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Climbers Climbers make their way up a snow ridge.
Summit Team Moves Higher
by Liesl Clark
May 16, 1999

The morning dawned clear and by 8:00 a.m. the climbers were finally on their way from Camp V to Camp VI after three long nights at 25,600 feet. At Advance Base Camp, binoculars and long lenses for our cameras came out, and what looked like tiny specks on the snow fields of Everest were our team mates working their way up to high camp. "It's very warm, no wind, very hot, over," came in Dawa Nuru's breathless voice from Camp V. He and Sherpa Ang Pasang woke up at 5:00 a.m. at the North Col and were on their way by 6:00 toward Camp VI, carrying the metal detector and extra food for the team.

Meanwhile the debate down at Advance Base Camp continues. Is there any evidence from our search that can prove whether Mallory and Irvine made it to the summit? There are the sun goggles found in Mallory's pocket, indicating he took them off at nightfall - long after he was seen by Noel Odell heading for the summit. But then again, was this his spare pair? What seems to intrigue our audience most is what wasn't found on Mallory's body: A British flag to stake on the summit, and stones from the top of the world to bring back to geologists. "There is no evidence in the literature that Mallory or Irvine planned on planting a flag on the summit or bringing back stones," counters Jochen Hemmleb.

On this final leg of our research project, there is a small piece of the puzzle that the summit climbers may be able to clarify. If the summit team finds the oxygen bottles discovered in 1991 at approximately 27,900 feet by Eric Simonson, we may have another clue to add to our speculation. The bottles are believed to be 1922 oxygen bottles, although no one from the 1922 expedition reached that elevation in an attempt on the summit. Could Mallory and Irvine have used oxygen bottles that were known to have been stashed about 300 feet from their high camp? To help find out, our summit team will go to the exact spot where Simonson found the bottles: "When you exit the Yellow Band there is a ridge section leading towards the First Step which is about 600 feet long. The oxygen bottles are supposedly half way along that section—right along the route, tucked beneath a boulder, about shoulder high." Hemmleb and Simonson will try to direct the climbers to that exact spot tomorrow. It has been described as an obvious place for a climber to take a rest.

"If the bottles are really from 1922 and Mallory and Irvine were using those bottles," notes Hemmleb, "it would mean that they probably took about three hours (maybe even less) to that point. When you use a 1922 bottle at full power, it would've lasted about two hours. If it had been a 1924 bottle, it would've lasted four hours." This is assuming that the oxygen bottles were dumped because they were empty.

"In his last note to Odell (from Camp V)," continues Hemmleb, "Mallory indicated he wanted to go for the summit on just two cylinders:
Dear Odell, We're awfully sorry to have left things in such a mess—our Unna cooker rolled down the slope at the last moment. Be sure of getting back to IV tomorrow in time to evacuate before dark as I hope to. In the tent I must have left a compass—for the Lord's sake rescue it; we are without. To here on 90 atmospheres for the two days - so we'll probably go on two cylinders - but it's a bloody load for climbing. Perfect weather for the job.

Yours ever,
G. Mallory

Oxygen may help us piece together Mallory and Irvine's summit day. The stashed oxygen bottles from 1922 could only have been used by Mallory and Irvine: The valves used in 1924 are the only types that would have the 1922 bottles. Also, the following two expeditions, in 1933 and 1938, did not get that high on Everest. If the summit team finds the stashed bottles, we will have discovered one more piece of evidence to help us reconstruct Mallory and Irvine's final hours.

Tonight, Conrad Anker, Jake Norton, Tap Richards and Dave Hahn will leave Camp VI at around 2:00 a.m. The climb to the summit, with the aid of bottled oxygen, should take them eight hours. But Anker will try to climb the Second Step without using the ladder placed there in 1975 by the Chinese. The amount of time it takes him to free-climb the Second Step will be another clue in helping us determine the likelihood that Mallory and Irvine made it to the summit.

As the snow falls lightly tonight on our tents at 21,300 feet, we silently mull over the many objectives of our mission tomorrow. Andy Politz and cameraman Thom Pollard will conduct another search for Irvine, climbing up from Camp V, after having assisted today, helping carry tents, fuel, and sleeping bags for the summit team. As the summit team moves ever higher on their quest to reach the peak - perhaps following in the footsteps of Mallory and Irvine - Politz and Pollard will make one last sweep over the high terrain where Sandy Irvine, alone, perished with the knowledge that we so desperately seek.

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)

Photo: Thom Pollard.
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