The names of George Leigh Mallory and Sandy Irvine have been inextricably linked for over eighty years, yet Irvine’s is a story that has only recently been told. He was just twenty-two when he died on the upper slopes of Mount Everest but he had lived life to the full. He was a compassionate, expressive and creative young man, talented in the field of engineering. His brilliance in redesigning the capricious oxygen apparatus for the 1924 Everest expedition and maintaining the expedition’s cameras, camp beds, primus stoves and such like was well recognised, but it was only one example in a long line of creative solutions to engineering problems. In 1917, at the age of 15, he submitted a design to the War Office for an interrupter gear which would allow a machine to fire from a propeller plane without damaging the blades as well as a design for a hydroscopic stabiliser.
An outstanding oarsman, he rowed in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1922 and 1923. He was also a wild boy with a streak of fearlessness that exasperated his parents and delighted his friends. He had a passionate love affair with his best friend’s step mother, made the first crossing of the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in 1923 and perhaps, just perhaps climbed to the top of the world 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary.