As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations we're looking back through our collections and revisiting some of our greatest successes.
George Mallory and Sandy Irvine's disappearance on Everest during their 1924 summit attempt prompted perhaps the most enduring mountaineering mystery of all time - did they reach the summit? The discovery of Mallory's body in 1999 did little to resolve the mystery - the pair's camera, which would have held any summit photographs if they made it, was in the care of Irvine whose body has never been found.
However, the fragments of clothing on Mallory's body prompted an extraordinary research project which explored and challenged the idea that a summit bid was impossible in 1924 due to a lack of suitable clothing. The Mallory Clothing Replica Project ran from 2002 to 2006 and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Pasold Research Fund - with substantial voluntary expertise contributions from numerous individuals including Mike Parsons and Professor Mary B Rose (Lancaster University) who ran the project.
Painstaking research was carried out on the fragile and degraded fragments of clothing with teams from the universities of Southampton, Derby, Leeds and Lancaster who carried out detailed scientific analysis. There was also historic research carried out into kit lists, receipts, photographs and other records from the 1920s.
Once researchers knew what materials the clothing had been made from, further research was carried out to produce patterns for the woven and knitted garments. This involved study of the fragments themselves as well as study of historic photographs and knitting patterns; the project also drew substantially on the knowledge of the experts commissioned to construct the replicas (including Joyce Meader and her extensive knitting pattern collection).
A duplicate set of the replicas were then tested on Everest by Graham Hoyland, BBC producer and great nephew of 1924 expedition member Howard Somervell. Hoyland tested the replicas at 5,150 metres (Base Camp) and again at 6,340 metres (above Advanced Base Camp). He conclued that the clothing was extremely comfortable, providing warmth and ease of movement - although probably not enough warmth to survive a high altitude bivouac if anything went wrong during the summit attempt.
The Mallory Clothing Replicas are now cared for by the Mountain Heritage Trust. One set is retained in pristine condition while the set worn by Graham Hoyland is used for exhibition and display.
To purchase a copy of the booklet "Mallory Myths and Mysteries: The Mallory Clothing Replica Project" please email email@example.com