The Missing Camera

The Mallory and Irvine mystery: A new analysis of the wider implications of the missing Mallory camera pertaining to Mallory and Irvine’s summit prospects by Philip Summers.

Mount Everest First and Second Step

The North East Ridge of Everest showing the dome-like‘First Step’,The angular and iconic ‘Second Step’ and the shadowed final pyramid. These obstacles along their likely ‘skyline’ route would need to be gained by Mallory and Irvine in order to summit.

Courtesy, Guiseppi Pompili, 2004

Prologue- A leap ahead

Since June 1924, whenever the vexed matter of Mallory and Irvine on Everest is raised, what invariably follows is a ‘to and fro’abstract oscillation between “did they reach the top?” or “could they have reached the top?” etc.

Such that, despite advances over the years and whatever clues happen to emerge, a definitive answer still seems to be frustratingly elusive, a challenge to the structured and absolutist world view that inconsequential humanity demands must be met within an indifferent universe…..

By contrast, like the nature of the universe itself, some argue that there may well be mysteries that the human mind by its innate limitations and constraints (many self imposed), simply can’t ever be solved- by definition, with the Mallory and Irvine story uncomfortably being one of them?

A salient deflation of the hubris of man, via the nemesis of permanent mystery.

Despite this real possibility, the Mallory and Irvine saga continues nonetheless……

But now a new question has been raised, one that asks;

“What if we’ve all missed something”?

Something so simple in nature yet so profound in its implications, that it penetrates and eliminates at a stroke many of the previous assumptions and cherished theories by diktat that have become ‘accepted wisdom’ over time……

For example, imagine in a hypothetical abstract if there was found a simple note in Mallory’s pocket in 1999 that simply said (for instance) “Summit attained 8th of June, 1924” or some such, written clearly in Mallory’s handwriting?

Similar in concept to what some say tacitly, a supposed missing photograph of Mallory’s wife he intended to leave on the summit and absent on his person when found in 1999, suggests he did succeed in summiting, yet still too tenuous to satisfy more robust technical prerequisites of proof.

Others seek answers via other varied means of what they perceive as significant, but to think of the mystery another way, with sufficient tacit evidence available, would there still be that degree of doubt on the question of whether Mallory and Irvine  summited, despite the ‘conventional wisdom’ still unable to adequately explain just how they did it?

Or in this hypothetical, would doubts on the note’s veracity overrule the claim due to the inadequacy of the ‘experts’ best explanations and theories (as well as their own tendentious hubris) as to how the Englishmen actually achieved this claimed summit success in a mountaineering equivalent of ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’ or Poincare’s Conjecture’, that defied their best thinking (and arrogance) on the vexed topic?

But what if there was something, a clue that had been overlooked or a key that could unlock the mystery, one that would leap ahead of all the inadequacy and hubris of the so called ‘experts’ and tell us whether Mallory and Irvine did (or didn’t) summit in such a way, that any other possibility was then bypassed as superfluous?

An advance that like the hypothetical example above, could reveal an answer such that, would give us a new advantage, so that our theories could be better refined more in accordance with this newly revealed clearer answer?

The truth is that there may well be such a clue, one of such profundity and simplicity that by implication it negates at a stroke various dubious claims of the past pretending to reconstruct Mallory and Irvine’s movements, whilst furnishing us with a more definitive answer such that any proposed alternative is simply inconceivable in the face of that which is now derived via a simple induction of combinational (and inexorable) logic pertaining to a series of simple questions that surround a specific subset of the larger mystery, namely, the mystery of the missing Mallory camera and why its missing!

It is this issue that this paper explores via the exposition of the inexorable laws of sequential logic and which invariably leads to some quite profound and surprising conclusions!

“Everything yields to logic. Our basic assumption, Doctor!” – Kaftan (Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen……1967)


After the body of Mallory was found in 1999, thanks to the theoretical guidance and analytical insights by noted and perceptive researcher Jochen Hemmleb (1), the missing camera that Mallory borrowed from his fellow expeditioner T.H Somervell (2) and presumed to be still carried by Mallory, was distinctly conspicuous by its absence on his person.

Indeed popular and investigative attention actually increased (promoted by various tendentious ‘advocates’) on the absent Mallory camera, which was premised on the ‘belief system’ that the lost camera if one day located and the film (optimistically) developed properly, may possibly reveal more details of Mallory and Irvine’s climb that have eluded research conclusions by other  more conventional means.(3) Surprisingly, his premise over time has become in itself not only an ‘article of faith’ for the ‘believers’ (they know who they are!), but also seemingly a self sustaining ‘industry’ interminably presented as the main justification of the ongoing ‘ad hoc’ searches on Everest itself to solve the Mallory and Irvine mystery, premised on the simplistic hope that photographic ‘revelations’ from the missing camera will optimistically solve the saga once and for all! (4)

Eager to keep alive the ‘faith’ of the assumed Mallory camera ‘revelations’, when in 1999 it was found that there was no pocket camera on Mallory’s person, the proponents of this ‘belief system’ then lazily proposed in yet another untested premise, that somehow, it was actually Irvine who now had the camera instead, supposedly after Mallory gave it to him for reasons still unexplained!

