The Everest Mystery 100 years on: The ‘and Irvine’ of Mallory & Irvine

Press Release
11 April 2024
The Everest Mystery 100 years on: The ‘and Irvine’ of Mallory & Irvine
Did George Mallory and Andrew ‘Sandy’ Irvine reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain 29
years before Hillary and Tenzing in 1953? Last seen by Captain Noel Odell on 8 June 1924 ‘going
strong for the top’, Mallory and Irvine disappeared in a brief storm, never to be seen alive again.
With their disappearance was born the most captivating mountaineering mystery of all time. Now, a
century later, people are still fixated on the question of whether they got to the top or not. Mallory’s
half-naked, frozen body was discovered in May 1999. Over a dozen search expeditions for Irvine’s
body have been mounted since then but nothing has been found.

Sandy Irvine was the youngest member of the 1924 expedition at just 22 years of age. A successful
oarsman, he was a member of the winning Oxford crew in the Boat Race in 1923 and crossed the
Norwegian island of Spitsbergen with an Oxford University expedition that summer. General Bruce,
the expedition leader, wrote of him: ‘The experiment of the expedition is Mr Irvine, who has
sacrificed a possible presidency of the O.U.B.C. to join us. His record at Spitsbergen last year and his
really remarkable physique, to say nothing of his reputation as a general handy man, justify the
experiment we are making in exposing one of his tender years to the rigours of Tibetan travel.’

After Mallory and Irvine disappeared, Norton wrote in his last dispatch to The Times: ‘we had here
no untried boy, but one of the most valuable members of the new expedition, and, what is more,
one who could take his place modestly, but with absolute equality, with men of so much senior age.
Then in no time his cheery camaraderie, unfailing good nature, and untiring mechanical ingenuity
and resource made him not only valuable, but invaluable.’

Editor’s Note
Sandy Irvine was born in Birkenhead 8 April 1902 and died on Everest on 8 June 1924. He was at
Shrewsbury School where, during the First World War, he developed an interrupter gear for a prop
plane and a gyroscopic stabiliser for aircraft at the age of 15. He rowed at the Henley Peace Regatta
in 1919, and was in the winning crew of the Elsenham Cup. In 1922 he went up to Merton College,
Oxford and rowed in the losing boat that year. The following year Oxford beat Cambridge by ¾
length. Irvine was at 3. He was chosen for the University expedition to Spitsbergen by Captain Noel
Odell who recommended him for the 1924 Mount Everest expedition. Irvine was oxygen officer on
the expedition, owing to his exceptional mechanical abilities. He was chosen in April 1924 by George
Mallory to be his climbing partner in an oxygen attempt on the summit.

Julie Summers is Sandy Irvine’s great niece and biographer. She published a biography Fearless on
Everest: the quest for Sandy Irvine in 2000 and has been involved in the mountaineering community
ever since, including as Chair of the Mountain Heritage Trust for two years from 2005. She curated
the Sandy Irvine Archive, now at Merton College, Oxford.

Julie Summers
07968 232476

Merton College’s exhibition ‘Sandy Irvine: Everest 1924-2024’ is devoted to Irvine’s life and runs
from 27 April 2024 for six weeks. Bookings are required (see the Merton College website after 22

‘A century in Review Symposium’ on 27/4/24 places available. Please visit

Quotations by Bruce and Norton from The Times 1924 and quoted in Fearless on Everest: The Quest
for Sandy Irvine: the only biography of
Sandy Irvine.

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