Everest climber’s son, ex-unionist renew 50-year friendship

2010-05-24 00:00

TWO old friends, John Mallory (90) and Dasarath Bundhoo (89), who had not met for 25 years, even though they had kept in regular contact on the telephone, sat down to lunch yesterday at the home of Bundhoo in Bombay Road and recalled the past.

They first met in 1960 through the Moral Rearmament Movement, known today as the Initiative for Change.

Bundhoo was the chairperson of the local branch of the National Leather Workers’ Union at the time of the historic leather workers’ strike at the Eddels shoe factory in Pietermaritzburg in 1960.

The city ground to a halt during the strike as many local people were involved in the industry at the time.

It was members of the MRA who facilitated the workers’ strike, which ended after several days.

At yesterday’s meeting — prompted by the news that a 13-year-old American boy, Jordan Romero, had just become the youngest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest — Mallory reminisced about his father, Sir George Mallory, who died while attempting the summit, and his son, Maritzburg-born John Mallory II, who has also scaled the peak.

“My father attempted the feat twice, unsuccessfully. His first attempt was in 1922 and the second was in 1924 when he lost his life.

“He disappeared from a team of climbers and some 75 years later his body was found at the bottom of a cliff, frozen fresh in the mountain snow.

“My son, then only 24, of course tracked his grandfather’s footsteps and in 1995 conquered Mount Everest with an American expedition of eight people, of whom five were Sherpas.

“If I am not mistaken, it took him five days from base camp and another three days from the advance base camp, which is almost 20 km from the summit. If my memory serves me correctly, it takes around seven hours to reach the highest point.

“Before he emigrated to Australlia in 1991, my son was a Wits University student studying engineering. He was born in Pietermaritzburg on December 11, 1960.”

Despite his age, Mallory still drives, even travelling to Pietermaritzburg from Nelspruit, where he lives, to meet Bundhoo.

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