expedition from Tibet in 1949. I am puzzled about what type of climbing ropes would have been used then. Would climbers use the traditional hemp and silk ropes from the earlier pre-war climbing era, or would new technology have made nylon climbing ropes available? I know this is off the direct topic of your Web site, but I have searched far and wide and can't get an answer. Any help would be appreciated. Incidentally, many congratulations on a superb, multimedia site. It's terrific!

Susan Bugler
Queensland, Australia



Response from Jochen Hemmleb:

Hemp ropes were still pretty much the order at that time but the first nylon ropes started to appear in the late 40s - early 50s.We will check with Andy Politz, our rope expert, "the King of Sting," and try to get back to you.



Question:

As a person who has read James Ramsey Ullman's book Kingdom of Adventure: Everest perhaps 10 times, I have been riveted to your progress reports. Could you kindly answer three questions:

1. How many modern (post-war) expeditions to the North side of Everest have there been?

2. Which were the most significant ones and very briefly what did they accomplish?

3. Could you by any chance spot the approximate location of Somervell's 1924 picture of Norton at 28,000 feet on your map (Ullman, pg. 183)? The terrain in that picture does not look particularly challenging. (Likewise Ullman pg. 279.) Would you care to comment?

Thanks much.

Dick Tuthill
Bolton, CT



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

1. Our resident Everest historian Jochen Hemmleb responds that it is now beyond 100. Up to 1995 there had been 130 ascents of Mallory's original route.

2. The most significant ascents of the North side were
  1. 1980: First ascent of the Hornbein Couloir direct by the Japanese.
  2. 1980: Reinhold Messner's solo ascent via the North Col, North Face, and Great Couloir. This was the first complete solo ascent of the mountain and will probably always be.
  3. 1984: The Australian ascent of the Great Couloir direct. This was, besides Messner's ascent, the first time that a new route was climbed without oxygen.
  4. 1984: American ascent of the North Face variation from the North Col into the Great Couloir (Erschler variation).
  5. 1986: 40-hour ascent of the Hornbein Couloir by Erhard Loretan and Jean Troillet without oxygen (descent accomplished in just four hours—sliding on their backsides).
  6. 1986: First Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition failing to get past 8000 meters, found nothing in the heavy snow.
  7. 1988: First crossing of the Pinnacles (Northeast Ridge) by Harry Taylor and Russell Brice.
  8. 1991: First ascent of the American route on the Great Couloir, left side.
  9. 1995: First female solo ascent of Everest without oxygen by Alison Hargreaves.
  10. 1995: First ascent of Northeast Ridge integral by the Japanese.
  11. 1996: 17-hour ascent of the North Ridge by Hans Kammerlander who subsequently skied down from the summit.
  12. 1997: First ascent of the Northeast Couloir by a Russian expedition.

3. The spot where Somervell took his highest picture of Norton is 70 meters vertically down from the top of the Second Step on the Yellow Band near the junction with the overlying gray band. The terrain depicted on the picture is steeper than it appears (about 45 degrees) and the slabs are downsloping and overlapping, making for very insecure going. Norton described it very well: "I found myself stepping from tile to tile, as it were, each tile sloping smoothly and steeply downwards; I began to feel that I was too much dependent on the mere friction of a boot nail on the slabs. It was not exactly difficult going, but it was a dangerous place for a single, unroped climber, as one slip would have sent me in all probability to the bottom of the mountain." (Norton's The Fight for Everest: 1924 p. 112 )



Question:

I am a climbing scientist, with three decades of experience up to 21,000 feet.

Just wanted to mention that although most historians think that the "found ice axe" had to have been dropped by Mallory and Irvine (like Unsworth p.178), I have never been so sure. In T. Howard Somervell's book After Everest on p.130 he mentions that he dropped his own ice axe while retreating from within 900 feet of the summit. It would be the same vintage as M&I's axes and easy to confuse. I wanted to point up this seldom discussed observation in case you find M&I on one rope with two axes near their remains, and have this logical problem to solve.

Rich Metcalf, Ph.D. Glaciologist & Geochemist
Everett, WA



Response from Jochen Hemmleb:

The place where Somervell dropped his ice axe was on the Yellow Band between the First and Second Steps which is about 300 yards closer to the summit horizontally than the point where the ice axe was found. And it was also almost at the same altitude. Also, Somervell describes his ice axe "still going strong" then vanishing from view.



Question:

Having heard the news that you had located the body of Mallory I was wondering if you were still actively looking for the body of Irvine?

In one of the news reports it stated that ropes were still attached to Mallory's body and I was wondering—if one of them had fallen then presumably he would have taken the other with him. Therefore they would still be attached together?

I also hear that the camera has not been found. Where would you start to look for it? It could have fallen a long way!

Keep up the good work. It's all very interesting!

Mark Bewick
King's Lynn, Norfolk, England



Response from Lee Meyers, expedition doctor:

Yes, the rope broke and we're still looking for Irvine and the camera.



Question:

What would your feelings be if the results of your expedition were to displace Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's place in history?

Larry Buttrey
Long Beach, CA



Response from Ned Johnston, expedition cameraman:

In the unlikely event that we find conclusive proof that Mallory and Irvine made it to the summit, Hillary and Tenzing's place in mountaineering history will in no way be diminished. They are still the first climbers to make it to the summit and return successfully.



Question:

There has been a bit of a feud regarding claims made about the first ascent of Denali. Photographs taken on that expedition were claimed to have been taken higher on the mountain or even on the summit. Others say that they were taken much lower on the mountain. Should Mallory's camera be found, what would you look for to verify that the photo was taken on the true summit?

Larry Buttrey
Long Beach, CA



Response from Jochen Hemmleb:

I would take a sharp look at recent summit photographs and check whether features visible on those photographs (other mountain ranges, glaciers, etc) show the same alignment as Mallory's photograph. This is a simple cartographic technique called "back bearing."



Question:

Just what is "Hornbein's Sludge?"

Larry Buttrey
Long Beach, CA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Hornbein's "sludge" is the most delicious, smooth, and sensuous chocolate sauce that must go on pure vanilla ice cream. To die for. Tom Hornbein, to this day, has not shared his recipe with anyone.



Question:

Will the film of this expedition be shown in IMAX format?

Dave Brown
Coventry, UK



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

No. It will air on both NOVA and the BBC some time this fall or winter. Check your local listings.



Question:

I understand that the team found Mallory's body with the rope tied around his waist. What was on the other end of the rope? Was there and indication that the rope was attached to Irvine, was it cut or chaffed? In effect did the rope indicate that there was an accident? Do you know if the body was found at a lower altitude than the height that the 1924 expedition last saw them?

Regards. Response from Jochen Hemmleb:

Clive & Richard Bolt
Auckland



Response from Jochen Hemmleb:

The body was tangled up in the rope and the rope was broken. The conclusion derived from this is that Mallory fell probably taking Irvine with him and the rope (possibly caught on a rock) severed between the two men. The body was found a least 900 feet below the site where they were last seen.




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