This default assumption has remained the prevailing doctrine since 1999, despite ongoing theoretical and practical efforts by objective historical researchers and the camera revelation apologists alike to locate Irvine’s body in the new discipline of high altitude Everest archaeology where for the former, conventional scientific investigation of any clues contained on Irvine may yield new insights, while the latter hope that any found camera may yield simple revelatory photographic evidence of Mallory and Irvine’s progress – if it works!

Strangely however, both groups of investigators have since 1999 never actually advanced beyond the following the tacit assumptions in this matter of the missing

1: That for some reason or another, Irvine now supposedly has Mallory’s camera.

2. Nor questioning the actual basic premise promoted by camera ‘revelation’ devotees of why Irvine now is assumed have the lost camera.

3. Even if one were to assume Irvine did have Mallory’s camera, advancing any logical implications from the absent camera vis a’ vis the Englishmen’s more detailed movements and ultimately summit prospects on the day!

Contrasting with this above inquisitive atrophy, it can now be shown that there are indeed profound implications implicit in the missing camera that a full accounting of the sequence of logical analysis from this central fact reveals.

Indeed, this profound yet elementary logical exclusionary codification, unlocks new possibilities in the Englishmen’s movements and actions, resultedly suggestive of an actual summit success by at least one and/or both of the pair!


The basic details of the camera carriage by Mallory and Irvine in the days leading up to and presumed partaking on their summit attempt are well documented.(5)

In brief, after aborted attempts to the summit in early June 1924, by Messrs Mallory and Bruce, Norton and Somervell; Mallory again undertook one last effort utilizing supplementary oxygen and taking Irvine as his companion with preparations starting in earnest on the 4th of June, leading to the pair being back at the Camp IV situated on the North Col by the 5th of June.

It was here that Mallory borrowed a portable Kodak Vest Pocket camera from his colleague Somervell (who with Norton, had returned to the North Col on the night of the 4th of June, after a failed summit attempt).

Noteworthy is the fact that Irvine had his own camera and was a quite keen photographer by inclination, but he also made a diary notation indicating that he potentially carried a portable cine’ camera borrowed from expedition photographer John Noel for possible use on their anticipated summit attempt (6)!

However for the sake of this discussion it will be assumed that this cine’ camera wasn’t taken by Irvine perhaps due to payload constraints or bulk in Irvine’s loads as well as anticipated manageability constraints on the summit climb itself, leaving the Noel cine’ camera option not pursued such that the Camp IV logbook on the 10th of June recording that it and the belongings of Mallory and Irvine were taken back down to Camp III. (7)

This assumption would result for the sake of this discourse, in leaving Mallory and Irvine with lighter and more manageable pocket film cameras each (Irvine’s own and Mallory’s borrowed one).

That said, in late May 1933 the respected and able Everest mountaineer;

Sir Percy Wyn-Harris did take a cine’ camera with him (in addition to pocket film cameras carried by he and his intrepid companion Lawrence Wager), during their sadly unsuccessful summit attempt. (8)

Indeed, Sir Percy, managed to employ his cine’ camera as high as 8450 metres (approximately) shortly before he and Wager discovered the ‘Irvine’ iceaxe laying on a terraced slab at that altitude.

Sadly the footage ended at this point, perhaps as the Englishmen negotiated increasingly difficult terrain and their own physical struggles in such a trying environment?

Thus although it’s certainly possible the Noel cine’ camera cited in Irvine’s diary may potentially have been taken by Irvine, enough doubt exists so as to prudently obviate its presence from the overall equation of the Mallory and Irvine’s climb dynamics!

So for Mallory and Irvine’s movements, they then ascended to Camp V on the 6th of June making sure to use their oxygen supply economically and climbing at a modest pace, (conservatively, so as to preserve their oxygen supply), so in terms of the cameras on their person, it’s likely the Englishmen carried with them two portable film cameras to record their planned summit success (and perhaps any other vistas of interest on their ascent commensurate with allowable conditions and if time permitted) as was common practice then and now.

After an overnight stay on the 6/7th of June at Camp V, they finally reached their highest Camp (VI), situated at 8140 metres on the 7th of June and after an overnight stay, proceeded on their actual summit attempt on the morning of the 8th of June, equipped with their oxygen kit, stores and sundry items and presumably including two cameras to record their day.

Beyond this precis’, the mystery from this departure point becomes less detailed with various clues relating to the pair being observed or discovered starting from an alleged sighting climbing a prominent rock step in the ridge at 12.50pm by a support colleague, to more recent times with the actual discovery of Mallory’s body in 1999 and the clues which resultantly from that finding.

However the borrowed missing camera presumed to be carried by Mallory remains an anomaly that demands explanation, yet until now it hasn’t advanced as an argument in and of itself.

But more clarity does emerge if one considers a sequence of logical questions that explore the actual disposition and utilization of the camera on and before the 8th of June assuming Mallory indeed took his borrowed camera with him (as well as Irvine) to record the summit attempt with of course hoped for ‘in situ’ photographs of the pair on the summit itself.

Mount Everest North East Ridge Crest

A rare view of the North East Ridge crest very close to the location where Mallory and

Irvine’s first oxygen cylinder was located.

