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The Second Death of George Mallory
The Enigma and Spirit of Mt Everest
||The Second Death of George Mallory
||St Martins Press New York.
||2000 - translated by Tim Carruthers in 2001
|| (4.00 of 5)
|This easy to read book follows the Man, Mountain and Myth through the initial expeditions of 1921,’22 and ’24; The finding of the ice axe in 1933; Successful ascent in 1953; The discredited Chinese ascent in 1960; Successful Chinese ascent in 1975; and the 1999 finding of Mallory’s body.
It is a quirky book in that it includes (in stylised writing), Messner’s thoughts as to how he interprets what Mallory himself would have thought about actions then and subsequent. No-one is more qualified than Messner to assume this treatise and it is compelling reading for the most part.
Messner makes it clear that he reveres Mallory and the spirit of what Mallory died attempting to do.
Everest was within him, it was not a possession in the limited sense of what can be trodden on or handled.
He presents his views through the medium of factual premise largely taken from diary/reports of the people directly involved, backed up with personal interviews with some of them. The running commentary of Messners interpretation I sometimes found difficult to identify with due to it being outrageously presumptuous. Although a little disjointed in one place (possibly the translation), it is certainly enlightening and probably close to being fair critique as Messner has obviously done his homework and is very passionate about his thoughts due to his own close association with the Mountain and what it represents.
In terms of the spirit of the challenge he is particularly scathing of the Chinese efforts.
Messner does not think that Mallory made it past the second step, but instead he and Irvine died in the vicinity of the first step after having turned back, imagining it thus;
“All the horrors of hell converged beneath the summit. We were far too slow. There was the darkness, the route long since lost in the whiteout. There was hardly anything to aid ones sense of direction in the fading light – just yawning depths everywhere. And that dead air! Even the firmament had become a gaping abyss. Suddenly everything became uncertain, the rescue, the next step, my partner on the rope. We experienced something deeper than despair as we felt our way through our terrors, and then – a sudden jerk – the release, the fall.”
Regarding the profiteering of finding Mallory’s body he imagines;
“Later they maintained they made me a better resting place. One thing seems certain. Finding my body was not the only goal of the expedition. They are after something more difficult to find than hard evidence. Perhaps if they searched their hearts, they might see that they do not really want to know everything. Some things should remain untouched and unmeasured.”
It has an extensive bibliography for further reading if one chooses to be a sleuth.
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