Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Because it's there

Had lunch with my colleague James and heard all about his mountaineering adventure earlier this summer when he set out to climb Mt Muztagata (7,546m) near Kashgar in western China. James is more of a runner rather than a climber, but there's a story behind it. His grandfather's cousin was Eric Shipton, the famous mountaineer who, in the 30s & 40s, did much of the paving of the way for the eventual scaling of Mt Everest and would have led the successful 1953 climb had not John Hunt pipped him to the leadership role. Anyway, in the late 40s he was also HM Consul in Kashgar and during that time attempted to climb Mr Muztagata but failed just short of the summit.

So James was following in family footsteps. Lots of preparation went into it and it sounded like an amazing experience. Did he reach the top? No, like his distant relative, not quite!

This evening I watched The Wildest Dream, a documentary about George Mallory's three attempts on Mt Everest in the early 1920s, 30 years before Hilary and Tensing's. On the third, in 1924, he and Sandy Irvine were last seen alive just a few hundred metres from the summit. No-one knows if they made it. The film follows American mountaineer Conrad Akker's attempts to retrace their steps and amazingly they found Mallory's body 75 years later in a spot which would seem to indicate that he was on his way down, and that he didn't have a photo of his wife on him which he had promised to place on the summit. So, did he make it...?!    

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