Also of interest at lower left are the elusively seen terraces where in 1933 Irvine’s iceaxe was found by Wyn-Harris and Wager and above it the crest itself where Wager reached to look over to the Kangshung side beyond.

Courtesy, Veli-Pekka Molsa and the Airborne Ranger Club of Finland Everest expedition, 2005.

Consider the following sequence of logic;

Question 1. Is there any indication that Mallory or Irvine misplaced, lost or damaged one or more cameras in the days leading up to their departure from Camp VI on the morning of the 8th of June?


Mallory left detailed notes (9) to his colleagues en route to and at Camp VI, describing anodyne topics ranging from the weather to forgotten items like a compass.

Tellingly, Mallory described the loss of an ‘Unna cooker’ at Camp V, which disappeared due to a clumsy mishap by the Englishmen.

Crucially at no point does Mallory mention anything about a camera(s) in the detail of his intensive notes!

Logically, if there was no issues with any camera, then why should it be mention it?

Ergo, with no mention of any camera difficulties or loss, with a propensity for detailing difficulties in ‘nota bene’ form, there was therefore no issue with the cameras worth noting.

As such, it defies credulity to suggest that in light of the above logic, if one or more camera had been lost or damaged, Mallory wouldn’t surely have reported it- as he demonstrates with the forgotten compass for example!

Logical conclusion; The camera’s were not lost or damaged before the 8th of June, thus there was no issue with them and so they were duly ignored in Mallory’ notes and thus were available and working on the morning of the 8th of June at Camp VI.

Question 2. Assuming Mallory and Irvine each had a pocket camera, would they take both devices with them on their summit attempt?


Although John Noel’s so called “Eagle’s nest” photographic site situated above Camp III would be primarily trained on the summit pyramid hoping to film the Englishmen, there was no guarantee that they would be observed (such as adverse weather chiefly or other difficulties occluding the prospective filming).

Thus, one or more personal camera’s would be imperative for the Englishmen to record the historic event of a successful summit ‘in situ’ so as to verify their hoped for success as the unknown weather and limits of the Noel camera observations may well fail to observe Mallory and Irvine ‘in situ’ ascending toward the summit on the 8th of June.

Indeed due to the limited mass and bulk of the pocket camera, it would be easy to store them on their person and it would also be reasonable to take both cameras for redundancy.

Further, it would be prudent to take two lightweight pocket cameras for redundancy lest some unforeseen incident occur resulting in the loss of a camera- however unlikely.

Besides, both men may have different inclinations during the ascent to photograph items of interest or record some incident en route (such as a humorous matter or simply an emotional tribute for family and friends- such as ‘something for the wife and children’ for example), thus a camera for each man would be preferred.

Finally, it’s revealing that Odell in his dual visits to Camp VI never saw within the single tent, any trace of a camera left behind, leading with elegant inevitability to the logical conclusion that Mallory and Irvine took both pocket cameras with them toward the summit on the 8th of June.

Logical conclusion; Both camera’s would like be taken to record the anticipated summit success with redundancy added by two devices lest one be unusable or lost before the summit was gained and Noel’s observations fail to acquire the pair.

The fact that Odell didn’t note any camera within the tent at Camp VI during his two visits, suggests no camera was left behind by Mallory and Irvine.

Mount Everest First Step

An unusual view of the ‘modern’ route, up the right flank of the ‘First Step’.

Photography on this structure would be decidedly inadvisable and thus unlikely, as is the suggestion that Mallory and Irvine were seen by Odell at 12.50PM climbing this feature “with alacrity” due to its height and thus time to ascend the feature as well as the dissonance between the step morphology and Odell’s description observing at least one may reach the top- clearly not necessary as can be seen above!

Courtesy, Veli-Pekka Molsa and the Airborne Ranger Club of Finland Everest expedition, 2005

Question 3. What was the likely distribution of the two pocket cameras between Mallory and Irvine during their summit attempt?


Each camera had a film capacity of eight (8X) exposures, so assuming fresh film was emplaced within each camera, this left a maximum of sixteen (16X) photographs that could potentially be taken together.

Crucially, the untested argument proffered by camera ‘revelation’ advocates, that for some inexplicable reason, Mallory simply gave his camera to Irvine, appears rather dubious in light of the unconsidered fact that the workload involved if (potentially) Irvine was designated ‘photographer for the day’ for the summit attempt would be rather excessive.

Indeed, would it even be fair of Mallory to ‘lumber’ Irvine with the added duties of managing two cameras for the day?

To wit; could Irvine really manage to utilize both cameras during the day, using up one pocket camera with its eight exposures available before starting on the second camera? Alternatively, would or could Irvine employ both pocketed camera’s in alternation during the climb?

Conveniently neglected in any of these photography scenarios, is the implicit difficulty of actual photography on Everest, where apart from the difficulty of finding a safe and as wind-free  locale as possible in order to take a photograph, one must remove ones outer and inner gloves, unpocket the camera, extend the bellows, align the image in the viewfinder, move the shutter and then reverse the whole awkward process, while not losing one’s gloves, letting one’s fingers go numb and remaining steady with wind usually blowing and fighting the shortage of breath at such an inimical altitude!

