The Happiness Quotient

#76 - Mark Synnott: Mystery, Obsession and Death on Mount Everest, An Interview with NY Times Bestselling Author About His New Book

April 12, 2021 Thom Pollard Season 3 Episode 76
The Happiness Quotient
#76 - Mark Synnott: Mystery, Obsession and Death on Mount Everest, An Interview with NY Times Bestselling Author About His New Book
Show Notes Transcript

This is an episode about grit, about life and death, about the extremes of human endeavor, how far a human being can possibly go when they put 100% of themselves into something….it’s about heart, friendship….

This episode is set within the backdrop of the greatest mountain on the planet….Mount Everest, Chomolungma, goddess mother of the world…..

Today’s episode welcomes back my ever talented friend and expedition partner Mark Synnott in anticipation of the release of his highly regarded book about our 2019 Everest expedition to find the body of long lost mountaineer Sandy Irvine. Some of you may recall my first interview with Mark for Episode #42 about The Day Everest Broke and the genesis of our expedition, which has since been chronicled in a 1-hour film by National Geographic and Disney called LOST ON EVEREST, produced by our expedition partner and uber talented filmmaker and climber Renan Ozturk.

MARK’S BOOK IS CALLED THE THIRD POLE: MYSTERY OBSESSION AND DEATH ON MOUNT EVEREST. 

For more information about Mark and how to find his book visit:
https://www.marksynnott.com/

Kirkus Reviews on Mark's new book:
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mark-synnott/the-third-pole/


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For more information about Thom Dharma Pollard:
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Thom Pollard:

This is the happiness quotient. Welcome. Before we get started, have you checked out a course in happiness? In this short, colorful guide, this easy to follow roadmap provides gentle positive suggestions that for 1000s of years have been taught by the Masters on how to stop chasing happiness in our path toward unlocking the mysteries to life's big questions. It offers some guideposts to contemplate, and to put to use in your daily life. Go to patreon.com slash the happiness quotient, where you'll find a free pdf download of a course in happiness.

Oliver Wood:

All of my wisdom came from all of my toughest days, I never learned a thing bein' happy.

Thom Pollard:

I'm Thom Pollard. This is an episode about grit, about life, about death, about the extremes of human endeavor, how far a human being can possibly go when they put 100% of themselves into something. It's about heart. It's also about friendship. This episode is set within the backdrop of the greatest mountain on the planet, Mount Everest, trauma llama Goddess Mother of the world. Today's episode welcomes back my ever talented friend and expedition partner Mark Senate in anticipation of the release of his highly anticipated book about our 2019 Everest expedition to find the body of long lost mountain here, Sandy urban. Some of you may recall my first interview with Mark for Episode Number 42 called the day Everest broke, and the genesis of our expedition, which has since been chronicled in a one hour film by National Geographic and Disney called last on Everest, produced by our expedition partner and Uber talented filmmaker and climber run on AWS Turk. Mark's book is called the third pole mystery, obsession and death on Mount Everest. It's been a long time coming like waiting for a baby to be born. But given that the true genesis for our 2019 expedition took place in October of 2017 at my Everest presentation in Fryeburg, Maine called lessons learned in pursuit of Everest, which you can hear in Episode Number 75 of The HQ marks book is nearly four years in the making. That's a long gestation period twice as long as the African elephant, the rhinoceros. From the looks of it, Mark's book appears to be doing well, even today on the eve of its release. There are so many positive reviews coming out. I've read it so I know what's good and well as a central character in the book. How can I not like that? Apple books recently listed it as one of the best books of April and from Amazon. The third poll has been named one of Amazon's best books of April in the history category. The esteemed Kirkus Reviews, book magazine says of the third poll, quote, a hair raising mountaineering history of fine tale of adventure and exploration sure to please any fan of climbing Everest lore. Susan Casey, author of national bestsellers the wave and voices in the ocean, former editor in chief of Oh the Oprah Magazine wrote, The third pole is an elegy of extremes a white knuckle tail of obsession and survival from the archives of London's Royal Geographical Society to attend battered by howling winds on the edge of the death zone. Mark senate puts it all on the line in his quest to solve Mount Everest most enduring mystery. And lastly, Mark Adams, author of the critically acclaimed tip of the iceberg and New York Times bestseller turn right at Machu Picchu says 100 year old detective story with a new twist, a high altitude adventure. The best Everest book I've read since into thin air. Senate's climbing skills take you places few will ever dare to tread. But it's his writing that will keep you turning pages well past bedtime. Before I get to our interview on April 15, I want to mention that National Geographic we'll be doing a Facebook Live event with Mark about the book guest host is the Uber talented Peter Gwynn of National Geographics. overheard podcast. It's going to be an interactive conversation that will focus on Mark's story of climbing Mount Everest topics from the book that crosses geographic, economic, social and political lines, with a team of dreamers highly trained professional athletes and agents, working to keep some of Africa's secrets concealed forever. Well, here it is. Mark is back on the HQ. And instead of sipping martinis by the fire pit, which we did as a backdrop for our interview, which is featured in Episode Number 42, we join mark and his wife Hampton for an evening of martinis. Regrettably, the night before our morning interview in his home office. When I showed up at marks house that following morning, we were both bit foggy eyed, but we came right to life when I hit record. We talked in depth about Mark's book and some of the elements within it, I think you will be truly fascinated. Here it is my April 1 2021 interview with climber, New York Times bestselling author and good friend Mark Sennett about his book, you must be pretty excited to actually see this in print. It's been a long time coming since the idea was hatched to an actual, solid hardcover book imprint. So tell me about that. You must be stoked.

Mark Synnott:

Well, the book is called the third pole, mystery, obsession and death on Mount Everest. I hope that doesn't seem too dramatic, but just seemed to be a very accurate description, you know, we were playing around with with subtitles, and it actually, it wasn't even my idea. It was someone else and editor who said, Well, you know, that's what it's actually about. And I think the obsession being the key word there of the three, but it does. It does feel very satisfying and rewarding to be sitting here holding the the hardcover after, you know, two and a half years, or I guess, since the germination of this idea at your talk at Freiburg Academy, two and a half years.

Thom Pollard:

I think that was October 20...17. Yeah. Wow.

Mark Synnott:

17

Thom Pollard:

It was a long time.

