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on 4 December 2013
This book was a massive disappointment to me. It probably deserves 3 stars on it's merits but I was expecting so much more. The author writes very well and his experiences and achievements on Everest are not to be undermined in any way, but........:

Firstly, it reads like Graham Hoyland talks his mountaineering with Mallory and Irvine as an aside. That's fine if the title was Graham Hoyland does mountaineering but it isn't. I didn't really want to hear about how he exercises his demons, I bought the book for new insights on the Mallory and Irvine mystery.

Secondly, maybe I'm being harsh but the author comes across as terribly privileged. High altitude mountaineering and yachting (his latest passion as we find out) are out of the income range of most. His BBC connections and marriage to an MP on the backs of horses from his pwn stables add fuel to this fire. We can't blame the man for being born into wealth but his resultant attitude then rankles. He laments/moans (dependent on your standpoint) how he was denied a book deal when Mallory's body was found because another got a book deal. I'm a student of the mystery and have similarly profited from writing about it (on a very small scale compared to our author here). Numerous books were published at the time. Nothing was stopping the author publishing at the same time. It sounds like his wealthy publishing friends declined to publish him at the time.

Also, he sounds very bitter that an American team actually found Mallory and he again moans about their supposed mistreatment of the body and how images of the body went worldwide. Thankfully the Americans shared the revelations with us plebs and didn't keep too many intimate details amongst an elite few as the author would have preferred.

Quite honestly, the supposed new revelations that the author presents aren't earth shattering. He's shifted his position but has clearly done so because a friend at HarperCollins has commissioned this work. When he was with the team that found the body in 1999 his position was different to the one he presents here. As supporting evidence for this shift he cites his own experience as a summiteer and how difficult it would have been for ignorant 1920s climbers in limited clothing. He knew all this in 1999 and this doesn't account for a shift in opinion. Anyone who watches the author in the 1999 documentary, Lost on Everest, can see his clear passion and belief that the mountain was first climbed in 1924. His shift in opinion seems somewhat shaky given the evidence presented here.

Furthermore, he somewhat arrogantly claims that he knew the location of Mallory's body well in advance of its discovery through some private family conversations with previous Everest mountaineers (the author's uncle was Howard Somervell). If it was really that simple you have to wonder why the author didn't go to the body location some years before when he himself summited the mountain. After all the Mallory mystery was supposedly an obsession. It all quite frankly stinks of fabrication to justify another book on the Mallory and Irvine mystery when there wasn't really much more to add.

I would personally like to read Jochen Hemmleb's latest book, but I've only seen it available in German. Our author here has subtle digs at Hemmleb because he hasn't climbed high on Evererst and can't therefore appreciate the terrain and demands of the undertaking. The author seems to be rankled by Hemmleb's studious and in depth knowledge of the subject rather than embracing him as a fellow enthusiast. Anyway, as a full time athlete and strength and conditioning specialist I can advise the author that his stance on this matter is wrong. You don't necessarily need to have competed in a specific sport to understand the physical demands (granted it helps). He seems to dismiss the drive of the truly driven sportsman. I think Hoyland understands all of this, but it doesn't suit the purposes of the book he has been commissioned to write.

Other reviews have gone as far as to say this is the final word on the subject. Far from it. Still, for hardcore students of the mystery it is still worth a read.
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on 15 September 2013
Last Hours on Everest is a very mixed bag. The book starts out well, with Hoyland taking the reader briskly and entertainingly though the background of the story. There are some mistakes in this section, like wrong altitudes or topographical details - some apparently due to carelessness, others due to ignorance of fresh information -, but to list them in detail would be beyond the scope of this review.

But then - the claims!

"It was Hoyland's evidence that led to the discovery of Mallory's body" (from the books's blurb).

Throughout the book the impression is given that Hoyland knew all along where Mallory's body was located. This claim is based on a "family story" of a sighting by Frank Smythe in 1933. Yet the only tangible information regarding a location is provided by a letter from Frank Smythe, given to Hoyland by Smythe's son in 2006 - seven years AFTER the discovery of Mallory's remains!

Assuming for a moment that Hoyland did indeed travel to Everest in 1999 with a detailed knowledge of Mallory's location, the book is curiously circumspect or downright silent about how this information was used during the research expedition.

The behaviour of the search team certainly didn't suggest any previous knowledge. Most of the climbers went in directions different from the location reported by Smythe - and the sole climber who did remains adamant that he didn't have any previous knowledge! Besides that, the description of the location reported by Smythe, "in a gully", hardly fits Mallory's resting place, which is on an open slope.

