Sandra Noel

Sandra Noel Interview taken in 2017

Sandra is the daughter of Captain John Noel from the 1920’s British Mount Everest expeditions.

Have you been to see the North side of Mount Everest?

Yes, I have been as far as Base Camp on the Tibetan side.

Your excellent book ‘Everest pioneer: the photographs of Captain John Noel’ that came out in 2003 is full of Mount Everest related photographs that your father took. Do you have a favourite?

I think my favourite image is the summit of Everest at sunset.

Did your father ever talk much about his time on Mount Everest?

Yes, my father spoke about Everest a lot;  he gave hundreds of lectures in UK and Ireland, and spoke movingly of the experiences in 1922 and 1924.

Did you ever get to meet any of the other expedition climbers?

I met Somervell and Odell, whose sister lived about 12 miles from us, and when Odell visited her, he usually visited us at the same time. I have met a number of members of later expeditions.

In 1924, what route did your father understand Mallory and Irvine preferred, along the ridge or under the rockband?

According to the letter sent by Mallory to my father, Mallory had suggested 2 possible points where they might be seen – crossing the neckband under the pyramid or going up skyline.

If they neared the summit, did your father  also think they would ascend the final pyramid up the right hand side edge?

I am not aware that my father had a firm idea about their plans, apart from the information in the last letter.

Do you have any thoughts whether Mallory and Irvine reached the summit of Mount Everest?

My father always held a mystical belief that Mallory and Irvine reached the summit, and I absorbed this idea from him.

Would you like to see an expedition return to Capt. Noel’s “eagle’s nest” photographic site with replica or simulated  equipment to determine whether Mallory and Irvine could have been visible up there?

I have no firm view on whether an expedition should return to my father’s photographic station; so much has changed in the intervening years that I think such an exercise is rather pointless.

What did Capt. Noel think of George Finch in 1922 and later, were his views of Finch really as biased against him as some claim the British were?

My father obviously admired Finch for his work on the oxygen, and his enterprise;  Finch clearly did not always conform, and the MEC sometimes found his attitude uncompromising.

Did Capt. Noel ever express any desire to climb higher than the North Col on Everest and if so, how far did he think (or you think) he could have reached?

My father was realistic enough to accept that he would be unable to carry the cumbersome photographic equipment higher than 23,000ft, although the cine camera was extremely lightweight, even by today’s standards. I am sure he would have acclimatised well higher up.

What is your view of the viability of any recovered camera film from 1924 now and in the future, assuming a camera is ever found?

If correctly handled, the film could be processed successfully.

The camera from the 1924 Mount Everest expedition I believed belonged to your father. Does that mean if it is ever found it would come back to you?

Mallory and Irvine apparently took a pocket camera belonging to Somervell, as Mallory had left the one provided by my father at a lower camp, but the small cine camera capable to recording 2 minutes of moving images was certainly that which my father had supplied.

Could there be other undiscovered film or photographs of the 1920’s expeditions to Everest still undiscovered, perhaps held by other expedition members?

It is quite possible that there are other images, hitherto undisclosed, taken by my father, which are in the hands of other organisations.

In your estimation, is there anyone alive today that resembles Mallory’s climbing style, mannerisms etc that would give an insight for the wider public?

I am not a climber, so am not in a position to make a comparison with modern climbers.  I admire them all for their fortitude.

If you would like to find out more about Captain John Noel then head over to Sandra’s website at

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