7 Summits 8000ers Adventure Films Adventure Travel Africa Alaska Alaska Alpine style Alps Ama Dablam Amazon Andes Annapurna Annapurna Antarctic Antarctic Archaeology Arctic Arctic Aviation Ballooning BASE jump and Paragliding BASE Jumping and Paragliding Big Wall climbing Breaking News Broad Peak Buyers Guides Canoeing & Kayaking Caving Cho Oyu Climate change Climbing COVID-19 Cycling Denali Desert Dhaulagiri Dhaulagiri Elbrus Endurance Environment Everest Expeditions Exploration mysteries Explorers First ascents Flying Gasherbrum Gear Geography High altitude skiing Himalaya Hindu Kush History Ice Climbing Indigenous cultures K2 Kangchenjunga Karakorum Kilimanjaro Lhotse Long-distance hiking Long-distance Trekking Makalu Manaslu Manaslu Marathon Medical Misc Sports Mountain Mountaineering Nanga Parbat NASA Natural History Nepal Nuptse Ocean Rowing Oceanography Oceans Patagonia Photos Polar Exploration Polar Research Poles Reviews Rivers Rowing/canoeing Science Sherpa Siberia Skiing Solo South Pole Space Sponsored Content Survival Swimming Tropics Uncategorized Unclimbed Volcanos Weather Wildlife Winter 8000ers Winter Himalaya

Mallory & Irvine Everest mystery - Conrad Anker: "No bypass to the Second Step"

Posted: Mar 02, 2006 03:30 pm EST

(MountEverest.net) In a 5 part ExWeb series published in 2004, researchers Pete Poston and Jochen Hemmleb (author of several books on the subject) offered interesting insights into the quest for the true fate of Mallory and Irvine.
The pair introduced the mystery, presented their own opinions and criticised a route theory proposed by EverestNews; an armchair Everest website run out of Ohio.

Not only did the theory lack documentation and photographs, it also involved some serious climbing stunts, and rested on unidentified climbers in unrevealed locations.

ExWeb has not followed on the exact details of this search and provides just a forum for the published Mallory/Irvine researchers to voice their concerns. However, given the years of consistent lack of evidence combined with a large amount of unlikely and unsubstantiated claims; we have to point out that it's unclear how much of the "EverestNews Mallory&Irvine; search" actually has taken place physically on the mountain.

In this entry, Pete Poston has double checked the website's proposed route with American Everest climber and researcher Conrad Anker. Pete chose Anker for a simple reason: Conrad attempted to free climb the second step in 1999. Here goes Poston's latest:

How Feasible is the EverestNews.com Direct Route up the Second Step? - Conrad Anker's Opinion

"The website EverestNews.com has claimed that Mallory could have climbed a direct route up the 2nd Step by staying on the ridge rather than taking the standard traverse and offwidth route first established by the Chinese in 1960 (see Figures). They quote their mystery climbers who have claimed that 'it is very possible to go that way staying on the ridge' and 'there is a shoulder on the Kangshung side' (check ExWeb series: Mallory and Irvine - comments on the 'real Second Step' route, part 1)."

Don't try this at home - or on Everest

"After reading this theory on their website, I wrote an article which was published on MountEverest.net criticizing these claims and showing photographs of their proposed direct route that reveal just how unlikely this approach is based on technical considerations (check ExWeb series: Mallory and Irvine - Comments on the 'real Second Step' route, parts 1 and 2)."

"Subsequent articles by Phil Summers and Jochen Hemmleb added support to my criticisms, as well as providing valuable insights (check Phil Summers comments on Poston article and Previous article on the subject - Jochen Hemmleb)."

"In particular, through an analysis of the only known photo of the 2nd Step taken several days before Mallory and Irvine's attempt, Jochen Hemmleb has demonstrated that the Kangshung Face of the 2nd Step was capped by a huge, protruding cornice that most certainly would have made this 'Kangshung shoulder' route an impossibility."

A fresh breath of clarity

"What was missing in my original article however, was the opinion of someone who had been there. I had emailed Conrad Anker prior to publication, but he was off traveling and unable to reply. Like a breath of fresh air - as opposed to this smog of secrecy that seems to be clouding the Mallory and Irvine story these days - I recently received a letter from him."

"Anker, of course, is one of the best all-round alpinists in the world, and almost succeeded in free-climbing the 2nd Step offwidth during the 1999 Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition (Figures 3 and 4). If anyone knows the 2nd Step, it's Conrad Anker."

"To this recreational trad-climber who's only been to Kala Patar and Rongbuk, his words carry great weight. "

Deceiving snow ramp

"Conrad wrote that there 'appears' to be a snow ramp on the Kangshung side, and the word 'appears' is in quotes because this snow ramp is deceiving. The snow has formed on the lee side of the prevailing wind, so it's 'not consolidated enough to be climbable' according to Anker."

"Conrad goes on to state 'there is, in my view (having been there), no bypass to the Second Step. From a climber's angle, one naturally climbs the crack. There is a reason the Chinese went here, along with all the subsequent climbers. It is the way to go'."

"These opinions were not simply arrived at long after the fact - they were formulated on the spot while attempting the summit. Anker was in radio contact with Advance Base Camp during the summit attempt. Jochen Hemmleb recalls, 'I clearly remember the radio call from Conrad at the Mushroom Rock, viewing both the prow of the Second Step and the traverse of the standard route, and declaring that in his opinion the prow is not an option'."

Nova confirms the facts

"This is confirmed by Liesl Clark's web dispatch for PBS Nova that same day (Check article in Nova in the links section):"

" 'By 8:40 a.m. the climbers were at the bottom of the Second Step. Although Anker's free climb will be in the shadows, his assessment of the Second Step is that it would be easier to traverse around to the right by several hundred feet, where the Chinese ladder is, and free-climb a crack to the left of the ladder rather than tackle the Step head on.' (the 'bottom of the Second Step' remark is misleading, as the climbers had been at the Mushroom Rock at that time)."

YOUR turn

"It would be nice to hear an opposing viewpoint by climbers who have been there, who also don't hide behind anonymity, or refuse to give details. Give us something we can sink a crampon into, not spring snow blown to the lee."

Pete Poston, USA, for ExplorersWeb.


Thanks to Conrad Anker for permission to quote him, and to Jochen Hemmleb for photographs and - as usual - lots of great advice.


Normal (in red) vs. Everestnews.com (in blue) routes up the 2nd Step. Photo, courtesy of Franck Pitula.
Same view basically as on upper image, but emphasizing the top part of the 2nd Step. Photo, courtesy of Franck Pitula.
Unlike Miss Hawley, Conrad Anker actually met Oscar and spoke to him about Everest. Conrad Anker after summiting Everest in 1999. Photo, courtesy of Jochen Hemmleb.