George Mallory Statue: Good Idea or No?

The year 2024 marks 100 years since British climbers George Mallory and Sandy Irvine disappeared somewhere near the first step on Everest. To mark this centenary and to celebrate the life and climbs of Mallory, Anthony Harrison — who grew up in a village close to Mallory’s birthplace in the north of England — wants to build a life-sized bronze statue of Mallory and Irvine.

“Before all this, I didn’t know a lot about Mallory, so I was a little bit shocked that I grew up local to such a fantastic British hero,” says Harrison.

“Mallory has inspired so many global leaders over the decades, from King George VI to U.S. president John F. Kennedy, who directly quoted him in his 1952 space-race speech. Kennedy said that the U.S. is going into space ‘because it is there.'”

In addition to the statue, Harrison wants to place a plaque on Hobcroft House, Mallory’s childhood home, as well as install information boards around the village of Mallory’s birth.

Mallory and Irvine still capture the imagination of climbing fans worldwide due to the tantalizing possibility (however unlikely) that they may have reached the summit of Everest before vanishing, some 30 years before Hillary and Tenzing achieved that first in 1953. It wasn’t until 1999 that Mallory’s body was recovered by Conrad Anker in an expedition led by Eric Simonson.


Memorializing Mallory and Irvine in a statue may be a controversial move though. In recent years, we have seen many colonial-era statues hauled off of their plinths in the UK and U.S. by social activists. And in some cases, rightly so, given the links of these individuals to past injustices such as slavery.

With Mallory and Irvine, some argue that equal attention should go to the Sherpas who assisted Mallory across several attempts on Everest. A number of Sherpas lost their lives in the process.

Whatever side of the argument you reside on, Harrison nicely sums up the qualities that many still admire in these British climbers of yesteryear: “He was fully aware of the risk but he had the passion and the drive to achieve something that nobody else had.”

And regardless of whether he gets a statue or not, Mallory’s tale still echoes through the generations and inspires adventure goers worldwide. That’s more powerful than any physical memorial.