To play it safe, Hoyland then tries to denigrate the contribution of author/researcher and expedition member, Jochen Hemmleb, to the discovery. Hoyland does so by attributing a claim to Hemmleb the latter never made in that form (see for comparison Ghosts of Everest, p. 117 - "Once they reached that spot [the snow terrace], my job was over") and then disproves this alleged claim with a quote from the Anker/Roberts book, The Lost Explorer, that is factually wrong (see for comparison Detectives on Everest, p. 89 - "The 1999 team had not found the actual 1975 Camp VI"). Yet Hoyland can be forgiven this double distortion - because he wasn't there (pun intended). Being no actual witness of the events of May 1, 1999, neither from Base Camp nor on the mountain, Hoyland had to rely on secondary sources and picked the one that fit his agenda best.

"It will be his evidence that might lead to the discovery of Sandy Irvine's" (from the book's blurb)

Hoyland also claims to be the original source for the testimony of Chinese climber, Xu Jing, who probably found what is believed to be Andrew Irvine's body in 1960. Hoyland allegedly gathered the information in 1998 through an interview by eminent Everest historian Audrey Salkeld, and it allegedly formed the basis for another search expedition in 2000 - one year prior to Xu Jing's revelation to Jochen Hemmleb and Eric Simonson (see Detectives on Everest).

Yet Salkeld's interview notes (which this reviewer has seen) do not bear this out. When author/researcher Jochen Hemmleb talked to Salkeld about Xu Jing's discoveries in September 2004, she confirmed that Xu had told her about the discovery of a tent (most likely the 1924 Camp VI), but not about the body.

Moreover, Hemmleb has a clear recollection of a telephone call by a BBC employee in early 2003, who told him about Hoyland's excitement upon reading about the Xu Jing revelation in Detectives on Everest. Why this excitement if the revelation had, according to Hoyland's book, by then been yesterday's news to him?

If Hoyland had also known about Irvine's location prior to 1999, this would mean - if thought through - that he had kept both key locations from the very search expedition he had tried to launch for so long. Are we as readers really suppose to believe this?

The book somewhat recovers after this, with - among other things - a very solid synopsis of the evidence in the Mallory & Irvine case. Some references would not have hurt, though, as some sections are copied almost verbatim from other writers' publications (e.g. p. 255, reference to oxygen cylinder no. 9 - compare with website of author/researcher Jochen Hemmleb). In fact, the absence of many references and lack of a thorough bibliography is a serious omission for a book that is supposedly the "definitive" book (oops, another claim!) about the Mallory & Irvine mystery. Importantly, Holyand's book provides independent corroboration for the findings of a British forensic team, hinting at a two-fall scenario for Mallory's death. The findings had been incorporated in the 2010/11 Austrian-German documentary film, Erster auf dem Everest (First on Everest).

