MARCH 2020

MARCH   2020
The Lawyers Carve Up the Golden Goose


Friday, September 04, 2015


Gradually, very gradually, we saw the great mountain...far higher in the sky than imagination had dared to suggest, the white summit of Everest appeared......a prodigious white fang excrescent from the jaw of the world.”
George Mallory - 1921
I remain mesmerized by the eyes of George Herbert Leigh Mallory, a century after his mysterious death. Writer Lytton Strachey described him as having “the mystery of Botticeilli, the refinement and delicacy of a Chinese print.” 
Mallory was aware of his beauty and had no inhibition at displaying his naked 6 foot tall, muscular frame for the camera. But he was not a statue, but a living man, possessing “...vivacity and a love of adventure...”. He was also known as impetuous, “charismatic and endearingly absent-minded.” Being the greatest climber of his age, it was inevitable that George Mallory should face the greatest mountain..
The highest of the world's great mountains, it seems, has to make but a single gesture of magnificence to be lord of all, vast in unchallenged and isolated supremacy...other mountains are visible... giants between 23,000 and 26,000 feet high...beside Everest they escape notice.”
George Mallory - 1922
Sixty million years ago the 1 ½ million square miles of the Indian subcontinent began to plow into the
16 million square miles of Asia at 6 inches a year. This massive slow motion collision shoved the one million square miles of the Tibetan Plateau 14,00 feet into the air, and crumpled the land between into the 1,500 mile long 200 mile wide Himalayan mountains (above). In this crumple zone stand nine of the world's ten tallest peaks, including the highest, over five miles above sea level: Mount Everest..
My mind is in a state of constant rebellion. I believe that will always be so.”
George Mallory
After service in World War One, George Mallory returned to his passionate loves, his wife, Ruth and their two daughters. But his teaching career was not his passion. As Robert Graves noted, “He was wasted..” In 1921 the lure of the distant Himalayans called to George, and he joined the first expedition to explore the approaches to Everest. But these were different mountains than Mallory had known in Europe.
In watching George at work one was conscious not so much of physical strength as of suppleness and balance.”
Climber Harry Tyndale
George learned his art in the Alps, climbing the highest peak in Europe, Mount Blanc, (White Mountain) at 15, 771 feet (above). It had first been “peaked” in 1788, by local hunter Jacques Balmat escorting physician Michel-Gabrial Paccard, who had been trying for five years to take a barometer reading on the summit. It was “an amazing feat of endurance and sustained courage, carried through by these two men...unroped and without ice axes.” Having accomplished his goal, Dr. Paccard never again challenged the mountains so boldly. The egotist Balmat never stopped. He died at the age of 72, falling off a cliff, while searching for gold. 
Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No. . . and yes.”
George Mallory
Justifiably suspicious of their intentions, the tiny mountainous nation of Nepal refused permission for the British surveyors to cross their border. So the British were forced to measure the Himalayans from 100 miles away, making adjustments for haze, temperature and curvature of the earth. Only in 1852, after thousands of field observations had been compiled and compared in deary offices, did Indian mathematician Radhanath Sikdar, realize the distant blur labeled Peak XV was at 29,000 feet, the tallest mountain in the world. So astonished was Andrew Waugh, British Surveyor General of India, he insisted on more observations. Having confirmed Sikdar's work, Waugh decided to name the mountain after his predecessor, George Everest, giving its height as 29,002 feet, to make clear the measurement was an estimate. Thus Andrew Waugh was the first person to put “two feet on top of Everest.”
He would set his foot high against any angle of smooth surface, fold his shoulder to his knee, and flow upward and upright again on an impetuous curve. Whatever may have happened unseen the while between him and the cliff ... the look, and indeed the result, were always the same – a continuous undulating movement so rapid and so powerful that one felt the rock must yield, or disintegrate.”
Climber Geoffrey Winthrop Young
The 1922 British expedition made two attempts at “summitting” without oxygen, but were forced back each time, reaching only 26, 980 feet. The team physician, Dr. Tom Longstaff, warned the oxygen starved climbers could no longer trust their own judgement. But George Mallory was determined to make a third attempt, and on 7 June, 1922, he lead 4 other Brits and 14 Sherpa porters up the north “col” (a ridge between two peaks) above 27,000 feet. In the still clear air George was breaking a path through the previous night's fresh snow, when he saw a snow slope above him give way.
He was so rhythmical and any steep place ... that his movements appeared almost serpentine in their smoothness.”
