How George Mallory’s body was discovered on Everest
George Mallory's body

The discovery of George Mallory’s body on Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain raised more questions than answers about the legendary pioneering alpinist. George Mallory, a legendary mountaineer, and explorer from Great Britain, participated in a daring expedition to Mount Everest long before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made their historical ascent to the summit. Mallory was 37 years old at the time, and he eagerly seized the opportunity to take part in such an exhilarating adventure, realizing that his age might render him incapable of doing so in the future. The 1924 expedition was one of three expeditions that took place in the early 1920s, beginning in 1922. The team encountered no significant issues in reaching the campsites above 20,000 feet by the end of May.

On June 4, 1924, Mallory and his climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, departed from the Advanced Base Camp and embarked on their own journey. According to the porters who remained behind at the camp, Mallory was confident that they would summit the mountain and return to the camp before nightfall. Sadly, Mallory was mistaken. The two mountaineers vanished that day, and their remains were not discovered for more than 70 years.

In 1999, a team of climbers working on the BBC’s “Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition” arrived at Mount Everest with the sole purpose of locating Mallory and Irvine. Despite the 75 years that had passed since the pair disappeared, the chances of finding them were relatively high. The freezing temperatures and permanent layer of permafrost on Everest preserve the bodies of climbers who perish on its slopes almost perfectly.

George Mallory's body
A picture of George Mallory’s body as it was found in 1999

Who discovered George Mallory’s body?

On May 1, 1999 Conrad Anker noticed a large, flat, white rock on the northern slopes of the mountain. Upon closer inspection, he realized that he was not looking at a rock, but the bare back of George Mallory. Most of Mallory’s clothing had deteriorated due to the passage of time, but the parts of his body that had been covered were still well-preserved.

Irvine’s body was never found, but his climbing axe was located approximately 800 feet above Mallory’s body. Researchers concluded that Mallory had likely been tied to Irvine, and either fell, dragging Irvine with him, or cut himself free before doing so, based on the position of the rope found around Mallory’s waist and the location of the axe. The pair’s death was attributed to a fall.

It remains unclear whether Mallory and Irvine ever reached the summit. Experts have speculated that the location of Mallory’s body suggests he was descending the mountain rather than climbing up it. Mallory was supposedly carrying a camera to document his and Irvine’s success, but the camera has never been found. Even experts from Kodak have stated that if the camera was ever found, the film could likely still be developed, but several recent expeditions to locate the film have proven to be fruitless.

Mallory’s body remained missing for over 75 years until it was discovered by a team of climbers led by Conrad Anker in 1999.

The discovery of Mallory’s body sparked renewed interest in his life and legacy, as well as the mystery of what happened on that fateful day. The condition of the body suggested that Mallory had fallen from a great height, and it was unclear whether he had reached the summit before he died. A camera that Mallory was known to have carried with him was not found, leaving open the possibility that he had taken a photograph of the summit before his death.

Where was George Mallory’s body found?

On 1 May 1999, at a height of 8200 meters (almost 27,000 feet), George Mallory’s body was located on the north slope of Mount Everest at the foot of the Northeast Ridge, Northface in Tibet, well preserved and frozen solid. George mallory body found here

Was Mallory’s Body Recovered and/or Removed?

No, George Mallory’s body was not moved, removed or relocated where it was discovered. It was buried in the same spot where the found it lying. The used rocks to cover it at the burial site below the Yellow Band on Mount Everest.

A dead corpse being found at a high altitude on Mount Everest is extremely unusual. Despite his popularity and importance, Mallory’s body is no exception. At that altitude, it’s simply too impossible to retrieve a body.
It is usually far too perilous to endanger the lives of the Sherpas (who do all of the hard labour) by dragging a dead weight down the slope. Why bother with a dead climber when it generally takes six Sherpas to rescue an injured one? The majority of bodies are found where they breathed their last.

Some guides will tip bodies over the edge to “clean up,” and any corpses left hanging on the ropes are cut away to clear the route. Everyday courtesy is quickly abandoned at high altitudes. This explains why Mallory’s body was never found since his disappearance until 1999 when they found it.

