[info]aldiara wrote
on March 19th, 2012 at 02:04 am

Mallory & Irvine: A Historical Mountaineering RPS Post (What? Yes! Oh God.)

I have been meaning to post more but could not really think of what, as I'm on a strictly limited allowance of Crazy Things My Cats Did posts. I have, however, recently rediscovered my love of reading (something I didn't have too much time for the past few years), so I've been devouring books like a Death Eater eating, uhm, death (or possibly treacle).

One of the things I have been reading about is climbing. I used to climb and used to love it but I've kind of grown too old and lazy to do it, and also, mountains are fucking terrifying. I mean, they're entirely awesome in every way but personally I'm done crawling all over them with a big neon-green sign reading "COME AND KILL ME" around my neck, you know?

Instead, I read about other climbers, which is great fun, very educational and very much less lethal.

So without further ado, let me present to you two mountaineering legends of the early 20th century and their Great Clandestine Gay Love Affair (As Totally Fabricated By Me):

George Herbert Leigh Mallory and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine.

George Mallory and Sandy Irvine were British mountaineers. In 1924 they had a risky threesome with a lady called Chomolungma on the border between China and Nepal.

No, she wasn't a clap-ridden local prostitute:

Chomolungma, Qomolangma or Sagarmatha is also known as Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Qomolangma translates as "Holy Mother", as in "Holy Mother of God, Normal People Can't Breathe At 8,848 Metres." Here, have an animated picture so you can properly appreciate how pants-shittingly terrifying it is from every angle:

Everest was first successfully climbed (as in: two people with balls the size of melons made it to the very summit, yelled "FRIST!!!!!1!!!1!!!!" and - this part is important - climbed back to the bottom alive) in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand (\o/) and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali Indian Sherpa. However, there was no shortage of attempts before that, and those early Everest challengers could easily take Sir Ed and Tenzing in the ball-size department.

Enter George Mallory:


Mallory had been a climber since childhood and is famous for his succinct summary of the irresistible allure of mountaineering: When asked by a reporter why he wished to climb Mount Everest, he is said to have responded, "Because it's there, you twat."

He also looked extremely dapper in a suit.

From 1921 on, he was involved in several British exploratory expeditions attempting to map, and then climb, Everest. A couple of these attempts ended badly (as in, seven Sherpas died in an avalanche), which did not go over so well in the eye of the public or the mountaineering community. So when a final attempt on the summit was made in 1924, Mallory (then 36) knew this was his last chance. He made a bid for the summit in June 1924 with his climbing partner Sandy Irvine, and both promptly disappeared from the face of the Earth, with no one the wiser as to what had happened to them and whether they actually gained the summit of Everest 30 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did. Very sad.

Since there are already any number of highly historically accurate and well-researched articles about this all over the internet, there is strictly no need for me to do another one, except to bring you all the evidence that Mallory and Irvine were obviously boyfriends.


Not that this was public knowledge, of course. In fact, most versions of George Mallory's photo above very tackily have a rather important part of it chopped off:

That's Ruth, George's wife. I can only assume that everyone who crops her out of his picture is an unsubtle Mallory/Irvine shipper like me and is giving her the Ginny Weasley treatment, which is all kinds of unfair because how lovely was she?

So lovely.

While George was prancing about the Himalayas figuring out ways how best to die gasping like a fish out of water (hint: human lungs aren't really built for airplane cruising altitude), Ruth stayed home taking care of their three kids and writing worried letters to her mountain-obsessed husband. It kind of sucked to be her.

But pretty!

But this post isn't about her, if you'll recall. It's about her mad, adventure-driven, Everest-coveting husband: mountaineer, sportsman and pithy-repartees-to-obnoxious-reporters-provider. And nude model.


Yes. When he wasn't too pre-occupied looking extremely cool leaning against walls...

...and hanging out on boats with Irvine...

(look, they even put a dude between them for decorum's sake. Nice try.)

...he passed his time posing for pictures like this:

Or hanging out naked with his other climbing buddies, as you do:

Go ahead, stare for a while. I'll wait.


Ready? Ok. Now remember, this isn't just some dude who enjoyed being naked a lot. George Mallory was a serious mountaineer about to tackle the highest mountain in the world. He had decades of experience in climbing, had previously attempted Everest, and was as prepared as you could possibly be for something you are in no way prepared for. In order to stand any chance of success, he was going to have to pick a reliable climbing partner from the Everest expedition. There were in fact several very sensible choices among able, equally seasoned climbers with a similar amount of experience as Mallory himself.

So he went and picked this bloke:

Still waiting on my source to confirm whether that's in fact a Gryffindor scarf.

