Graham Hoyland Book

Graham Hoyland Interview 2 taken 2013

Graham Hoyland has been on Mount Everest many times and reached the summit in 1993. He is an avid researcher into the history of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. His new book “The Last Hours on Everest” is due out this month (May 2013).

Have you any future plans to return to Mount Everest and do a search for either the camera or Irvine’s body?  

In “Last Hours on Everest” I tell a personal detective story with a surprise or two in it, so it would be unfair to my publishers to give away too much. However, I do reveal new information which could lead to a successful search for Irvine and my cousin Howard Somervell’s elusive Kodak camera. After 9 expeditions to Mount Everest looking for this thing I have decided to do a bit of sailing instead and undertake some more quests elsewhere.

Recent years have reported from credible sources, a body high on the North East Ridge (presumed to be Irvine), quite close to the 1933 Camp VI (situated below the ridge). Was the 1933 Camp VI area the site where a body was seen (presumably above them), and if so do you agree that it was probably Irvine in light of Mallory’s now known location? 

I am not sure I agree with any of these suppositions. My book is about far more than an event in 1933; it also deals with the nature of belief and why we climb mountains.

In 1933, there was a larger amount of snow on Everest compared to 1924, if they thought they saw a body in such conditions, how can you be sure they weren’t deceiving themselves, unless they were close enough to identify a dead man not an optical illusion?

The sighting is very credible. Again, the book is about more than 1933. In fact, another death on another mountain in another year led me to write this book.

If in 1933 as you say, a body was observed and believed to be Mallory, does that suggest they got close enough to identify the body as Mallory?

More obsession with 1933! The sighting would have been of Mallory or/and Irvine, as there were no other fatalities recorded up to that date.

If indeed Mallory’s body was observed and determined to be Mallory, then why were his next of kin not informed of this finding, so as to give his grieving family and friends some detail or closure?

There were very good reasons for this sighting being kept confidential.

Also, by what moral right did they or indeed you (Graham) have to suppress this information from Mallory’s family over the many years Mallory’s body was undiscovered?

I am not sure what the questioner is driving at here. The sighting could have been of Mallory or Irvine. So it would be inconclusive, and thus unfair to pass this on to either family. I wasn’t around in 1933, as it happens.

After the ice axe was found in 1933 and by extention the site of a presumed accident leading to Mallory and Irvine falling to the wide basin below the ‘yellow band’, was a unannounced search made by the 1933 members which lead to Mallory’s discovery?

More 1933! In “Last Hours on Everest” I explain the circumstances of the sighting, and then all will become clear.

If you somehow felt the need to “correct history“ with your book, why did you wait 14 years and did not come forward with your claims earlier, i.e immediately after the 1999 expedition or for the 50th anniversary of Everest’s first ascent in 2003?

I did not feel free to write this book until I left the BBC in 2009. History is written by the victors, and I describe in my book just how all the credit for the find was appropriated by others.

Is it really believable that the 1933 expedition would report on the finding of Irvine’s ice-axe, while at the same time keep a discovery of Mallory’s body secret? And if so, for what reason?

Yes. And the reason will become clear.

If you had known already by 1999 the exact location of Mallory’s body, then why was none of this information shared with the search team – who therefore had to rely on a less exact Chinese witness account and Jochen Hemmleb’s photo analysis, and had to undertake a far more extensive (and considerably riskier) search?

Who says I didn’t share information? As Conrad Anker explains in his book, Hemmleb’s photographs did not help his search for Mallory’s body, nor did his “directions” over the radio. Instead Anker used his common sense to look at where the ice axe was found, then he deduced a fall line and a collection zone. It took him 90 minutes to locate him- exactly where the ’33 sighting had him.

As your granduncle’s camera was no longer with Mallory, doesn’t this make your continued proprietary claims to any camera/film and the story in general legally questionable?

I do not make any claims to own the camera, or the film, or the images. As far as I understand the camera and film belong to the Somervell family, and any images to the Noel family. And Somervell was my cousin (we shared a grandmother who was doing some hard bouldering in the 1833’s).

In terms of the claimed ‘find’ of Mallory in 1933, and by implication suppression of this discovery, isn’t there a risk of by you now speaking out, that you’ll besmirch the  historical reputations of the 1933 expedition members involved in this ‘conspiracy’ as well as yourself by participating in this suppression over time?


Further, if there was a ‘conspiracy’ in 1933 regarding Mallory’s body, how far did it extend including to fellow expedition members kept in the dark?

The book reveals just who knew, and who didn’t know.

If Mallory was observed in 1933, was it in a different location or posture as to what was eventually discovered in 1999?

See the detailed description.

In 1933 and later, due to the location of Mallory’s body on the 8155m basin site, was this location so far away from the summit the reason for the suppression of the discovery, as some minds wanted to preserve a heroism ‘myth’ or national self serving reason, as they feared the location of Mallory so far from the summit may undermine the mythology of Mallory and Irvine?

Probably not.

Also on a legal issue, in most countries then and now, to discover a dead body and not report it to the proper authorities after the fact, surely is in itself an offence, again doesn’t this impact on the integrity of the 1933 expedition members involved in this suppression?

Tibetan burial law in 1933 is somewhat opaque.”

Your book “The Last Hours on Everest” is due out this month (May 2013), what sort of feedback have you had on it so far? 

You can order the book here:

And here are the first two reviews:

“Hoyland combines personal memoir, Everest history, and scientific investigation as he sets Everest in the context of the history of surveying, exploration, and mountaineering, and of imperial Britons seeking higher and higher peaks to ascend. He includes literary, scientific, and historical anecdotes, many charming, others poignant. Does he conclude that Mallory and Irvine made a full ascent, or that they fell before achieving the summit? There have been other books on Mallory (e.g., Peter and Leni Gillman’s The Wildest Dream) and the 1924 expedition (e.g., Wade Davis’s Into the Silence), but Hoyland’s personal and professional involvement recommends this to all armchair and active adventurers.”- Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal “Hoyland wants the truth. He wants the answer and leaves no stone unturned. He goes beyond the ‘romantic notions’ of what people want to believe to see what was possible. Could they survive a day on the mountain in the clothes they were wearing with the weather that day? What happened to Mallory on his fatal fall? What about the missing picture of Mallory’s wife Ruth? Did he place it at the top of the world? Hoyland’s explanations and interpretations give the story a unique perspective. His vast experience on Mt. Everest with many different expeditions and under various weather conditions gives him an insight that others might not have.  He tears down the barriers in admitting his bias and fascination with this story […] It’s a story of discovery – and it’s Everest’s story of mystery.  It explores the gap between the legend and the truth.

Recommend for those who love adventure/travel stories and have had their own obsession with the mountain.”

– ShelleysJournal /

If you would like to find out more about Graham then please pay a visit to his website at

Please Share!