LFTOer Book Review: Because it�s there � The life of George Mallory

Book title Because it�s there � The life of George Mallory
Book Author  Dudley Green
Book Publisher Tempus Publishing Group
ISBN Number 0-7524-3399-7
Price �20
Review by Neil Beamsley

Mallory;  It�s certainly a name familiar to a great many people, but how many outside the immediate confines on the mountaineering community know the man in any depth?

In this enlightening and fantastically well researched book, author Dudley Green  seeks to unmask the man behind the legend and illustrate the path that led to that ill fated day on Everest.

Born in 1886, George Leigh-Mallory was one of four children. His early life was spent in preparatory schools along the south coast of England, and at 13, he won a scholarship to Winchester College.

It was here that a school master introduced the young Mallory to the art of rock climbing. Although a talented gymnast and oarsman, Mallory was not a gifted academic.

He worked hard and read widely and was rewarded with a place at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Once at Cambridge, Mallory began to gain a reputation as one of the most gifted climbers of his generation. 

Trips to the Alps followed, where he steadily racked up a number of notable peaks and first ascents of routes that still challenge climbers today.

After graduating from Cambridge, Mallory entered a period of uncertainty.  He held a great many areas of interest, including poetry, literature and politics but none seemed to offer the obvious answer to the question of a career.

He eventually accepted a teaching role at Charterhouse School in Surrey. This was a role in which he did not excel at first.

His style was to befriend his students and treat them as equals, which in such authoritarian times did not sit well with either the pupils or his superiors. 

At this time Mallory became part of a regular rock climbing scene, centred around Pen-y-Pass in Snowdonia. Mallory was surrounded by like-minded individuals who shared his love of both the mountains and theoretical discussion.

Sadly the out-break of war in 1914 cut short this golden-age of British climbing, with many of the group failing to return from the battle field.

After the war, Mallory returned to Charterhouse but was unsettled and unsure of his future.

It was at this juncture that the question of Everest was raised. A joint venture was proposed between the Alpine Club, of which Mallory was a member, and the Royal Geographic Society to conquer, this, the greatest of all Mountains.

Mallory was selected to take part in the expeditions which took place in 1921 and 1922. On both occasions, new height records were set, but the summit still proved elusive.

In 1924 the expedition returned, to make one further attempt on the summit. This was to be Mallory�s last great adventure.

He and climbing partner Andrew Irving were last spotted as two faint black dots high on the second step �going strong for the top�.

This book is must for anyone, mountaineer or otherwise, who knows of the name George Mallory. To know that he met his end while attempting Everest, is really only half the story.

The text lends heavily from Mallory�s compelling personal correspondence, revealing a man of great depth, resolve and courage.

The question of whether Mallory and Irving actually made it to the top will surely never be conclusively resolved, but having read this book, you will find yourself firmly in the camp that believes they did.

An entertaining and engrossing read!