Mark Synnott:

Oh, sorry. Sorry, three and a half years.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah.

Mark Synnott:

Yeah, three and a half years. So that's a long time. But it's not that long. I mean, Wade Davis put way more effort than that into, into the silence. So I don't mean that to sound like the most significant thing ever. But, but it's a chunk of your life. And while this has been going on, it's been all consuming. And it was a year of preparation, a year of intensively, writing the book that started by the way, up on the screen porch, with zero words on zero pages, and I will never forget that moment of how awful that was. To start with nothing. So demoralized. I'm not good at that. I'm getting started. And then a year of rewriting, editing, crafting. And then, you know, however many months of finalizing the photos and working on the maps and the illustrations with clay wadman and fact checking and working on the essentially the bibliography and now, the final push in these last two weeks, to to get this thing out into the world that the into the whole point of doing this is to share a great story with the world with with people who are interested. And that's why I think it's cool that we're talking about it because i i don't i don't want to work in a vacuum as a writer. I want people to, to know about my stories. And I want them to read them and and I want them to appreciate that Yeah, I want I like people who like, my stories and my writing. Don't like it, you know, then whatever. Well, they can go jump in a lake.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, yeah. But you're always gonna have detractors. But the The interesting thing about Everest actually, is that basically, every human being or every of the 8 billion human beings on the planet basically know what Mount Everest is. It and so it because it's the highest mountain in the world, it's like people have this there's some it their opinion of it represents somehow some this moral purity in in a lot of people and so people are really critical of Everest climbers or any or mean what let's put it this way you started with zero words on zero on a blank piece of paper, and how many books have been written about Mount Everest? And so how do you like, what's the first word the or when you know? Right? So actually, what is the very first word

Mark Synnott:

We're holding it here. I'm gonna flip to the end. So that that that was a heavy lift. And let's see, first big book, if you will you did up your guidebook .. we have the possible climb here in my before, okay, this is 403 Wow. So pretty similar. They feel about the same look at this is definitely this, this was a much more ambitious undertaking. And this was the biggest project of my life to date. Hmm. And, and this, this book has a lot of history. And so I, I'm not a historian, by trade, but I had to become one yeah, to, to write this book. And I learned a lot. And, and I think, in the final analysis, I think it's a better story. I think it's a better piece of work than the impossible climb. And that was my goal, like a very simple goal. And it's something that I followed my whole life which is to be progressing, and to be on an upward trajectory, if possible, just because I feel like that is kind of a basic mandate that we all have as human beings to evolve. Yeah, become better at what we do. I mean, if you if you if you can't improve with the passage of time, then you probably aren't trying that hard.

Thom Pollard:

That's absolutely spot on. For sure. And, and, and when you think that you've put in the most effort of your life and done your best work, the minute that book, there it is on, you know, the arm of the couch. Now it's in the past. You You are so you poured yourself into this. so deeply. I remember getting well I still have the entire text thread on my phone. Heaven helped me if I ever lose this phone. I'm taking screenshots going back years, picked from you being an England holding artifacts from the Mallory and Ervin expedition. And you're like Pollard, you're never gonna believe what I'm holding in my hand. Like that's like, so you weren't satisfied with just reading something as fact, you had to go and hold it, touch it be there. That's going that that says a lot for what this book is. It's very thorough, what Tell me a little bit about going to England and some of the things that you saw there because that's pretty cool. This is stuff people would only dream about being able to do.

Mark Synnott:

Well, well, the book has this whole preamble leading up to us getting to the mountain. And that preamble is you and you know how you inspired me to become obsessed with The story in the same way that you were, you know,

Thom Pollard:

I corrupted you, is what you're saying

Mark Synnott:

it's a contagious thing. And I, and I caught it from from you. looking here at the table of contents, there's a prologue. And then the book is broken into three parts. Part one is called paths to obsession. And it's five chapters. And that's the, that's the preamble. And that's the genesis of, of, of the story, and at least my involvement and immersion in it. But also, the whole detective story, because ultimately, we were trying to solve a mystery. And, and so that's, that's what the first third of the book is about. It's about the research that I was doing. All the digging, and all of that being preparation for being on the mountain and doing the best job that we could for this, not to just be, you know, kind of an academic exercise, but a real thing that could possibly, you know, have

Thom Pollard:

changed history, yeah, change the written history of something

Mark Synnott:

a positive outcome, you know, and, and so the historical narrative starts in the UK. And I've always loved the type of storytelling where the writer immerses themselves into the story. And, and there's no better way to do that, than to just go personally, to the location of the most primary sources. And believe it or not, with all my travels, you know, and I've been obsessed with exploring the world and going as many places as I possibly could, I had never been to the UK. And I guess one thing that I'll admit, that should be obvious to everyone is that everything that I do is just an excuse for me to go and do cool shit.

Thom Pollard:

Oh, I'm gonna have to go to England for this? Okay, see you, hasta luego kids!

Mark Synnott:

guys. I loved it. I love that place. I didn't even know how much I loved it. And my family is from England, you

Thom Pollard:

and you discovered that quite happenstance. When know, you were there that you had some roots...

Mark Synnott:

Yeah, I knew I knew it, you know, beforehand. But the place resonated in my soul. You because I have a personal connection there. So I went to the Royal Geographical Society to a place called the foil Reading Room where they have all the archives from the early British Everest expeditions. I mean, they have everything they have all the Antarctic stuff, everything if you're you know, historian and you want to be writing about early exploration of the world, then the foil Reading Room is the place that you would go they have something like a million maps, maybe it's 2 million maps, like actual, like old hardcover copy, you know, original editions of maps, you know, that the British made all over the world. And then I also went to Oh, and by the way, they have all the artifacts. Yeah, that you guys found in 1999. And the amazing thing is you can go in, you just walk in off the street, you have to pay 10 pounds, and say like, I want to see Mallory's boot and then there's gonna be some eye rolling like, really like you Why? I want to wear it seriously. Yeah, buddy. You got to see this shit. Yeah. Like Yes, I do.

Thom Pollard:

So they go get George Mallory's boot, they go out and put it in your hands?

