Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition Book Ghosts of Everest

Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition Book Detectives on Everest

Jochen Hemmleb: Where Did Odell See Mallory & Irvine?
The Observations of Andy Politz

On the morning of the first search on May 1, Andy Politz soloed up the North Ridge from Camp 5 to the area from where Odell had made his last sighting of Mallory and Irvine on June 8, 1924. Politz wanted to check how clearly visible the rocksteps of the Northeast Ridge are from this view, and if Odell could have been mistaken in what he had seen.

The exact point is difficult to locate, as Odell spoke only of the approximate altitude, "about 26,000 feet", and that he had intended "to make a rather circuitous route outwards over the northern face". We can therefore assume that his vantage point was away from the crest of the North Ridge, perhaps as much as 200 m (650 ft.). There are also indications that Odell had in fact been higher than 26,000 ft. at the time of his sighting.

Here is Politz' first account of his observations, recorded three days after his return from the mountain in an interview for PBS/Nova:

"From where I stood I could see the three steps. Odell was supposed to have seen (Mallory & Irvine) climb to the top of one of the steps in five minutes' time. And the question is whether from that perspective the steps all lined up or separated significantly enough. Could they have been confused with the Second and the Third Step? Well, I'll tell you, you're so magnetically drawn to the view and those three steps are definitely separated from that perspective. I have no doubt that he saw them on the Third Step. I think it's very obvious. What he described is clearly easy to define, even when the clouds part and you have just a few seconds of observation. And the summit pyramid stacked right behind that step these guys climbed." (emphasis added)

Upper Northeast Ridge with First, Second, and Third Step,
as seen from the vicinity of Odell's viewpoint
© Andy Politz/Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition 1999, from "Ghosts of Everest"

The last sentence is referring to Odell's diary entry, the first recording of his sighting, "saw M[allory] & I[rvine] on ridge nearing base of final pyramid."

Odell's vantage point had been away from the North Ridge, out onto the North Face, so his angle of view to the Steps would have been less oblique than Politz's. From Odell's perspective, the Steps would have been even more clearly separated.

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