Thus due to the workload of ‘lumbering’ Irvine with both camera’s (as well as his other responsibilities of tending the oxygen and struggling to mirror Mallory’s movements ahead of him), on balance it would be rather selfish for Mallory to ‘lumber’ Irvine with both camera’s on the day.

It also must be said that on the entire ascent for the Englishmen’s presumed route up the North East Arete’ that prospects for stopping and photography are rather limited in actuality being confined to the terrain below the ‘First Step’, but from that point, due to the severity of the terrain, the next possibility may be the so called ‘Mushroom Rock’ mid way between the ‘First’ and ‘Second’ steps and (conceivably) the actual base of the‘Second Step’ itself.

Beyond that point, it could be possible once above the‘Second Step’ due to the inclined but even terrain, however mitigating against this possibility is that by this point, lack of time and oxygen would be more important than bothering with photography for the Englishmen!.

That said, there may be occasional vistas Mallory would wish to photograph short of the summit, which although not the real prize of the summit itself and of secondary (or less) importance, may make him stop and rest and take an occasion photograph (something for the wife and children – as suggested above ?), thus it would be expedient to keep his own pocketed camera for the day as the simplest choice for Mallory, despite his perhaps unfair reputation for being rather more ‘hapless’ with machinery.

Logical conclusion; Due to workload mineralization, it would be prudent for each man to retain his own camera, such that each man could not inconvenience his colleague if occasional photography occurred to each man en route to the summit.

Question 4. As Mallory’s camera was anomalously missing when found in 1999, could he have lost it during the day in an accident or could it have been hurled away during his fatal fall down to 8155 metres near the bottom of the ‘Mallory basin’?


The camera as well as the oxygen was the most valuable item carried on their persons in pursuit of the summit, thus it would be imperative to look after these devices with attention to detail, including careful handling if/when the camera was in use (as described in the above Question 3, only conducted in reasonable conditions and locations).

Therefore, it would be folly to emplace a camera in the open on a ledge (for example or some other supposed ‘secure’ locale) for storage as some suggest due to the fact that it may not be there when they returned due to the elements, or if they were not able to rendezvous to that exact location to retrieve the device for some reason (such as poor weather or being forced to deviate from their ascent route).

Why anyone would secrete a camera in the first place in such an environment defies all attempts of logical explanation, is the simplest thinking!

Moreover, even if there was a mishap when a camera was being used ‘in situ’, unless the Englishmen were being injudicious in their choice of photography location, by definition if would be easy to simply pick up any dropped camera in a ‘butterfingers’ moment (although what condition a dropped camera may be in after any mishap is open to conjecture- including the reaction of the man who dropped it!).

Thus, simply losing a camera as some argue isn’t really likely and nor is it likely to fall from a secure pocket either!

Similarly dubious is the contention that Mallory may have discarded his camera deliberately after a purported failure to summit where he, in a fit of pique discarded his camera by throwing it away or if his camera became unusable or damaged in some manner during the day!

This notion disregards however the fact that Mallory displayed a tendency to retain useless and damaged items on his person, such as a broken wristwatch and altimeter, plus a strap clip used to affix the oxygen mask and even sundry items such as two satchels draped around his neck and used sunscreen tubes, tins, scissors etc.

It is rather odd that the camera would be singled out for attention by Mallory of all the sundry items contained in his pockets to discard in a state of frustrated disgust or if it were damaged as the other damaged items on his person attest to the contrary!

More cogent is the contention that perhaps Mallory lost his camera from his person during his fatal fall down to 8155 metres.

Perhaps a sliding, tumbling, colliding Mallory as he fell and imparting some centripetal force to the items on his person, resulted in his camera flying off out of a jacket pocket (for example) on its own vector and thus being lost somewhere on the North face?

However if one were to accept his possibility, the question invariably raises in response, is  why therefore didn’t any other of Mallory’s items stored on his person also depart from his person as he fell on its own vector (especially if more items were in the same pocket as the camera)?

Indeed isn’t is rather ‘convenient’ for just one item to be lost in this manner and not the many other items (everything from an altimeter to beef lozenge tin etc.) found on Mallory’s person in 1999? (10)

Some may say the greater mass of the camera may force it out of a pocket more easily as opposed to the smaller and lighter personal items storied in his pockets.

But the reverse may also apply in that the motion of Mallory falling (in whatever from one may choose to model), may also serve to force the camera deeper and more ensconced inside the unknown pocket where it was contained, assumed centripetal motion notwithstanding!

Any other jarring force applied randomly to the camera during his fatal fall would again be rather ‘convenient’ if it conspired to eject the camera alone from the location on Mallory’s person.

Granted, it’s conceded that it’s possible other unknown items were ejected with the camera during the fatal fall as well, but by definition, these putative items are completely unknown and equally may not even exist, as testament to the lack of items found on Mallory’s person in 1999, indicative of a light carriage mindset by Mallory.

That said, such factors are completely unknown but what can be said is that of all the many items found in 1999 on Mallory’s person, to ‘conveniently’ say the camera alone was ejected during the fall, does seem quite ‘contrived’ and tendentious.

