Still more impressive is the way Davis depicts the meeting of incompatible belief systems. While the British see the mountain as an obstacle to be overcome by sheer force of Britishness if necessary , the opinion of their Tibetan hosts — that the spirits of the mountain, if not sufficiently appeased, will hurl them from its side — comes to seem just as plausible.
It would be a mistake, however, to see one outlook as "spiritual" and the other as pragmatic. The Tibetans, quite reasonably, can't see any point in climbing the mountain; the British, in turn, are animated by a "mystic patriotism" that is itself a kind of delirium. And while expedition members are delighted to see exotic wild birds that are utterly tame due to the Lama's decree that they are sacred and not to be harmed , Tibet makes a less favourable impression on them than it will, later, on Richard Gere.
Mallory calls it "a hateful country inhabited by hateful people" while some of his team-mates endure the mumbo-jumbo to which they're subjected with undisguised contempt. Though the climbing teams admire the Tibetans' capacity to endure hardship, an avalanche that sweeps seven porters to their deaths on the second expedition is announced with the relieved words: The differences, moreover, do not simply divide west from east.
Within the British camp some view the use of oxygen — and its great advocate, George Finch — with a mixture of suspicion and contempt. Mallory, the tragic figure at the centre of the drama, contains many of these conflicts and contradictions within himself. Forward-thinking enough to see that the socially inept Finch is his best possible climbing partner, he is sufficiently impressed by the porters to consider shipping one back home — where he "might inhabit part of the cellar or the outside coal shed" — as a servant.
Blessed with incredible natural athleticism and stamina, he is cursed by "congenital incompetence with anything technical" and prone to forget or drop items of life-saving importance. If Mallory and his cohorts are representatives of a bygone age, their expeditions established a template that has remained unchanged. The contemporary practice of wealthy individuals purchasing a place on Everest, familiar to readers of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air , "began from the inception of the dream". The combination of "exclusive marketing arrangements" and sponsorship — "Avoid worry, use Sunlight Soap and for Ever-rest" — to underwrite the enormous undertaking was also in place from the outset.
To keep this mass of material from bulging out of the narrative is an impressive feat of literary organisation and management. To that extent the book is like the expeditions themselves: I really, really hate you. A man who never came near any of the trenches that he sent boy after boy after boy out of to certain death and could ask a subordinate, "Have we really lost half a million men? The middle part of this book deals with the first attempt at Everest. As such, it covers the many assays to find a route to the mountain, as Everest is shielded by other peaks.
This dragged; and while probably necessary to a full understanding of the early efforts, did I really need to learn such minutiae as Bullock and Wheeler sharing a Meade kind of tent while Mallory and Morsehead slept in a Mummery? Into the Silence never falls to mere adventure - the writing is too good, the scholarship too sharp - but the telling of the three attempts to summit are thrilling enough enough to take the book to work, anyhow.
Wade Davis has a great eye for nuance and the trenchant phrase, like Haig's words of detachment quoted above. So he can paint both large and minimalist, as needed. When seven Sherpas plunge to their deaths in the attempt, it is enough for Davis to quote the reporting of that event by one of the English climbers, "All whites are safe.
Don't ask, don't tell? Seems silly after reading about the schooling, then soldiering of these men. Davis quotes Somervell, "The trouble with Christianity is that it has never been tried. Davis tells about a dinner party at the Majestic Hotel in Paris in with just these four: Davis again wisely finds it unnecessary to say what food was served and who picked up the check. Apr 29, Steve rated it it was ok Shelves: I tried, more than once like Malory , but at close to pages, this is a book in need of an editor.
And this is frustrating, because Davis can write, and write beautifully. The idea behind this book is fascinating, seeing the explorers of Everest through the filter of the Great War. Davis is excellent in his accounts of the great World War 1 battles the Somme, Ypres, etc. And the story is more than mountaineering, but there were warning signs since Davis seemed intent on giving each significant character equal time, and thus giving the reader repeat trips to the Somme, Ypres, and Loos.
