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EverestHistory.com: 1900-1925


1903: The Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, concerned about possible Russian influence inside Tibet, sends Sir Francis Younghusband to ostensibly negotiate "frontiers and trade". The Tibetans refuse to enter negotiations, so Younghusband leads a British Army Expedition to Lhasa. A treaty is eventually signed in September, 1904, after the Dalai Lama flees to Mongolia. 

1904: A member of Younghusband's staff, J. Claude White, photographs the Eastern side of Everest from Kampa Dzong, 94 miles away. While not the first photograph of Everest ever taken, it's the first to show any significant details of the mountain.

1907: Natha Singh, a member of the British Indian Survey, obtains permission to enter the Mount Everest region from the Nepalese side. He maps the Dudh Kosi valley - gateway to the southern route up the mountain - all the way to the end of the Khumbu Glacier.

1913: Captain John Noel, a British military officer, travels to Tibet in disguise (at the time foreigners were forbidden in Tibet) to find the best way to approach Everest. He comes to within 60 miles of Everest, only to find his way blocked by an unexpected mountain range that did not appear on his faulty maps. Noel is able to view the top 1000 feet (300 meters) of Everest when it appears out of the shifting mists, a "glittering spire of rock fluted with snow".

1920: The Dalai Lama opens Tibet to outsiders after the political situation involving China and Russia relaxes somewhat. The Royal Geographic Society and the Alpine Club hold a joint meeting to discuss how to proceed with an expedition to Mount Everest. Explorers had reached both the North and South Poles, so the next "feat" was Everest. The Mount Everest Committee is established by Younghusband, and a formal resolution is passed stating that an expedition would take place the following year with reconnaissance as the first priority, (although a summit attempt was not discouraged). A full-scale summit attempt was to be launched the following year in 1922.

1921: The First British Everest Reconnaissance Expedition to the mountain, led by Lt. Colonel Charles Howard-Bury. This is George Leigh Mallory's first trip to the mountain. After spending ten weeks exploring the northern and eastern reaches of the mountain, on September 24, 1921, Guy Bullock and George Mallory were the first climbers to reach the North Col of Everest at an altitude of around 23,000 feet (7000 meters). The northern route up the mountain had now been established.

1922: The Second British Everest Expedition to the mountain, led by Brigadier General C.G. Bruce, following the same route reconnoitered the previous year. George Mallory returns along with climbers George Finch, Geoffrey Bruce, Henry Morshead, Edward Norton, Howard Somervell, and John Noel as expedition filmmaker. On May 22nd, Mallory, Norton, Somervell and Morshead make the first assault, and climb to 26,800 feet (8170 m) on the North Ridge before retreating. On May 23rd, George Finch and Geoffrey Bruce climb up the North Ridge and Face to 27,300 (8320 meters) feet using oxygen. On June 7th, Mallory leads a third attempt on the summit that claims the lives of seven Sherpa climbers in an avalanche below the North Col, the first reported deaths on Everest.

1923: While on a lecture tour in the United States, a reporter asks Mallory why he wants to climb Everest, and Mallory immortally replies "Because it's there". 

1924: The Third British Everest Expedition to the mountain, led by Acting Leader Lt. Colonel Edward Norton after Brigadier General C.G. Bruce is indisposed due to a flare-up of malaria. As a result George Mallory is promoted to Climbing Leader. Geoffrey Bruce, Howard Somervell, and John Noel return from the previous year, along with newcomers Noel E. Odell and Andrew Comyn Irvine. 

1924: June 4th: After weeks of appalling weather, a string of camps is established on the northern side of the mountain, culminating in Camp 6 at 26,700 feet (8140 meters) on the North Ridge. Norton and Somervell attempt an oxygenless ascent, following an ascending diagonal line across the North Face of the mountain towards the Great Couloir. After Somervell is forced to give up at about 28,000 feet (8500 meters), Norton continues alone, reaching a high point of 28,126 feet (8570 meters) near the top of the Great Couloir, a height record not exceeded by anyone for the next 29 years!

1924: June 8th: George Mallory and Andrew Irvine attempt the summit using oxygen and Irvine's modified oxygen apparatus. Noel Odell, climbing in support below, catches a glimpse of the climbers at 12:50 pm ascending a "great rock step" on the NE Ridge above. According to Odell they were behind schedule but climbing "with alacrity"; the first of many climbers on Everest to go for the summit too late. Odell originally thought he spotted the two climbers ascending the Second Step, but later changed his mind to the First Step when told how difficult the Second Step looked to a later generation of Everest climbers (the 1933 British Expedition). During the 1933 expedition, Andrew Irvine's ice ax is found on the upper slopes of the mountain at about 27,690 feet (8440 meters) and approximately 250 yards (meters) east of the First Step. Eric Simonson's 1999 Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition discovers an oxygen bottle that belonged to the pair near the base of the First Step, and Mallory's remains were found at 26,750 feet (8150 meters), on a line vertically below the ice ax position. No evidence of a successful summit bid has been found, nor have any signs of the two climbers been found above the Second Step, the key to the route. Despite the lack of hard evidence, the debate on whether they reached the summit of Everest continues to this day.

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