Logical conclusion; It would be very foolish to secrete a camera on the route for retrieval later due to the implicit dangers in such an environment and the implicit uncertainly that the camera could be found again on the descent due to the elements or if a different route were taken.

Also, by definition photography locations on Everest are limited, with even less choice on the ‘Mallory route’ up the North East Arete’, resulting in any photography being done practically by definition in a relatively safe and sheltered location (as articulated in Question 3) resulting in any mishap with the camera to be easily retrieved by the nature of the ‘safe’ location of the photography site implies.

Similarly absurd is the notion that Mallory would deliberately discard his camera (alone amongst the many items he retain on his person) in a fit of pique after a supposed failure to summit!

In terms of the camera being lost during Mallory’s fatal fall whilst its certainly possible in principle, in practice however it does seem rather ‘convenient’ that it alone was ejected from some unknown location on Mallory’s person alone amongst the many other items found on his person in 1999 that weren’t lost!

In any circumstance involving natural forces, it’s difficult to imagine such conspiratorial forces acting on the camera alone while not also acting to eject the many other items stored on Mallory’s person.

Thus, its unlikely Mallory would misplace or lose his vital camera via some lackadaisical mindset, nor would it be likely that in his fatal fall, the camera alone was ejected and lost by a ‘conspiracy’ of random forces that concentrated on it alone!

This leads to the most important question of all in this logical sequence………………

Mount Everest Second Step Looking Back Down

A rare view of the top of the iconic ‘Second Step’looking back down along the North East Arete’ (upper right) and the inclined North face (mid to left of picture).

Clearly photography below the ‘Second Step’ down to the base of the ‘First Step’ would be most difficult, although the so-called‘Mushroom Rock’ platform may be possible as a rest site in order to photograph the ‘Second Step’ by an approaching Mallory and Irvine?

Courtesy, Guiseppi Pompili, 2004

Question 5. Some suggest that Mallory and Irvine failed to reach the summit and therefore abandoned their ascent early, turned around and thus descended at some unknown location short of the summit.

But if so, assuming to this putative point Mallory still retained his pocket camera, why would he therefore give it to Irvine (or Irvine take it from Mallory) if there was nothing of importance recorded on the camera, specifically photographs of the summit?

Why would a man give his camera to his colleague if it contained nothing of importance?


Premised on the following logical sequence, the conclusion to this point is that the Englishmen both took pocket cameras to their high camp (VI) without incident, as any loss or malfunction would be noted by Mallory when in the upper camps.

Further, they needed cameras to record their anticipated summit success and two may well be needed for redundancy, (lest some mishap occur), so it’s likely both camera’s were taken by Mallory and Irvine from Camp VI toward the summit and not left behind as Odell would surely have seen any camera in the tent during his dual visits to the single confined Camp VI tent after Mallory and Irvine departed.

Then, once on the ascent to the summit, the cameras likely would be carefully stored by the pair, used with caution in safe sheltered locations as much as practicable and certainly not abandoned.

Projecting further ahead, during Mallory’s later fall (likely in the evening as his pocketed snow goggles imply), it’s unlikely the camera alone was ejected by natural forces while (rather conveniently) the many other items on his person remained static.

Between these ascent and descent occurrences, the camera was certainly removed from Mallory’s person, leading to the salient question of whether Mallory would surrender his camera, after a putative abandoned climb by the Englishmen well before the summit?.

Crucially, if this then occurred, then why would Mallory give his camera to Irvine if there was nothing of importance (the summit) recorded on its film?

Alternatively would Irvine ask for Mallory’s camera at some point below the summit where they abandoned the effort, if there was no summit photograph within?

The straightforward answer is that there would be simply no need to effect any of these actions, as in all likelihood, like all defeated people, they would merely (and very dejectedly) turn around and trudge back down the route toward camp and probably not give the camera’s any consideration at all as although it may hold a few sundry vistas of their ascent during the day, these scenes alone surely wouldn’t by themselves be of any intrinsic value such that one man felt the need to give his camera to his colleague, certainly not Mallory, as they simply wouldn’t be important enough to warrant exchange to Irvine.(and assuming these sundry ascent photographs even exist)!

Yet the question remains, why isn’t Mallory’s camera on his person?

Does the fact that the camera isn’t on Mallory’s person indicate in itself that in actuality, there was no early abandonment by the Englishmen and some other reason resulted in the camera not being on his person when found in 1999?

Logic suggests there is only one option left to explain the missing Mallory camera, expressed as a function between the likely ascent camera retention during the summit attempt and the fatal fall of Mallory and discovery without the camera on his person.

This conclusion suggests there was no early abandonment and either one or both of the pair actually reached the summit where (assuming both climbers attained the summit), the camera’s were employed resulting in a haphazard simple human and expedient actions of one man retaining both camera’s on the summit in the flurry of exchanged photographs of vistas and each man recorded for posterity.

Then before the descent began, again it simply may have been that Mallory waved away Irvine’s attempt to return his camera and expediently urged Irvine to keep his as well (Mallory’s), before they hurriedly departed from the summit.

Whatever the dynamics of this exchange, the end result was that Irvine by haphazard circumstance ended up with both cameras and Mallory none as they began their descent from the summit.