Mark Synnott:

they go out the back door. And Craig come back a little bit later push in a little cart. They wear these special little white gloves kind of like the stuff that Michael Jackson used to wear. And so you don't mess it up. Cotton lily white cotton gloves. Amazing. And then they sort of ceremoniously open these special cardboard boxes that say, you know, fragile, do not disturb kind of on the on the lid. And then they pull. They pull this stuff out and you are not allowed to touch it.

Thom Pollard:

Got it. But

Mark Synnott:

I asked the guy I'm like, Can I can I touch it? And he just looked at me he has the gloves and he he didn't say anything but he's like what part of this picture? Are you not noticing? See, I'm special. I have training. I have white gloves. You Are some random American guy? Yeah, yeah, he just showed up here. So no, you're not trying it, you're not trying it on. The very first thing I noticed about Mallory's boot was that it looked to be exactly my size. And that it was in amazingly good shape. I mean, you were there, you saw it, when it was actually on his bullets. And I actually took the book, you took the boat, so so that. So that's actually really cool, too, because you, you inspired the story. You know, you you planted the seed inside of me, and, and, you know, you were there. When this discovery was made, when Conrad found the body, you know, a very important moment in the history of mountaineering, very important in this story. Yeah. And then the ongoing saga of this mystery. And pretty cool that that booth then eventually made its way all the way from 26,700 feet on the north face of Everest, to this little cardboard box. And then as a result of the fact that I decided not to blow off your talk, as I was looking for an excuse, and you and you know what i heavily bagging blown off a lot of stuff. And one thing that people don't know about me probably, is that my favorite thing is to sit at home by myself.

Thom Pollard:

That's probably why we get along so well. It's like, somebody invites you to a party. And if it's like a month out, you're like, Oh, yeah, yeah. And then like the day of it, that you're like, ah, I don't know if I'm gonna, I can't. And then the next you just hope.

Mark Synnott:

Yeah, it's not something I'm really proud of. Because what I said, You know, I wouldn't I don't want other people to be that way. And when I do rally, and I go out, I'm very thankful that I did. Yeah, yeah. But I've been immersed in mountaineering Lord now for my whole life. So yeah, it's not my favorite subject anymore. Really. I'm more interested personally, in, in sailing, and, you know, sort of other types of exploration. But anyway, if I if I hadn't rallied, actually, if you hadn't, sort of kicked me in the ass a little bit

Thom Pollard:

I kept pinging you on it.

Mark Synnott:

Yeah. One of the things you said was, you'll be a guest of honor. And I was like, what does that mean? I'm like I have. I'm like, Huh. And and then part of it. Was that my It was my night to hang out with my daughter, Leila. That's right. And so I thought, well, this will be this will be a cool outing on your daughter outing. Go over, pick her up at her mom's house. Yeah, I mean, I don't think she was thrilled at the prospect of what we're going to do. But she put on a brave face and, and we went and did it. And anyways, now I'm off on a tangent. Yeah, yeah. If it weren't for that. Yeah. The seed Yeah, for telling the story would never have been planted in me. And I never would have gone to the Royal Geographical Society, and seen that boot and seen the rope and seen Mallory's pocketknife and all kinds of other artifacts. Yeah, the little like, 10 of lozenges, or whatever it was me. lozenges, and all that stuff was all in the box, and I saw it all. And as you know, as someone who was there when Mallory was discovered, yeah, it has weight in it. It's one thing to look at the picture in a book, but to see the boot with your own eyes. You it's like you feel the way of, of George Mallory and also about what happened to him. I can only imagine what it must have been like to actually see the body and you did in part that you know, in in your talk, and that by the way was kind of R rated for an 11 year old girl. Sort of like oh well. But all children under 15 Close your eyes because you're going to see if you can take it cuz she's on Twitch and talk and yeah, kids are pretty Scott knows what they're seeing. You know, so she she kind of shrugged it off. Yeah, it's still the I have a couple of photos in there that are there. They're there. They hit you kind of in the gut. You know?

Thom Pollard:

What, I'm just you know, this is the interesting thing that I always Well, I'm not sure if I did that night but but You know, you even said in the title of your book is, you know, the word death is in the title of your book. And, and you kind of almost get squeamish about that. It's like, do we have to kind of glorify, glorify it or, or be, you know, kind of? I mean, isn't that a word just used to kind of sell books or something like that. But but it's, it's the truth of it. And so when I show a picture of George Mallory, a lot of people are like, are you just trying to glorify your experience of seeing this dead guy? But the truth is, is this human, I felt the power of this human being who died who had three children at home, who and I met one of them, you know, after the expedition who was 79 years old, and I said, Do you have any memories of your dad? And he said, I think I remember having a snowball fight with him when I was a kid. And I was thinking, like, I felt that when I saw Mallory, like, this is a guy. It's not just George Mallory, this figure it's a human being and people mourned his loss. And to me, that's your it's a tribute to that. Because he inspired us to go and we made an agreement that we were going to pay our own way. No matter what to do this trip. And we we ponied up big money and wired it to China to make sure we were there. Yes. And we fortunately got back that when National Geographic signed on, but

Mark Synnott:

yeah, we were committed. And, you know, we we called that a blood pact. We did. I don't know if that's politically correct. Nowadays,

Thom Pollard:

there was no blood swapped. Let's just...

Mark Synnott:

just there was there was no other there was there was no blood swapped. Yeah. I remember, the real moment of the blood pact was after we went and visited Holzel. Well, after we had the biggest night ever, with Holzel. Like, who knew that he was going to bring out this wine infused with a hallucinogenic herb at like one o'clock in the morning, and be like, Oh, why don't we finish ourselves off with this? And, of course, we were game. Anybody, you know, who had drank as much as we had by that point would be like, okay, yeah.

Thom Pollard:

And he's like, 80 something at the time.

Mark Synnott:

Then you started talking about how you were going to channel the spirits of Mallory Irvine and to find the bodies?

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, I did.

Mark Synnott:

And I and I, I mean, we can all laugh but you believe in that.

Thom Pollard:

I totally.

Mark Synnott:

And, and I did too, at that point. Yeah. And then you also talked about how if we found the camera, that you were gonna smuggle it out of China in your ass?

Thom Pollard:

LAUGHING Those damn hallucinogens, we'll do it every time, like, okay,

Mark Synnott:

you know, I mean, someone's got to do it. And if you're volunteering, I mean, the things not small.

