Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

July 20

Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Arild, Saint Margaret of Antioch (patron saint of women, especially women in childbirth, and nurses and is invoked against kidney disease or loss of milk), Saint Wilgefortis, and Saint Wulmar.

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Hillary, Mallory, Irvine, and Everest

Today is the anniversary of the 1919 birthday of Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two men (the other being his climbing partner, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay) to stand on the top of Mount Everest (1953).

I saw something incredible a couple years ago at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. It was all the non-perishable remains of George Mallory, found with the body in 1999 by an expedition led by Washingtonian Eric Simonson. All the stuff is now at the British Museum in London, but because Simonson found it, we were allowed to see it first.george mallory nude

George Mallory was the man who answered the question "Why climb Mount Everest?" with "Because it's there." Since he spent almost his entire married life apart from his wife and children while attempting to accomplish this feat, I sure hope she found that answer as witty as the press did.

Mallory, along with his 22-year-old climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, left their camp for the final ascent, as prepared as possible in those days, on June 6, 1924, and were last spotted through the mist on June 8. Until finding Mallory's body last year, only an ice axe used by one of the two sandy irvinehad been discovered, and that was in 1933. Besides Irvine's body, there is still a camera missing, hopefully containing the answer to how high the two got before coming acropper.

Simonson's team, having carefully stripped Mallory's body of everything, covered it with rocks and left it on the mountain. Horrifyingly, Everest is littered with the bodies of failed climbers, both because of the difficulty involved in removing the corpses and because the Sherpas believe that it is bad luck to remove them. Now, the Sherpas account for one-fourth of the ascents of Everest and one-third of the deaths (142 total deaths as of several months ago--a fourth of the number of successful climbers), so I don't see how their luck could get a lot worse. Anyway, the bodies are all still there.

One picture in the exhibit showed the body of a modern climber, clad in the bright synthetic gear they all wear now, lying in the snow, arms akimbo, looking like he or she had just fallen off skis. It was eerie. I stared at it for a long time and on my second visit to the exhibit, I had to stare at it some more. I don't know exactly what I wanted from it--maybe some explanation for a pointless death in one's prime--for SCORES of pointless deaths. For widows and widowers and orphans and parents who outlived their strong and healthy children.

Something a hell of a lot better than "Because it's there."

 

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Marilyn Jones 2000-2008