An interview with Colin Wallace: Everest website developer, Photographer and Theorist by Philip Summers 2018
For many years, Colin Wallace has run his own informative and leading website “Mount Everest- The British Story” from his base in Devonshire in the UK.
Thanks to his efforts, Colin’s website has grown and fostered a loyal following, becoming one of the best Everest websites in the world and serving as a venue for new ideas and thoughtful interviews by leading climbers and theorists in the field.
As well as being a talented photographer, Colin serves the Everest community well by providing his website as a site for news and the free exchange of ideas in the best traditions of British free enquiry.
Colin, how did you get started with your interest on Everest and its history?
My interest in Mount Everest and its history started back in 1996 when I saw on the BBC News about the terrible storm that killed 8 climbers during their descent. I brought the very popular book ‘Into Thin Air’ and became hooked on it.
With your skill as a photographer, could you see yourself going on an Everest expedition one day, perhaps as the photographer?
As much as I would love to climb on Mount Everest the answer would be no. The reasons being, I am not a mountaineer and I do not have the money! However, I would love to one day go to Base Camp on the North side with my camera.
Why did you decided to start your Everest website?
When I got my first computer I started searching for information on Mount Everest and its history and all I could find was websites from the USA and nothing from the UK.
In 2007 I decided to make my own website about the latest news and the history of the British Expeditions and its climbers.
You’ve conducted many interviews with climbers over time, how do you go about getting them to agree to an interview and have any refused?
I research their name on the internet to see if they have a website or Facebook page and just contact them asking if they would be interested doing an interview for my website or not. I always offer them a link back to their website or Facebook page.
Some climbers never respond (but most do). I have had only one who refused, Doug Scott. He said at the time that I could get all the answers from his books.
Do you have any favourite interviews or climbers?
I like all the interviews that I have published, its nice to read how everyone gets on while climbing on Mount Everest. My favourite climbers……George Mallory, Chris Bonington, Kenton Cool, Reinhold Messner and many more!
Lets turn to Everest itself, do you have a favourite route on the mountain?
My favourite route is the North Col – North East Ridge, mainly because of the British 1920’s history.
What about a favourite past expedition?
It has to be the British 1924 Expedition. A lot happened during that expedition and there are a lot of questions that need answering.
What do your family and friends think of your Everest interest and website?
My family and friends all enjoy looking through my website although my wife sometimes moan at the amount of time I spend doing research on the internet!
Turing to the Mallory and Irvine question now, do you have your own theory?
Yes I do have my own theory, but it is not as complicated as others! One day I might get around in writing it and putting it on my website.
Looking more closely at the Mallory and Irvine question, which rock step do you think Odell saw them on at 12.50pm, indeed did he see them at all?
I think that Noel Odell did not see them on any rock. Perhaps he saw a couple of birds moving or due to the altitude maybe his mind was telling him something that was not true.
Assuming they tackled the 2nd step, do you think they scaled it and how?
I believe once Mallory and Irvine saw the Second Step they decided to take a different route, possibly to the couloir below the Step.
Ultimately, just how high do you think they climbed and where did they climb to?
I think that Mallory reached the summit on his own. Irvine was probably not too far behind but for some reason just did not make it to the top.
Many researchers have described a number of theories about Mallory and Irvine, is there a researcher you think is right and indeed do you have any favourites?
Everyone has there own theory about what happened to Mallory and Irvine and I find them all interesting to read.
My favourite researchers are Jochen Hemmleb, Jake Norton and Graham Hoyland.
What about other expeditions from the past, do you think in 1922 Finch and Bruce could have summitted if not for their equipment failure?
I believe that if it was not for the increasing wind and the oxygen failure they would have reached the summit.
What about the claimed sighting by Frank Smythe of a body in 1933, do you think there is anything to the claim?
If Frank really did spot the body of Mallory then I just cannot understand why he kept it a secret. Surely Mallory’s family had the right to know about it.
Where do you see your website going in the future?
I would like to think that my website will be around for a long time yet. It is only a hobby for me but I enjoy doing research and keeping my followers up to date with any news or information.
You’re an accomplished and talented photographer, have you done any film photography and what prospects do you see for the Mallory and Irvine VPK camera film being recoverable perhaps some day in the future?
I started photography back in the middle 1980’s with a film camera. I use to process and print black and white film at a friends house.
I would love for the camera to be found one day, the sooner the better. It is known that ‘objects’ that are frozen tend to be in good condition. If the camera was found undamaged I think that it would be possible to process the film, providing it was done by someone who knew what they were doing.
Running an internationally recognised Everest website, are there times where its difficult such as annoying people pestering you?
In the past I have had a few not so nice emails from different people saying ‘that what I have just published is not true’ or ‘remove that article its all wrong’.
It can be difficult to decide what to do, sometimes I just ignore them but I have also deleted an article due to threatening messages.
Do you collect anything related to Mount Everest?
I have a nice collection of first edition books about Mount Everest and its climbers, most of them are signed by the author of climber the book is about.
If you go to my ‘About Us’ page you will see three video links showing some of my collection.