Writer and Climber Robert Graves
The avalanche engulfed the first tethered group - Mallory, Colin Crawford and Howard Somervell – but they managed to keep their feet. Behind them nine Sherpa porters were swept 40 feet down the slope and into a 60 foot deep ice crevasse. The Europeans struggled to save two of the Sherpas, but six were found dead, and the seventh was lost forever. Longstaff blamed George's impetuousness for the tragedy, and George agreed. He wrote to Ruth, 'The consequences of my mistake are so incredible. It seems impossible to believe it has happened for ever and that I can do nothing to make good. There is no obligation that I have wanted so much to honor as that of taking care of those men.” The expedition arraigned to pay the family of each Sherpa $13 , in quarterly instalments.
This forms the nub of a dilemma that every Everest climber eventually comes up against: in order to succeed you must be exceedingly driven, but if you're too driven you're likely to die.”
Author and Climber Jon Krakauer
Decades later Canadian Wade Davis wondered who were these first humans to die on Everest. “Sherpas, “ he wrote, “were not born to climb. In their language there is not even a word for mountain summit. They were farmers, descendants of ethnic Tibetans who had settled...on the southern approaches to Everest, in the 15th century. As Buddhists, the idea of risking one’s life, this vital incarnation, in order to crawl over ice and rock into nothingness was for them the epitome of ignorance and delusion.” The Sherpas were climbing, and are still climbing Everest, to provide for their families - nothing more and nothing less.
There are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction....Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad.”
Author Walt Unsworth
It proved impossible to raise money for another attempt in 1923, in part because the greatest climber in the world, George Mallory (above), showed little enthusiasm. 
By a year later George had grown aware that at 37, this would probably be his last chance at the peak. He wrote his father, “I have to look at it from the point of view of loyalty to the expedition, and of carrying through a task begun.” . He added, "To refuse the adventure is to run the risk of drying up like a pea in its shell.” 
And so in early 1924, “With faith and hubris, woefully under-equipped for a battle at high altitude, armed with little more than a length of rope, a straight-picked ax and hobnailed boots,” George Mallory left his wife, his young son John and his two daughters, and headed back to Tibet.
People ask me, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is of no use.' There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever... What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life.”
George Mallory
George wrote to Ruth from Base camp, “It is almost unthinkable with this plan that I shant get to the top...I feel strong for the battle, but I know every ounce of strength will be wanted.” But the first attempt by Mallory and Geoffrey Bruce failed, and while a second managed to get above 28,000 feet, it too was also forced to turn back. Most of the climbers were ill. The Sherpas were exhausted. There was strength and determination for just one more try. 
And, of course, George would be in the lead, with 22 year old geologist, Andrew "Sandy" Irvine (above) on his rope.
If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go.”
George Mallory
On 7 June, 1924 Mallory and Irvine set out from Camp 5, carrying several canisters of oxygen, to establish camp 6, before trying for the summit the next day. .Irvine carried a camera and Mallory a photo of Ruth to leave behind, as proof they had summited. Noel Odell snapped a photo as they set off (above). He and three Sherpas were to follow, bringing up more oxygen to the 26,000 foot level.
Everest has always been a magnet for kooks, publicity seekers, hopeless romantics and others with a shaky hold on reality.”
Author Jon Krakauer
After a night spent at Camp Six. at the Mushroom Rock,  the path to the summit for Mallory and Irvine was a 2, 000 foot vertical climb (above). First there was a steep hike over crumbly yellow limestone slabs on "The Yellow Band". Then there was a 100 foot high vertical wall of harder rock – the First Step. This was followed by a gently sloping ridge, ending in another 100 foot high wall – the Second Step. This led to an easy slope and an easy Third Step, the pyramid and then a  walk to the summit itself. Both men had made far more difficult climbs before. But this one was at 28,000 feet above sea level, in the “death zone”.
One comes to bless the absolute bareness, feeling that here is a pure beauty of form, a kind of ultimate harmony.”
George Mallory – Letter to Ruth
Just before one in the afternoon of 9 June, before setting out from Camp 5 , Noel Odell would see “...a sudden clearing of the atmosphere, and the entire summit ridge and final peak of Everest were unveiled. My eyes became fixed on one tiny black spot silhouetted on a small snow-crest beneath a rock-step in the ridge (the Second Step) ; the black spot moved. Another black spot became apparent and moved up the snow to join the other on the crest. The first then approached the great rock-step and shortly emerged at the top; the second did likewise. Then the whole fascinating vision vanished, enveloped in cloud once more. There was but one explanation. It was Mallory and his companion...”
