Last Letters of George Mallory Now Online

The international team that discovered George Mallory’s body on the North Side of Everest in 1999 also found three letters with it, wrapped in a handkerchief and tucked into his pocket. He had written them by candlelight in Camp 1, before his final summit push. The British gentleman mountaineer candidly admitted their chances of success were “50 to 1 against.”

As part of the centenary of that epic 1924 expedition, those letters are now online, courtesy of the University of Cambridge.

Before Everest, Mallory was a student at Cambridge, and the letters he exchanged with his wife Ruth reside in the college’s archives. While the correspondence was previously available for writers and scholars by appointment, they can now be read by everyone, at any time, from anywhere.

Even on screen, the feeling of reading the last words of Mallory in his own hand is moving. On most pages, the ink is neat and as clear as if the words had been written recently. But the real feeling lies in the words themselves, alternating hope with sober awareness of the challenge ahead. Here is the end of the last letter.

The candle is burning out and I must stop. Darling I wish you the best I can – that your anxiety will be at an end before you get this – with the best news. Which will also be the quickest. It is 50 to 1 against us but we’ll have a whack yet & do ourselves proud. Great love to you. Ever your loving, George.


Mountaineering’s favorite mystery

Mallory’s name will be forever linked to his disappearance on the slopes of Everest and the mystery surrounding his and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine‘s last steps. Especially the ever-intriguing question, did they reach the summit before perishing?

Yet Cambridge’s collection of Mallory documents goes further back than those last days. It includes personal papers, historical accounts, and correspondence dating from 1914. At that time, the letters focused not on mountains but on the First World War. Mallory served at the front while Ruth waited and worried at home.

Overall, the documents allow readers to look at troubled times a hundred years ago through the eyes of the Mallorys.

A photograpg of a letter handwritten by George Mallory

The first page of Mallory’s last letter. Photo: Magdalene College/Cambridge University

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.