George Mallory

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        From time to time, rarely I know but it does happen, you come across somebody whose life touches both your heart and your mind, who crosses the ages and lives on, frozen in time by the power of his own iconography. A tweed Norfolk jacket, oxygen cylinders, goggles, a missing camera, a photograph ... the paraphernalia of the ultimate lost soul. Lost and found. Beyond time. As mystical as the legendary Yeti said to roam Everest but forever elusive. For me, George Mallory is a magical name. Just uttering the name sounds poetic, a ghostly whisper to a presence 'vanishing into legend' as the haunting and poignant documentary, The Wildest Dream recalls...

        George Mallory

        • Born: George Herbert Leigh Mallory
        • Date of Birth: 18 June 1886
        • Place of Birth: Mobberley, Cheshire, England
        • Died: 89 June 1924 (aged 37)
        • Place of Death: The North Face, Mount Everest, Tibet

        • Studied: Cambridge University
        • Occupation: Teacher, Mountaineer
        • Spouse: Ruth Turner (6 October 1892 6 January 1942)
        • Children: Frances Clare (19 September 1915 2001), Beridge Ruth ('Berry') (16 September 1917 1953), John (born 21 August 1920)


        Time passing, time spent ... my interests, my fascinations, change on a daily basis. Or maybe not 'change' but get put to the back of my head as other wonders capture the wanderings of my mind. But never far from the front of my head these days is my fascination with George Mallory. The British Mount Everest Expedition of 1924 which he was part of has long since passed into the folklore of British heroism, up there with the iconic expeditions of Scott's Terra Nova Expedition & Shackleton' Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Maybe he was the first to reach the summit of Everest in 1924 with his climbing partner Andrew Irvine; maybe he wasn't - we will probaly never know unless the fabled borrowed camera is ever found. But the last film of him and his colleague is from a distance, two ghostly figures slowly disappearing from view high on the mountain, enveloped by the ethereal mists of the heavenly peak, disappearing from time and stepping from the present and into history.

        Into nothing. Nothingness.

        He had a photograph of his beloved wife which he was to leave on the summit. A sepia photograph of a beautiful woman forever young.

        75 years later his body was found, preserved in a frozen wasteland. They found his letters on his person, snow goggles but no photograph.

        But then they never found it on the summit.

        A mystical figure who leaves more questions than answers. I like that.

        THE QUOTE:

          He answered: "Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?" with the retort "Because it's there"

        It is up there with the great quotes of all time. Who cares as to whether he actually uttered these lines or not. They have become just another part of the legend that is the man. To me these are his words whether he said them or not.


        It was the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition who found him 1999. The film they shot (and sold for alot of money) of that find is fascinating to watch but at the same time it is unarguably intrusive. I read that relatives of both Mallory and Irvine were unhappy about this, indeed angry, and understandably so. 'What they did with Mallory was disgusting,' no less than Sir Chris Bonnington said. You do feel uncomfortable viewing what is after all really a private affair for the family but at the same time you wouldn't miss it for the world. Such is life.

        For my part, I would have probaly done the same.

        They buried him where he fell.

        I'm a layman in climbing. I know little other than you have to climb upwards and it looks difficult. It you don't have a head for heights then it is probaly not for you. But I've heard what I perceive as utter nonsence spoken in whether he did or didn't that in anyone's language is plain stupid. I mean, I've read the quote from the 'first' man to climb Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary that he and Tenzing Norgay were the first to climb and come down from the mountain. Others have said this as well, as though they were implying that these are the parameters in claiming to be the first. Excuse me? I don't understand. So if Neil Armstrong hadn't of returned from the moon that would mean he wasn't the first man on the moon? Perhaps this is something peculiar to mountaineering in that you have to come back alive to say you were the first. Doesn't stack up for me.


        The Wildest Dream
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        George Mallory And The Wildest Dream UK Dvd

      • The Wildest Dream [DVD]

        The Wildest Dream at the edge of Heaven. Touching the Gods a place beyond us mere mortals. At nearly 30,000 feet it is way, way beyond you and I. Mt. Everest. A fabled placed with stories of yetis and stories of tragedy. A place as beautiful as it is terrifying, scattered with corpses of those who have tried to conquer it. And here, eventually, a body found of the man who may or may not have been the first to stand on the summit and look down on the world below. George Mallory. Answered Prayers.

        Ah, the name George Mallory. Just saying the name outloud is letting something poetic curl off the tongue that speaks of adventure and the wildest dreams. Did he stand there on that peak in 1924 before anyone else? Did he? Mallory & Irvine. Two ghostly figures like pin pricks on the summit of that huge mountain who if they did would pass into the past so quickly that we will probaly never know for sure.

        For the mountain is reluctant to give up all its secrets. No trace of his companion, Irvine, no camera, no photo, goggles in his pocket as though he was descending at nightime when he fatally fell - we have tantalising glimpses of the truth but the candle flickers and we cannot read what is written.

        The film and the story it tells are woven into ice almost as one. Mallory, face down and dead in the snow for nearly ninety years and the voice of his wife in this documentary, Natasha Richardson, died shortly afterwards in the snow. And her husband, Liam Neeson with a voice approaching Richard Burton's in terms of beauty, is the narrator. It is all truly sad, truly a tale of melancholy but also of a beautiful dream.

        This film is a work of art and so beautifully shot I felt I could almost be at the foothills of the mountain looking up at men far braver than I. Two climbers retrace Mallory's steps and take us with them on this incredible journey. If you suffer from vertigo don't watch it; if you don't then the journey is almost beyond words, at least my words. The archive footage of Mallory and co lives Mallory a real presence and is blended seamlessly with the footage of the climbers of today trying to discover if he did what I dream he did. Incidentally, the chief climber, Conrad Anker is the man who found Mallory's body on the 1999 expedition which is also shown here near the start. Anker's fascination with the mountain is captured and captivating and his problems with climbing the Second Step without the ladder (as, obviously Mallory & Irvine would have done) truly has your heart in your mouth. Even non-vertigo sufferers would be terrified at the scale looking down, down, down into the abyss of certain death if you stepped off the edge of this mountain. Anker has a presence, can hold the camera and our attention with his enthusiasm for the subject matter. It is infectious. The voices of the famous actors of those from Mallory and his fabled world of long ago give gravitas to the tale.

        This is unmissable. It is poetry, man. Poetry for our grey world.

        I believe Mallory achieved his 'wildest dream' and I believe this is the film that tells us he did.

        - © Paul Page, 2013

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      • Ernest Shackleton: Biography


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