Talking West Cheshire

Museum's exhibition in the line for top award

30 April 2010

Sandy IrvineAn exhibition based on the tragic mystery of two Boys Own adventurers who died together on the slopes of the world's highest mountain, is in line for a top award.

Sandy Irvine and fellow climber George Mallory, both from Cheshire, were last sighted on 8 June 1924, on the north east ridge of Everest, just a few hundred yards from the summit.

Since that fateful day, arguments have raged on whether the intrepid duo died before reaching their goal or descending from the summit, thirty years before Everest was conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

The story fascinated Salt Museum Curator, Matt Wheeler, who spent over two years researching the life and times of the Cheshire-born Corinthians and compiling a fascinating exhibition which broke all attendance records at the Northwich museum.

Now 'Above the Clouds - Mallory and Irvine and the Quest for Everest', which attracted  visitors from across the country, has been short-listed for a 2010 Museums and Heritage Award for Excellence.

Curator, Matt Wheeler said: "I have always been interested in explorers and when I first heard about Irvine and Mallory I couldn’t resist trying to find out more, particularly because of their Cheshire links."
The ill-fated 1924 expedition was the main focus of the exhibition which included
original photographs and artefacts loaned by the Alpine Club, Magdelene College Cambridge, Merton College Oxford, the Royal Geographic Society and many other organisations and individuals.

George MalloryIrvine's remains may well have been found by a Chinese expedition in 1975. They came across 'an English dead' at 26,740 feet. And in May 1999, George Mallory's body was discovered at 26,800 feet, frozen into the ice and gravel scree on Everest's North Face and in a remarkable state of preservation.

Some of his possessions, including a broken pocket watch, letters and some lint ointment, were featured at Northwich and Birkenhead's Williamson Art Gallery, when the exhibition moved there. But the Kodak camera that was taken on their climb, may hold a vital clue to the mystery, was never unearthed.

Winners of the Museums and Heritage Awards will be announced at an awards ceremony on 12 May 2010 at Church House in Westminster.

Event director, Anna Preedy said: "This year's awards have attracted more entries than ever which has made for a incredibly tough short listing process. The evening will be a tremendous celebration of our cultural industry."

Curator, Matt Wheeler added: "I'm delighted that our exhibition has been short listed. I enjoyed every minute researching the subject - it was certainly the most satisfying project I have ever worked on."

The most comprehensive exhibition ever mounted on the third British Everest expedition, the project was part of a wider objective to increase the scope of the Salt Museum to showcase other history in the Cheshire area.

1924 Everest expedition group in front of a tent

Picture: The expedition members with Irvine and Mallory pictured back row (left).

Group stood on Pang La looking at Everest

Picture: Expedition members on Pang La taking their first look at Everest.