Jochen Hemmleb is a geology student who resides in Frankfurt, Germany. Now 27,
he began climbing at the age of 10 with his father. After reading a book
about the mystery of Mallory and Irvine
at age 16 he began collecting data about the mountaineering history of Everest.
HEMMLEB: Personally, I think that they had a good chance of making it
when you give Odell's
sighting credibility, which puts them very high on the mountain. I think when you go back
to Odell's first accounts, saying he saw Mallory
and Irvine at 12:50 at the base of
the final pyramid, that puts them above the Second Step,
if not on the Third Step. If they were beyond the Second Step, it would have taken them approximately three to four
[more] hours, because they were using oxygen. We have to keep in mind that both climbers were in a
very special state of mind on a very special climb. So they could have had the energy and skill
to scale the Second Step. Coming down the Second Step is a different matter, and I think that
this could have caused their deaths—actually falling off because they had nothing to anchor
their rope to.
NOVA: How do you think Mallory and Irvine perished?
HEMMLEB: I think there are two ways they could have died. Either by falling off—because there are two pitches of severe technical difficulties, one still very high up the
mountain, the summit tower, and then the Second Step itself. When they found themselves unable
to get down the Second Step, they froze to death in a bivouac. The body on the snow terrace could
indicate that the climbers had separated at one stage during the climb. One climber came down alone,
either fell to his death to that snow terrace or got lost on the way down, bivvied, and froze to death.