Because It’s There

Written by on October 14, 2012 in Lifestyle - No comments | Print this page


“Because it’s there.” Arguably the three most famous words in mountaineering said to have been uttered by English climber George Mallory when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. However some doubt has been cast over the quote’s authenticity and whether Mallory even spoke the words.

It has been suggested that a newspaper reporter on the New York Times paraphrased the words, perhaps using journalistic licence for effect.

Looking through the newspaper archives does not give a definitive answer but judging by some of the direct quotes attributed to Mallory the words ”because it’s there” probably conveyed the climber’s feelings fairly accurately.

Mallory perished on the third British expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest with climbing partner Andrew Irvine. Both went missing on the mountain’s North-East ridge and according to their last-known sighting the pair were only a few hundred yards from the summit.

Mallory’s body was not found until 1999 by a team searching for the duo’s remains. Did they reach the top? Speculation abounds and research is still going on.


The first man to be recorded as reaching the peak of 29,029ft Everest, New Zealander Edmund Hillary, also had quite a few words to say about mountaineering.

He claimed that no-one climbed mountains for scientific reasons. He added that money for the expeditions was raised from the use of science but climbers took part “for the hell of it.”

Hillary was famously accompanied top the top of Mount Everest by Sherpa Tensing Norgay, who had a simpler, perhaps more philosophical view.

He said: “I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life.” British mountaineer Chris Bonington took part in four Mount Everest expeditions and the first ascent of the south face of Annapurna.

He referred to ‘the absolute lethargy of 24,600ft’ and added in a matter of fact way: “You want to pee, and you lie there for a quarter of an hour making up your mind to look for the pee bottle.”


The first woman to climb Mount Everest was Junko Tabei, of Japan, who made her ascent in May, 1975.

She said after reaching the summit: “Technique and ability alone don’t get you to the top, it’s the willpower that is most important. This willpower you can’t buy with money or be given by others … it rises from your heart.”

Maybe she should have the last word after the thousands uttered by male mountaineers who preceded her: “I can’t understand why men make all this fuss about Everest. It’s only a mountain.”

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