Expedition Sought to Find George Mallory's Camera
British mountaineers George Mallory is seen with Andrew Irvine at the base camp in Nepal, as they get ready to climb the peak of Mount Everest in June 1924. It is the last image of the men before they disappeared in the mountain.
The world's 14 "eight-thousanders" -- mountains taller than 8,000 meters (26,247 feet) -- are all located in Asia. On one hand, they really beautify a horizon, but on the other they present a fierce, at times fatal, challenge to mountain climbers. Beauty can, indeed, be deadly. Here's the "baby" of the bunch, Shishapangma in Tibet, peaking at 8,027 meters (26,335 feet).
This is Gasherbrum II (we'll have another Gasherbrum coming up shortly), on the border of Pakistan and China. It's 8,035 meters up in the sky (26,361 feet) and is sometimes known as K4. These mountaineers are near the summit.
Ed Darack/Science Faction/Corbis
On the left side of this picture we see the sheer mass of Broad Peak, the 12th highest mountain on the planet at 8,047 meters or 26,394 feet above sea level.
As promised, here's another Gasherbrum: Gasherbrum I. (Gasherbrum, translated from the Tibetan language Balti, means "beautiful mountain.") It also goes by the name of K5, lives along the China-Pakistan border and is 8,080 meters (26,444 ft) high.
The Himalayan mountain range Annapurna, in Nepal, is seen here from Pkhara, about 124 miles (200 kilometers) west of Kathmandu. Annapurna is considered one of the most dangerous for climbers; first crested in 1950, it has since been climbed by more than 100 people but taken 53 lives along the way.
This somewhat unsettling photo was taken in 1931 by mountaineers at a base camp on Pakistan's Nanga Parbat, the ninth-tallest eight-thousander at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet). The area captured in the picture is known as the Nanga Wall.
Association Chantal Mauduit Namaste/Corbis/Sygma
Eighth-tallest of the eight-thousanders is Nepal's Manaslu, at 8,163 meters (26,781 feet).
The Dhaulagiri mountain range in the Himalayas sports a rather volcanic look in this picture, with the sun brushing its top. But Nepal's 8,167-meter (26,795-foot) monster is of course quite chilly on top. Dhaulagiri's south face is considered by mountaineers to be a next-to-impossible climb, and no one has ever topped the mountain from that side.
Clouds hover over snow-covered Cho Oyu mountain in Tibet. The sixth-tallest mountain stands 8,201 meters tall (26,906 feet), and the "Mountain Goddess" (in Tibetan translation) is considered one of less-challenging climbs among the eight-thousanders (if you don't consider climbing ANY mountain a challenge, that is!).
Next in the eight-thousander club is Makalu, the fifth-highest mountain in the world, looming on the border between Nepal and China. It's 8,463 meters (27,766 feet) tall and is another tough climb, with 22 deaths tallied against its 206 successful climbs.
Pal Teravagimov Photography
Standing 8,516 meters tall (27,940 feet), Lhotse, fourth-tallest, rests on the border of Nepal and Tibet. It was first climbed in 1956.
Kangchenjunga, in Nepal, is the world's third-tallest mountain, edging Lhotse by just 71 meters, standing 8,587 meters tall (28,169 feet). It's a prominent mark on the horizon in Darjeeling, the tea-growing region.
K2, the second-tallest mountain on the planet, is 8,611 meters up in the clouds (28,251 feet) along the China-Pakistan border. Climbers know it for its incredibly difficult ascent routes; in 2008, an ice fall on the treacherous slopes took the lives of 11 climbers.
And now we reach the Big Daddy in the worldwide mountains club. That, of course, would be Mount Everest. Its name alone is synonymous with challenging feats, as climbing it continues to this day to be a dicey endeavor, though it draws people year after year to attempt the ascent. And what a climb: Mount Everest stands 8,848 meters tall (29,029 feet). It was famously crested for the first time in 1953 by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay.
- An effort is underway to find a camera lost on Everest 86 years ago.
- A historian believes the camera may be with the remains of Andrew Irvine (climbing partner of George Mallory).
- Finding the camera could confirm whether Mallory and Irvine made it to Everest's summit.
Tom Holzel really wants a camera. The problem is, the only camera that he'll settle for was lost somewhere on Mount Everest 86 years ago.
The lost camera is a Vestpocket Kodak that belonged to George Mallory, the climber who died just 2,030 feet below Everest's summit in 1924.
If the camera is intact, there is a possibility its photographic film is still recoverable and could contain vital images that could settle one of the great unsolved exploration mysteries of the 20th century: Were Mallory and Andrew Irvine the first to summit Everest or did they die painfully close to the top?
When Mallory's body was recovered in 1999, his camera was not among the artifacts found on his remains. This has caused veteran Everest researcher Holzel and others to speculate that the camera was being carried by his climbing partner. Irvine's body has not been recovered, but Holzel is pretty certain he knows where it is.
"Two people have seen the body and it's near where they were," said Holzel, referring to a possible body he has spotted in survey photographs of the same part of the mountain. "I'm about 85 percent confident in this one."
If Holzel can get an expedition funded and on Everest next year, he's hoping to find the body. If it's actually Irvine (there are about 120 bodies lost on Everest) they'll need a bit more luck to find the camera.
Even then, their hard work will be only half over. The camera has to be recovered without ruining what images might exist on the film. Just how to do that has been studied exhaustively by Eastman Kodak experts, who have provided Holzel with a series detailed procedures to follow.
The good news is that Everest's frozen, dry conditions are the best for preserving film. The bad news is that depending on how the camera is protected, the images may have been degraded over the years by cosmic rays.
"At the end of the day there's going to have to be a lot of luck," said Everest climber and guide Eric Simonson, who was part of the 1999 expedition that recovered Mallory's remains. "The stars are going to have to line up."
Still, he hopes Holzel may succeed.
"I support all these efforts, said Simonson, who is also co-owner of Mountain Guides, which organizes Everest climbs. But he points out that in 1999 his team was extremely lucky. They benefited, among other things, from an exceptionally dry year caused by La Nina conditions, so Mallory's body was not buried under snow.
"We went back on '04 too," said Simonson. "There were two great climbers in the right place at the wrong time -- there was two feet of snow."
Holzel has been trying to raise about $200,000 for an expedition during this year's narrow Himalayan climbing season to see if his photographic evidence is right, but the funds haven't arrived in time to get started, he said.
"What we essentially said is will give it a try, but may have to wait until next year," Holzel told Discovery News. The money would pay for a film crew and some of the best climbers in the world, he said.
"More power to Tom," said Simonson. "I wish somebody would find Irvine and put everybody out of their misery. Just to find the body would close a huge chapter."