Fearless on Everest
is a biography of Sandy Irvine, George Mallory's partner on the ill-fated Everest summit attempt of 1924, written by Irvine's great-niece, Julie Summers. Sandy Irvine was a 22 year old Oxford undergraduate when he lost his life on Everest. While much has been written about the 1924 expedition, Irvine's role is overshadowed by that of the older and far more famous Mallory, who was the dominating force of Everest exploration in the 1920s. In the endless controversy over what really happened to Mallory and Irvine, some theories give the impression that a clueless Irvine was plucked out of his Oxford rowboat and sent up to Everest with no mountaineering skills of any kind or idea of the risks he was taking. Irvine is sometimes seen as an inexperienced climber who may have caused an accident leading to his own and Mallory's deaths, or, alternatively, as almost a hapless victim of Mallory's ambition, being led on a climb he was not ready for.
This biography gives much more insight into Irvine's background and motivations, with interesting details from family recollections and papers discovered by the family in 2000. He certainly did not have the mountaineering experience of his older companions on the expedition, but he was a talented athlete and his background from an expedition to the Arctic Circle in 1923, as well as some rock climbing and Alpine experience, made him not such a bizarre choice for the expedition as previously represented. He was also mechanically gifted and made significant improvements to the oxygen apparatus as well as other equipment used on the expedition. While Irvine's determination to reach the summit of Everest may not have quite matched Mallory's near-obsession, he was highly motivated, maneuvering from the very beginning of the expedition to be considered for the summit team. While much has been written about the 1924 Everest expedition, there is little specifically about Sandy Irvine, and this biography does an excellent job of filling in those gaps.