Thom Pollard:

I didn't want to train for that. That was, you know, how do you actually trying to get one of those things in you?, so

Mark Synnott:

but that solved the problem, because we were, we were definitely worried about how we would.

Thom Pollard:

Why is the metal detector going off? It's my titanium knee. It is not a camera...LAUGHING

Mark Synnott:

Yeah.

Thom Pollard:

Dude I couldn't even smuggle into China. A bottle of booze. Remember, my bottles smashed at the border and, and my bag was just infused with bourbon or whiskey or whatever.

Mark Synnott:

Are you allowed to swear on podcast?

Thom Pollard:

You can say whatever you can.

Mark Synnott:

Yeah. Okay. So we're, we're going through, we're going through customs. We're going into China. It's a rather intimidating thing fair. The building they like say, well, it's Gothic. It's made out of marble. The ceilings are like 40 feet tall. There's cameras everywhere. We're walking through the Plexiglas you're, you know, standing in front of me in line with your like, fancy leather bag. And I look down and there's just this brown liquid pouring out of it onto these gleaming polished marble floors. I'm like, Tom, like you got a situation going on. And you zip open your bag. And and then you're like, fuck, fuck. All my alcohol is gone. That by the way, was the ultimate junior varsity move. It was here we are going on this expedition to Everest and you have blown it. Your fancy whatever it was that you had bought at the liquor store. You're in Katmandu. So it's pouring out. So not only do you not get to drink it, but now you have all these Chinese customs, people who are like what is going on over here? Let's pay special attention to this team

Thom Pollard:

and everybody backs away from me. And they're like, he's an alcoholic!

Mark Synnott:

Yeah. So Nice job. Nice job on that. The other story and this isn't in the book, Jamie, very organized. Perfect. Himalayan guide Kiwi.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, Jamie McGuiness

Mark Synnott:

experienced lots of ever summit, tons and tons of Himalayan travel, like perhaps more than anyone. He's dedicated his entire life to exploring the Himalaya. He goes through the customs, he's in front of me, we get out, we're sitting in this little like waiting room, he just gets up and walks away and leaves his iPhone sitting. Whatever it was his smartphone, he leaves it sitting on the table table. So of course I pick it up. I slip it into my pocket. I don't say anything.

Thom Pollard:

Oh, right.

Mark Synnott:

We go out, we get in the van. We're driving down the road. We're kind of like waiting, waiting. Finally, he's like, oh, I'll take a picture.

Thom Pollard:

LAUGHING

Mark Synnott:

should check something. And he's like this, you see him. I starts freaking out on it. Oh, my phone's gone. And I let it go for a while really just to make it hurt. And he's like, we got to go back. And, and then, of course, you're like, Ah, so another couple of junior varsity moves

Thom Pollard:

very JV, we got them out of the way. So that the whole both of these events took place at the border. And maybe that would be kind of a cool thing to ask you about. And it was started, you know, wholesale could not underscore enough. The absolute necessity for keeping our mission under wraps for secrecy of this mission. And, you know, he was big. He goes, don't tell anyone and you lie, constantly lie. And then you just ask for forgiveness later. But But he felt as though if we made our mission public, the that we've never would have gotten our permits won about we certainly would have been allowed up the mountain.

Mark Synnott:

It it's part of the story that and I think it's a fairly well established and accepted fact that the Chinese Jamie calls them the Chinese officials. Yeah. Don't want people meddling in the Mallory and erven mystery. I mean, this is long and complicated story. And yeah, give us the bridge, I did an interview, you know, with with the telegraph recently, in the UK. And they, they they, the writer who's like putting the story together was, you know, asking me some questions and coming back after for more info. And essentially what I said is, you know, this is this is this is a tricky, complicated story, a tiny bit of a minefield, what I want to say about this is in the book, I carefully constructed that story. And it's not just Okay, here it is. It's a thread that's woven through the entire book. Right? Right. It's, it's, it's, it's tied in to the geopolitics of of Everest.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah.

Mark Synnott:

I would say that it's tied into now I'm drawing a blank, but I guess they call it the 100 year plan, which is for China to supplant the US as the world's dominant superpower. 100 years from the date of the founding of the People's Republic of China, which was in 1949. So that'll be in 2049. By that point, they tend to they their intention is to kick our ass. And it's interesting that that Everest ties into that,

Thom Pollard:

yeah, it right

Mark Synnott:

ties in to the New Silk Road, what they call the VRI, the Belton Road initiative, which is this massive in like multi trillion dollar infrastructure project, which is going on in China, and Everest is being connected into this whole transportation networks. Yes, high speed rail, going from Beijing to Lhasa amid it's gonna be high speed. rail going from Lhasa to should God say where they've built this mountaineering Center, which we didn't get to see because we didn't go through there. But apparently it's the size of five Walmart super centers.

Thom Pollard:

Wow. Oh my gosh.

Mark Synnott:

He really rode right into base camp. Last season when Everest was closed to foreigners, there was a Chinese expedition there. I heard that they were cleaning bodies off the roof to kind of, you know, homogenize it a bit. And I also heard that they put in a 5g tower on the rongbuk, glacier 5g. Wow, we don't even have that here. They have it now in Everest. So might be, you know, watching YouTube videos and literally base camp. Yep. And there's rumor. And it's just rumor that, that the Chinese have always wanted to put a like cable car up to the North Pole. Oh, my God, obviously, you know, none of us want that. But it's all. Actually, it's all. It's all part of the story. And for the Chinese. Well, I mean, unless you're sort of a student of Everest, you might not know that the Mallory in erven route wasn't officially climbed until 1960. by the Chinese. Yeah. Right. Malin Ervin may have done it. We don't know. That's what this is all about, obviously. But we do know that. Officially, it was climbed by the Chinese in 1960. It's, it's a little bit controversial. Because they didn't get a photo when they were on the summit. But I dissect all that, in the book, I can say, right here right now Personally, I pretty much have no doubt based on my research that they did do it. Yeah, they deserve the credit for what they did in 1960. And I've been told by sources in China, that the the first ascent of the north face of Everest by the Chinese represents to them the same as what the moon landing does. For us here. It's that significant?

Thom Pollard:

Wow. Yeah. Right.

