The morning of 28th April dawned calm and clear, promising ideal conditions for the second search team of Brent Okita and Jake Norton. They left Camp 5 (25,600ft.) at 7a.m. and, as both were feeling well and there was little wind on the upper mountain, they elected to make an ascent of the complete North Ridge - something probably not repeated since Bill Tilman and Peter Lloyd in 1938.
At 10 a.m. we saw Brent and Jake emerging from behind the Changzheng ridge (the peak north of Changtse), blocking the view of the lower North Ridge from Base Camp. They were at an altitude of c. 26,400 ft (8050 m), climbing a thin snow gully to the right of the ridge crest. Above this, they negotiated a seemingly awkward rock step before moving onto a scree slope. At this point, they reported looking up into an ill-defined gully some 100 ft. above. This had appeared a location of fair promise for the 1924 Camp 6, below a precipitous cliff band and "on the very backbone" of the North Ridge. Yet when Brent and Jake entered the recess, we could see them staying in it for only a few minutes before continuing their way up the crest. They had found nothing.
Now there remained only one other possible spot before they would enter the area already extensively investigated by the first search team: a rock bluff on the ridge at c. 26,700 ft. (8140 m) with a shallow hollow and snow patch beneath. Either this would be the location or the 1924 Camp 6 was nowhere to be found. Ten minutes later we saw Brent and Jake traversing into the hollow. It was 10:55 a.m. Seconds later, the radio crackled to life. "Jochen, do you copy North Ridge?" "Yes, I copy you." Brent's answer was swift and simple, "GOT IT!"
We don't know yet what they found at the site, but during the hour we observed them searching and digging around the location they reported an old tent, tent poles and "some smaller stuff". While Brent left at noon in order to reconnoiter the route to our Camp 6, Jake remained at the 1924 camp for some more time, taking in the history of the place - the place where Mallory and Irvine had spent their last night.
Jake and Brent attempted to return to the site later in the afternoon, and even fixed several hundred of meters of rope to protect them while climbing down the tricky slabs and ledges above the site. Due to deteriorating weather however, with snow, wind, and marginal visability, they decided to retreat UP to their Camp 6! We hope to be able to return to the site later in the expedition for further investigation.
With the 1924 Camp 6 found in its present location, it shows that Norton was essentially correct in his descriptions, although only the explanation to the diagram in the 1924 expedition account has the altitude right. If Norton had indeed passed his highpoint from 1922 en route to the 1924 Camp 6, the former had been no higher than c. 8100-8120 m (26.600-26.650 ft.), as the photos had already suggested. The wording in Frank Smythe's account from 1933 is ambiguous, as it suggests a position of the camp above the prominent recline in the ridge, when it is in fact below. Plate 19 in the 1933 account has the camp slightly too high, but still below the recline in the ridge. The location also disproves any rumor that Mallory and Irvine had moved the camp higher prior to their summit bid.
To continue the debate about Mallory and Irvine's last climb, the low position of the 1924 Camp 6 added at least one hour to their route in comparison to today's expeditions, half of this over fairly technical terrain - slowing them down on summit day. On the other hand, there remains oxygen bottle No. 9, found at 27,800 ft. (8480 m) on the crest of the North-east Ridge. If we still assume continuous oxygen use by the pair and take the bottle as a time marker, the low position of the 1924 Camp 6 means that Mallory and Irvine had actually covered more ground within the four hours the bottle had lasted, and therefore had climbed faster...