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Book Review – The Third Pole

The early 20th Century was the heyday of exploration, and the country that led the way was Great Britain under the leadership of the Royal Geographic Society (RGS). With such a focus came disappointment when British expeditions failed to be the first to reach the South and North Poles. Sights were then set on reaching the highest point on Earth, the summit of Mount Everest. In the early 1920s British teams were sent to Everest to explore the routes to the top. 

In 1924 an expedition was sent to attempt to reach the summit via the north face of Everest. On this expedition was the legendary mountaineer George Mallory. On June 8, 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine set out to stand on the roof of the world, where no one had stood before. They were last seen eight hundred feet shy of Everest’s summit still “going strong” for the top. But they never returned. The body of George Mallory was discovered by a research team in 1999, but the body of Sandy Irvine was never discovered. To add to the intrigue it was believed Irvine had a camera with him that may contain the evidence of whether he and Mallory reached the summit.

In 2019 a team was put together to search for Irvine’s body and of course, the camera he was believed to be carrying. Mark Synnott an experienced big wall climber never had any aspiration to climb Everest, but he was fascinated by the story of Irvine and Mallory. So, he was persuaded to join the team to document the expedition.

This book gives the historical context of the 1924 expedition and the personal histories of Mallory and Sandy Irvine. Synnott goes into detail on the preparation of the expedition team, including the novel use of drones at high altitudes.

The 2019 season on Everest was a busy one. A famous photo was taken on a long ‘conga’ line of climbers waiting to summit in May 2019. Having to wait in line had serious consequences and puts those climbers at risk. Indeed in this season, 18 people died on the mountain. Synnott interweaves the human stories of some of these tragedies (and earlier ones) as well as those who survived against the odds.

Of course, there is the story of the expedition itself, including the drama, politics and personal sacrifice that the team faced along the way.

Title:The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest
Author:Mark Synnott
Publisher:Dutton (April 13, 2021)
Available:Amazon; Barnes & Noble
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