The mysterious death of Mt. Everest explorer George Mallory

Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, has fascinated people for years. After all, what kinds of secrets could lurk in its height and danger?

One of the mysteries surrounding Everest is the disappearances of famous climbers, especially those who attempted to climb to its peak before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were able to do so in 1953. And none baffled the world more than the mysterious fate of George Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine.

Mallory was one of the leading climbers of the 1920s. A former schoolteacher, Mallory had already been to Everest twice before, according to History Extra, to map out potential routes to the summit. He'd attempted climbs to the top twice before the fateful trip in June 1924. Mallory and Irvine took off just after dawn, writes Outside, and began the trek up the mountain. 

It looked to be a difficult climb, says Outside, as the duo faced dwindling supplies and dangerous rock and ice. Noel Odell, who took a photo of the two before they left camp and followed behind them, later said he saw two black dots he assumed to be Mallory and Irvine near one of the final ridges before the peak before disappearing into the clouds again. It was the last time both of them were seen alive.

A decades long search party

Over the years, Mallory and Irvine were presumed to have perished on Everest, something that happens to many who attempt to climb it. But no one knew what really happened. And if Odell was correct, did the pair manage to get past that last ridge and get to the summit before Hillary and Norgay?

Several expeditions were planned to look for their bodies. An ax belonging to Irvine was discovered in 1933. In 1979, a Chinese climber claimed he saw the body of a European man with the same characteristics as Mallory on the mountain. But the climber, Wang Hongbao, died in an avalanche the day after his report. In 1999, another group tried to find Mallory and Irvine, or more specifically a camera Irvine carried.

The 1999 expedition used clues from Wang and determined a search area. And on May 1, they found a body frozen in its last position an arm outstretched above the head as if still reaching for a rock, reports Outside. At first, they thought it was Irvine. But as the looked closer, they found labels on the clothes, G. Mallory.

His right leg had been broken and a climbing rope was wrapped around him twice. His forehead also had a deep gash, possibly from an ice ax. It was not the body Wang said he saw but it definitely Mallory. Finally, it seemed the mystery of Mallory's death was solved.

Unfinished business

Researchers believe Mallory and Irvine had been climbing, roped together, when one of them slipped, explains Outside. Mallory fell and the rope wrapped around him squeezed his torso. He must've hit his leg somewhere, breaking it, then his ax bounced off something, hitting his head and killing him. It's theorized that the body Wang found could've been Irvine but to this day his body still hasn't been discovered.

As it's expensive and difficult to bring bodies down the mountain, so Mallory was buried there. It seemed the mystery was finally over (barring finding Irvine) but there's still one more puzzle to solve. Did Mallory and Irvine make it to the summit two decades before Hillary and Norgay did?

According to the Sunday Mirror, Mallory's eldest daughter Clare claims her father promised to leave a photo of her mother on Everest if he conquered it. When his body was found, she asked if they found the photo. It was not in his possession. Outside also explains an unbroken pair snow goggles were found in his pocket, a sign that Mallory may have climbed down at night. For many, this is enough evidence that the pair must have made it to the top of Everest. 

While that's still up for debate, and further research, Mallory's image did make it atop the highest place on Earth. In 1995, his grandson, also named George Mallory summited Everest. He carried with him a photo of his grandparents. He left the photo on the peak claiming his family had unfinished business with the mountain.