Personal Items found on George Mallory’s body

Personal items found on George Mallory's body

When Mallory’s body was discovered in 1999, a collection of personal belongings was found on him. One notable item was his snow goggles, which were discovered in his pocket. This finding has led many to speculate that Mallory and Irvine were descending at night, allowing them sufficient time to reach the summit. Additionally, Mallory’s camera was not found and a picture of his wife Ruth was missing. It is noteworthy that Mallory had always vowed to leave her picture at the majestic summit of Mount Everest, which stands at a staggering altitude of 8,848 meters. Read more about George Mallory’s Camera

  1. Remnants of a braided cotton climbing rope tied around the waist.
  2. An intact green leather hobnailed boot on the right foot.
  3. The tongue of the left boot jammed between the left foot’s bare toes and the heel of the right boot.
  4. Multiple layers of clothing, including cotton, silk underwear, a flannel shirt, woollen pullover and pants, and an outer garment resembling canvas.
  5. Clothing labels with red print reading “W.F. Paine, 72 High Street, Godalming” and “G. Mallory.”
  6. Another label with “G. Leigh. Ma” written in black.
  7. A tin of Brand & Co’s Savoury Meat Lozenges.
  8. A pair of nail scissors in a leather case.
  9. A letter inside an envelope.
  10. Handkerchiefs, one with a burgundy, blue, and green foulard pattern and another with a red, yellow, and blue pattern, both monogrammed with the initials G.L.M.
  11. A tube of petroleum jelly wrapped in a white handkerchief.
  12. One fingerless glove.
  13. A Lambfoot antler-handle pocket knife with a leather case.
  14. An intact box of Swan Vestas matches.
  15. Various boot laces and straps.
  16. A pencil and safety pin.
  17. Adjustable straps attached to a metal spring clip.
  18. A note from expedition member Geoffrey Bruce.
  19. Gear checklists written in pencil on scraps of paper.
  20. A bill addressed to G.H. Leigh Mallory, Esq., Herschel House, Cambridge.
  21. Snow goggles.
  22. A Borgel wristwatch found later by Andy Politz and Tom Pollard.

The condition of George Mallory’s body when it was found

When George Mallory’s body was discovered on Mount Everest, it was notably intact, but it had suffered some damage from exposure and scavenging birds. The alpine choughs had pecked at the right leg, buttocks, and abdominal cavity, consuming most of the internal organs. Despite this, the body remained largely preserved due to the freezing conditions.

Mallory’s face, though recognizable, showed signs of exposure and decay. His eyes were closed, and there was stubble on his chin. However, the forehead above his left eye exhibited a puncture wound, from which two pieces of skull protruded, indicating a significant injury. Dried blood was also present on his face, suggesting trauma sustained during the climb or after his death.

Despite the effects of time and the elements, Mallory’s features were still discernible, allowing the expedition members to observe and document his condition before burial. This discovery provided valuable insights into Mallory’s fate and the challenges faced during early attempts to conquer Mount Everest.

George Mallory's full Body as discovered on EverestCircumstances surrounding the discovery of George Mallory’s remains on the northern slopes of Mount Everest.

On the first day of May in 1999, an American mountaineer named Conrad Anker came across a remarkable sight as he made his way up the northern slopes of Mount Everest as recounted in the video above. There, nestled on the rugged terrain, was a large, flat piece of rock that caught Anker’s attention. However, upon closer inspection, he soon realized that this “rock” was no ordinary stone. It was, in fact, the exposed back of George Mallory, a renowned British explorer who had vanished on the treacherous mountain nearly 75 years earlier. Mallory was believed to have been one of the first individuals to ever conquer Everest’s summit. The passage of time had taken its toll on Mallory’s attire, but the frigid glacial conditions on Everest had miraculously preserved a significant portion of his body. This allowed experts to meticulously piece together the final moments of Mallory’s life. It became apparent that Mallory’s journey had met a tragic end, most likely the result of a catastrophic fall during his ascent. His broken leg and arm, coupled with the discovery of an ice axe above him, indicated the grim circumstances surrounding his untimely demise. Sadly, Mallory’s final moments were not swift, but instead were filled with anguish and pain. It was noted that before his passing, he had crossed his uninjured leg over the broken one in a desperate attempt to alleviate the excruciating agony. Realizing the slim chances of being rescued, Mallory’s actions painted a bleak picture of his consciousness slipping away and his acceptance of an unavoidable fate.The condition of George mallory's body on Everest

What might have happened that led to the death of Mallory and Irvine

Here’s a timeline of what might have befallen the duo during the descent of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine from the summit of Mount Everest on June 8, 1924, leading to their deaths:

June 8, 1924 – Late Afternoon

  • Summit Achieved: Mallory and Irvine likely reach the summit of Mount Everest late in the day, close to sunset.
  • Beginning Descent: As the temperature drops and monsoon storm clouds gather, they begin their descent from the summit pyramid. They are already exhausted after a long day.