Mark Synnott:

It's a huge thing for them, culturally, and nationalistic Lee and all of that, if Malin urban actually did it in 1924, you would have to at least put an asterisk next to that first ascent, and say, okay, yes, you're getting credit, because you're the first ones to do it and live. But somebody else had stood on the summit before you. I mean, if that could ever be proven? Yeah. And the same thing for the official first ascent of the mountain. Yeah. 1953, right. By Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, you'd have to put an asterisk, and people, especially people who are in the know, like, you know, real mountaineers will quickly tell you that it doesn't count if you don't make it down. Yeah, I've Yeah. And I believe that, that is an idea that has merit. Yeah. But you can't say that it doesn't count for anything. Because if somebody else stood up there before you, you weren't actually the first to stand on the top. So it matters. And I, I believe that, that the Chinese don't want people messing with that. Oh, Zell told us that when we first met with him, and that became kind of, you know, a guiding sort of principle in terms of the way that we went about this expedition. But since I've dug a lot more deeply into that, and, and I, I can say, you know, without a doubt that that's true.

Thom Pollard:

And they don't want a group of guys from the United States, no less go in there and and proving something that that changes their course of history. So there don't take kindly to someone trying to solve that Mallory nerve and mystery.

Mark Synnott:

I would say that. That's at some point in time. That was true. Whether it's true right now. I don't know. Because there is. There's more to the story in regards to the Chinese, maybe That could be just sort of a teaser without unpacking it all here. Yeah. Because it's kind of the ending. to, to my book, and I guess, in you, you know, all this, but I think we can say that we've learned some things that, that people don't really know about this.

Thom Pollard:

Okay. So that this this would be and I do have I want to ask you like, two more things. But without disclosing it, would you say that there that the need to go back in search like is that we, if you will, in essence, kind of close the chapter not that there wouldn't be things one might be able to discover, but in terms of the Sandy erven deal, do you think that we kind of closed the book or the chapter on that? Is that not where we that it's over? Would you say generally so

Mark Synnott:

I would say? Or specifically speaking myself? Yeah. jacc in him lab? Who is the world's leading authority on this story? So even then, Jose, Jose del U. Jake Norton, yep. Another of the most knowledgeable people,

Thom Pollard:

Jamie,

Mark Synnott:

Jamie, and all of us believe that there is no further need to look for Urban's body in the yellow band. Could it be somewhere else? Is there? Is there? Is there more to this? Yes. It's still a mystery. Yes, right. Are there people that want to dig into this further? At this very moment? Oh, yeah. One of them is sitting three feet away from me. At this moment, y'all can him lab is not done. He's not either me personally. Yeah. I mean, you never never say never. Yeah. But, uh, but it's a big world. And there's a lot of cool stuff in it. You know, for me, personally, I think that I'm done. One thing that, you know, that we could say here, that I did not include in the book for a lot of complicated reasons. But I did find a bone. I found a just a bare white bone that looked like it was an elbow joint. And it was right below camp three. So I probably found it around 27,000 feet in, and it was just the bone with the cartilage.

Thom Pollard:

So how big was it like, explain, like, give me a descriptive of

Mark Synnott:

it was probably, it was probably an elbow joint. And it was

Thom Pollard:

like complete, like from joint to joint or

Mark Synnott:

broken. The two bone the two pieces of bone were probably, you know, three inches long. You know, just alabaster white. arm bone.

Thom Pollard:

So show me on your arm read the joy

Mark Synnott:

know from like, here to here. Okay, this little pieces of bone on either side of what looked like a john album. You know, I'm not an anatomist. But I would say, yeah, it could have been an elbow. And, and the thing that's interesting. I mean, the location doesn't really match up with the clues in this mystery. But nor does it match up with, you know, people who have died. And just the simple fact that all the bodies that you see on on the mountain, even Mallory's, which you saw, they, they're not totally broken up, and they're in the clothing that they died in, and people are remarkably well preserved. And so, you know, we saw quite a few bodies when we were a pis I'm sure you did when you were there. And none of them were in this condition. And so that in itself suggested that maybe, maybe this is something and we got to camp three. I took the bone off the pack, I stuck it in the mesh pocket inside this abandoned tent that I stayed in. Wow. Went to the summit. Came down. I mean, you're you are what? Oh, yeah. You are walked after summit day. I mean, everybody was, and I laid in the tent. And everybody was packing up because we were hiking down the rest of the way. I tried to get to the north pole or advanced base camp. Yeah. And everybody left. And I think Jamie, you know, was the last one and then Renan and I was laying in there. I was just trying to like Marshal my resources and get as much rest as I could. I mean, I was doing okay. And it was beautiful, beautiful weather. It was totally okay. And finally, Jamie's like, we'll see you later. And then Renan's like, well, I'm leaving to. I shoved as much stuff as I possibly could into my pack. Yeah. And I forgot to grab the bone. Amazed so I didn't bring it down. And it's just too much of a can of worms. Really? Yeah, story. I don't know what it is. It could be nothing. I also, you know, I don't know if it's, you know, might be considered by people disrespectful that I picked the bone up. And then I didn't just leave it there. I saw a little white thing sticking out of the ground. And I went over and I dug it out with my ski pole. Well, anyway, that bone is sitting in that tent still, that bone is sitting there. And I'll just say that your skin is interested. Yeah. Aren't you are interested? Yeah, there's I know.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah. You know, I've done well that this is an interview for you with you. But I after my little Tia kind of event, I don't know if I'll ever go up high again, to be honest. And but But that said, when when tents are abandoned up at those high camps, it looked like a you know a breeze like this is just tragic. Look at all the garbage up there. The Chinese go up and clean those camps like that, that that tents gone.

Mark Synnott:

I don't believe that you believe that that bone would still be there. All the tents that I saw were old were just matted down. And I mean, where our tent. So we stayed in an abandoned tent, and there was at least a dozen of them. And then you saw the mash down that you were fighting the season before just building some places. They're building right on top of the old ones. So I mean, we were the last ones down. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, Chinese were up there. Last see last year. So anyway, okay. It's part of the mystery. From conversations that I've had with the Aachen, he has told me that there is no DNA from Sandy urban. So so we wouldn't necessarily know but i, but there, I think there are other relatives from his family. And yeah, I think people who are related maybe have similar DNA. Right. So I think it's possible, man. And he has some ideas. I know you've talked to him. Yarkon has also sent me an email about some artifacts that the Chinese have that he recently learned about. I don't know if he's shared that with you. But But there's more there. And so this is a great mystery. And it's just one of those those stories where the deeper you dig into it, the more befuddling it become, yeah, and in a way, I think that's fitting, and I think it's right, that the mystery endures. Because that's, you know, I think, why all of us are so enthralled with this and why it's so enduring is because we just don't know and human beings and, you know, people like you and I tend to be pretty curious people. Yeah. And, and we all love the challenge, you know, yeah, of thinking about things that, you know, people haven't been able to figure out yet.

