Mallory's Last Note From Everest: 'It Is 50 to 1 Against Us'

The May 1924 letter is the UK adventurer's final correspondence to spouse before he vanished
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 24, 2024 12:30 PM CDT
Before He Vanished on Everest, Mallory Wrote Wife a Last Letter
This undated photo shows part of the final letter that mountaineer George Mallory wrote to his wife before he vanished on Mount Everest a century ago. The letter has been digitalized.   (Reproduced with permission of the Master and Fellows of Magdalene College, Cambridge via AP)

In his final letter to his wife before he vanished on Mount Everest a century ago, George Mallory tried to ease her worries even as he said his chances of reaching the world's highest peak were "50 to 1 against us." The letter, digitized for the first time and published online Monday by his Cambridge University alma mater, expressed a mix of optimism, exhaustion, and the difficulties his expedition encountered on their quest to be the first party to conquer the peak. "Darling I wish you the best I can—that your anxiety will be at an end before you get this—with the best news," the British adventurer wrote to Ruth Mallory on May 27, 1924, from Camp I, per the AP. "It is 50 to 1 against us but we'll have a whack yet & do ourselves proud."

In his final six-page correspondence to "My dearest Ruth," Mallory speaks of trials and triumphs as the party slowly made its way up the mountain, setting up higher camps and then retreating to lower elevations to recover. "This has been a bad time altogether," Mallory wrote 12 days before he was last seen alive. "I look back on tremendous efforts & exhaustion & dismal looking out of a tent door and onto a world of snow & vanishing hopes—& yet, & yet, & yet there have been a good many things to set on the other side."

Mallory said he had a nagging cough "fit to tear one's guts" that left him sleepless and made climbing difficult. He described a near-death plunge into a crevasse when he failed to detect it beneath a blanket of snow. It remains a mystery whether Mallory, who once famously said he wanted to conquer Everest "because it's there," and climbing partner Andrew Irvine reached the summit and died on the way down or never made it that far.

story continues below

Mallory's body was found 75 years later, far below the peak, but Irvine's has never been located. Magdalene College posted the Mallory letters online to mark the centenary of his ill-fated attempt to stand atop the world. In Mallory's final letter to his wife, he writes, "The candle is burning out & I must stop." He signs off: "Great love to you. Ever your loving, George." (More here.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.