On this day in 1924, George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Irving set off on their third and last attempt to climb Mount Everest’s summit, one they would not return from. 

Up to this point, many journeys up the mountain had been made, although none had reached the top. These images demonstrate the landscape’s drama and the feat’s arduousness, as it looms large in the background. 

After two unsuccessful attempts from the party on alternative routes, Mallory and Irvine set off to ascend the crest of the Northeast Ridge, overcoming two daunting buttresses they called the First and Second Steps. At 12:50 – later than expected – the two were spotted less than 1000 ft from the top by Noel Odell, climbing the lower Step. Then, the clouds rolled in, and they were never seen again. 

This expedition makes the question of who first reached the top of Mount Everest a complicated one to answer. In recent developments, the fate of the two climbers is once more in question, as their bodies have mysteriously disappeared off the mountains. 

We should comment on the Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers the team were pictured wearing, which (as crazy as it seems looking back on it now) were donned around the base camp, or for the beginning of the journey through Tibet. For the high-altitude climbs, windproof cotton “Shackleton” jackets developed for the Antarctic were worn, fully equipped with fur-lined leather motorcycle helmets. Mallory also wore a flannel Alan Paine shirt and leather, studded boots for grip.

Also pictured here, Norton and Somervell with three sherpas; Norbu Yishe, Lhakpa Chjedi and Semchumbi. Also, the Members of the 1924 Everest expedition team before commencing their climb from base camp- back row, left to right: Andrew Irvine, George Mallory, Edward Norton, Noel Odell, and John Macdonald, front row: Edward Shebbeare, Geoffrey Bruce, Howard Somervell, and Bentley Beetham.

Visit the fantastic exhibition ‘Everest 24’ at The Royal Geographical Society in London, to delve deeper into this mystery – open until 11th June 2024.