Mystery: Nobody knows whether Mallory reached the summit. His remains were not recovered until 1999
Everest pioneer Frank Smythe ‘saw frozen remains of George Mallory in 1936’: Mountaineer’s diary reveals sighting SIXTY YEARS before legendary explorer was found
- Mr Smythe, who came within 800ft of peak, saw body through a telescope
- He wrote of the sighting to Edward Norton, who had climbed with Mallory
- But he asked that he keep it secret to avoid causing a sensation
- A copy of the letter was found in an old diary by Mr Smythe’s son Tony
The frozen body of legendary explorer George Mallory was spotted by a fellow pioneer on the slopes of Everest decades before the remains were finally recovered, a forgotten diary has revealed.
Frank Smythe, who made several attempts on the world’s highest peak in the 1930s, wrote that he saw what he believed to be the remains of Mallory and his partner Andrew Irvine through a powerful telescope in 1936.
Mr Smythe’s report is the only sighting of Mallory’s remains before they were eventually found by Conrad Anker in 1999. It was mentioned in a letter to Edward Norton, who led the expedition in 1924 when Mallory disappeared in a bid for the summit.
A copy of the letter was found in the back of the explorer’s diary by his son, Tony Smythe, while researching a book about this father’s life.
Treacherous: Frank Smythe says he saw Mallory’s remains at the bottom of a gully on the face of Mount Everest
According to the Observer, the letter said: ‘I was scanning the face from base camp through a high-powered telescope last year when I saw something queer in a gully below the scree shelf.
‘Of course it was a long way away and very small, but I’ve a six/six eyesight and do not believe it was a rock.
‘This object was at precisely the point where Mallory and Irvine would have fallen had they rolled on over the scree slopes.’
Mr Smythe explained that he felt compelled to search the area as it was directly above the point at which a previous expedition found an ice axe, which is believed to have marked the scene of a fatal accident.
Although Mr Smythe, a prolific author, wrote extensively about his expeditions, he left out details of the sighting of Mallory, and made clear in his letter to Mr Norton that it was not to be written about, in case it triggered a storm of media speculation.
It is one of the most celebrated mysteries of modern mountaineering whether Mallory and Irvine managed to reach the summit of Everest before dying on the mountain.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay were the first climbers to definitively reach the summit, with the aid of oxygen, in 1953.
Mr Smythe reached 28,200ft in an expedition in 1933, less than 800ft from the summit, but had to turn back.
He made further attempts on the summit, including the 1936 expedition where he sighted Mallory’s remains, but never matched his record.
George Mallory, pictured in the Alps in 1909
Mallory pictured here during the First World War, died attempting to scale Everest on an expedition in 1924
Secret: Frank Smythe, pictured, wrote a letter explaining the sighting, but asked for it to go no further