Climbers staging Mallory Everest bid get cold feet

KATHMANDU Thu Jun 14, 2007 9:05am EDT

Climber Conrad Anker swings his ice axe to move from a rock face onto an ice curtain at the Ouray Ice Park in Colorado, March 5, 2005. Anker, along with his British climbing mate Leo Houlding, who aimed to recreate British mountaineer George Mallory's pioneering attempt to climb Everest using only 1920s gear ended up wearing modern clothes due to the cold, a spokeswoman said on Thursday. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Climber Conrad Anker swings his ice axe to move from a rock face onto an ice curtain at the Ouray Ice Park in Colorado, March 5, 2005. Anker, along with his British climbing mate Leo Houlding, who aimed to recreate British mountaineer George Mallory's pioneering attempt to climb Everest using only 1920s gear ended up wearing modern clothes due to the cold, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Two climbers who aimed to recreate British mountaineer George Mallory's pioneering attempt to climb Everest using only 1920s gear ended up wearing modern clothes due to the cold, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.

American climber Conrad Anker, who in 1999 discovered Mallory's frozen body about 2,030 feet below the summit, wanted to see if it was possible, as some believe, for Mallory to have reached Mount Everest's summit in 1924.

Anker, 44, along with his 27-year-old British climbing mate Leo Houlding, set off to retrace Mallory's route up the Chinese face this week.

But in the end they decided it was too cold to shun modern hi-tech textiles in favor of replicas of the clothes worn by Mallory and his climbing mate, Andrew Irvine, who also never returned from the mountain and whose body has never been found.

"They decided it would be unsafe," said Kate Fraser, a spokeswoman for Altitude Films, a London-based firm who filmed Anker's and Houlding's ascent.

However, they successfully free-climbed the Second Step after removing a ladder fixed to the treacherous 100-foot rock wall near the summit, and reached the peak of the world's highest mountain on Thursday, said Fraser.

They were the first to free-climb that stretch since a Chinese expedition in 1960, said climbing historian Elizabeth Hawley.

"In this way the climbers confronted the Second Step very much as Mallory and Irvine might have done 83 years ago," Fraser said in an e-mail.

"Their success at the summit, without the use of the ladder, adds weight to the theory that George Mallory and Sandy Irvine may have made it to the summit in 1924, 29 years before Hillary and Tenzing," she added.

In 1953, New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first to successfully climb the mountain, almost 30 years after Mallory's pioneering attempt.

"That was hard," Anker was quoted as saying on his Web site after his own climb.

At least 514 people climbed Mount Everest this year -- a record number for the peak season, triggering debate about the commercialization of the mountain that lures even inexperienced climbers.

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