On June 8, 1924, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine left their camp less than a kilometer from the summit of Mount Everest on a mission to be the first mountaineers to ascend the world’s highest peak (8,850 meters). They were never to be heard from again. Whether either man reached the summit—almost three decades before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s historic 1953 climb—has been an open question for nearly 86 years.
Although more than half a dozen expeditions have gone to Everest in subsequent years to determine the outcome of Mallory and Irvine’s expedition (a 1999 search turned up Mallory’s body), none have returned with definitive answers. The key to solving the mystery, many climbers say, is finding Irvine’s remains and with it the missing Vest Pocket Kodak (VPK) camera he was supposedly carrying with him on that fateful journey.
Everest historian Tom Holzel believes that after decades scrutinizing maps and photos of Everest’s north face, where the mountaineers are thought to have disappeared, he may have spotted Irvine’s final resting place in a high-resolution picture earlier this month. Holzel has begun mounting an expedition he hopes will visit the site either this spring or, more likely, spring 2011.