Sandy Irvine was a 22-year-old undergraduate student. He was a keen sportsman but obviously didn't have decades of mountaineering experience. Mallory picked him, he said, because Irvine was great at dealing with the equipment.

The climbing equipment, pervs! (but yes. I know. I went there too). He apparently had a special talent for rigging tools. (CLIMBING tools). In particular, he modified the oxygen tanks they would need for the ascent, to make them more... IDK, breathier.

Apart from his being very handy *cough* with tools *ahem*, let us also not discount the fact that Sandy Irvine looked like this:

Definitely the kind of guy you want to have around for the inevitable "we need to share body heat" hypothermia plot.

In one letter to Ruth, George Mallory wrote of Irvine that he "could be relied on for anything except perhaps conversation."

Oh, come on now, George. That's just mean. And also, obvious much?

Here's Sandy also being dapper in a suit.

Here's Sandy being all chiselly in profile.

Here are Sandy's lips. I've highlighted them a bit. You're welcome.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Mallory climbing Everest. With his very young, very pretty lover who took care of his equipment.

Ahem. Here's the whole Everest expedition, lovingly coloured by people who didn't have Photoshop yet:

Mallory and Irvine are the two guys standing on the far left. Let's zoom in on that:

"LOL, George. You have sleeping bag hair. Cute."

Unfortunately what passed for Everest Base Camp back then was probably a little too frigid to engage in Mallory's preferred passtime of nude modelling/frolicking, so they had to get on with the actual mountain-climbing. On June 8, 1924, they set forth for their threesome with Qomolangma. This was the last picture taken of them before the ascent:

"Sandyyyyyy. Have you seen my spare pair of underpants?"
"Yeah, I'm wearing them. Soz."

Fellow support climber Noel Odell accompanied the two on part of their ascent and kept an eye on them from a lower point as they climbed towards the summit. He reported last seeing them high up on the Second Step, a tricky section of mountain not too far below the actual summit, before they disappeared in the clouds.

And that was the last time anyone saw Mallory and Irvine alive. No one knows if they were actually the first people ever to make it to the top of Everest. Unfortunately they didn't disappear so thoroughly that one could spin a happy fairytale ending in which they reached the top, made out in celebration for a bit and then climbed down the other side to elope via China and become the Dread Pirates Roberts or something, because 75 years later, in 1999, George Mallory's body was found on Mount Everest. There are pictures, but I won't include one here because honestly that's kind of creepy (but if you're interested in all the dead bodies littering Everest, the internet is absolutely full of them). Here, have a picture of his shoe instead:

"Dammit, Sandy. I told you to darn my socks before we climb the mountain."
"Yeah, well, you kept me a bit BUSY this morning, you wanker."

Irvine's body, on the other hand, has not been found yet (only his ice axe, which isn't as exciting or pretty), though not for lack of trying. Another expedition to locate it is currently underway, led by Tom Holzel (no relation to Hans von Hozel) who claims to have located the body in high-definition images of the mountainside (yeah, I know. Dude needs his eyes examined).

The reason Holzel is so obsessed with finding Irvine's remains is that Mallory and Irvine carried a camera in order to snap a pic to prove they'd reached the summit (right after pissing their names in the snow, one assumes). The camera was not with Mallory's body, so it's presumably with Irvine's. Kodak representatives have claimed that if the camera is found, they MIGHT still be able to develop the film in it, which might answer the question of whether or not our star-crossed lovers made it to the top or not ("top or not" also being a question they frequently had to fend off from their unimaginative heteronormative friends). Holzel has written a shitload of novella-sized articles about the camera and its recommended care if found, so you know, if you ever find yourself crawling about Mount Everest... well, you should probably get the hell off it because it still kills one in four of the people who climb it, but IF you get bored up there and have a spare tank of oxygen and stumble across a surreally beautiful frozen blond corpse clutching a Kodak camera, be careful with that thing.

It's probably got porn on it.

Obviously this is all a lie and these two fine young men were probably not shagging just because they were pretty and spent a suspicious amount of time attached at the hip whilst getting off on adrenaline and insanity and huddling together for warmth. If you're interested in the actual story (or as much as can be reconstructed), I highly recommend the documentary The Wildest Dream or George Mallory's biography of the same name (oooh look, they put his nude pic on the cover! Must remember that for book marketing).

Whether or not Mallory and Irvine did reach the summit of Everest thirty years before the official first ascent is... well, a fascinating question, for sure, but also largely irrelevant compared to the fact that they certainly did try, and that alone deserves a spot in history and many many memorials to the elephantine dimensions of their balls.

Also, yep, definitely gentlemen companions.

Tenzing and Sir Ed agree.

~This post was brought to you by Extreme Slasher Syndrome, coupled with a generous dose of sleeplessness and procrastination.

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