Early Evening

  • Descent to Third Step: They descend from the summit pyramid to the Third Step relatively smoothly, following their ascent route.
  • Approaching Second Step: They reach the top of the Second Step, but the lack of fixed lines and anchors makes the descent perilous.

Fading Light

  • Second Step Descent: Mallory lowers Irvine down the Second Step using a rope. Mallory then attempts to descend with Irvine providing a hip belay.
  • Mallory’s Fall: Mallory slips and falls onto the snow platform, sustaining injuries. Both climbers are now moving more slowly due to injuries and exhaustion.


  • Continuing Descent: They carefully descend through the Corkscrew Chimney and traverse the exposed ledges towards Mushroom Rock. Despite the temptation to stop for the night, they continue descending due to the lack of shelter and supplies.
  • Reaching First Step: They descend the First Step in the dark, guided by the moonlight, and move onto the easier terrain of the lower Northeast Ridge.

Darkness and Exhaustion

  • Navigational Error: Mallory and Irvine mistakenly choose the wrong gullies to descend from the ridge. These gullies seem logical but lead to a steep cliffband.
  • Mallory’s Fatal Fall: Mallory lowers Irvine down the cliffband. During Mallory’s descent, he falls again, the rope breaks, and he falls to his death. Irvine, likely injured and exhausted, finds shelter in a small dihedral to wait out the night.


  • Irvine’s Struggle: Alone and exposed to the freezing temperatures, Irvine succumbs to the cold overnight.


  • Discovery Years Later: Mallory’s body is found in 1999 with injuries consistent with a major fall. Irvine’s body is reportedly seen in 1960 but has not been definitively located.

This reconstruction is based on artefacts found, historical accounts, and modern explorations, reflecting the extreme challenges Mallory and Irvine faced on their tragic descent

100 years after the fatal climb, George Mallory’s letters to be published

Now, 100 years after Mallory’s fatal climb, Magdalene College, Cambridge, will make public digitised copies of his letters, including those exchanged with his wife Ruth. These letters provide unprecedented access to Mallory’s thoughts and marriage leading up to his death. The correspondence covers various topics, such as Mallory’s experiences during World War I and his visit to the US in 1923. Katy Green, the college’s archivist, highlights the excitement of having a direct connection to Mallory through his letters. The digitised collection also includes Ruth’s letters, which provide valuable insights into women’s lives. The letters mention other notable figures who knew Mallory, such as Lytton Strachey, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. Mallory’s fate, however, is inevitable, and his final letter to Ruth before his death is included in the archive, expressing his determination and love for her. The archive also contains letters of condolence and three letters discovered with Mallory’s body in 1999.

George Mallory's letter
In one letter Mallory recounts the ‘tremendous effort and exhaustion’ of a climb and apologises to his wife for the scrappy letter as he had missed the mail deadline.

George Mallory’s Final Resting Place

He is buried near the base of the Scree Slope, right below the Yellow Band, a layer of metamorphosed limestone visible from the North Base Camp just below the summit. The discovery of Mallory’s body raised more questions than answers, particularly regarding his final resting place on the mountain where it was buried with stones and debris at the same place it was found. His body was found at an altitude of over 26,000 feet, which was higher than where he was believed to have fallen. This led to speculation that his body had been moved by other climbers or by the shifting of ice and snow.

The GPS coordinates of the burial site are known but not publicized in order to prevent grave robbing. As a result, it is even more puzzling that Mallory’s body has yet to be discovered by those who know where it should be.

George mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine Memorial Site

Related: Who is Green Boots the famous body on Everest?


Q: Was George Mallory the first person to climb Mount Everest? A: No, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953.

Q: Did George Mallory reach the summit of Mount Everest? A: It is unclear whether Mallory reached the summit before his death, as his body was found at a lower altitude than where he was believed to have fallen.

Q: Why is George Mallory’s story important? A: George Mallory’s legacy as a pioneering mountaineer and adventurer continues to inspire generations of climbers and adventurers.

George mallory's face Conclusion:

The story of George Mallory’s body and the mystery surrounding his final resting place on Mount Everest is one that continues to capture the imagination of adventurers and mountaineers around the world. Despite the passage of time and the efforts of countless researchers and climbers, the mystery remains unsolved. However, Mallory’s legacy as a pioneering mountaineer and adventurer continues to inspire and captivate, reminding us of the enduring human spirit of exploration and adventure.

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Aug 16, 2023
Didn’t you mean to say it is puzzling that Sandy Irving’s body has yet to be found? I enjoyed the article.

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