Andrew Irvine is a widely acknowledged name in the history of mountaineering. He was born Andrew Comyn Irvine on 8 April 1902 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England. He was one of the six children of his parents, William Fergusson Irvine and Lilian Davies-Colley. His father was a great historian who lived from 1869 to 1962.
Andrew was an English citizen with mixed heritage. He had his paternal descent related to Welsh and Scottish origins, while his maternal heritage was from esteemed Cheshire origins.
Andrew was an alum of Birkenhead School and Shrewsbury School from an early age. Not only his academics, but he built up remarkable engineering aptitude in engineering. His passion was to improve fixes and enhancements for several mechanical objects, and he plateaued massively. One of his inventions during World War I took him to prominence. He built a synchronization gear that allowed machine guns to fire from propeller-driven airplanes. And it could not harm the blades. Not only that, but he also invented gyroscopic stabilizer designs for aircraft.
Besides his engineering career and background, Andrew was a highly passionate sportsman. He was a professional rower and even starred at the 1919 ‘Peace Regatta,’ held at Henley. The Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club organized it. This successful notion led him to attend Merton College, Oxford.
It was during the same time Andrew fell for mountaineering. He became a member of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club, and his passion for mountaineering grew. Similarly, boating was also his main sports genre, and he won the title of Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1922.
Andrew Irvine’s Unsuccessful Married Life
Andrew Irvine was in a romantic relationship with Marjory Agnes Standish Summers (Thompson), a chorus girl. Andrew and Marjory first met through Marjory’s stepson Dick. Interestingly, Dick was the same person Irvine had befriended on the fives court at Shrewsbury School.
Marjory was married to her husband, Harry Summers – Julie Summers’s great-grandfather, who was a steel magnate. While Irvine stepped out on his Everest Expedition, Marjory was in divorce proceedings with Harry Summers over their relationship.
Andrew and Marjory were in a close relationship. While Harry was in shock due to the death of his mother, he became more attached to Irvine. Irvine was called ‘Sandy’ for his shock of hair by Harry at that time. Irvine would spend his summers with Harry at the luxurious Cornish Hall in North Wales as they had a strong friendship bond.
As per the reports, Marjory was initially attracted to the big wealthy Harry Summers came with, who was 52 at the time. But since the age gap was huge, she started losing interest in her older husband and started falling in love with Irvine, who was of her age.
But Andrew Irvine also had been at the top of the limelight that season. With his succession of first Rowing Victory at Royal Shrewsbury School and the spotlight he got for designing the machinery during the First World War, he became a hero. And it was good enough to impact vibes on Marjory’s mind. As a result, the duo started spending time together.
However, the infidelity was found by Harry Summers as he found out Irving was leaving Marjory’s bed in the middle of the night. Eventually, Harry initiated the divorce proceedings with Marjory while Irvine was out on the Everest Expedition. As per Harry Summers, Irvine loved Marjory but never had the intention of marrying her, considering her too poor to marry.
Andrew Irvine’s Everest Expedition | Nearly Made History
Andrew Irvine was one of the members of the Merton College Arctic Expedition to Spitsbergen in 1923. During that time, he was one of the strongest mountaineers and was able to impress the expedition’s leader, Noel Odell. Irvine and Noel had met before in 1919 on Foel Grach. With outstanding excellence, Noel was highly impressed and invited Irvine to the forthcoming third British Mount Everest Expedition. Irvine was 21 years old at the time and was still an undergraduate.
Eventually, Andrew Irvine took part in the third British Everest Expedition and sailed to Nepal from Liverpool. He flew to the Himalayas on board SS California on 29 February 1924. He was one of the crew members, including George Mallory. Talking about Andrew Irvine, Mallory wrote a letter to his wife stating,
‘Irvine could be relied on for anything except perhaps conversation.’