Lastly, Hoyland's personal insights and ponderings of the eternal question "Why do you climb?" often evoke sympathy and are thought-provoking. They alone, plus Hoyland's link with Everest pioneer "Uncle Hunch" Somervell, would have made a very readable, personal memoir - with no need for overblown and weakly supported claims.
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on 12 February 2018
With my dear friends we have trekked several times in the Himalayas and in particularly Everest South and North Side. One does not go to this region and fail to become absorbed in the history of the various ascents on Mount Everest. There are countless books on the subject and the first I read was a prize I received at school in Glasgow in 1954 “The Ascent of Everest…Retold for Younger Readers” by John Hunt, leader of the successful expedition in 1953. I became fascinated as to whether indeed this was the first successful attempt or did George Mallory and Andrew Irvine succeed in 1924. And indeed like many who have become enthralled with the Himalayas I came to the belief that just possibly Mallory made it. But there always remained some lingering doubt.
Graham Hoyland’s book “The Last Hours on Everest” investigates in great detail the various variables that could determine the success or failure of Mallory and Irvine. After considering these such as clothing, weather, the routes etc. Graham concludes that most probably Mallory did not make it and died upon descent. The value of the book is the detail into which Graham goes alongside his own experience of ascending successfully Everest. This is a book written by an expert mountaineer with deep analysis of the variables such mountaineers encounter on these high peaks.
But will the book end the debate? Well wishful thinking is part of the human psyche. Whereas today these high mountains have less snow and ice due to climate change, perhaps in 1924 when there was more snow Mallory may have made it above the today’s almost impassable Second Step. After all, Ernest Shackleton made it across South Georgia in 1916 partly because the crevices which he crossed were covered with deep snow and were not noticed. Today Shackleton's route would be almost impossible in the short time he and his team took to traverse South Georgia and arrive in Stromness….but that’s another great story!
I recommend Graham’s book. It is analytical and its conclusions are well researched supported by his personal experiences of successfully ascending this almost mystical mountain…Mount Everest.
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on 9 July 2013
This might be a long review. Be patient. I have read just about every book on mountain ascents since I was a teenager in the 1950's Early classics such as the ascent of Nanga Parbat and other first ascents like Annapurna were ' magic' to me. Recently books have become in some respects " boring" allow me to explain. Almost all of them are so predictable. . The usual story of privilege , climbing by virtue of having a lot of money, and following a route put up by others ( usually sherpas) . And often male ego supremacy ( when often female climbers show the greater insight- you must read savage summit by Jennifer Jordan). what I mean is the story goes on - set up base camp- stock up intermediate camps- get into position and make the final; ascent. I am looking for something different. Many others are I am sure. Sadly it is too late now.Possibly the next step is space exploration for true pioneer exploits. I had total dismay reading ' A day to die for' by Ratcliffe. So much expectation when it merely was a means of deluding the reader to part with cash on the promise of a radical new piece of a climbing jig saw info. Last hours on Everest was a similar book for me but not on the same level of negative- ness. I am interested in the ' spicy' bits of what actually happened to M & I . I know we prob. will never know but it is an intriguing story. The last section is the best. The first section was like many books before. But then maybe I am being too critical. It is possible readers do not know the background to the captivating mystery. For someone who does, the first 100+ pages are a let down. I do not like Krakauers book in some respects but it was an amazing story in the way it was told. . Hoylands story got almost there towards the end. I have written 3 books- one about climbing- and I have climbed a variety of peaks ( Kilimanjaro. Mt. Kenya, Iceland ice cap ventures, the Alps and dolomites and the Munros.) and have done it for pleasure and personal interest. I think I should do something with them after reading Hoylands book. There is a huge similarity in the style of writing. So to summarise my long rambling summary of the book. It is an interesting story and I particularly like his quotes from others ( all acknowledged). I am most interested in his theories I really want to read about what people really think. Of course backed up with whatever evidence is available. So 3* it is maybe almost 4* . I also appreciate his delay in writing the book because of his TV connections. If you like mountain ventures read it.
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on 23 June 2015
The subtitle of this book is “The Gripping Story of Mallory and Irvine’s Fatal Ascent”. The kernel of this book is Graham Hoyland’s critical assessment of that ascent by a mountaineer with Everest experience combined with the advice he received from a number of physiologists and meteorologists, consideration of the men’s equipment and clothing, the physical and other evidence and the views of several theorists, most without experience of Everest. This part is interesting and well set out. It comes to the realistic conclusion that Mallory and Irvine turned back before the summit and had a joint fall, not immediately fatal, on their descent. Mallory then had a second fall and probably died soon after of a combination of his injuries and exposure, whereas Irvine survived the first fall only to die of exposure later. This will not end the debate, but Hoyland’s conclusions are supported by the evidence available. Unfortunately, this valuable section, which justifies the book’s title, subtitle and jacket notes, makes up only some 50 pages of around 300, including preface and notes.

A further 90 or so pages cover the background of George Mallory and his climbing contemporaries and the three British Everest expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924. Much of the layout of this section follows the agenda set by Wade Davies in “Into the Silence” but in much less detail and with less criticism of Mallory: Andrew Irvine hardly gets a mention. There is little original in this part, and it is too sketchy to analyse the issues it raises adequately. It is rather long for a general introduction to Mallory and Irvine’s ascent and peppered with Hoyland commenting that he has been to the same place, done the same thing or had the same experience as the earlier climbers. Both these features suggest that a short narrative has been padded out.

The remaining half of the book could best be summarised as Graham Hoyland’s autobiography, which can be divided into his and his family’s background in climbing, his experiences on and around Everest and those after Everest. Much has little or no relevance to Mallory and Irvine’s climb, although without the cachet of their name, it might not merit publication in its own right.

