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 George Mallory

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George Mallory

Mountaineer. He helped lead the first three expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s, and vanished while attempting to reach the summit. When a journalist asked why he wanted to climb the world's tallest mountain, Mallory famously replied, "Because it's there". This often-quoted remark, and the mystery that still surrounds his death, have contributed to his legendary status among adventurers. George Herbert Leigh Mallory was born in Mobberley, Chester, England. The son of a clergyman, he climbed the roof of his father's church as a child and later honed his skills on the jagged cliffs of Northern Wales. From 1905 to 1909 he studied history at Cambridge, where he became friendly with future members of the Bloomsbury Group. In 1911 he climbed Europe's highest peak, Mont Blanc in the Alps, and in 1913 he scaled England's Pillar Rock solo. Tall and classically handsome, Mallory quickly became a "star" among mountaineers. Fellow climbers were awed by his bravery and cat-like agility, and his seeming imperviousness to the cold. He was also notoriously absent-minded, a trait that put him into more than one life-threatening situation on the slopes. During World War I he served as a Lieutenant with the Royal Garrison Artillery until invalided out of combat duty in 1916. He eventually regained his health and resumed climbing after the Armistice. As a key member of the pioneering British expedition to Everest in 1921, Mallory explored the mountain's North Face and charted a possible route to the summit. In 1922 he returned to Everest and reached a record-high altitude of 27,000 feet before high winds drove him back. Determined to reach the top, he set off on another summit bid too soon after a snowfall and triggered an avalanche that killed seven of his Sherpa porters. Mallory himself slid 150 feet down the mountainside but escaped uninjured. Back home he was criticized for his role in the disaster. When the ambitious 1924 Everest expedition was mounted Mallory was invited but not as a lead climber, a humiliating gesture given his experience. He went anyway, and once there became the de facto leader of the group. Just before dawn on June 8, 1924, Mallory and his young colleague Andrew Irvine left their high base camp and began climbing towards the summit. The two men were last spotted about seven hours later, "going strong for the top" some 2,000 feet above the camp. They never returned. Mallory's exact fate was unknown for 75 years. On May 1, 1999, climbers discovered his frozen body on a rock terrace at the 27,000-foot level of Everest. It was determined that he suffered head and leg injuries in a short fall and probably died from exposure soon afterwards. The question of whether he and Irvine actually reached the summit or perished in the ascent remains unsolved. Mallory was buried where he fell. In 1922, a year before he brushed off a pushy reporter with his "Because it's there" quip, Mallory was more expansive about his quest to conquer Mount Everest. "It's of no use", he said. "If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life".

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 16 May 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5477
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for George Mallory (18 Jun 1886–8 Jun 1924), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5477, citing North Slope of Mount Everest, Tibet (Xizang) Region, China ; Maintained by Find A Grave .