Did George Mallory ‘conquer’ The Mother Goddess of the World ? Everest.

George Mallory and Sandy Irvine disappeared a few hundred meters from the summit of Mount Everest in June 1924. In doing so they created the most enduring mysteries and myths of mountaineering. Did they get to the summit before the clouds covered them from the view of his comrades following them through binoculars from a lower camp ? Especially Mallory, for not only was he leading, but also because he is reputed to be the greatest climber the world has ever known. And if so, then Everest was ‘conquered’ long before Hilary and Tenzing did in 1953.

75 years later Mallory’s amazingly preserved body was found by another expedition. He had obviously fallen. Yet the mythology surrounding Mallory created even more of a mystique. Did he fall on the way up or the way down ? His body was lying in a strange position, almost supplicant to the peak. Like he was prostrating and praying to ‘Chomolungma’ – The Mother Goddess of the World – as the Tibetans call it.

So when I was asked to make a film on George Mallory by Julia Robert’s film Co, that was the first idea that struck me. I have been a sort of amateur climber myself, always attracted to the sheer immensity of the mountains.

Why is it that when faced with an immensity that threatens to challenge our own sense of individuality on this planet, something that threatens to make us feel small, our instinct is to challenge and conquer it, rather than sublimating itself to it and thereby being part of it ? One an act of incredible ego, ambition and violence, the other an act of letting one’s ego drop, of letting the individuality go. A great act of Love actually.

We talk of ‘Man’s conquest of Space’. Of the ‘Conquest of Everest’. And of course have just come to terms with the horrendous consequences of our attempts to “conquer’ nature on our Planet. Is a religion or a faith, for example, a conquest of people’s minds and hearts, or is it an embracing through love ? These are the thoughts and questions that drove me to consider the film. After all, why do a film unless it is a journey of discovery of yourself ?

I have no doubt that ambition and the desire to conquer was how Mallory understood his need to pit himself against Everest again and again. he went there three times. At a time when no one had used oxygen for climbing before, and there was none of the sophisticated mountaineering gear we have today. If you look at pictures, you would think they were climbing in tweed jackets and trousers! But underneath ambition and the need to conquer, was there an underlying need to discover one’s identity ? A need to discover who we are really, beyond the idea of being individual ? After all Mallory had just come back from serving in the First World War, and when you see so much needless death and destruction around you, your own place in the Universe must come into question.

When Mallory got the summit, if he ever did, did he feel a great sense of conquering, or did he finally find himself embraced by the ‘Mother Goddess of the World’ ? Did he finally sublimate himself to the immensity and become one with it ? Did he, perhaps, discover that which he was searching for all his life ?


20 thoughts on “Did George Mallory ‘conquer’ The Mother Goddess of the World ? Everest.

  1. There could be a possibility that after Mallory reached the summit, he realized that he has not just reached a single pinnacle, but attained more than one. The feelings of conquest would have naturally presented the eternal question – What have I conquered? …and the answer could have come in the form of Self Realization, represented by Mother Goddess. Since he was on the top of the physical world, illumined by the spiritual truth, coming down from such heights would have seemed like a demotion to him. He decided to remain in that state therein, leaving us with these obvious and unanswered questions.

  2. that’s amazing real story……..my best wishes for your new film project…….

  3. Possibly the journey starts with the I.On the journey the I , the conquest, the journey itself all gets annihilated..the homecoming is that of a teenie weenie speck…. of an i.
    I am saying this out of an experience of meeting such a speck…TENZING NORGAY..He had just returned from his expedition and I ran into him on a walk in Dargeeling.His humility was so overpoweringly stunning. .he held my hands like I had climbed those peaks! I also remember the time I watched the epedition movie and at the end my four year old nephew innocently said..”BUT AUNT WHY DID THEY HAVE TO CLIMB THOSE PEAKS IF THEY ONLY WANTED TO COME DOWN?”

  4. I think he was searching for himself and probably found himself, becoming one with the universe before he died! His ego got him up there, only to find something much more pure! Who knows, because it is such a mystery maybe his death wasn’t even an accident, maybe he was so in line with the universe, death was a beautiful experience

  5. Sir,
    Thanks for sharing…

    Wanted to share my experience with you:-

    I am very fond of tracking & hiking, once while my expedition at Naneghat, Murbad. (Near Kalyan, Thane). I met a climber named Akshay, we were all tracking in a group, nearly about 15 people, and Akshay was leading us throughout the track, I was impressed by his knowledge of landscape in the area, he told me that that it is his 8th trip to Naneghat in that year, which was really unusual for me not only because he was born and brought up at Bangalore but also because he was infected by polio. I was very much touched by his character and have developed a great sense of respect for him.

    We had a very long conversation about every thing under the sun, which was very inspiring for me, I don’t remember all of that but what was really fascinating for me is below conversation,

    (Part of our conversation)

    Me:- What do you want from Life?

    Akshay :- He laughed at me and said nothing as such, I just want to live normal and want people to treat me normal…..(Paused for sometime)……..But I am sure that one day I will climb Mount Everest.

    (Suddenly I realized that I am not treating him normal, as I have developed some sense of sympathy for him………..But his character was so fascinating for me that even I don’t want to asked but I was forced to ask him after a long silence)

    Me:- Why do you want to climb Mount Everest? ….. I mean why you want to go with such physical stain. (I said ignoring the eye contact with him)

    Akshay: – Because, I am very egoistic, and I don’t want to give up…..

    Today you reminded me of him as he was the person who told me about George Mallory and his expedition.