By the time the reader gets to the first attempt at Everest, the pattern of repetition is well established, and what follows, in excruciating detail, is an account that goes literally mile by mile. This is further multiplied by explorers being broken up into small groups finding their own way to Everest. On at least two occasions I set the book down when I was given yet another account of a cataloguing of wild flowers.
I understand what Davis was seeking here, which is the creation of a greater context or chronicling than just the attempt and thus its more narrow history to climb a very high snow blasted rock. He does this, and much more, since the impression is one of recreation of actual day-to-day notes. These were brave men, no doubt, but in his attempt to memorialize them, Davis threw in everything, and then the kitchen sink.
View all 3 comments. If you think this is a mountaineering book solely about Mallory's ill-fated attempt to reach the summit of Everest then you will be both pleasantly mistaken and astonished at the breadth and scope of what the author has accomplished. At the heart of the book is an engrossing account of the three expeditions to Mt Everest carried out by the British between the years of , but it is the background information that really sets this book apart from its contemporaries.
It contains some of the If you think this is a mountaineering book solely about Mallory's ill-fated attempt to reach the summit of Everest then you will be both pleasantly mistaken and astonished at the breadth and scope of what the author has accomplished. It contains some of the most evocative writing on the horrors of WWI that I have ever read and it ties this into the psyche of the climbers, all of whom lived and fought through the carnage of the Great War.
It also describes the social and cultural attitudes of the early 20th century and contrasts the carefree British values of prewar England with the much more cynical and acceptance of ones fate that existed after the brutality and massive death toll of the war. There is very detailed information and background of each of the main characters involved, including their war service and what drove them to give so much of themselves to the goal of conquering the highest mountain in the world.
Another pleasing factor is the amount of time given over to Tibet and the local people, their customs, and voices, and what impact the coming of European travelers had on the country and people. Be prepared for a lot of detail, especially of Tibet and it's customs, and of the mountain region itself. If however, you enjoy learning about subjects and events that you were perhaps unfamiliar with, then the amount of supplemental information will be more than welcome.
The only negative, which may be limited to the kindle version, is the absence of maps, especially of the Tibet region and the various camps on the mountain itself. The distance that the expeditions covered and the many villages, temples, and fortresses they visited in Tibet makes it extremely hard to follow unless maps are provided to give any sense of location. It was also hard to visualise just where the various camps were set out on the ascent to Everest which was frustrating given the amazing number of trips back and forth made between each camp by the climbers, especially on the expedition.
Nonetheless, this was a fascinating read, much more so because it actually delivered so much more than I was expecting, and because of the authors fluid writing style, which made it so easy to read and so hard to put down. A great book and highly recommended. Feb 16, Ian rated it it was amazing. Into the Silence is a masterful piece of research and writing, struck through with fascinating and authoritative insights, and an almost impossibly capacious grasp of history and the mindsets not just of men but of whole nations.
I expected Davis to write well about the mountain, and he delivers brilliantly on that. I was less prepared for the thorough and unvarnished evocation of the war and the multiple traumas that flowed from it, and for his fluid yet acute capture of the Bloomsbury Group, t Into the Silence is a masterful piece of research and writing, struck through with fascinating and authoritative insights, and an almost impossibly capacious grasp of history and the mindsets not just of men but of whole nations.
I was less prepared for the thorough and unvarnished evocation of the war and the multiple traumas that flowed from it, and for his fluid yet acute capture of the Bloomsbury Group, the colleges, the intrigues, and the politics of the times. His sense of the class and social milieu is absolutely bang on. As to the expeditions themselves, Davis is critical but respectful, thoroughly authentic, the narrative delivered with such confidence and certainty the result of superb research, obviously that as a reader, I counted him as among the climbers every step of the way.
He is is not the slightest bit obtrusive, yet so observant it seems impossible he was not actually on each of the voyages he describes. To me as a reader, no greater satisfaction would be than for Davis to have an opportunity to compare notes with Mallory himself, as absurd as that sounds. His is a brave book, absolutely worthy of the man and his memory, and were they ever to meet, it would be as rare equals. I was sick when I read this book, which is why it took me so long to read.
