On June 6, 1924, two men set out from a camp perched at 23,000 feet on an ice ledge just below the lip of Mount Everest's North Col. George Mallory, thirty-seven, was Britain's finest climber. Sandy Irvine was a young Oxford scholar of twenty-two with little previous mountaineering experience. Neither of them returned.
In this magisterial work of history and adventure, based on more than a decade of prodigious research in British, Canadian, and European archives, and months in the field in Nepal and Tibet, Wade Davis vividly re-creates British climbers' epic attempts to scale Mount Everest in the early 1920s. With new access to letters and diaries, Davis recounts the heroic efforts of George Mallory and his fellow climbers to conquer the mountain in the face of treacherous terrain and furious weather. Into the Silence sets their remarkable achievements in sweeping historical context: Davis shows how the exploration originated in nineteenth-century imperial ambitions, and he takes us far beyond the Himalayas to the trenches of World War I, where Mallory and his generation found themselves and their world utterly shattered. In the wake of the war that destroyed all notions of honor and decency, the Everest expeditions, led by these scions of Britain's elite, emerged as a symbol of national redemption and hope.
Beautifully written and rich with detail, Into the Silence is a classic account of exploration and endurance, and a timeless portrait of an extraordinary generation of adventurers, soldiers, and mountaineers the likes of which we will never see again.
Davis (Wayfinders), a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, tells the story of how a group of men who survived the unfathomable violence of WWI became obsessed with scaling Mt. Everest. Their quest was not for their own glory but for the psyche of their ravaged country and to reaffirm that the human spirit could soar above the inhumanity that countries perpetrate on one another on the battlefield. As with all his works, Davis relies on impeccable research to go into uncommon detail to outline a backstory that centers on the atrocities of trench warfare, English imperialism in India, and the first European expeditions into Tibet and the Himalayas. He also digs deep into the schooling and upbringing of those who took part in the first Everest expeditions, going so far as to investigate the early same-sex relationships of George Mallory. While Davis takes his time leading up to Mallory's first attempt at the summit, his own exploration experience helps him get into the minds of the climbers, the descriptions of the ascents--including the tragic 1922 attempt that saw seven Sherpas lose their lives and the long-unresolved conclusion to the 1924 climb that resulted in Mallory and Andrew Irvine's deaths--are as breathtaking and astounding as any previous climbing literature. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/2011
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October 17, 2011
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