    Ranjeet Jha

  6. me thinks it’s redundantly complicating something that is simple. he just liked doing it. some people love to swim, some people cycle the Earth, some like to just sit and eat. he, he liked climbing mountains. it’s not so much a … a … a sense of conquest, but a sense of love, of awe even. you see a mountain, and it calls to you. just like when you see a beautiful woman, you want to touch her, take her into your arms, drink in her sensuous aura. in much the same manner, you see a mountain, you stare at the mighty, immense strength, the deep stillness, the power of sheer .. dunno, whassa word .. it’s stupefying sometimes. and you just want to get close and … climb it. simple. 🙂 conquest? i don’t know, using that word is insulting the love, the sheer passion that makes one do something, achieve something … it’s beautiful, and all enveloping, not all conquering. there are many other logical reasons though that the word “conquest” can’t be used here.

  7. Mallory no doubt deserved the honour of being the first man on everest, but we shudnt forget there`s always a woman behind a man. He even climbed the Eiffel tower for her. It was her sacrifice when she decided to let go Mallory that he was able to attempt the expedition at such an age. I really think Mallory cudn`t have disappointed his wife so as not to reach everest. Well God knows what happened but heart always has notions.

  8. Hi sir this is @catchrahul1234 :
    its nice to hear abt dat. . . Actually i have read about george mallorey in jeffery archer.’s novel “path to glory”. . . N waz inspired by dat story. . N i searchd abt ane film on him.0. I wondrd how cum der is no movie abt it. . . n i thot 1day i vil make movie on him. .0. . Bt it waz nice to hear it frm u. . . . . Best luck sir

  9. SK did u know that his grandson climbed mt everest ( ode to his grand -dad?) a few yrs b4 his grand dad’s body was found?
    my bestest wishes…sure is a “top of the world” ( a la carpenters) feeling!

  10. Dear Shekhar:

    I cannot buy into the premise that we feel threatened by the immensity of a mountain, a dessert, an ocean or the primeval forests of our planet and thus are compelled to conquer in order to retain our sense of superiority. I believe that the label “to conquer” is an outgrowth of the fevered prose of those who sit behind writers’ desks and are far removed from where all these magnificent feats are taking place. Having read the books of Reinhold Messner, one of the past two generation’s great mountaineer, I believe their quest is driven by the desire to discover their own identity, to reach the frontiers of their inner strength, to discover their very own Ultima Thule.

    I dare say that Mallory’s goal was to be one with the immensity of our planet’s wonders, to find the answer to the eternal question of the purpose of our existence while being humbled at the same time by the enormity of what he had accomplished. I think having been at the upper reaches of this magnificent mountain makes the question whether or not he had actually reached the summit a moot one. I believe he had communed with the “Mother Goddess of the World” and saw its enticing face long before he stood on its shoulders to touch it.

    There are a number of compelling arguments that may very well point in the direction of Mallory having been the first man on the summit of Mount Everest. One of the most intriguing comes from an account of his daughter who said that her father had carried a photograph of her mother on his person with the intention of leaving it on the summit. The excellent preservation of Mallory’s body and documents found in his wallet beg the question “why was the photo not among them”? There is another poignant opinion voiced by none other than Sir Edmund Hillary:”If you climb a mountain for the first time and die on the descent, is it really a complete first ascent of the mountain? I am rather inclined to think personally that may be it is quite important, the getting down, and the complete climb of a mountain is reaching the summit and getting safely to the bottom again.”

    I don’t think that Mallory’s gallant act of bravery needs to be validated by the mundane question whether he had indeed set foot on the summit before Mother Goddess took him in its final embrace.

    Good luck with the film, it should be an exciting endeavor.

    All the best.


  11. People go on asking for the impossible; in fact, the more impossible a thing is, the more attractive it appears because it gives a challenge to your ego. The ego is not interested in the easy, it is interested in the difficult, and if it is impossible it is immensely interested. That’s why the ego is not interested in God, because God is the most simple phenomenon in the world. _ OSHO

  12. I am wondering, do we conquer nature, or does nature conquer us? In the sense of: is conquering a mountain like men conquering a woman, or soldiers conquering an enemy nation…..is Nature an enemy, a woman, a summit? I rather feel we should let mountains be, let them alone. Why climb them? Because they are there, I know. but me, I don’t get it. I would never. i prefer to sit at the foot of Mt Fuji and admire the view. But that’s me. silly me. boy in a cave on an invisible island

  13. We all are scholars of trivia , what matters is not whether mallory conquered everest or not but the most important thing is that whether we are conquering our everests that we encounter in our day to day lives or are we running away from them .

  14. It was a fantastic novel and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again and again. Iam sure you will relive us of all those adventures of george mallory.

  15. Hi

    I think it would be great if you read Paths of Glory by Jefferey Archer. Its a very well written book based on George Mallory!

  16. Mr. Kapur,

    People often repeat the fallacy that the Mallory Expedition members climbed in tweeds and hobnails. You must remember that in those days, photographs were mostly staged. They were not candid pictures but rather meant to be historical records. The climbers posed in their best tweeds because they wanted to look good for the record. For the serious climbing, Mallory wore specialized clothing consisting of seven layers of silk, wool, cotton and fur. A study has shown that Mallory’s clothing did not prevent him from reaching the summit of Everest.

    Regarding the equipment, Mallory’s footwear was 40% lighter than the modern day equivalent. The expedition members used ‘climbing nails’ or ‘Tricounis’ (the term ‘hobnail’ was considered derogatory). Tricouni nails continue to be produced in Switzerland by a company of the same name (see http://www.tricouni.com). Mallory was very particular about the nailing pattern of his shoes. It was his unique signature, whose traces he left in the snow.

  17. Dear Mr. Kapur,

    Two things. For an expedition to be declared complete, you should come down to the base camp and if you havent, it become difficult to justify whether you have rode the everest. I personally beg to differ on this and I think its stupid for the world to debate if Mr. Mallory is great or not. Whether he climbed everest or not, he is great.

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