You know, that sick where you can't even read. I hate that type of sick. This book, however, did make me feel better about my cough because at least I wasn't coughing up my throat lining. And at least this offically qualifies for the first book of the year in the TBR Challenge. The reason why I point this out is that the book is totally engrossing and despite being stuffed with facts, a very easy, almost speedy read. It I was sick when I read this book, which is why it took me so long to read. It is actually particulary engrossing when Davis goes into detail about the first World War he should write a history of that as well as the travel to Everest itself.
In some ways, the account of climbing the mountain pales to these other parts.
What I found especially interesting besides the fact that people are drawn to do things that are really quite stupid is the amount that class and social customs played in determining who climbed the mountain. Mallory developed a dislike, for instance, towards one of his fellow climbers simply because the man was a colonial; at least Mallory was honest enough to admit it.
So using the War as well as British social aspects, Davis shows the reader why Everest and why those men. It is also quite easy to find a podcast where the author discusses this book. I'm a pretty big nerd. I get excited about things like the finding of George Mallory's body , I love when 75 years of history is unfolded before my very eyes, I'm amazed anytime something so spectacular is so close. It seems like something that is so far removed from me and my life, but there it is - you can watch it on YouTube. I'll admit that I knew the bare minimum about George Mallory before reading this book.
Luckily the author is a pretty smart cookie with a gazillion degrees and a lot of th I'm a pretty big nerd.
Why keep pushing after deaths and so many near-death experiences on each foray the worst being the seven Sherpas swept away in an avalanche in ? The definitive story of the British adventurers who survived the trenches of World War I and went on to risk their lives climbing Mount Everest. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. His answer lies in a single phrase uttered by one of the survivors as they retreated from the mountain: A wonderful story tinged with sadness. Yet it is a part of who these men were, and informed their characters and actions, and helps explain the psychological necessity, the collective conviction, for the Everest ascent--something positive, something "good", a pure achievement of the human spirit, following such a dark period in European history.
Luckily the author is a pretty smart cookie with a gazillion degrees and a lot of thoughts and talent, because I learned a lot from this book. Not just about Mallory and his team, but also about Everest, the Great War, how the war affected the climbs, the state of India at the time, how that affected the climbs At first I was a bit turned off because I had a little difficulty getting into the book; the first whatever pages involved information about people I didn't know and I couldn't understand why I needed to know.
But it does all come together. I feel like ass lately, so writing this review feels about as incredible as climbing Mt. Everest - imagining accomplishing a feat like climbing a mountain makes me throw up a little in my mouth. And now, because someone did this, watch this video , not because The Killers are great Some photographs in the montage are familiar to anyone who has read the book and has looked at the photographic inserts. But some were new to me and it sort of blew my brain a little.
View all 5 comments. Dec 29, John rated it really liked it Shelves: The amount of detail in this book is astounding. It is hard to imagine how much research must have gone into it. Depending on your point of view this detail can be the strength or the weakness of the book. If you enjoy the background of Mallory's school life, teaching, WW1 career, Indian and Tibetan history and religious customs; along with the backgound of various other players then you will really enjoy the book. The Mallory and Irvine's climb is mythical. Reading about all of the physical and mental challenges they had to endure makes me wonder why anyone would want to do that just to summit a mountain.
But I guess great reward requires great sacrifice! Aug 04, James Hartley rated it it was amazing.
On the morning of June 8th, , two British climbers set out for the summit of Everest. They were last seen, two dark spots on the ice, heading upwards, before clouds blew in and obscured the views. Still nobody knows if they ever made it to the top. This book tells their story, the story of all the climbers involved in that expedition and the two which preceeded it, setting their tale against the backdrop of the First World War and bringing vividly to life a generation which stares weirdly ou On the morning of June 8th, , two British climbers set out for the summit of Everest.
This book tells their story, the story of all the climbers involved in that expedition and the two which preceeded it, setting their tale against the backdrop of the First World War and bringing vividly to life a generation which stares weirdly out from old newsreels, papers, photos, poetry and letters. This is a mountain of a book. The journey is long and there are moments of exquisite horror and pleasure to be had along the way.
