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Noel Odell Noel Odell
Noel Odell | Sir Edmund Hillary
Geologist Noel Odell was a member of Mallory's expedition to Everest in 1924. He was also the last person to see Mallory and Irvine alive. In the mid-80s he gave an interview in which he recalled that expedition. Hear or read Odell's thoughts below:

Why Mallory took Irvine:
Hear Odell via RealAudio: 28.8 | ISDN
I think Mallory realized that, since they were going to try to get a beneficial effect from an oxygen apparatus, Irvine had done a lot of the last stages of work on the apparatus they were taking. I admitted to Mallory that he was the better mechanic than myself. He had done all the work on this apparatus. And when Mallory spoke to me about this, I said that I was perfectly satisfied, and I told him, frankly, that my interest in the mountain was not only to climb it, but also know some of the composition of it, I told him, about the geology.

Why Odell feels they might have gone for the summit:
28.8 | ISDN
I think that when they got to the foot of the final pyramid, it was late. Mallory would say, "Well, we've got to hurry up here, because it's almost approaching dusk, and along we go." I don't think Irvine in any way would have hesitated to go—nor do I think he would have been unfit enough to say, "Oh, no, I don't think we can manage it." I think he would have been perfectly willing to go on. And they might well have got to the top.

What he saw:
28.8 | ISDN
I'm absolutely certain they were climbers. They were moving, actually moving figures.

After they disappeared:
28.8 | ISDN
It was blowing very hard, and blowing snow and mist and stuff. Visibility was bad, very bad. Anyhow, I got back to the bivouac tent after looking for them above Camp VI—that's above 27,000 feet. I got up, I don't know how I got up, 17,000, 27,000 and 28,000 feet, and got back there. I signaled by very primitive means as I'd arranged with J. de V. Hazard, by means of sleeping bags placed in a certain position on the nearest patch of snow, which I did, indicating to Hazard that, "Couldn't find them," and that we must clue that they were lost.

The ice axe clue:
It hadn't slid down at all. It was lying flat there on these rocks. Well, that was left there, obviously left there, must have been left there. Whether left on the way up or on the way down is often the reason there's a question.

Sir Edmund Hillary Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay claimed the honor of being the first to reach the summit of Everest. In an interview conducted in the mid-80s, Hillary reflected on Mallory's place in history. Hear or read Hillary's thoughts below:

Mallory's place in history:
Hear Hillary via RealAudio: 28.8 | ISDN
The place that Mallory and Irvine have in mountaineering history, certainly to my generation, is a very dominant place, indeed. They were the ones who really got the ball rolling, as far as Everest was concerned. And I think that Mallory had an almost inspirational character, as far as his determination to succeed on Everest was concerned. He was the one that stimulated not only his companions, but he stimulated the whole world into an interest in the ascent of Mount Everest. So, he was a master figure in the '20s, as far as Mount Everest was concerned.

Mallory's motivation:
28.8 | ISDN
I imagine the motivation for climbers in those days wasn't too different from what it is today—a desire to succeed, the meeting of challenges, the overcoming of major problems and your own fears, and with the ultimate hope that you get to the top. But, certainly, with Mallory and Everest, it was very much a personal thing between them. Mallory, I think, did regard Everest virtually as his mountain. And he was very anxious indeed to be one of the people who actually first got to the top.

On reaching the summit:
28.8 | ISDN
When I reached the summit of Mount Everest and sort of looked around and about, and particularly when I looked down towards the North Col, Mallory actually was very much in my mind. And although I really had no hope of actually seeing any sign of his passing, I certainly looked down towards the North Col, I looked sort of over and down the very steep slopes leading from the summit. But I saw nothing, no sign of Mallory's passing.

If Mallory was there first:
28.8 | ISDN

mystery menu
If it were discovered that Mallory had, in actual fact, set foot on the top of Everest, obviously it would make some difference to Tenzing and myself. For 33 years, we have been regarded as the heroic figures who first reached the summit of Everest. Well, now I guess we'd be just downgraded a little bit, to being the first two men who reached the summit and actually got safely down again. Which brings up a point, of course. If you climb a mountain for the first time and die on the descent, is it really a complete first ascent of the mountain? I'm rather inclined to think, personally, that maybe it's quite important, the getting down. And the complete climb of a mountain is reaching the summit and getting safely to the bottom again.

Back to The Mystery of Mallory & Irvine '24

Photos: (1,2) from Everest: Mystery of Mallory and Irvine, Arcturus Films.

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