Explore a digitized collection of doomed Everest climber’s letters home - Living Strong Television Network
Explore a digitized collection of doomed Everest climber’s letters home

Enlarge / The final letter from George Mallory from Camp I, Mount Everest, to his wife Ruth Mallory, May 27, 1924. (credit: The Master and Fellows of Magdalene College, Cambridge)

In June 1924, a British mountaineer named George Leigh Mallory and a young engineering student named Andrew “Sandy” Irvine set off for the summit of Mount Everest and disappeared—just two casualties of a peak that has claimed over 300 lives to date. Mallory was an alumnus of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge, which maintains a collection of his personal correspondence, much of it between Mallory and his wife, Ruth. The college has now digitized the entire collection for public access. The letters can be accessed and downloaded here.

“It has been a real pleasure to work with these letters,” said Magdalene College archivist Katy Green. “Whether it’s George’s wife Ruth writing about how she was posting him plum cakes and a grapefruit to the trenches (he said the grapefruit wasn’t ripe enough), or whether it’s his poignant last letter where he says the chances of scaling Everest are ’50 to 1 against us,’ they offer a fascinating insight into the life of this famous Magdalene alumnus.”

As previously reported, Mallory is the man credited with uttering the famous line “because it’s there” in response to a question about why he would risk his life repeatedly to summit Everest. An avid mountaineer, Mallory had already been to the mountain twice before the 1924 expedition: once in 1921 as part of a reconnaissance expedition to produce the first accurate maps of the region and again in 1922—his first serious attempt to summit, although he was forced to turn back on all three attempts. A sudden avalanche killed seven Sherpas on his third try, sparking accusations of poor judgement on Mallory’s part.

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