At that moment Mallory and Irvine were within 800 vertical feet of the summit of the world.
"After nearly twenty years' knowledge of Mallory as a mountaineer, I can say that difficult as it would have been for any mountaineer to turn back... to Mallory it would have been an impossibility."
Climber Geoffrey Winthrop Young
Certain Mallory was going to succeed, Odell and the Sherpas set out with the additional oxygen, expecting to celebrate with Mallory and Irvine at Camp 6. After several ardours hours Odell and the Sherpas made it, but found the single tent empty. When a snow squall blew up, Odell ventured 200 feet higher, calling and whistling, trying to lead the summit team back to safety. There was no answer. There never would be. In a few hours Odell and the Sherpas were forced to return to Camp 6, and the next day all the way down to Camp 4. Neither Andrew Irvine nor George Mallory were ever seen alive again.
"Anyone who had climbed with George is convinced that he got to the summit."
Robert Graves
At 7:30 on the evening of 19 June, 1924 a telegram arrived at Mallory's home in Cambridge. The next morning Ruth (above) invited all three children into her bed, and only then told them together their father had died. They all cried together. No one in that house ever asked the question if Mallory or Irvine had made it to the summit or not. But with time, and with failure after failure to summit Everest, the question would be asked: Had they made it?
It is obvious to any climber that they got up....”
Climber Dr. Tom Longstaff
Everest was not challenged again until 1933, when three attempts at the summit were made: all failed. However an empty oxygen tank was found at 27,760 feet, just 200 yards below the First Step, and a distinctive ice axe, known to have belonged to Andrew Irvine, was found nearby. After the Second World War another post war generation was drawn to challenge the mountain. And in 1949, Nepal opened its borders for one expedition each year. Now the far easier southern route to the summit could be attempted. 
In May of 1953 New Zealander Edmund Hillery and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (above) reached the summit of Mt Everest, “together, as a team.”
Mon dieu!—George Mallory!”
Writer Lytton Strachey
The mystery of George Mallory endured for 72 years, until 1 May 1998, when an expedition found George Herbert Leigh Mallory's mummified corpse frozen into the 30 degree broken rock slope, 1,000 feet below where Irvine's ax had been found 60 years earlier. From his injuries it seemed George had fallen while roped to Irvine. In the plunge Mallory broke both bones in his right leg. The rope connecting him to Andrew Irvine had bruised his waist before snapping under the strain. 
Mallory's powerful arms were raised above his head, his fingers and ice ax scraping across the broken slope to slow his fall.  Then the ax caught on a stone for a moment, before recoiling back, driving the spiked tail into his forehead. His descent slowed and stopped. “Pain and hypothermia rapidly take over. Within minutes, Mallory is dead.” Irving must have died shortly there after, and still lies undiscovered, frozen into the mountain. But we still do not know if Mallory got to the top.
Now, they will never grow old and I am very sure they would not change places with any of us.”
Climber Dr. Tom Longstaff
Everest has become a character of the mountain George Mallory was drawn to challenge. It is now littered with discarded oxygen tanks, abandoned tents, medical waste, trash bags, bags of human poop, the residue of 4,000 climbers, over 700 of whom summit and the bodies of dead on the upper slopes, left where they fell.  Until 1987 climbers on Everest had a 37% death rate. But improvements in clothing and equipment, and preparation work on the trails by Sherpas have dropped that death rate to less than 1% in 2012. Over half of all climbers now summit, so that even the rich but untrained can be “guided” to the top of the world. .
To me, the only way you achieve a summit is to come back alive. The job is only half done if you don't get down again”.
John Mallory – George Mallory's son
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Sunday, August 30, 2015


I would call him a prime example of the past being prologue. Timothy Pickering (above) was a hot headed right-wing nut the President had been forced to include in his cabinet to appease the ultra-conservatives who threatened to tear his administration apart. In this case the President was George Washington and the appeasement was part of the Federalists “New England” strategy. When the Federal capital moved from New York to Philadelphia in 1791, Pickering was tapped to run the Post Office. During Washington's  second term, from January to December 1795, Pickering was appointed the Secretary of War. Then he became Secretary of State, a post he held into the next administration , until May of 1800 when President John Adams fired him because Pickering wanted to declare war against France.
