May 18, 2010

Australian Determined To Solve Everest Mystery

An Australian adventurer plans to solve Mount Everest's greatest mystery this week by searching for long-lost evidence that the peak was conquered in 1924, 29 years earlier than previously thought.

Mountaineer Duncan Chessell said conditions were the best in decades to find the missing body of Andrew "Sandy" Irvine and perhaps photographic evidence that he reached the peak first, along with Briton George Mallory.

Mallory and Irvine perished near the summit during their expedition, leaving many people to speculate on whether they had successfully reached the summit of the mountain.  Mallory's body was discovered in 1999, but the camera that he was believed to have been carrying was not found.

"I was at North Col last week and the wind was 150 kilometers (90 miles) per hour and it was stripping snow off the mountain which has been there for many years," Chessell said in a message from base camp, according to AAP news agency.

"There is now bare rock exposed which has been deeply covered for decades in the most likely areas where Andrew Irvine's body may be."

"It is my intention to search those areas en route to the summit and take this rare opportunity to find him and, perhaps, the missing cameras."

New Zealand's Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay are acknowledged as the first to ever conquer the world's largest mountain in 1953.  However, Mallory and Irvine's unexplained story has continued to fascinate the mountaineering world.

"I have studied this matter very closely and am now very familiar with Mount Everest," Chessell said. "I believe we have a good chance of finding something."

Chessell was due to begin his final ascent on Tuesday and should reach the peak by Sunday or Monday.  If successful, he will become the first Australian to summit Everest three times.