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George Mallory's Notes From Mt. Everest, Digitized 2 min read

George Mallory's Notes From Mt. Everest, Digitized

The mountaineer's letters have been collected at Cambridge, and in honor of the 100th anniversary of his death, Magdalene College has digitized and transcribed his letters.

By Cary Littlejohn

This past weekend, Courtney and I were in one of those moods where nothing in particular seemed compelling to watch. Couple that with an embarrassment of riches when it came to services and actual options to choose from, we landed somewhat casually on 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible, the documentary following Nims Purja's attempt to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks in just seven months.

It reminded me of a story I'd saved away for later: Letters belonging to George Mallory, the famed explorer and mountaineer who died on the mountain in 1924 trying to summit, were now digitized by his college at Cambridge.

It's an impressive collection, but the saddest has to be his last letter, dated May 27, 1924, to his wife, Ruth. He died with the letter on his person, and it was found intact when his body was discovered in the ice by climbers in 1999.

In it, he writes of both the struggle and the allure of accomplishing his goal:

Dear Girl, this has been a bad time altogether. I look back on tremendous efforts & exhaustion & dismal looking out of a tent door and onto a world of snow & vanishing hopes - & yet, & yet, & yet there have been a good many things to set on the other side. 

He talked of his health troubles:

My one personal trouble has been a cough. It started a day or two before leaving the B.C. [Base Camp] but I thought nothing of it. In the high camp it has been the devil. Even after the day’s exercise I have described I couldn’t sleep but was distressed with bursts of coughing fit to tear one’s guts - & so headache & misery altogether; besides which of course it has a very bad effect on one’s going on the mountain. 

The end of the note was just heartbreaking knowing the outcome:

The candle is burning out & I must stop.
Darling I wish you the best I can - that your anxiety will be at an end before you get this - with the best news. Which will also be the quickest. It is 50 to 1 against us but we’ll have a whack yet & do ourselves proud.

But the sweet postscript made me smile, a brief sneak peek into the loving relationship of the couple:

P.S. The parts where I boast of my part are put in to please you and not meant for other eyes. G.M.