The Fight for Everest 1924

Mallory, Irvine and the quest for Everest

Author: E.F. Norton Doug Scott CBE

Series title:

Hardback publication date: 01 Dec 2015

Hardback ISBN: 9781910240397

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In 1924 a team that included Colonel E.F. Norton, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine arrived in the Himalaya. Could they make the first ascent of the highest mountain on Earth? Before they could find out, tragedy struck, and Mallory and Irvine vanished into the clouds. The Fight for Everest 1924 is the official record of the expedition.

In 1924 Mount Everest remained unclimbed. Two British expeditions had already tackled what was known to be the highest mountain on Earth. The first, in 1921, found a route to the base. The second, in 1922, attempted the summit, reaching a record height of 27,300 feet before retreating. Two years later, a team that included Colonel E.F. Norton, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine returned to the Himalaya. Armed with greater knowledge and experience, confidence was high. But they were still climbing into the unknown. How high could they climb without supplementary oxygen? Would the cumbersome oxygen equipment help them climb higher? Could they succeed where others had failed, and make the first ascent of the highest mountain on earth? Before they could find out, tragedy struck – George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, climbing high on the mountain, vanished into the clouds. First published in 1925, The Fight for Everest 1924 is the official record of this third expedition to Everest. The compelling narrative by Norton and other expedition members, and Mallory’s vivid letters home, present a gripping picture of life in the Himalaya. Notes and observations from the entire team show how far knowledge of the mountain and of high-altitude climbing had advanced by 1924, and make recommendations for future Everest attempts. As well as the full original text and illustrations, this edition reproduces some of Norton’s superb pencil sketches and watercolours along with previously unpublished materials from his private archive. These include original planning documents from the expedition, Mallory’s last note to Norton, and a moving letter to Norton from Mallory’s widow. Together, they add up to one of the most fascinating mountaineering books ever written.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Felix Norton, DSO, MC was one of the finest mountaineers of his day and a key figure on early Everest expeditions. Born in Argentina in 1884, Norton was the grandson of Alfred Wills, one of the founders of the Alpine Club. Wills built a chalet above Sixt in the French Alps where Norton spent several holidays, discovering a love for mountains and honing his climbing skills. As a young officer, he served with distinction during the First World War, and later spent time in India, gaining a familiarity with the country, its peoples and languages. During the 1922 Everest expedition, he made the first summit bid with George Mallory and Howard Somervell. Climbing without supplementary oxygen, they reached 26,985 feet – a record height. Norton returned to Everest in 1924, as deputy leader, but found himself in charge after General Bruce was taken ill. After severe weather twice forced a retreat, Norton launched a summit bid with Somervell. Continuing alone after Somervell was forced to turn back, Norton reached 28,126 feet – less than 1,000 feet from the summit, and another record height. A few days later, as he lay recovering at Camp IV, he bade farewell to Mallory and Andrew Irvine as they set off for their fateful climb. Norton was praised for his leadership, and for his handling of the aftermath of Mallory and Irvine’s disappearance, and in 1926 he was awarded the Founder’s Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society. The expedition over, Norton returned to the army, with further postings in India and England, and was acting governor of Hong Kong from 1940 to 1941. He retired with the rank of lieutenant general in 1942 and settled near Winchester, where he died in 1954, aged seventy.

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