An intriguing subset of this particular question is also relevant, that concerning the notion that Mallory may have experienced a non incapacitating mishap or accident during the day, such that the bloodstains on his clothing is proffered as evidence as well as the dislodged glass of Mallory’s wristwatch and pocket altimeter.(11)

This mishap may or may not have occurred, but as a function of this missing camera discourse by implication, it’s likely that if any minor accident occurred on the ascent before the summit was gained, by definition, if there was no summit imagery on the camera, then there would simply be no valid reason for Mallory to hand his camera to Irvine (or Irvine to take Mallory’s camera), by virtue of the camera not containing anything worthwhile to necessitate that action at that time.

Then, for a putative mishap or accident on the descent, similarly, if one or both of the pair failed to summit, again there would be no reason for Mallory to dispense with his pocket camera, unless there was a summit success and resultantly, the Mallory camera did contain imagery of the summit, then under that circumstance after a recoverable accident on the descent, Mallory may well think it prudent to let Irvine keep his camera for safe keeping as the pair may well realize that a bleeding injured Mallory may not succeed in descending to the safety of the lower camps with his prize of the summit recorded on his pocket camera (assuming Irvine had his as well, both would be retained by priority due to the importance of the achievement).

Logical conclusion; This question goes to the heart of the missing Mallory camera of why would Mallory give his camera to Irvine after failing to summit, if there was nothing of importance contained on its film?

Irvine would similarly have no reason to take Mallory’s camera in this circumstance.

Relatedly, if there was a minor accident from which Mallory recovered on the ascent or descent, with no summit imagery on Mallory’s camera, there would no need to dispense with it, however for the descent, if one or both of the Englishmen did summit, but a minor accident occurred involving a bloodied Mallory, then under that circumstance, there may well be a need to let Irvine carry both camera’s for safety lest Mallory not be able to descend to the safety of the lower camps or worse!

The question is raised, do defeated men unable to summit then arbitrarily hand over an ’empty’ camera to a colleague at whatever their high point is (but still short of the summit), or would they simply not even think about their ’empty’ camera’s in this scenario, but in low spirits merely begin the long descent defeated and retaining their respective camera’s- sans any summit photographs?

Rationally, there is simply no valid reason to dispense with a camera in these circumstances unless tacitly there was something very important on (at least) Mallory’s pocket camera, something he wanted to preserve, specifically imagery of the summit and especially if there was some mishap on the descent that befell a bloodied, somewhat injured Mallory!

This logic suggests either one or both climbers in such circumstances may well wish to preserve any summit imagery after Mallory was putatively injured on the descent, but trusting Irvine with the role of preserving the camera(s).

The salient question now is; Does the missing Mallory camera tacitly indicate in and of itself, by definition a summit success by one or both Englishmen?

Mount Everest Third Step and Final Pyramid

A view looking up the ‘plateau’ above the ‘Second Step’ toward the ‘Third Step’ and the final pyramid.

Notice the relative evenness of the terrain, making it an easy place for photography if one is so inclined.

In reality, Mallory and Irvine at this point in their ascent would be conscious of the time and their oxygen supply, thus mitigating against any photography at this point or above until the summit was gained.

Courtesy, Guiseppi Pompili, 2004


From the conclusions of the logical questions above, it can be shown that both Mallory and Irvine likely had their camera’s with them when reaching Camp VI, they took them on the 8th of June to record their anticipated summit success and due to their value for verification purposes, they would likely keep them well looked after by each man and not risk these devices to un-necessary risks ‘in situ’.

Therefore the Englishmen simply and logically retained their camera’s all day on their person as they climbed higher and perhaps used them without incident to occasionally photograph sundry vistas of interest along the ascent route, so the salient question is;

Why isn’t Mallory’s camera on his person and if it is actually with Irvine, what circumstances would lead Mallory to give it to Irvine or for Irvine to take it from Mallory?

Related to this issue is the possibility of only one of the Englishmen pressing on to the summit whilst his companion remained behind in a suitable locale to await his colleagues return.

This option is related to the issues raised in Question 5, where during the ascent, the proposal is that there was an incident affecting the climbing party, one that damaged Mallory’s pocket altimeter and wristwatch?

By extension; if Mallory during the ascent was hurt and unable to continue, Irvine may well take Mallory’s camera (and any other useful items) and attempt to gain the summit whilst leaving Mallory behind in a suitable and ‘safe’ location, similar to the experience of their fellow expeditioners Norton and Somervell on the 4th of June.

Under that circumstance, only Irvine attains the summit alone and either employs both cameras to record the event, whilst retaining both for his descent and rendezvous with Mallory (where he may by expedient keep both cameras if Mallory was too limited by injury or return Mallory’s to him) or if he failed, he simply rejoins Mallory (and he may or may not return Mallory’s camera as they are now surplus to requirements via no summit imagery within) and they then descend together, with Irvine retaining one or both camera’s (which in this scenario don’t contain any summit imagery).

Similarly if circumstances forced an uninjured Mallory to continue as similar circumstance would occur where he, (Mallory) would certainly retain his camera to record his anticipated summit success (although he may or may not take Irvine’s camera)!

