Tomorrow, Conrad Anker’s Altitude Everest Team will being their summit push, with the hopes of being on top by the weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, the team will be going up in vintage 1924 climbing gear and will be re-enacting the climb of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine for a documentary film. The team arrived late at the mountain, and just recently finished acclimatizing, because they wanted to let everyone else on Everest summit and get down before they began their climb.
One of the big challenges for re-creating Mallory’s climb is that there wouldn’t have been a ladder at the Second Step to assist he and Irvine as they went up. So, when the Altitude Team reaches that point on the mountain, they will remove the ladder, and attempt to free climb that trick secition, in order to prove that Mallory could have done it back in 1924 and possibly gone on to the summit.
The Second Step is a steep, 40m high rock outcropping that is a challenging free climb due to the high altitude. Most climbers wouldn’t likely get past it without the ladder in that is in place there now.
This isn’t the first time someone has free climbed the Second Step however. MountEverest.net has posted an interesting article on others who have done it before, including Oscar Cadiach, who accomplished the task back in 1985 in monsoon conditions with out supplementary oxygen. The climb was later duplicated by Theo Fritsche in 2001, but the real question is: Did Mallory do it?
Cadiach may be the best person, at least right now, to answer that question. He returned to Everest in 2000 to do a similar climb to the one Anker and his team are attempting now. Dressed in vintage gear, Cadiach went up the mountain, but only got as far as the First Step, while his climbing partner, playing the role of Irvine, went up to the Second Step before turning back. Cadiach says they turned back due to bad conditions and bitter cold in the gear they were wearing, and he seriously doubts that Mallory topped out, and in fact he believes that died from the extreme cold that their gear did little to protect them from.
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