The low points are Hoyland’s dispute with Peter Firstbrook over an expedition to find Mallory’s camera and his disagreements with Tom Holzel’s theories. Both men have written rival accounts of the last ascent. Whatever the truth of the dispute with Firstbrook, neither that expedition nor anyone since has found the camera, so it has no relevance to the main issue. Describing Tom Holzel as the son of a German Second World War army officer is both irrelevant and invites prejudice. In both cases, Hoyland’s attitude seems proprietorial: he “owns” the story of Mallory and Irvine’s Fatal Ascent and resents those he sees as interlopers.

In summary, this book adds something to the Mallory and Irvine’s part in the 1924 Everest expedition and particularly their last, fatal climb. However, what it adds could be compressed into the length of a magazine article and adding extraneous material to make it book length does the book few favours.
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on 10 May 2014
It's customary to begin reviews of Everest books with the phrase "Much has been written on this subject." Well, much has indeed been written regarding George Mallory and Mount Everest, but as I hope to demonstrate in this review, I believe Graham Hoyland has a great deal of value to say on the subject — and might even have done more to solve the mystery of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine than any other individual to date.

In 1924, George Mallory and his companion Sandy Irvine perished near the summit of Everest, but nobody has ever been able to establish whether or not the pair actually made it to the top. Graham Hoyland has made it his life's work to find out the truth. He first heard about the mystery from his relative, Howard Somervell, who had been a member of the fateful 1924 expedition. Obsessed by the question since boyhood, he became a mountaineer so that he could climb Everest himself and search for the camera of George Mallory, long believed to be the most reliable piece of evidence that might help to prove or disprove Hoyland's theory that Mallory got to the summit.

The Mallory legend is a romantic one, which helps to explain why it has endured for so long. Mallory was talented, attractive, and had an obsessive relationship with the mountain he both hated and felt compelled to return to again and again. The notion that he may have reached the summit almost thirty years before the first recorded ascent, in 1953 — and with drastically more primitive equipment — is a romantic legend, and it's one that I have wanted to believe for a long time. Everyone seems to have a theory but the truth remains obscure.

Where Last Hours on Everest differs from all the other books on the subject is the fact that the author is a genuine expert on the subject. He has gone far, far beyond most other Mallory researchers, and his expertise — not to mention his obvious passion — helps to bring this story to life more convincingly than ever before.

Graham Hoyland has been to Everest many times, achieved the summit, searched the icy slopes for relics of 1924. The idea of recovering Mallory's body and finding evidence was originally his, and I was interested to read how control of the 1999 expedition was taken from him. Eventually Mallory's body was found by Conrad Anker and, although much valuable evidence was discovered, the way pictures of the corpse were distributed by the media caused considerable pain to Mallory's living relatives. Hoyland, who had planned to handle the matter far more sensitively, was also very upset and the entire episode damaged his reputation.

The author has actually climbed on Everest using exact replicas of the clothing and gear Mallory wore in the 1920s. This is a key piece of evidence, and the book explains how scientific testing (in addition to Hoyland's first hand experience of using the gear) strongly indicated that the gear would have been more than capable of keeping Mallory safe — provided he kept moving. In some respects it's superior to a modern down suit, and the idea that the pioneers wore "lounge suits" or rough tweeds is blown out of the water.

The question of how climbing on Everest has changed over the years is an important theme in this book. The early years of Himalayan exploration are portrayed as intrinsically heroic, but the author chronicles a process of slow change ending in the present era: an age of massive commercial expeditions and the reduction of risk and uncertainty.

The character study of Mallory is relatively brief, but insightful — and does not resort to hero-worship, like some other works. In fact I think Hoyland's ability to be objective and analytical is one of the best things about this book. He portrays Mallory as a talented climber, an intelligent man with a poetic mind, but also shows how he tended to drift through life without much drive or purpose, how he was absent-minded and forgetful, how he took unnecessary risks and put the lives of others in danger. His motivations are probed in detail; like other writers, Hoyland concludes that Mallory's experiences in World War I, coupled with an increasing need to distinguish himself and find something worthwhile to do with his life, contributed to his obsession with Everest.

This book is not just about long-dead climbers and whether or not they were the first to climb the world's highest peak. It's also the story of the author himself and how his life has been shaped by the mystery (and by the mountain). I admired his honesty in discussing how mistakes were made in the search for Mallory's camera, and the recovery of his corpse. It's clear that he was not to blame for the media calamity that followed, but the author is humble enough to acknowledge where he was naive or made mistakes.

