Our team climbed Everest to try to solve its greatest mystery

Were Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay really the first to summit the world’s highest peak? We searched for a camera that could rewrite history.

As the sun rises above the Tibetan Plateau, Pasang Kaji Sherpa (front) and Lhakpa Tenje Sherpa pass 28,700 feet on Mount Everest. The big question: Did George Mallory and Sandy Irvine get this far—or perhaps reach the top—in 1924?

“Don’t do it,” he said. “You’re too tired. It’s not worth it.”

Jamie McGuinness, our guide and expedition leader, looked hard at me with sunken, bloodshot eyes. He had slipped off his oxygen mask and removed his sunglasses. Several days of gray stubble covered his chin. His skin had a sallow, corpselike pallor.

We were sitting on a pile of rocks at 27,700 feet on the Northeast Ridge of Mount Everest—the Chinese side, away from the crowd in Nepal. A couple hundred feet below us was the GPS waypoint that could solve one of the greatest mysteries of mountaineering. New research indicated that legendary British explorer Andrew “Sandy” Irvine may have tumbled and come to rest at that spot. Was his body still there?

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