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Mallory Mallory, preparing for his final summit bid.
In Extremis
by Liesl Clark
May 7, 1999

The natural fiber clothing was the give-away, layers ripped from the impact of Mallory's fall. "It came as quite a shock," confessed Dave Hahn today in an interview at Base Camp. "We needed to go through the clothing and cut it off to be able to fully examine him. Jake found this clothing label on the neck," Hahn continued. "He pulls this 'G.L. Mallory' tag out, and all of a sudden this was something that I knew was bringing me a little closer to 20th-century history than I ever thought I'd be. And it took me a few seconds to understand that."

It is a climber's clothing that helps maintain the fragile balance between body and mountain. What moves us the most is the realization that two climbers in 1924, ill-equipped to stay out overnight on the upper slopes of Everest, still set out to try and be the first to climb to the top of the world. Certainly it wasn't their clothing that caused their demise. As Hahn explained: "He had fractures of his leg bones. He had a broken arm on the right side, and trauma to his shoulder. You could see this was a fall. You could see where the rope had bit into him, but it wasn't excessive trauma. He was at 27,000 feet, he was wearing nothing by our standards. He was going to die of exposure with such trauma."

David Hahn David Hahn

We continue to try to piece together Mallory's last moments, given what we know of his injuries and the terrain. When asked his opinion of the evidence at hand—the rope around Mallory's waist, his injuries, and his fight for life—Hahn relied on his mountaineering intuition to give us a possible scenario: "(The evidence) didn't suggest that he had fallen off of the North East Ridge. That's what you like to picture—that he's climbing on the normal route and he takes the epic fall of all time. No, this was probably from somewhere within the Yellow Band, within the cliff band. It couldn't have been several hundred vertical feet. It was a tumbling fall probably, but then he probably ended up on the steep snow slope below the Yellow Band and continued his fall and that probably was his fate. You could see he was caught in the rope so he rolled and then eventually he slid. What I thought was clear was that he stopped himself eventually and it also seemed clear to me that he was alive at the end of this tumble and slide. The rope had separated at some point. It looked like he was alive, he had held himself on the snow slope. He was in an anatomically natural position and I guess we were all struck by that broken leg and the way he had crossed his good leg over that. He was going for that last bit of relief or comfort by that last action of crossing his leg. He couldn't have been alive for very long there."

It is still Mallory's clothing that astonishes Hahn the most: "I can't emphasize it enough. I wear street clothes that are thicker than George Mallory's were up there at 27,000 feet on the North Face of Everest, and to have the shock of injury setting in, there wouldn't have been much time, the cold would've taken his life away if the injuries hadn't." (Compare the inventory of clothing found on Mallory with the clothing worn by his discoverer, Conrad Anker.)

In their next search, the climbers have one clue to hold onto while searching for Andrew Irvine. Zippers had just been invented in 1924 and Irvine was one of the first climbers to wear them on his clothing. With this information in hand, the climbers hope to find Irvine and the camera that we know Mallory and Irvine had with them on their summit climb. "My curiosity is stronger than ever," admits Hahn. "I need to go back up there and find what I can."

Unanswered Questions (May 25, 1999)
Forty-Eight Yaks (May 21, 1999)
On Top of the World (May 17, 1999)
Summit Team Moves Higher (May 16, 1999)
Still at Camp V (May 15, 1999)
Snow Bound (May 14, 1999)
Outsmarting the Weather (May 13, 1999)
Last Trip Up (May 12, 1999)
Up to ABC/The Rescue (May 11, 1999)
The Image of Mallory (May 8, 1999)
In Extremis (May 7, 1999)
Pieces of the Puzzle (May 6, 1999)
Dearest George (May 5, 1999)
Mallory's Discoverers Return (May 4, 1999)
Mallory Reported Found (May 3, 1999)
Waiting in Silence (May 1, 1999)
Up to the Search Site (April 30, 1999)
To the North Col (April 29, 1999)
Waiting out the Wind (April 28, 1999)
Search About to Begin (April 25, 1999)
Pitching a 1933 Tent (April 23, 1999)
Early Camp Found at 21,750 Feet on Everest (April 20, 1999)
Up to Base Camp (April 23, 1999)

Photos: (1) Courtesy of the John Noel Photographic Collection; (2) Liesl Clark.
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