Descriptions of the Great War battles are vivid and visceral. Each player in the story is sketched with concise, telling strokes - often worthy of books in themselves. The history and customs of Tibet, then an unknown territory, are described. Almost every step on the long journey taken by all the climbers is noted.
Sometimes the journey is exhausting, other times thrilling. It is always engaging because the book is about humanity in the end. Climbers and the will to summit; spirituality and nature; the best and worst behaviour we are capable of as a species. There are some old films on You Tube search Everest or Look at those strange alien creatures, in their weird, primitive gear and then read this book and meet them.
Because, although long dead, they will come alive as you read, specks in the snow, before the clouds roll in again. Apr 10, Paula rated it did not like it. Its a book about the great war and an iconic historical figure who dies on a great adventure. How could it possibly be bad? Written like a text book outline- on this day this many men were sent into battle on the british side, this many from Germany, at X location, N miles from Y and Z miles from Q, this many died. This was the weapon of choice, this is a list of injuries the doctor treated that day- Catastrophic injuries are listed in a manner so disconnected its almost a Its a book about the great war and an iconic historical figure who dies on a great adventure.
This was the weapon of choice, this is a list of injuries the doctor treated that day- Catastrophic injuries are listed in a manner so disconnected its almost as if they separate and apart from the human being who suffered the injury. The doctor is working a 20 hour day. He should be exhausted, hungry, disillusioned, heartbroken. Instead it is presented like a punched time card and bills sent to the insurance company.
The characters he does introduce come rapid fire- and even the most irrelevant character gets the full treatment. He includes so much information about who they were with, where they had met, what they do for a living, where they went to school, the town where they grew up, who they are married to, their parents occupations and club affiliations and other innumerable biographic tangent tidbits that its impossible to tell which will eventually become the direction or person relevant to the story. That is the research that should go into a great book- a great author is supposed to turn those dry facts into a compelling story, not regurgitate the statistics.
I cant help thinking, is this gonna be on the test? I bet this is going to be on the test. In fairness, I haven't completed the book yet and I definitely will, because even if it were a text book, I'd still read it. I was just hoping for something with more humanity. I finally had to give up on this book- again- at least temporarily.
Its a struggle to stay awake. They are into the actual expedition, the author reviews every step, every flower they saw along the path, even though its the same flora they saw along the path yesterday and the day before every note, comment, mail delivery, every action taken and a psycho-analysis of why along with speculations of what they might have been thinking in addition to what was actually recorded, and every possible tangent about any of it. It just goes on forever with meaningless boring extraneous data and commentary- the book records every single step taken.
I don't mean, step 1 prepare for trip, step 2, board boat- I mean left foot, right foot, left foot. Three years and as many attempts later- I've decided this might be almost as mind-numbing as the thin air and frigid temps at the top of the world, perhaps requiring almost as much effort to conquer. I Finally donated the book Jun 18, Thomas Vree rated it really liked it. While I have happily tried, and will try my hand at a variety of outdoor pursuits, climbing mountains holds no appeal for me.
Just way too alien an environment. Books like Into Thin Air just reinforced the idea that it is not for me, and left me shaking my head. Dilettantes who have no business being on Everest, who pay small fortunes to have Sherpas literally carry them up the mountain.
When I read how every year there is a long line of people waiting to spend a minute at the top so they can cl While I have happily tried, and will try my hand at a variety of outdoor pursuits, climbing mountains holds no appeal for me. The 9 next highest peaks in the Himalayas, difficult, challenging climbs, likely have no lineup whatsoever. Now really being the first, that is interesting. It could be argued that Mallory never actually got to the top. But to me even attempting it, 30 years before Norgay and Hillary made it, is very note worthy. This one took him ten years to write.
The bibliography is almost a publication in itself. Reminded me a bit of Dangerous River by R. Patterson in the sense that the actors in both survived the unfathomable carnage endured by all the participants in the charnel fields of WW1. It serves as a stronger backdrop and explanation of what made the participants tick a little more in this book. Difficult not to be profoundly moved to read how Britain lost on average dead and wounded per day. Descriptions of field hospitals with literally acres of wounded men, doctors having to pick the few they could hope to save and listening to the rest moan and scream until they died, with hillocks of legs and arms behind the surgical tents.