Thom Pollard:

Absolutely. And Alright, as we kind of start to wrap this up. One important it to me, it's really important to talk about it, but because of we we went and we had this team, we won we had a team that as our group of guys, our film team, you said, you know, it was filled with soul, there was like a lot of really, really good dynamics on it. And truly, for me, probably the most positive expedition team experience I've ever had. And, and I from the outside people looking in, and I want to reference real briefly run ons, and the kind of side film project that goes above. There's a scene in that book, when we told the Sherpa of the plan to go and search for Sandy irvan and it's a 20 something minute film, you can only tell so much of the story in there. People it just like everybody has an opinion about Everest and they all like pointing their their little moral kind of up on their soapbox going, you guys, all you do is exploit and you should be ashamed yourselves. And I don't, that's not the case.

Mark Synnott:

Well, I, I talked about this in the book and, and I thought a lot about it. And when when I got to that moment where it was time to leave the ropes, if I was going to do this and I was going to go to the wholesale spot, I essentially had to defy lock. And Lhakpa was telling me, don't do it. And I think that's what these people are on.

Thom Pollard:

Hold on. Yeah, I want to talk about that. But I was actually meaning when we were in advanced base camp, and we told them the story. And they're like, if we don't go to the sun, forget it. It's expedition over that, but but the but leaving the rope a little bit too.

Mark Synnott:

But the what is the question?

Thom Pollard:

The questionis more, I want to talk about leaving the rope and what you what you experienced after you did that, but I meant more. So as a team, they're like, how could you guys not have told them your plan? And then you told them right before you leave advanced base camp to go up the mountain?

Mark Synnott:

Yeah, that part. And and it? And I mean, that's not the whole story. And it's, it's, it's really, again, tricky, and it's just Yeah, and it's sensitive. But we did tell them about the plan. Jamie swears that he did. Jamie's an upright guy, there's no way that he would say that he did. If he didn't. We were all everybody was in on it. And we were playing a little bit of a game in that there had to be certain appearances made to the Chinese. And that had a lot to do with why people who did know, you know, didn't know. Yeah, officially,

Thom Pollard:

right.

Mark Synnott:

What, you know, what was what was going on?

Thom Pollard:

I'm gonna jump in here because Mark and I were talking about when he left the fixed ropes. This was during his descent from the summit of Mount Everest on May 31. When he left those roads to go look for Sandy Irvine's body at the precise location of the GPS coordinates. Mark's Sherpa was named Lhakpa. He was the climbing leader of the Sherpa team, therefore, ultimately, our climbing leader, one of the most respected and talented of the Sherpa that I've ever met, and that's who mark is speaking about when responding to the outside criticism of him going off the rope against the wishes of lock bow, which you can see in the film lost on Everest and read about in the book, back to the interview.

Mark Synnott:

There's you got to be really careful with this stuff.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, I'm gonna

Mark Synnott:

because there's, there's, there's parts of this story that they're just they're, they're, they're, they're tricky, and they're hard to tell. I mean, I think the thing that I would that I would like to say about people that I would like to say to people about this is that when I sat down with Lhakpa, at the end of the expedition, he came and we talked for hours in the hotel, and we debriefed everything. In particular, we debriefed that whole scene

Thom Pollard:

of you unclipping and going to the search area,

Mark Synnott:

and people should know that there was kind of a tacit agreement between Lhakpa and I that he was officially telling me not to do it, and then he's covered. He's covered with the Chinese.

Thom Pollard:

Exactly,

Mark Synnott:

then we talked about it afterwards. I mean, we talked about all kinds of stuff. And in you know, in it, I'm saying the Lhakpa Hey, dude, are we good? Yeah, and we're doing the GI Joe grip handshake. Yep, we're good. He's saying no harm no foul. Everybody's covered. Lhakpa and I are friends.

Thom Pollard:

So yeah, yeah,

Mark Synnott:

they're this this is all in the book. But there's, there's elements and little details to the story, that that didn't go into the film that, you know, there's nuances to it.

Thom Pollard:

There's only so much you can do in a one hour

Mark Synnott:

people don't understand. I mean, that's the great thing about a book is it's much easier to, to sort of reveal things in a more Or in a more delicate way. And, and I do that in the book. I'm not gonna say lock, but I are like Best Buddies or anything like that. But he and I, you're good, you're good. The reason I know we're good is because we sat down and talked about it all for several hours wasn't I was just like, hey, see you dude have a good life. Now I remember you were that was one of the most important and so do we, we did. We did a we did a very thorough debrief. And, and we agreed that everything is good. That's cool. Yeah. And you know, the Chinese. In the end, they knew everything. They knew the whole deal. And I remember, you know, sitting in the end, the end of the expedition with D Chen some of the other guys in camp and kind of wondering like, like, okay, is my next move to sort of head out on to like a Chinese like chain gang kind of situation, right. And D Chen was just all high fives and hugs and Congrats.

Thom Pollard:

I really liked that guy

Mark Synnott:

And so it's very much sort of no harm, no foul kind of thing going on here. You know, I think it's interesting, too, is that, you know, for, for my wife, Hampton. You know, I mean, obviously, she had concerns, you know about everything that was going on with the sharper, but she was more concerned with just the idea of Wow, like that, that. That seems like it might have been a really selfish thing that you did. Because you took a lot of risk. And you're a father, I had a three year old at home, I have three other kids. And ultimately, it comes down to the same thing that you were dealing with, when you were trying to decide if you were still going to go or not. I think you ultimately decided, I think part of you want it to go. You just say Screw it. But there was another part of you. The dad part. Yeah, that said, I can't do it. Yeah. And, and so you know, I had that same moral dilemma up there, when it was time to leave the ropes. Because if you slip when you're connected to the rope, it's just not a big deal. But if you aren't connected to the rope, and you slip, and you could, because you're, you know, you're way up there and and you're tired, and, you know, and spacey. And then and then, you know, I mean, I had to do some, some real climbing, you know, some technical climbing, at least in one part where I climbed down to this to different places where I climbed through little rock bands where it was easy, but it was rock climbing with no

Thom Pollard:

upfront points and room for error.