However once on the summit, he would employ the camera(s) and then return to Irvine, where he would (if still uninjured) retain his camera and perhaps both unless he felt the need to relay Irvine’s back to him, however after a putative solo Mallory solo summit success, during the descent at some point if he did sustain a recoverable mishap, he may well trust Irvine with his or both camera(s) with the summit imagery contained within.

Finally if Mallory failed to summit alone, he would simply turn around and rendezvous with Irvine where he would retain his own unused camera and perhaps Irvine’s too if the camera’s were no longer an issue, although he may perfunctory return Irvine’s camera and continue downward.

However for this solo Mallory scenario, due to the fact that Mallory’s camera wasn’t on his person in 1999 and factoring in the various exiguious scenarios that may account for its absence explored in this discourse, the absence of Mallory’s camera is difficult to explain if he attempted a solo summit, and failed as, to wit; if he failed to gain the summit, he would simply retreat with his unused camera(s), rendezvous with Irvine below and then they continue together back to camp, the camera’s unused on the summit and forgotten along with his own camera, there would be really no need to dispense with it to Irvine including if he had a small accident during the ascent!

Equally, if Mallory alone did summit and employed one or both camera’s for posterity, he would most likely retain one and perhaps both devices (if Irvine was hindered in some manner and unable to summit) on his person and not inexplicably hand to Irvine both camera’s after this success, as there would simply be no need to do so for both (as if Irvine’s camera was utilized on the summit, he may wish to receive his own back, but not both), unless as illustrated above, Mallory during the descent sustained a minor mishap which hindered him, but still as in this entire possibility wasn’t of a magnitude to separate the pair.

Then in that circumstance, Mallory after a possible solo summit success may well trust Irvine with the camera’s after a mishap on the descent.

Therefore the ‘missing camera’ logic, suggests that either; Mallory and/or Irvine alone gained the summit, but Mallory’s putative success could only be explained if he experienced a recoverable accident on the descent leading to Irvine taking responsibility for the vital camera’s, or both Mallory and Irvine reached the summit together after all, where as can now be observed, the absence of the Mallory camera suggests any success would lead logically to retention of at least one camera, unless Mallory sustained a mishap during the descent that hindered but didn’t separate him from Irvine!

Mount Everest Third Step

The so-called ‘Third Step’ thought by some to be the site where Odell saw Mallory and Irvine at 12.50 pm? Although, even here, the ascent takes longer than one would think and the step can be readily bypassed entirely via the right hand side. Note the climber silhouetted above against the snows of the final pyramid!

Courtesy, Guiseppi Pompili, 2004

Sequential Logic Functions

These exclusionary combinations can be expressed by the simple logical functions thusly;

Premise A

Irvine unable to proceed, solo Mallory summit success-retain camera(s), summit gained, employ camera(s), rendezvous with Irvine, possibly return Irvine’s camera, but Mallory to retain at least one/both camera’s. (both camera’s to Irvine if Mallory hurt during descent)

Premise B

Irvine unable to proceed, solo Mallory summit failure-retain camera(s), no summit images, rendezvous with Irvine, either keep camera(s) or return Irvine’s, (camera on person even if Mallory hurt during descent due to no summit imagery).

Premise C

Mallory unable to proceed, solo Irvine summit success-retain camera(s), attain summit, employ camera(s), retain one/both camera(s) when rendezvous with Mallory, Irvine retains one or both camera(s), unlikely to return Mallory’s camera due to his incapacity during ascent or descent.

Premise D

Mallory unable to proceed, solo Irvine summit failure-retain camera(s), but unused short of summit, then rendezvous with Mallory, either keep both camera(s) or return Mallory’s. (Mallory may well retain his camera if hurt due to no summit imagery within)

Premise E

Mallory and Irvine summit success-retain both cameras, attain summit, then employ camera(s) and retain for descent, both kept by Irvine by random circumstances, more so if Mallory was injured during the descent.

Premise F

Mallory and Irvine summit failure-retain both camera(s), but unused, then descend.


From the above logical exclusionary propositions, derived from the factors in this discourse, it can be shown immediately that the absence of the camera on Mallory’s person in 1999, (ignoring unlikely and exiguious factors as canvassed) negates a number of outcomes pertaining to Mallory and Irvine’s actions on the 8th of June.

Immediately obvious is the elimination of Premise’s B and F as well considerable doubt vis a’ vis  Premise D, as all three result in summit failures individually or as a pairing, but without any summit imagery on Mallory’s camera, there is little reason for Mallory to dispense with his camera and trust it to Irvine!

These ‘failure’ premises, directly and decisively negate past and current ‘doubts’ and (in many ways self-serving) scepticism articulated in a number of published ‘theories’ and opinion pages.

However of the remaining three options (summit success indicators) all result in a summit success individually or as a pairing by virtue of the fact that Mallory’s absent camera tacitly indicates an anomaly where if there was no summit, why dispense with his camera?

Ergo, there must have been a summit by one or both climbers to explain the absent camera vis a’ vis Mallory in 1999 due to one of both Englishmen summiting and resulting in Irvine keeping both camera’s or an injured Mallory on the descent relaying his camera to Irvine due to the presence of something important contained within- actual summit photographs!

