Mallory and Irvine disappear in the mist
(A flight of fancy)

18-19 Sep 2004 - by Arun Mahajan

On Saturday morning, led by Scott Kreider and Arun Mahajan, four explorers (Linda Sun, Fi Verplanke, Steve Curry and Dmitry Nechayev) set out to find Mallory and Irvine, initially identified by Norman Clyde and had been reportedly found by several other explorers since then but mountaineering being such a personal thing, we had decided that we had to find them for ourselves.

We flew up the Meysan Lakes trail with Dmitry leading the way and by mid-afternoon were at this jewel of the Sierra desperately searching for a shielded spot to camp as the wind was blowing hard and the temperatures were falling. After building meagre wind breaks and setting up camp, some of us went to scout the route.

The traverse past the lakes to the base of the two snow tongues on the horrible looking scree field, we called the First Step, the chute between them, the Second Step and the plateau above, the Third Step. We hoped to climb to the Third Step in the morrow and to get to Mallory and Irvine for, the Third Step was the place from where they could reportedly be seen. At camp, we mulled on these difficulties over some Kendall Mint Cake.

Would that the mountains yield their secrets so easily! It got progressively colder in the night and there was snowfall and the water in the bottles froze overnight. Regardless, we were up early and moving at about 6 am on Sunday. We walked to the First Step and then Dmitry led the way through the dangerously loose chute, the Second Step. The clouds flirted with the weak willed sun which refused to shine. Once in a while a snow flake would flutter down.

Besides this energy sapping cold, some team members began to feel the effects of the altitude. Meanwhile Dmitry and I had proceeded to just a hundred feet or so before the Third Step. As we waited there, the rest of the party came up. As some of the clouds lifted, we saw a summit to our right and seperated by a saddle, another. Mallory and Irvine? we wondered. But the altitude problem had still to loosen its vice grip on one of the team members. As leaders, we were faced with a difficult decision. To go or to not. It appeared that Mallory and Irvine were partly visible and tantalisingly close. The cold, the bad visibility due to the low clouds and the altitude sickness, which was the last straw, made up our minds. We decided to call off the climb. Mallory and Irvine would have to remain a mystery till the next time. We still had the chute to descend to get back to the First Step and had to guide the team member back. Everybody in the team was remarkably understanding of this decision.

I suspect that Mallory and Irvine are still there somewhere, just past the Third Step, hidden by the clouds. We think that we even saw them. It hurt to turn back, especially after having done ninety percent of the work but Scott swore to go through the whole permit process, the fees and the bureaucracy once again next year and to renew his search.

OK, so I was taking some trip-report-writer's license with this. That wasnt Kendall Mint Cake that had been passed around. It was Lindt Chocolate,...not quite the same cachet.

Dmitry Nechayev remarks:

You forgot to mention your mysterious finding right below the first step.

Aaron Schuman speculates:

I speculate that the mysterious finding had something to do with the vice grip. Which one of you was gripped, and by which of your vices? Did you find an unopened bottle of Mountain Medicine, or a party of frolicking scree nymphs, or did you stop to bet on a sage grouse fight? My advice: give up the vice, because your wickedness holds you tighter than a vise. You panted most of the way up the mountain, now go back and re-pant.

Arun Mahajan replies: that you menton it, which mysterious finding are you talking about? Those sunglasses I found at camp? That piece of film you found? Those empty shell casings? Nah. It must have been that skull.

The plot thickens.

Dmitry Nechayev replies:

Yeah, I thought about that skull. It reminded me Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro: "Close to the western summit there is a dried and frozen carcas of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude."

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