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The worst book on Mallory ever written, Nov 9 2001
Quick. Who was the first to climb Mt. Everest? If you answered Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 then you stayed awake in class. But what your teachers did not tell you was that Mt. Everest may have been climbed in 1924 by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine during the last of the three British pre war expeditions. Last seen about 800 feet from the top they disappeared into the mist and into legend. Mallory was considered the finest British climber of his day and Mt. Everest was seen as his mountain. No climber has personified Mt. Everest as Mallory and his desire to conquer the summit is legendary. The mystery of whether Mallory and Irvine summited Everest in 1924 has endured for over 75 years and reached a climax when in 1999, Mallory's body was found at about 27,000 feet on the north side of Everest. This find and the ensuing speculation as to his and Irvine's fate has fueled countless books by everyone involved and some not so involved. The find has not solved the mystery and the debate still rages on. As I write this review there is now an expedition on Everest to find Irvine and the camera they were known to have taken with them. Images found in the camera could prove the pair made the summit before perishing.
Reinhold Messner was the first person to scale Mt. Everest solo and without oxygen giving him a place as one of the greatest mountaineers ever and a unique insight into the feelings that drove Mallory to fight to the end to summit Mt. Everest. It is with his new book " The Second Death of George Mallory" that Messner intends to pay tribute to the high ideals of Mallory and the death of those ideals in respect to today's mountain climbers. Unfortunately his attempt falls completely flat on it's face in a way that make's Conrad Anker's book "The Lost Explorer" look positively groundbreaking. Messner almost entirely fills the book with journal entries by Mallory w/ little to no insight from Messner. Anybody reading this article could have done that. The book should have co-author credit to Mallory. The book is a bland retelling of the well known story of Mallory's two Everest attempts in 1921, 1922 and ultimately, the fatal final climb of 1924 w/ Andrew Irvine. There are many fine books that do a much better job of detailing Mallory's expeditions to Everest, most notably: "The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine" by Tom Holzel and Audrey Salkeld. If this review in any way piques your interest in the mystery this book is the place to start. When Messner does attempt to throw out a theory or idea it is unconvincing and tinged by the attitude prevalent of today's climbers that "we could have done it but not those poor old chaps." Messner may be forgiven for maybe not being as talented a writer as a climber but I became absolutely sick to my stomach when I noticed he provided commentary from "Mallory" as if from beyond the grave!! And who would have guessed Mallory has something bad to say about everyone except Messner. Mallory from beyond earth's mortal plane bad mouths everyone from the men who discovered his body to the Chinese climbers and others. And wouldn't you know that's exactly how Messner feels as well? I still can't believe anyone would include this utter nonsense in their book. George Mallory and Andrew Irvine made their final attempt on the summit in tweed jackets and leather hobnailed boots. They were fully aware if they faltered they would die. With little resources but unimaginable courage they walked off the map into the unknown. Maybe it is better that we never know if they conquered the summit. Maybe their story is more compelling that way. But it is a story that deserves better than Reinhold Messner was able to deliver. One thing he did get right was his admitting no matter what Mallory and Irvine did accomplish on Everest, it eclipses every other mountaineering achievements including his own. Personally I believe Mallory and Irvine did summit Everest in 1924. It was a Mallory family belief that George carried a picture of his beloved wife Ruth to place on the summit. Articles found on his body included letters from relatives and friends but no picture or letter from his wife. Where are they if not buried in the summit snow?