Logic indicates therefore that as illustrated by this sequence of logic presented in this discourse, that somehow and beyond the current capacity of any theory,  somehow Mallory and Irvine likely did attain the summit via means that can’t yet be physically confirmed, but tacitly by virtue of the missing camera from Mallory’s person, such where it would be expected to be if he and Irvine failed to summit, the absence in itself indicates that something happened that lead to Mallory imparting his camera to Irvine, a summit by one or both men, resulting in a random carriage by both camera’s by Irvine during the descent, or a mishap for Mallory that hindered him that lead to Irvine taking charge of his camera too.

Via a process of eliminating the other possibilities regarding the missing camera’s provenance, attention to this fine detail implicitly suggests that a new means of discovering and reconstructing Mallory and Irvine’s movements can now be tacitly obtained, mindful that the preponderance of evidence pertaining to the logical implications of this missing camera, can be used to ‘leap ahead’ of past and current argumentation pertaining to the likelihood of the Englishmen’s success (or not), such that having tacit confirmation of the success of a summit by one or both of the pair, from this new foundation, it can ease the process of determining how the summit was gained, knowing that there is strong tacit evidence that Mallory and/or Irvine actually succeeded in attaining the summit of Mt Everest late in the day on the 8th of June, 1924!

Notes and References

1. Perceptive Everest researcher Jochen Hemmleb provided the definitive theoretical foundation that lead to the discovery of Mallory’s body eventually in 1999.

Indeed without Hemmleb, it’s likely the ‘discoverers’ claiming the credit since, would never have succeeded.

Hemmleb’s insightful theory on the discovery is described in; Ghosts of Everest, J. Hemmleb et al, 2000, Pan Books, London, Great Britain, Chapter 6, pp 111-115 -Tatort Mount Everest: Der Fall Mallory, J.Hemmleb, 2009 Terra Magica, Munich, Germany, pp. 26-28

2. Somervell recalls; “As Mallory finished his ascent, he borrowed my camera- which I of course never saw again” (German translation) Everest 1924: The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine, BBC, 1970. Documentary

As related in; Tatort Mount Everest: Der Fall Mallory, J.Hemmleb, 2009, Terra Magica, Munich, Germany, pp. 221

3. Prominent amongst the various Mallory camera viability ‘advocates’ is a certain T.H Holzel who over time had garnered quite a flock of devotees to this ‘belief system’ such that little separates this band from a semi religious belief system, premised more on blind optimism and self-affirmation for what may be possible than actual realism.

See Holzel’s writings on; Part 3. A127 film Care & Developing Suggestions.

4. Nonetheless considerable scepticism still exists regarding this Mallory camera film viability See;

5. Detectives on Everest; J.Hemmleb, 2002, The Mountaineers books, Seattle, pp.118

6. Hemmleb recalls; “Irvine was an avid photographer and had his own camera” (German translation)

Tatort Mount Everest: Der Fall Mallory, J.Hemmleb, 2009, Terra Magica, Munich, Germany, pp.221

7. Irvine also wrote in his diary on the 4th of June, 1924; “Have bought up Noel’s pocket film camera”- from Herbert Carr, ‘The Irvine Diaries: Andrew Irvine and the Enigma of Everest, 1979, Reading, England, Gastons-West Col Publications pp.111

Reprinted: Tatort Mount Everest: Der Fall Mallory, J.Hemmleb, 2009, Terra Magica, Munich, Germany, pp.221

8. “Climbing Mount Everest”, Sir Percy Wyn-Harris private cine’ camera documentary (complete version) footage, 1933

9. Detectives on Everest; J.Hemmleb, 2002, The Mountaineers books, Seattle, Chapter 7, pp. 114

10. Ghosts of Everest, J.Hemmleb, 2000, Pan Books, London, Great Britain, Chapter 6, pp. 128-129

11. Tatort Mount Everest: Der Fall Mallory, J.Hemmleb, 2009, Terra Magica, Munich, Germany, pp. 220-221


The Author wishes thank respected Everest mountaineers and adventurers; Veli-Pekka Molsa of the Finland Airborne Ranger Club and Guiseppi Pompili for the generous photographic permission used to great effect in this paper. Their kindness and helpfulness is greatly appreciated.

In addition, the Author extends sincere thanks to the learned and ever helpful researchers;

Jochen Hemmleb, Colin Wallace, Tomas Rost, Chris Peacock and Gareth Thomas for their ongoing support and insightful theoretical soundings on the many aspects of the Everest mystery.

Also, much appreciation is extended to Everest climbers Stuart Holmes and Katie Sarah for their advice, support and insights as well as more ‘down to earth’ friends including, Jeremy Wyn_Harris and special thanks gratefully extended to Ajay Dandekar.

Philip Summers, Hobart, Australia 2013.

The Author is an Australian researcher and Everest historian with a particular interest in the early British Everest expeditions.

Away from his research and Everest, he enjoys cricket, running, British comedies and caring for homeless cats in his free time.

Note: The Author welcomes questions, points and discussion on the issues raised in this paper and can be contacted via email at

Please Share!