Friday, January 14, 2011


I was about 12 before I saw any mountains, and they were in the south of Scotland which hardly qualifies, as they were little more than hills. But deep within me I think I always had a fascination with them. Of course the uiltimate mountain is Everest, named after Sir George Everest, the surveyor of India in the mid-19th century. Up until then it had been called Peak 15 in the Himalaya range.

Everest has claimed many victims - in fact 216 since 1927.  In that year two men, Mallory and Irvine, were spotted on the final appoach from their last camp. They were never seen again and a mystery always surrounded their feat. Had they reached the top or failed in the attempt?

This isn't Everest I think, but it's very much like the more benign side of it.
In 1999 an expedition was undertaken to find the two missing men's remains. They had great success. Mallory was found at the bottom of an incline. His body was almost totally mummified and parts of his clothes were intact. In his pockets were found several personal items like letters from his brother and also a perfect box of Swan Vesta matches. The people in the expedition decided to leave him there and made a stone grave. Irvine was never found.

About a year after I saw my first mountain in Scotland, Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing finally scaled the 29,000 foot peak. It was a momentous occasion and we were given the day off school. Interviewed in 1986, Sir Edmund said that if they found that Mallory had managed to reach the top, he and Tensing's feat would have to be downgraded from "first men to scale it" to "first men who scaled it and survived." The mystery of whether or not the previous two ever made a final successful ascent is still unsolved, and likely to remain so.

In Big Bear, we have a boy, Jordan Romero, who conquered Everest last year when he was 13 - pretty impressive.

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