This was the namesake of  Fort Pickering.  And it was appropriate that “his” fort, standing on the bluffs (above) along the Mississippi River, was half military establishment and half private enterprise, which sold and distributed goods to the Chickasaw Indian nation. They called this hybrid a “factor”. Captain Meriwether Lewis had commanded this post for awhile back in the 1790's, and now as Governor Lewis he was back. But his was a far from triumphal return. He had to be carried into the post on a stretcher.
The fort stood back from the Mississippi River, atop the fourth of the Chickasaw bluffs, in the midst of what is today Memphis, Tennessee. It was not a prime landing spot, but at least it had fewer mosquitoes than the New Madrid,  and once there Lewis began to improve quickly. The day after his arrival, on Saturday September 16th 1809, Lewis wrote to President James Madison that “I arrived here yesterday...very much exhausted from the heat...but having taken medicine, feel much better this morning.”
The medicine he was taking was a combination of opium and alcohol, known as laudanum. It was highly addictive and the Governor was not merely feeling better, he was probably high. He wrote to the President that he was not continuing down the Mississippi as planned, but rather would be coming overland via the Natchez Trace. Then he mentioned his real reason for all this effort. “I bring with me”, he wrote, “duplicates of my vouchers for public expenditures... which when fully explained...will receive both sanction and approbation and sanction.” Did I mention he was probably high? As a final needling point, Lewis included in his letter those territorial laws he had translated into French, the rejection of the $12 bill for which had inspired this horrendous journey.
Lt. Gilbert Russel, the current commander of Fort Pickering, had ordered the post medic to prevent Governor Lewis from drinking anymore laudanum. Under this regimen, wrote Lt. Russel, “all symptoms of derangement disappeared and he was completely in his senses...”. Within a week the Governor was ready and eager to continue his journey. But Lt. Russel thought he ought to accompany him. Lt. Russel's accounts had also been questioned by the bureaucrats back in the War Department, and Russel was awaiting permission from his boss, General Wilkerson, Governor of New Orleans,  so he could also have it out in person with those annoying bean counters. In fact, I suspect, that it was Russel who convinced Governor Lewis to change his travel plans and proceed overland. It would be far more effective for both of these men to make their appeals together, and safer for Governor Lewis if he had someone to watch his laudanum consumption during the trip back.
However, almost two weeks went by, and still there was no release from General Wilkerson. Lewis was anxious to get moving and, suspected Russel, to get back to his "medicine". But just when it seemed as if Russel would have to send the Governor off into the wilderness alone, a seeming savior arrived at Fort Pickering; James Neelly; agent to the Chickasaw Indians, and an ex-army major.
Neelly was supposed to be a delivering  white prisoner to be shipped down to New Orleans for trial. He had brought the man from his post at the Chickasaw nation, some 100 miles south-south east of Fort Pickering. And by what seemed at the time to be a happy coincidence, Neelly now had urgent business in Franklin, Tennessee, just 20 miles south west of Nashville, Governor Lewis' intermediate destination. Perhaps Neelly could accompany Lewis and watch over him. But there was a catch, of course.
Neely was not good material for a guardian angel. He was an alcoholic and the worst kind of gambler, which is say an inveterate one. He gambled on cards, horse races and he was also, of course a land speculator. And like most gamblers, he usually lost. His gambling had put him in debt to just about everybody he knew, even his boss, General James Wilkerson. And just the month before he had asked the penny pinching Secretary of War, William Eustis, for a loan. Good luck with that. But if James thought he might put “the touch” on Governor Lewis, he was quickly dissuaded.  Lewis was also a land speculator, and also broke.  
On Wednesday, 27 September 1809,  Lt. Russel signed the paperwork loaning Lewis two horses and a saddle from the Fort's herd, and gave him a personal check for $100. In return Governor Meriwether Lewis signed an IOU for $379.58. This trip, undertaken to settle his financial problems, was putting Lewis deeper in debt.
Before dawn, two days later, Governor Lewis and James Neelly, along with their servants, an Indian interpreter and a few Chickasaws, left the fort by horseback. Three had days later, on 3 October,  they reached Big Town, a village not much smaller than St. Louis. This was the main Chickasaw town. There were about 1,000 residents in 300 log cabins, interspersed between fields of corn, rice, tobacco and cotton. The fields were worked by African American slaves, something the Chickasaws had in common with the Americans, along with their religion. These savage natives had largely converted to Christianity. It was not going to help them. In the end the American President Andrew Jackson would steal their land and ship these Christians across the Mississippi.
In Big Town Lewis and Neeley picked up the Natchez Trace, the “Devils Backbone” trail that wound north-eastward through the dark and ominous forest to Meriwether Lewis' final destination.
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