Mark Synnott:

Yeah, and what I've said to what I've said to Hampton, and what I've said to other people, is that Yeah, I I wouldn't have done it if I didn't know for sure that I could do it, right. I mean, nothing's 100% but I was at 99 point, whatever. Yeah, with some other decimal points in there. And and it was in it, you know, it was it was close to the edge, but I didn't go over the edge. And, and climbers do stuff like that sometimes. And that's what our whole trip was about.

Thom Pollard:

It was it

Mark Synnott:

in your moment when you planted the seed in Fryeburg Academy, to hose out to going to England to going to that NASA test facility to see if the drones are going to work at altitude, flying them inside hyperbaric chambers amid the the altitude tent that I slept in the whole preparation, everything the climb the day Everest broke where we witnessed all the chaos and the drama that happened on May 22 23rd. I mean, there was a lot of a lot of stuff that led up to that moment. And and the whole trip sort of kind of came down to it so so i don't i don't second guess myself there and I think if I if someone asked me this recently and I actually said you know what, I think if I went back and search more thoroughly

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, right that I that I did. I hear you so can you like without divulging everything or without you know, giving more away than you want to for the book and you look what what did we were we were basically going to find to look for a clue that Tom wholesale had given us with the GPS coordinates that that kind of curb did with this slash in the side of the mountain that was taken on a photograph by Brad Washburn some decades before. And you in essence, you're going back to that slash, Jamie had a distinct understanding of where that is, because I think he had been in that vicinity before. When you broke off that rope, I remember the the footage of you looking at your GPS coordinates. And as far as I'm concerned, you went to where you wanted to go. So can you tell us a little bit about, you know, you know, what happened? Would you rather leave that for the, for the readers to find out, and maybe we can do an off the record and put it just for the history books or something?

Mark Synnott:

Well, you know, part of the whole, you know, we were talking about the preamble to the story, and sort of like the detective work that we did leading up to it. You know, a lot of it was already done by Holzel. Well, he worked on it for 40 years. Yeah, yeah. 40 years, trying to figure it out. And, and he, he came up with who I think what you and I believe to be a very credible theory for where the body of Sandy erven might be located on the mountain. And then he went a step further, and he got GPS coordinates crazy. The GPS coordinates, by the way, turned out to be wrong. Oh, yeah. I don't know if you remember that. But yeah, they turned out to be wrong. But without those GPS coordinates, I don't know if you and I would have gone for that. But that turned it into this concrete thing. This where, where I think we, you know, we decided and we made the blood pact. And we said, you know, we've got enough here. We've got a credible theory. We, we we think Holzel is reliable. And that's one thing about that visit to him in Litchfield, Connecticut. I mean, we we like went way out into outer space by the end of the night. But But Holzel Well, yeah, I mean, he never missed a beat. I mean, even with the Woodruff Yeah, he was lucid, and articulate. And it was all just super tight. And I was looking for the crack.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, right.

Mark Synnott:

I never found one. Yeah, no, he's like, yeah, anybody is or shadow that maybe wants to kind of poke into it a bad or say, I don't know, like, this is pretty far fetched. go and visit Jose. Well, let him lay it out for you.

Thom Pollard:

Try some Woodruff.

Mark Synnott:

I was skeptical. But I left feeling like it was it was a real thing. And I think we based the whole trip on that. I remember we called Renan on our way home weekend. We just said, Dude, it's on. (Yeah), like, we've got something here. And, and so that was that was what it was all about. The The interesting thing was that the GPS coordinates were slightly off. And the reason why is because the Brad Washburn map is perfect. Yeah, but where the map where? Yeah, the the, you know, the the coordinates of, of, of that map where they were dropped into the actual like, map datums of the time, you know, you build a map for Everest, ultimately, that map has to sit within a bigger map of the world. And when it got positioned in there, it was a little bit off. And I think the the datums for the two maps didn't match up really perfectly. And the thing that's really just read the book, but I think that's really interesting about that is that it it ties in to the the the whole kind of story behind why the British wanted to climb Everest in the 1920s and how it was discovered during the Great trigonometrical survey. And I write about this in quite a bit of detail in the book, and I spent a lot of time dissecting it and trying to understand it. But the the, one of the main purposes of the great trigonometrical survey was to understand that the true shape of the earth, and there was a theory, and I guess it was postulated originally by Isaac Newton, that the earth is not a perfect sphere. latitude and longitude at the time was based on the idea that it was Yeah, but if it's not perfectly round, And then, and what what, what Newton said was that the, that the earth is wider at the equator than it is at the, at the poles holes, right, and that there's like kind of this squishing, yeah. And and until they could figure out the exact degree of that deflection, they couldn't really have accurate maps of the world. Wow. And so and so so. So that's all just really fascinating stuff. And I worked hard to explain all of that in a coherent way. But it also ultimately ties in to a modern day Everest map, and our GPS coordinates being slightly off. And I worked with one of the cartographers at National Geographic to fix the little bit of distortion there to get the coordinates, right, more accurate. And, and it was on my GPS, it's still on my GPS, that GPS is sitting on my boat currently, but I have the coordinates. And, you know, nobody else has to go there. Because I did. And, and, and so. So I, you know, I think that, you know, there's, there's, there's other places now, and I think, future expeditions, if there are going to be any, should potentially be going up the main rongbuk Glacier, and looking, looking into those gigantic classes at the base, maybe flying drones up around in that zone, and with global warming and the ice melting? I think that, you know, the timing is right, you know, your maybe some potential discoveries to be made there, you know, in the area at the base where, where things, you know, might have gotten flushed down off the mountain. And so I kind of, I think maybe, I mean, if anybody's, I think, you know, this mystery and doors, and other people are going to pick this up. I don't think any of us have any doubt about that. Yeah. And if someone forced me to go back and do it again, that's what that's what I like, that's where you go, that's what I would do.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, Bradford Washburn always used to say, if you want to find Sandy urban, you go to the base of the mountain up the wrong book, directly up the wrong book, and he swore by that,

Mark Synnott:

but it's all it's all part of the mystery. And it is, like I said, the more you try to peel it back, the more layers that you find, and that that's why people like you, and me, you know, three something years now, but I think I'm gonna let it go. Yeah.

