Odell, Noel Ewart (1890-1987), geologist and mountaineer

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Odell, Noel Ewart (1890-1987), geologist and mountaineer

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Noel Odell was a member of the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition and last person to see George Mallory and Andrew Irvine alive.

In 1924 Odell was an oxygen officer on the Everest expedition. He spent two weeks living above 23,000 ft and twice climbed to 26,800 ft and higher, without supplemental oxygen. In 1936 Noel Odell with Bill Tilman climbed Nanda Devi, at the time the highest mountain climbed.

On 8 June 1924 George Mallory and Andrew Irvine attempted to summit Mount Everest via the Northeast Ridge route. Odell reported seeing them at 12:50 p.m. ascending one of the major "steps" on the North-East ridge, "the last step but one from the base of the final pyramid" and "going strongly for the top." The is no evidence to prove reached the summit, or that they ascended above the major second step. They never returned and died on the mountain.

In his first two accounts, written between June and November 1924, Odell was certain he had seen Mallory and Irvine climbing the second step, but in the expedition account published in 1925, and after mounting skepticism from members of the climbing community as to whether it was the second step or the lower first step, Odell conceded it might have been the first step. After he had been rejected as too old for the next Everest expedition, he recanted his change of mind and returned to the belief that he had seen the two climbers on the second step. Had they done climbed this, there would have been a fair chance that one of them, at least, might have reached the summit.


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Braeshears, D. and Salkeld, A., Last Climb: The Legendary Everest Expeditions of George Mallory (1999).

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