Map showing the location where Xu Jing said he saw a body in 1960. ©EverestNews.com At first we called last year's expedition, "Mallory and Irvine The Final Chapter: The retrieval of the camera". You might have noticed about half way into the expedition we dropped the part about "The retrieval of the camera". Not because we believed the camera couldn't be found. We no longer believed the camera would solve the mystery or whether George Mallory made the summit of Mt Everest.
Before the expedition, we believed what we had been told over the years: that the camera may hold photographs which could show if Mallory and Irvine summited Everest in 1924. However, our sources told us there was an old body up high up on the ridge of Everest. This made us wonder. How could Sandy die high on the ridge, but George died much lower on the mountain, and Sandy had the camera with the summit shot? It didn't make sense.
On June 8, 1924 Mallory & Irvine were spotted from below going over one of the last major obstacles of their route. The summit of Mt. Everest was only a few hours away. Swirling mists closed in. They were never seen again. Their disappearance left unanswered a question that has haunted mountaineers ever since: did they reach the top?
In 1999 the Mallory and Irvine research expedition found Mallory's body at around 8100 meters. But that was not the first time someone had found Mallory. The Chinese found his body decades earlier, in 1975. Xu Jing says, "We saw the body of Mallory in 1975". While some did not believe the Chinese, they published this information widely: mainly in Chinese articles, but also in reports to Ms Hawley. For example Samdrup, one of the 1975 Summiters, wrote to Ms Hawley in 1996 that the Chinese found a body at 8100 meters. The Chinese were clearly right...
The Chinese also state they found Sandy Irvine on the ridge of Everest in 1960 (see the map above). While many again do not believe the Chinese, we believe them. They gave us too many corroborative facts not to believe them. Furthermore, climbers who came after the first Chinese climbers saw a body on the ridge too.
The Chinese found Sandy in 1960. In EverestNews.com's exclusive interview with Xu, he says, "I saw it [Sandy's body] with my own eyes. I didn't go up and check carefully. I only said to myself: Oh another victim. "
Xu Jing: “In those years China was cooperating a lot with the Soviet Union but they wouldn’t go with us. Before the Everest climb our record was 7,000 metres so we went to Beijing University where they recommended that we learn from the Royal Geographical Society’s magazine, which was very useful and inspirational. You could say we climbed the mountain inspired by the British pioneers. That is mountaineering – you learn from the experience of others. In 1958 I investigated the route. We tried every route but the British route was the most scientific, it was longer but it was safer.“
You see, the Chinese studied the reports of the British. They probably knew 100 times more than any of us know today about the British expeditions. They picked up rope, oxygen bottles, and equipment the British left on Everest, and took it back to China to study.