Into the Silence

Into the Silence

The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

Book - 2011 | First edition.
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A magnificent work of history, biography and adventure.

If the quest for Mount Everest began as a grand imperial gesture, as redemption for an empire of explorers that had lost the race to the Poles, it ended as a mission of regeneration for a country and a people bled white by war. Of the twenty-six British climbers who, on three expedtions (1921-24), walked 400 miles off the map to find and assault the highest mountain on Earth, twenty had seen the worst of the fighting. Six had been severely wounded, two others nearly died of disease at the Front, one was hospitalized twice with shell shock. Three as army surgeons dealt for the duration with the agonies of the dying. Two lost brothers, killed in action. All had endured the slaughter, the coughing of the guns, the bones and barbed wire, the white faces of the dead.

In a monumental work of history and adventure, ten years in the writing, Wade Davis asks not whether George Mallory was the first to reach the summit of Everest, but rather why he kept on climbing on that fateful day. His answer lies in a single phrase uttered by one of the survivors as they retreated from the mountain: "The price of life is death." Mallory walked on because for him, as for all of his generation, death was but "a frail barrier that men crossed, smiling and gallant, every day." As climbers they accepted a degree of risk unimaginable before the war. They were not cavalier, but death was no stranger. They had seen so much of it that it had no hold on them. What mattered was how one lived, the moments of being alive.

For all of them Everest had become an exalted radiance, a sentinel in the sky, a symbol of hope in a world gone mad.
Publisher: Toronto : Knopf Canada, 2011.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780676979190
Branch Call Number: 796.522092 Leigh-D
Characteristics: xiv, 655 pages : illustrations, maps


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Sep 03, 2019

I loved this book. There are some parts where it drags a bit and the order of things seems a bit confusing at times. However, I learned so much about the geopolitical history of India and Tibet. It's been a number of years since I've read this, but I still think back to the men who charted this area of the Himalayas and the men who attempted to climb Everest mostly with awe, and for some with disdain. It is a fascinating history.

Dec 03, 2018

Epic read, that takes you from the trenches of WW1 to unforgiving environment of Everest.

Dec 11, 2017

A great read that describes in detail the background story of three British expeditions ( 1921, 1922, and 1924) to climb Mount Everest. Many of the team members also served in the trenches of World War One, and the author describes their traumatic experiences quite vividly. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the conditions these men endured while attempting to climb the world's highest mountain. The clothing and gear they had were primitive and not adequate for Himalayan climbing; it's amazing that more of these climbers didn't perish on these expeditions. It's a long book, took me about a month to get through, but I only average about ten pages a day.

Nov 20, 2017

Wonderful book celebrating curiosity, ingenuity and bravery. The World War I context was tediously long. But the rest of the book is fascinating, for so ,many reasons. The audio book is an excellent version, perfectly narrated.

Feb 01, 2016

Excellently written, extensively researched. How did the WWI get to be so poorly fought, what were the Brits thinking? Good to see Wheeler's (Canadian) contribution to Mallory's first attempt so well documented.

KCLSLibsRecommend Apr 10, 2014

I recommend Wade Davis' book for omnivores with an interest in any of the following: uncharted exploration, larger-than-life characters, a world changing at unprecedented speed, World War I, climbing, Tibetan Buddhism, technology, politics, social class, empires rising and falling, and more.

It sounds chaotic but Davis weaves it all together so well that before you tire of one topic, another rises to catch your attention.

Spoiler alert on a few good stories: one of the principal Everest explorers had both legs nearly severed in World War I - his physician advised him to avoid walking uphill.

Another climber previously explored the source of the Nile and averted a rhino charge by opening a pink umbrella in its face. The lucky pink umbrella also survived the trip to Tibet (they don't make 'em like that any more)

Oct 30, 2013

A great book to read before Remembrance Day to be reminded of the sacrifices made by Allied soldiers during the First World War. Wade Davis provides a great story, very well researched, that describes in detail what was an act of "imperial redemption" following wartime destruction. A great read...

Jul 29, 2013

Excellent book! Wade Davis researched for 10 years to complete this book - lots of detail and very interesting - still leaves you wondering if Mallory & Irvine ever reached the summit of Everest.

stephotography Jul 10, 2013

Though I agree with other readers that this is, indeed, an excellent account of the early exploration of Tibet and Everest, I found the book to be long and at times rambling. There are points where the story slows down to a crawl, the story was often bogged down extraneous, unnecessary detail -some of the gory details of the early Afgan wars could have been easily omitted. I am an avid reader of all things related to Everest, and yet I found this book didn't meet my expectations.

WVMLStaffPicks Jun 04, 2013

For those who enjoy reading about mountaineering expeditions, this book delivers epic adventure, tragedy, and a detailed look at the social and historical context. From the days of the “Great Game” to the aftermath of World War I, this book captures an era. George Mallory and most of the other climbers were products of the British public school system—extraordinarily tough athletes who wrote poetry, painted, spoke numerous languages, and tackled Everest in wool coats and leather boots. Having endured the horror of the trenches, the quest to conquer Everest was a search for renewal and redemption for the climbers as well their country.

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