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Fall 1999
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Excerpts From the Print Edition

Out of Thin Air:
    The Untold Story Behind Everest's Greatest Mystery
Endorphin Academy: Adventure Racing 101
Working the Space Station
L.A.'s Secret Wilderness


related web-sites
small arrowMountain Zone: Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition
Relive the discovery through on-the-spot coverage.

small arrowNOVA: Lost on Everest
This PBS site gives the historical, geological, geographical, and even biological context of the Mallory story.

related product
small arrowEverest: Mountain Without Mercy (book)

Out of Thin Air
By David Roberts

For 75 years, mountaineering's greatest mystery has lingered: Did the doomed George Mallory and Andrew Irvine reach the summit of Everest 29 years before the first confirmed ascent? The stunning discovery of Mallory's body helps answer the riddle.

As Conrad Anker and Jake Norton studied the mummified body lying among the rocks, their three teammates made their way one by one to the site. The going was treacherous; a slip here could mean a fatal fall of 7,000 feet [2,135 meters] to the upper Rongbuk Glacier. As each searcher arrived, the gestalt of the details—the ragged edges of the torn-away clothing, the fingers planted in the scree, a thin white rope tangled about the torso, terminating in a frayed loose end—struck home. Below the base of the back, the right buttock had been eaten away by goraks—the prehistoric-looking ravens that haunt the upper reaches of the Himalaya. The birds had used this orifice to ravage the man's internal organs. The left foot was bare, the lower leg folded atop its companion, as if to shelter it from further harm—for the right leg, hobnailed boot intact, lay hideously bent, both tibia and fibula plainly broken.

"I was pretty blown away," recalled Tap Richards. "It was obviously a body, but it looked like a marble statue."

For half an hour, a sense of taboo hung over the stark tableau. At first, the five men could not bring themselves to touch the body. Instead they took photographs and pointed out nuances that might bear on how the man had met his end. Jake Norton sat down with a flat stone in his lap and began to carve a memorial to Sandy Irvine.

"It didn't hit me on a personal level until we started working on him," said Dave Hahn. "Then he became a real man."

With great care, the men used their axes to chip away at the ice that froze the victim to the slope. As they got closer to the body, they switched to pocketknives, carving with an archaeological delicacy. While Hahn and Andy Politz shot video footage, Richards and Norton bore the brunt of the excavation, as they cut away beneath the corpse in hopes of finding what might lie in his pockets. Then Norton came across a name tag on the collar of one of the man's garments. It read "G. Mallory."

"That's weird," said Norton to his teammates. "Why would Irvine be wearing Mallory's shirt?"

Get the answer, and the full story, in the Fall 1999 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ADVENTURE.
(Subscribe today.)

ADVENTURE Online Exclusive
Profile: Conrad Anker
In this Q&A, meet the man who found Mallory.

Related Web Site
Everest: Measure of a Mountain
Earth's highest peak is growing. But by how much? Follow an intrepid team's climb for the answer.


Adventure Racing School

related web-sites
small arrowAdventure Fitness Training
Find out more about the adventure racing school writer Tom Dunkel attended.

related web-sites
small arrow18-in-1 Survival Tool

Endorphin Academy
By Tom Dunkel

Team-Building 'Til You Drop at Adventure Racing School

Finally. After slowly jogging up a steep fire road in the scruffy southern California hills for half an hour in 80-degree [27°C] heat, negotiating switchback after déjà-vu switchback, our shirts and clunky packs now thoroughly drenched in sweat, we at last come to a reasonably flat stretch of trail. Unfortunately, it's not really much longer than the train of a modest wedding gown.

"Take advantage," advises Tony Molina, the co-owner and operator of Adventure Fitness Training (AFT) in Santa Monica, California. "Rest your mind," he urges. "Relax and rejuvenate."

Easy for Tony to say (Tony's not carrying a pack), but my mind doesn't need rejuvenating. It's my body that could use a full massage and a blood transfusion—and maybe a week on the beach in Waikiki. Ain't gonna happen, though; not today. Not while I'm a guest-masochist attending AFT's Phase I entry-level adventure-racing course.

Get the full story—plus a guide to adventure racing schools and competitions—in the Fall 1999 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ADVENTURE.
(Subscribe today.)

