I came across an intriguing story over the weekend that Everest fans will most certainly find it of interest. A new story in The Guardian indicates that George Mallory’s body may have been found on Everest as far back as 1936, but it was not shared with the press in order to preserve some dignity for the deceased. The revelation is part of a new biography on mountaineer Frank Smyth, who was amongst those obsessed with climbing Everest back in the 1930’s before World War II put an end to such endeavors for nearly a decade.
The book, which was written by Smyth’s son Tony, reveals letters from the famous writer and mountaineer in which he talks about coming across a body high on the slopes of the mountain. But he is also quoted as saying “It’s not to be written about, as the press would make an unpleasant sensation.” That seems to indicate that Smyth wanted to keep the whereabouts of Mallory’s remains a secret so at to not cause a stir. Considering how few people had climbed that high on Everest at the time, the body could have only belong to Mallory or his climbing partner Andrew “Sandy” Irvine.
We all know that the discovery of George Mallory’s body back in 1999 was an event that went well beyond the typical climbing community. For years people have speculated as to whether or not Mallory and Irvine actually reached the summit of Everest nearly three decades before it was finally scaled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The body didn’t provide any new insights for that debate, but it certainly brought it to the forefront once again.
While the story of Smyth discovering Mallory’s body will ultimately be a footnote in the history of mountaineering, it is interesting to think that its whereabouts could have been revealed decades before it was actually discovered. I think it was a sign of the times that Mallory and Smyth were climbing in that they would show such respect for the dignity of others, even the deceased. We don’t seem to have that same respect these days, which is a shame.
The Guardian article has a lot more information about Frank Smyth and the new biography about the climber. It sounds like it is quite an interesting read.
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