Irvine was a hardworking engineer, and he did summon praise from his senior colleagues during the Everest Expedition. He was able to modify the oxygen sets that were professionally designed during the expedition. He improvised their functionality, lightness, and strength before embarking on the expedition. Moreover, he also worked on the expedition’s camera, camping beds, primus stoves, and other items that were highly essential during the climb.
The third British Everest Expedition had already seen a couple of unsuccessful attempts on the summit that year. And the only chance left was before the heavy snowfall that could hamper the trail in the summer monsoon. And it was grabbed by George Mallory, the most experienced climber. Irvine was fortunate to be chosen by Mallory over Noel Odell in the first place. However, Mallory did get some backlash for choosing Irvine, who was an inexperienced climber. On the other hand, Odell was one of the experienced climbers in the expedition. Nevertheless, Irvine’s mastery of oxygen supplements became the major reason for Mallory choosing him for the expedition.
Andrew Irvine and George Mallory started their climb on June 6, 1924. Within the next 24 hours of their climb from the Everest Base Camp, the duo had already established a final two-man camp at 8,168 meters (26,800 feet). The motive was to go for a final push from the camp. Reports suggest that the time of their departure from the two-man camp is unknown. But on June 8, the duo indeed went through extreme weather conditions that Mallory already had estimated.
As per Noel Odell, he saw Mallory and Irvine at 12:50 pm, stating it was much later than expected. He mentioned that Mallory and Irvine were on the verge of ascending through the Second Step of the northeast ridge. The climbing duo was heading for the summit, but no one ever reported whether they reached the top of Everest successfully or not. But as a matter of fact, Mallory and Irvine never returned from Everest as they died somewhere in the mountain. Mallory’s dead body was discovered in 1999, proving that they died of a fall. The body of Mallory suggested that it had a severe rope-jerk injury about his waist. On the other hand, Andrew Irvine’s dead body has never been found.
Possible Andrew Irvine Sightings
There have been several stories surfacing regarding the possible sightings of Andrew Irvine on Everest. In 1965, the Chinese Mountaineer Wang Fu-Chao spoke at the USSR Geographical Society in Leningrad, Russia, and stated that he came across a British climber at 8,600 meters during his Everest Expedition. When asked, he mentioned that the dead climber was wearing braces, which highly supported the theories of it being the body of Andrew Irvine since Irvine’s gear was braces too.
Similarly, another Chinese climber Xu Jing, mentioned that he came across a deceased climber returning from the First Step. The dead climber had his face lying up with his feet pointing uphill. The story suggested it could be Andrew Irvine’s body since no one before 1960 went missing from the North Side of Everest except for George Mallory and Andrew Irvine.
Dead Englishman on Everest
Another story came that stirred the whole mountaineering industry as the Japanese mountaineer Ryoten Hasegawa stated that he discovered a dead Englishman on Everest. It was during the 1975 Everest Expedition when they found the climber. As per the reports, the climber had old-fashioned clothing, which was rotting and disintegrating when touched.
The dead body had an injury on his cheek, suggesting he could have gone through a fatal fall. Despite the story, no one ever knew who the Englishman was really. Could he have been the one who tried climbing Everest even before George Mallory and Andrew Irvine?
You may also like:
- What famous body was found on Everest?
- What Was The Worst Everest Incident?
- Why Do They Leave Bodies On Everest?
One of the major conspiracy theories of Andrew Irvine and George Mallory’s climbing comes in the frontline with the speculation of Chinese Climbers finding the camera of Irvine and not letting the world know about it. As per the speculations, the 1975 Everest Expedition led by Chinese Climbers discovered the vintage Kodak camera of Irvine and buried him under the rocks.
The Chinese climbers allegedly returned with these cameras and accessories and turned them into films. It revealed that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine successfully reached the top of Mount Everest. But the Chinese government chose to bury the news since it would have disrupted their recognition for scaling Everest from the north in 1960. Nevertheless, the vintage Kodak camera carried by Andrew Irvine has been a symbol of mystery that can burst out the real story of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine during the 1924 Everest Expedition.