ADVENTURE Online Exclusive
I Was an Adventure School Dropout
Everyone knows adventure racing's cardinal rule: Don't quit. Everyone but writer Peter Winkler.


Space Station

related web-site
small arrowNASA: International Space Station
Get the 411 on the ISS—plus a virtual tour or two.

related web-sites
small arrowOrbit: NASA Astronauts Photograph the Earth (book)

Working the Space Station
By Laurence Gonzales

It's not just an adventure, it's a job: If you spin off into space, you're lost. If debris hits you, you're dead. Are you ready for real life in space?

I am floating down the length of the International Space Station somewhere 250 miles [402 kilometers] above the North Atlantic, going about 17,000 miles [27,353 kilometers] per hour. If I tilt my head down as far as my space suit will allow, I can see the edge of my helmet and even my boots. As I jet around the exterior of the station, the misty Earth below seems like a blue and living cell. Now Africa heaves into view toward the east. The Niger, like a great snake, undulates down its belly.

This is my first EVA, or Extra-Vehicular Activity. The exterior of the space station, almost blinding in the airless sunlight, has golden handholds bolted all over it, each a glittering treasure of safety, labeled with numbers and letters to tell me where I am in the confusion of this mammoth structure. I can read the labels vividly in the blazing sun as I drift down toward the open cargo bay of the space shuttle. It's still docked there from our arrival on station, and the 50-foot [15-meter] Canadarm (used for grappling satellites and pieces of the station) is folded up now, at rest.

Soon the space shuttle will close its doors, back away from us, and blast home in a fiery de-orbit. We'll watch it burn in the night sky as it disappears into the blue. Night and day alternate every 45 minutes here—a sunrise and sunset 16 times during every normal Earth day.

Off to my right, I see another astronaut in his brilliant white space suit, working on something, perhaps a communications antenna. As he works, twisting a torque tool, he suddenly loses his grip, his tether fails him, and he is kicked off the station. I watch in horror as he goes tumbling head over heels toward a half moon, which hangs in the black sky like a child's paper boat.

He's moving away fast. I see him grab for the controller of his SAFER unit, the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue, which we all wear when working outside the station. It's a small nitrogen jet tank with a minute of fuel. By carefully controlling the jet, he can maneuver back to the station. That's the theory. Now he punches a button with his big white-gloved finger, and the device automatically fires, calculating the force required to stop his rotation.

Gradually, his tumble stops, but he's still drifting away. I breathe a sigh of relief, which I can hear in the headphones of my helmet. "Is he all right?" I ask.

Get the full story in the Fall 1999 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ADVENTURE.
(Subscribe today.)

Where should NASA boldly go next?


Urban Adventures

related web-site
small arrowGORP: Day Hikes in Los Angeles
Slip free of Smog City with these detailed directions.
Urban Adventures: Backcountry 90210
By Laurence Gonzalez

Hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and more...just minutes from L.A.?

The meeting in Beverly Hills had gone on all morning. When it was over, I stepped out onto Rodeo Drive, America's most exclusive shopping district. Stunning women in scant spring dresses mobbed the sunny boulevard.

A Jaguar nearly mowed me down. I made it to my car and slipped the valet a couple of bills. Seven minutes later I turned north off of Sunset Boulevard onto Beverly Drive and proceeded up the hill. After traveling a mile [1.6 kilometers], I turned onto Franklin Canyon Drive and continued north, following signs for William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom. Within a half hour, I was parked just off a wild road, changing into shorts and a T-shirt in my car, and checking my water bottles.

* * *

People who live in Montana, Idaho, Hawaii, or Alaska may scoff at the idea: Hiking in L.A.? Yeah, right. Don't forget your gas mask. On the other hand, everything is relative, isn't it? Could I find better hiking if I flew to Kalispell, Montana, drove to Apgar, and backpacked two days into Glacier National Park? Yes, I could. But I don't always have five days, and I love hiking. In fact, most months, I hardly have three hours. And when I'm trapped in L.A. on business, the Santa Monica Mountains certainly look as beautiful as the Sierra Madres.

Get the full story—plus an Adventure Guide to L.A.—in the Fall 1999 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ADVENTURE.
(Subscribe today.)


Fall 1999: Previews | Forum | Profile | Nick's Take 2 | From the Field | Trips 2000
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