Legendary mountain team's 1921 Everest album


A team member in the foreground with Mount Everest, Kangshung Face and Lhotse from the Karta GlacierImage copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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A member of the expedition relaxes with his pipe

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British mountaineer George Mallory took his last breath on the imperious slopes of Everest in 1924.

But three years before that, he made history as part of the first British reconnaissance expedition to the world’s highest peak.

Led by soldier and explorer Charles Howard-Bury, this was the first group of Westerners to set foot on Everest.

Mallory and fellow climber Guy Bullock made it 23,000ft up the mountain via the North Col, on Everest’s north ridge, before searing winds forced them to turn back.

Their journey proved that there was indeed a path to the top of the world. These are the pictures they took on the way:

The rocky shot below was captured on the Kyetrak Glacier on Cho Uyo, a mountain whose name means Turquoise Goddess in Tibetan. The peak is the world’s sixth-highest.

The team were lucky to get it, as they encountered some early technical difficulties. Specifically, Mallory realised a month into the trip that he had put the glass-plate negatives in his camera the wrong way round.

Cho Uyo from Dirty Glacier Summit on east slope Kyetrak Glacier opposite Cho Rabsang.Image copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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He had clearly mastered photography to a greater degree by the time the team reached these cairns, at a rest stop on the way up to the Kharta Glacier:

A black and white picture showing cairns at a rest stop on the way up to the Kharta GlacierImage copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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The three below are some of the Sherpas who helped the British team ascend the mountain, pictured climbing a ridge.

The accomplished local mountaineers are toting the climbing tools of the age – not to mention the clothing.

The British reconnaissance team, which took no oxygen equipment, would be considered dangerously ill-equipped by modern standards.

Three porters climbing along a ridgeImage copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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Some parts of the trek featured deep snow conditions, as this Mallory snap demonstrates.

Mountaineers trudge through deep snowImage copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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Guy Bullock, who took this picture, captioned it, “George Mallory climbing like a spider”. It shows Mallory leading a team up Everest’s North Col.

George Mallory leads climbers up a sheer wall of snow and iceImage copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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Charles Howard-Bury, the expedition leader who later became an MP, took this picture from the team’s Everest base at 22,500ft – described as “windy Col Camp”.

A wide-angled shot shows small tents nestled in a group between snow-covered peaksImage copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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Also immortalised were these Tibetan monks. This arresting picture shows the abbot of Shekar Chote monastery.

Tibetan monks, and the abbot of Shekar Chote monasteryImage copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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This image, another by Mallory, was one of the first ever to capture the snow-capped majesty of Earth’s highest mountain range.

The location was described as, “Camp at 20,000ft – the last day”.

A snowy mountain shot including a small old-fashioned tent, captioned, "Camp at 20,000 feet - the last day"Image copyright
RGS-IBG/Salto-Ulbeek

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This collection of pictures was digitised by the Salto Ulbeek studio in Belgium from the original silver nitrate negatives.

They will go on display in a free exhibition – Everest – A reconnaissance – at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in London from 29 October.

All images subject to copyright


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