Andrew Irvine was an English mountaineer, a member of the third British expedition to the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest (8848m). He was only twenty-two years old when he participated in the 1924 British Everest Expedition, eventually vanished on the mountain’s northeast ridge above 8000m, and died alongside his climbing partner George Mallory. The two were last seen only a few hundred meters from the summit.
Did they reach the summit? Were they the first persons to summit Everest?
Who Was Andrew Irvine? A Brief Introduction to the Legendary Mountaineer
Birkenhead, Cheshire native Andrew Comyn Irvine was born on 8th April 1902. One of six children, his father, William Fergusson Irvine, was a historian with Scottish and Welsh roots, while his mother, Lilian Davies-Colley, was from an old Cheshire family.
His cousins were famous personalities in the Britain. Lyn Irvine was a literary journalist and writer. At the same time, his mother’s side cousins: Eleanor Davies-Colley was among the earliest women to be a British surgeons and Harriet Shaw Weaver was a political activist and a magazine editor.
Initially, Irvine enrolled at Birkenhead School. Later, he joined Shrewsbury School, where he became keenly interested in engineering acumen. Besides, he was into sports, excelling at rowing. In 1919, he won the ‘Peace Regatta‘ at Henley with the Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club.
Upon high school graduation, he attended Merton College, Oxford, to study engineering, where he eventually joined the Oxford University Mountaineering Club. Not to mention, he did not give up on rowing. In 1923, he was a winning Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race crew.
The Mystery of Andrew Irvine’s Disappearance on Mount Everest
In 1923, Andrew Irvine participated in the Merton College Arctic Expedition to Spitsbergen, led by an English mountaineer. The expedition was led by Noel Odell, whom Irvine had already met in 1919 on Mt. Foel Grach (975 m), where Irvine had ridden his motorcycle to the top.
The expedition came out as the most significant turning point of Irvine. Impressed with Irvine’s fitness and dedication, Odell recommended Irvine to the third British Mount Everest, though he was only a twenty-one-year-old undergraduate student.
On 29th February 1924, Irvine said goodbye to the United Kingdom and set sail to the Himalayas on board the SS California and three other expedition members, including George Mallory.
As Irvine was pursuing engineering, he aided in designing better oxygen sets for high altitudes during the expedition. Besides, he was called here and there to maintain anything from expedition cameras to camp beds to primus stoves. Though he was the youngest member of the expedition, he was one of the popular name and respected by his older colleagues for his ingenuity personality.
In early June 1924, the expedition attempted twice to summit but was unsuccessful. So the expedition has one last chance that season to reach the summit. The last chance to summit fell under George Mallory, and to others’ surprise, he chose Andrew Irvine as his climbing partner, who was new to mountaineering and Everest.
On 6th June 1924, Mallory and Irvine began their ascent to the summit. On 7th June, the pair had established a final two-man camp at 8,168 m (26,800 ft) by the end of the day. On 8th June, they ascended to the summit.
Around 12:50 pm, Noel Odel, who was in a supporting role, reported spotting them in the Second Step of the northeast ridge, ascending strongly towards the summit. However, that became the last time the duo was seen alive. What happened next is a mystery. They summited or not have been the subject of debate for a century now.
Forever Lost On Everest
In the fourth British Everest Expedition, an English mountaineer, Percy Wyn-Harris discovered an ice axe around 8,460 meters below the ridge after nine years of disappearance of Mallory and Irvine.
How were they sure it was axe belonged to Mallory of Irvine? Well, the ice axe matched the number of Swiss manufacturers supplied to the 1924 expedition. Since the two had only climbed that high along the ridge route, it must be used by one of them.
In May 1991, a 1924 oxygen cylinder was found around 8,480 meters, closer to the First Step than the ice axe found in 1933. Later, American Tap Richards recovered the oxygen cylinder in May 1999.
In 1999, Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition were held to uncover evidence of whether George Mallory and Andrew Irvine had been the first to summit Mount Everest. The team expected to discover a camera on Irvine’s body which should have contained a picture of the summit.
In May 1999, Conrad Anker found Mallory’s body at 8,155 meters, some 300 meters below the location of the ice axe found in 1933. Still, Mallory’s body was encircled by rope in his waist, which exhibited serious hemorrhaging, symptomatic of rope-jerk injury, and strongly suggesting that at some point, either Mallory or Irvine fell while they were still roped together.
Mallory had relatively few significant injuries: numerous fractures and a golf ball-sized puncture wound in his forehead seemed to be the likely cause of death.
There have been two more research expeditions for Irvine, but his remaining in Everest and portable camera were never found.
Was Andrew Irvine Married?
Andrew Irvine had an affair with Marjory Agnes Standish Summers, a former chorus girl. As a matter of fact, Marjory was his friend, Dick’s stepmother, married to the steel magnate Henry Hall Summers.
Irvine and Dick had been friends since the fives court at Shrewsbury School. Even though Marjory was 33 years older than Irvive and first encountered him as a boy, Irvine’s impressive physique impacted Marjory Summers.
The two began an indiscreet affair. The two go on movie dates and intimate picnics driving Henry’s Rolls in North Wales.
After discovering their affair, Henry Hall Summers began divorce proceedings against Marjory.