The meaning of Everest itself, and climbing in general, is discussed in some depth. No two readers will come to the same conclusion on this but I think the author is more qualified than most to speak about what Everest really means to human beings. He has this to say on the issue of Himalayan tragedies:
"So my answer is, no, Mount Everest is not worth dying for, but I had to risk my life to understand the question."
After years of believing that Mallory reached the summit, he describes the legend as "a dangerous and seductive fable" that has indirectly resulted in more deaths on the mountain.

So, did Mallory and Irvine get to the summit of Everest? The answer is that we still don't have enough information. The author evaluates each piece of evidence carefully, placing great importance on some but dismissing others. Ultimately the most important relic — Mallory's camera, which may contain undeveloped film of a summit photo — remains hidden, and until it's found I don't think we will have an answer. As Hoyland says, however, it's very difficult to prove that they didn't reach the summit.

I admire the way the author's views changed from unwavering belief in the Mallory legend to a more more objective point of view. His analysis is sound. He favours simple theories over complex ones, looks critically at the evidence, and is not afraid to change his ideas to fit the science or the facts.

Some reviewers have complained that the book contains "too much Hoyland" and not enough Mallory. I'm afraid I simply don't agree. Mallory's side of the story has been told numerous times by numerous writers, but what makes this book compelling is that it's more than just Mallory-and-Irvine-did-they-or-didn't-they? For me what makes this book stand out is Hoyland's own story, which is full of both triumph and disappointment in equal measure. It's honest and unflinching in describing both.

This is not a book that aims to put Mallory on a pedestal, and it certainly doesn't pretend to have all the answers, but what it does offer is truth, sound reasoning, and a damned good tale told by a confident writer. It's a worthy addition to the canon of books on the subject of Everest and Mallory and I finished the book with a deep sense of respect for Graham Hoyland and his dedication to solving the Everest 1924 mystery.
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on 9 December 2013
I wrote a previous 2-star review of Hoyland's book but he must have felt it was too negative and he got Amazon.co.uk. to take it down. Perhaps after slamming me up and down in his book for my theories about Mallory & Irvine, he couldn't take the same thing from me. Anyway, for those who still wish to read my view, the American Amazon was not cowed by his bullying. You can find it at:
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on 2 August 2015
If you're into books about Everest and mountaineering, this is a book that adds new angles. At the same time, though I found it hard going, and I don't really know why. The structure could be improved: the book seems to finish in the middle with some interesting info in the following chapters in an almost appendix like form. Instead of being intertwined, they were listed in a way more convenient to the author than one likely to inspire the reader. Overall, there's quite a lot of defensiveness (they stole my ideas, people at work were mean to me, it should have been me) that distracted from the hero proper, Mr Mallory. Frequently, the author sought to make a point through quotes (rather than use them to strengthen his own conclusions). This made it hard going as a lot of those conclusions were implied and not expressly described making it difficult to follow the overall train of thought. I, the reader, resented having to do some of what should have been the author's work. The chapter on Why Do You Climb is a bit cringe-worthy with its peacock theories and implications that animals are amoral - this is not a book about animal psychology and behavioural codes. His arguments just weren't convincing and some seem plainly ill-conceived. I tried to like this book. Some of it was fairly good. But overall it was a bit hard going.
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on 25 May 2013
This really is the best, and probably the ultimate, analysis of whether or not Mallory and Irvine reached the summit of Everest in 1924. Graham Hoyland has been high on Everest many times, including its summit, both as a climber and as a film cameraman; he understands the mountain, then and now, like few others. The work is painstakingly researched, highly detailed and immensely readable, interspersed with lively personal anecdote and a wealth of experience. It's an exciting read, difficult to put down, and a MUST for anyone with an interest in the history of the world's highest mountain. This book should leap onto every mountaineer's bookshelf. Last Hours on Everest: The gripping story of Mallory and Irvine's fatal ascent
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on 1 January 2015
This is a great book. As many who have reviewed it I have looked into the subject from the comfort of my armchair. Hoyland does look at more evidence than most authors and doesn't seem to have a personal agenda to prove one way or another is Mallory & Irvine made it to the summit. I did find his evidence of the weather and low air pressure conditions compelling and something often overlooked by many who seem to romanticize the argument. He does tell us a lot about his life (which I read in some reviews has been criticised) but I realise that his is a very personal connection to the mountain and I don't feel his 'aside' stories take me away from the real investigation too much. In the end I felt like I had sat through a court case and it felt good. I'm really glad I was bought this. A great book.
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