Mallory mystery no worry for Hillary

17:00, Aug 28 2010
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Sir Edmund Hillary

THE DAUGHTER of Sir Edmund Hillary says a new film that suggests British mountaineer George Mallory got to the summit of Mt Everest first does not detract from her father's achievements.

The film, The Wildest Dream, examines the enduring mystery over whether Mallory did conquer Everest in 1924. It does not provide a definitive answer, but it does throw up some new angles and shows he could have made it to the top 29 years before Hillary and his climbing partner Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

Speaking to the Sunday Star-Times yesterday, Sarah Hillary said the issue of whether Mallory had beaten her father to the summit of the world's tallest mountain had been the source of much debate for years, and her father had always had a relaxed approach to the issue.

"His view was that he had got 50 good years out of being conqueror of Everest and, whatever happened, he wasn't particularly worried. That's my feeling as well."

Sarah Hillary would be keen to see the film: "It was extremely difficult to climb mountains in those days. When you think about what they had to go through without any equipment ... it is unbelievable what they achieved. It's all very fascinating."

Mallory was last seen alive 240m from the summit of Everest on his third attempt on the mountain. The question has always been whether he was going up or coming down.

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The idea for The Wildest Dream came after news reports in 1999 that climber Conrad Anker had found Mallory's body in the "death zone" of the mountain, where around 40 bodies jut out of the icy surface. Everything was there, apart from a photograph of Mallory's wife, Ruth, which the explorer had vowed to leave at the summit.

For the movie, the director Anthony Geffen filmed Anker and a young British climber, Leo Houlding, as they recreated Mallory and Sandy Irvine's climb up the difficult north approach.

Geffen, told Britain's Guardian newspaper: "What is great about this mystery is that it will probably remain a mystery, and our intention was never to solve it. He got higher than anybody else before him."

Liam Neeson narrates the movie, while Ralph Fiennes voices Mallory and, in her last film before her death from a skiing accident, Neeson's wife Natasha Richardson voices Ruth.

A New Zealand release has yet to be finalised.

Sunday Star Times