Research reveals that George Mallory was as well dressed to climb Everest in 1924 as some of today's climbers
Published 26 May 2006
Graham Hoyland, mountaineer and great-nephew of 1924 Everest climber Howard Somervell, has spent the last few weeks on Everest field-testing exact replicas of the clothing worn by climber George Mallory in 1924. The replicas are the result of a three-year project headed by Professor Mary B. Rose and Mike Parsons - both of Lancaster University Management School’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (IEED).
Graham Hoyland wearing the 1924 replica clothing on Everest
"The first thing to report is how extraordinarily comfortable they are", Hoyland says. "When I first put on the clothes I found they felt warm instead of the slightly clammy feel of the synthetic alternative. The other layers, instead of feeling bulky, fitted very well. When cutting steps, I found I could lift my arm to full extent without disturbing the warm layers of air. Later, when exposed to a cutting wind blowing off the main Rongbuk glacier, I found the true value of the Gabardine outer layers. These resisted the wind and allowed the eight layers beneath to trap warmed air between them and my skin."
The research and replication work led by Professor Rose and Mike Parsons was undertaken at the Universities of Leeds, Southampton and Derby. The £30,000 project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with added support from the Pasold Research Fund and the Clothing for Extremes conference and under the direction of the Mountain Heritage Trust.
Professor Rose said, "The replicas help answer some of the questions of today’s outdoor equipment innovators." The result of this work stands out as a challenge to outdoor clothing designers, because Mallory’s clothing was much lighter than today's equivalent. The results also provide key additional information for all those interested in the Mallory and Irvine story.
Julie Summers, great niece of Sandy Irvine, and a trustee of the Mountain Heritage Trust said, "This is astounding and very good news. I am pleased for everyone involved with the project." Sir Chris Bonington, a fellow trustee said, "While Mallory and Irvine remain mountaineering’s greatest mystery, the great thing about this project is that it’s shown that they were well enough clad to have had a chance of reaching the summit. It also knocks on the head the popular myth that they were wandering around Everest dressed in tweeds for the grouse moor. They were obviously very well equipped, and indeed the boots they wore were actually much lighter than the ones we wore, when we climbed Everest in 1975!"
Funding was provided by Heritage Lottery Fund, Pasold Research Fund www.pasold.co.uk and the Clothing for Extremes conferences.
Mike Parsons was MD of gear-makers Karrimor International from 1960 to 1997. He is now the innovation director for OMM Ltd, makers of lightweight outdoor gear. In 2003 he was appointed an Honorary Entrepreneurial Fellow of Lancaster University Management School’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (IEED). Mike is the co-organiser of the annual Clothing for Extremes Conference (www.innovation-for-extremes.net).
Professor Mary B. Rose is Professor of Entrepreneurship at Lancaster University Management School’s Institute of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development. In 2005 Mary and Mike Parsons won an undergraduate teaching prize for their ground-breaking ‘Innovation’ course. Their book Invisible on Everest: Innovation and the Gear Makers (2003) was winner of the 2005 Design History Society Scholarship award and runner up for the Wadsworth Prize in business history in 2004.
The replica team of Amber Rowe, Dave Brook, Vanessa Anderson, and John Angus was drawn from the Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton, the Performance Clothing Research Centre, University of Leeds, the Textile Department at the University of Derby and the Performance Clothing MA course at the University of Derby. Joyce Meader who was responsible for the knitwear is a freelance historic knitter. The vest was supplied by John Smedley Ltd Matlock and fabric for the outerwear was made by Woodrow Universal Mills, and supplied free of charge by Burberry. Puttees were hand woven by Simon Young.
Graham Hoyland is a great nephew of 1924 Everester, Howard Somervell, the man who lent George Mallory his camera on the ill-fated summit bid. He has himself summited Everest in his hunt for his uncle's camera and was attracted by the quality of the research behind the replica project and wanted to contribute to understanding the performance of the clothing at altitude.