If you were asked to name any high mountain on the face of the earth, I wonder what name would spring to mind? Without a doubt for many the answer would be ‘Everest.’
To be honest, I’m writing this on a very flat piece of terrain called the Wirral, a peninsula of some 200 square miles squeezed between the Mersey and the Dee, with the mighty cranes of Liverpool port to the north and the gentle bucolic hills of Wales to the south.
But have you heard about the connection between Wirral and Everest, and that the mountain might have been climbed by a Wirral-born man before the famous ascent of Sir Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay in 1953?
Andrew aka ‘Sandy’ Irvine was born in the shipbuilding city of Birkenhead in 1902, and proved to be exceptionally gifted in engineering. He had the ability to pick things up and improve their efficiency or capacity by ingenious adaptations.
He went on to study at Oxford, where he took up mountaineering and was only 21 when he was invited to join George Mallory’s next attempt on Everest, which was planned to take place in 1924. Mallory was a brilliant mountaineer who had already made two earlier attempts to conquer the mountain and was the man who answered the question ‘Why do you want to climb Everest?’ with the laconic response, ‘Because it’s there.’
For the final push, Mallory chose Irvine as his climbing partner, possibly because of the skill which he’d already shown in adapting their oxygen equipment to make it lighter and to increase the supply of the vital gas.
They made their final camp at 26,800 feet (8,170 m.) and began their attempt on the summit on June 8th. One of the team spotted them through a telescope and reported that he saw them ‘going strongly for the summit’, before cloud descended and blotted out the view.
Tragically, they never returned.
In the 1930s Irvine’s ice axe was found at about 27,700 feet (8,440 metres), and in 1975 a Chinese climber discovered a body that he described as being that of an Englishman.
George Mallory’s body was later discovered with injuries indicating a sudden fall. Irvine’s body has yet to be found, and interest is strong as he was known to be carrying a pocket camera for the attempt on the summit, which may have pictures that are still recoverable.
There’s a memorial to Mallory and Irvine on a gate at Chester cathedral: the Latin inscription could be loosely translated, ‘Their hearts were set on ascents.’
Did you know that a man whose heart was also set on ascents once made a supreme climb far greater and higher than conquering Everest in its consequences for you and me?
He made the ascent in a beaten and bloody body on a hill called Golgotha.
Golgotha – the place of skulls, where the Roman army crucified common criminals.
It was only a small hill by human standards, but it was the most supreme climb of all time, carried out to rescue you and me from the grip of forces that we could never conquer by our own efforts.
Single-handedly, Jesus Christ as our Representative overcame all the wrongs humankind has ever done, the power of death and the inimical, evil spirit of darkness called the Devil.
Jesus died for your sins and mine on the Cross: and God showed His approval of Jesus’s sacrifice by raising Him from the dead.
Many people saw him after His resurrection and wrote down what they saw, within the lifespan of those who were on the receiving end of Jesus’s love and kindness to them. If what they wrote was untrue, they could have raised their voices to object, but there is no record of anyone having done that, ever.
Jesus said, ‘I am the Way’, meaning the Way to God and heaven for all who will turn from going their own way to follow Him. It’s a tough climb, but He goes with us.
He said, ‘I am the Truth’, meaning He never told a lie. What He told us about God loving us, and us needing to turn to Him is true. We can trust Him with our life without fear of being disappointed or disillusioned.
He also said ‘I am the Life’ and He is willing to give you His very own life, called the Holy Spirit, to come and make His home with you the moment you welcome Him in faith. He will never leave you nor forsake you, will help and guide you every step of the way, and keep you from falling.
The great thing is, He isn’t far away – you don’t have to climb a mountain to find Him! Jesus is ‘closer than breathing, and nearer than hands or feet.’
If you open your heart to welcome Him as Saviour and Lord, you will certainly find Him, because He is already seeking you!
To everyone who receives Him, He gives the right to become a son or daughter of the living God. And that’s only the beginning. Listen to what else happens:
“What has Christ to offer to us that is sound, genuine and desirable? He offers forgiveness of sins, inward cleansing, peace with God, eternal life, the gift of the Holy Spirit, victory over temptation, resurrection from the dead, a glorified body, immortality and a dwelling place in the house of the Lord forever. These are a few benefits that come to us as a result of faith in Christ and total committal to Him.’[i]
‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’[ii]