Thom Pollard:

There's other fish to fry.

Mark Synnott:

there's other people, you know, who just become obsessed with?

Thom Pollard:

Well, this blue?

Mark Synnott:

Yeah, to figure it out?

Thom Pollard:

Yeah. Well, well, this book, in my opinion, I, I had the pleasure of being able to read it in the process of you, you know, kind of after that, that major first draft with minor revisions. And along with Wade Davis's book, which is a very different kind of book, indeed, about mallery nerve and this to me stands as a really above the many Everest books I've read, and and I think this is going to, this is going to fuel a lot of a lot of people, you know, to become modern modern day sleuths to want to solve the mystery. And so that said, if you had to, if you had to make a gut call on it, what do you think Mallory and Ervin made it one or both made it to the summit of Everest before disappearing?

Mark Synnott:

You know, if I, if I was a betting man, and I was forced to wager, and someone knew the truth, and and said you got to you got to wager on this. I would say that they that they did not make it and I think anyone who's an expert on this, would agree with that. But the point that I want to make because now I've gone pretty deep into this. I I want to say that I don't believe that anyone knows for sure that they didn't. And that is another little, little kernel that is really important, which is that they could have done it and I think it's sort of arrogant of if people say they didn't do it, because they don't know, I think they're projecting a bit if they think they know 100%, because no one knows for sure what happened. And if they were, if they were above the second step. And it's possible, there's ways to get around it. You know, there's, there's a theory that they may have traversed on a little ledge down below. And I've looked at that terrain, and it looks terrifying, but

Thom Pollard:

maybe it was filled with snow, or...

Mark Synnott:

is we just can't say for sure. That's not at 100%. And, and, and that's kind of inspiring. And ultimately, you know, there's other people out there, you know, Mandy Polish made me, for example, who I think is, is much more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But that's kind of what's cool about it is that everybody can sort of see it the way that they want to, because we don't know. And it's, it's, it's inspiring to think about those what ifs. But regardless, what we do know is that they were up at 28,000 feet or above. And they were still going up at that point. And I mean, we're talking a climb that was decades before its time, at a at a time when they were avenged to essentially inventing high altitude albinism as they went, because nobody had ever done anything like this before. Yeah. And as you dig deeper and deeper into that, and then you actually go to the mountain and follow in their footsteps, and you see for yourself what it's like up there. Yeah, up there on the Northeast ridge. It's, it's a, it's a really humbling powerful thing to think about what those guys were doing with the equipment that they had, and the knowledge that they had. And the and the, and the fact that the physiologists of the day had no idea if it was humanly possible, with or without oxygen. Yeah, and so that that's sort of the real essence of the story is just the, you know, the courage and the, and the pluck, and the grid or whatever you want to call it, that those guys had all of them not just Malin Irvin, but all of those, those pioneering climbers. And, you know, I would say when I look, you know, there's the classic picture of them all standing in Basecamp, I love and I love looking at that picture, because you can look into their eyes and you, you can just kind of see their spirit. But now, having gone as deeply into this story, as I have written this book, and and actually, you know, climbed that route. It means even more to me, and I see more. It's like I can feel their spirit. I call it the spirit of adventure. And, and Mallory, Mallory called it the spirit of adventure. And when I see that, I, I feel like connection. Hmm. And it sounds cheesy, but I mean, not to man, you got it? Yeah, I mean it right? I really do. And I feel I feel connected to them through that spirit of adventure. And I also feel connected to everyone else who has it, which I think is almost everyone in this world. And, you know, the people that will read this book, all my friends that I've climbed with over the years, basically everybody that I know, and all the people who have been trying to climb Everest ever since the people who were there when we were the people who will continue to, to, to, to try to, to climb to the highest point on earth. And like you were saying early on, you know, they all they get kind of bad known a lot of them. Yeah. And us included. Yeah, cuz we're part of that club. Right. But yeah, when you see it for yourself, when you when you hang out with with these people, and you see that spirit, you realize it's actually a beautiful thing. And, and I'm so glad you know that, that that spirit is so strong in side of me, and that I've really always had it ever since I was a kid because it has guided me, you know, down this path that I'm still on now.

Thom Pollard:

As Mark and I wrapped up our conversation, he said he left it all out on the table on this project in that quote, he could not have tried harder. He gave it everything he had. And if it came up short, it wasn't for lack of effort marks in its book. The third poll mystery obsession and death is available beginning April 13. Go to Mark senate.com for more information, or just google marks in it, the third poll and it will come up everywhere you happy.

The Wood Brothers:

(MUSIC) Happiness Jones.

Thom Pollard:

Thank you to the wood brothers and their management for the use of their song happiness Jones for our theme song here on the HQ, and to their publicist Kevin Calabro for helping make it all happen. If you'd like a free downloadable PDF of the happiness quotient, a course in happiness, visit [email protected] slash the happiness quotient. For more information about me to inquire about personal coaching or public speaking, whether in person or virtually, please visit eyes open productions.com or write me anytime at Thom dot Dharma dot [email protected] Remember that which we most want to find can be discovered in the place where we least want to look and the deeper and darker the well the brighter the light. We will discover do not curse the dark cloud the rain inside may very well turn your garden green. Thank you for visiting the happiness quotient. I will see you all real soon.

The Wood Brothers:

Happy happy happy Happiness Jones And I'm not sick, I'm not alone Well we all got it, a Happiness Jones All of those words I wrote in the storm that rocked my boat All of that was stuck in my throat when I was happy And all of those songs I was singin', yeah while my boat was sinkin' And next thing I'm thinking, I'm happy I might as well change my name To Happiness Jones, my friend Happiness Jones Oh whoa Happy happy happy Happiness Jones Happy happy happy Happiness Jones Happy happy happy Happiness Jones And I'm not sick, I'm not alone Well we all got it, a Happiness Jones Happy happy happy happy Happy happy happy happy Happy happy