How people retained a shred of sanity after enduring all that is beyond me. Most of the men who participated in the efforts to scale Everest, had miraculously, against all odds, survived the slaughter. The thing that struck me about Dangerous River when I read it, were the astonishing accounts of trekking via snow shoe and dog sled for vast distances in brutally cold conditions.
As much as their accounts seemed horrific, I realized that compared to life in the trenches it must have seemed like a paradise. I think for the men in this book, clambering up a huge mountain in freezing gale force winds might not have seemed like such a hardship. After the deafening racket and overpowering stench of war, the quiet, pure air of the Himalayas or the Nahanni must have seemed heavenly.
The biographies of the participants make them seem by turn open minded, athletic poets, men of science, amazingly accomplished, and on the other hand, priggish upper class English twits, petty and back biting, disdainful of new or different concepts, very much a product of their time. Chip chip tally ho lads!
On to glory for god, king and country! Blown to smithereens by a shell blast, drowned in a sea of mud, constantly churned up by artillery. To scoff at Tibetan ascetics living in small caves at the base of a mountain, while trooping past to climb to the top of said mountain, seems like a case of pot calling kettle black. Neither is really productive in any real sense, other than as a spiritual pursuit perhaps. Reading about their efforts is nothing short of astonishing.
Given their gear at the time, the ropes, the boots, the clothes, their nascent efforts to use oxygen — they really were climbing into the unknown. The fact that they achieved what they did, whether they actually got to the top or not is besides the point. An amazing accomplishment for its time, and an amazing chronicle of a chapter in history. Dec 29, Janet rated it really liked it Shelves: An incredibly well-researched book that sacrificed its momentum through sheer scholarship.
The first third of the book moved quickly drawing a vivid portrait of the horrors of WW1 and the epic scale of human life slaughtered and squandered. By contrast, the remaining two thirds of the book moved at a pace I would liken to the rate of altitude gained in the Death Zone i.
For me, this was almost two separate books combined. Intriguing premise - couching the attempts on Everest An incredibly well-researched book that sacrificed its momentum through sheer scholarship.
A magnificent new account puts the British assaults on Everest in the s in the context of imperialism and the aftermath of the first world war. domaine-solitude.com: Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest (): Wade Davis: Books.
Intriguing premise - couching the attempts on Everest against the receding backdrop of the war - but not wholly successful. Understand England's desire to boost the country's morale and reassert their supremacy by being the first to scale the world's highest peak however, this was rapidly eclipsed by the unrelenting politics and adherence to the British social caste system that manned and drove these expeditions. Having said that, I did learn a lot. I learned that Mallory was absent minded and disorganized.
I learned that even these early attempts involved the use of supplemental oxygen. I learned they had really, really bad clothing tweed jackets and wool mittens! Mostly I learned that Tibetan sherpas, acknowledged as the linchpin for summit success, were generally treated with less regard than the average dog. Jun 25, Doubledf A Very good book and well researched, Mr Davis puts you in the footsteps of those early Everest expeditions and all their growing pains, with some sobering details of the expedition members WWI experiences. Sep 21, Julie rated it it was amazing Shelves: The fate of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine remains one of the greatest mysteries on Everest, but there were so many other factors leading up to the tragic expedition.
First, The Great War. At the time, no other event in history affected the morale of a nation more than the bloody and devastating war that robbed Britain of its sons and its innocence. A majority of the men involved in the first three voyages to Everest had a role in the war and witnessed atrocities that would change their lives. At first I thought Davis was using the war as a device to generate shock value in portraying gory battle scenes. Thus the sense of patriotism was a driving factor for an entirely English team to be the first to summit the tallest mountain in the world.
Second, the relationship between Tibet and England would determine whether westerners would be allowed to travel through the isolated, mystical country to reach Everest. This preliminary scouting expedition in was vital to learning about approach to the formidable mountain. I will admit that there was some redundancy and tedium to this lengthy part of the narrative, but all of it was essential to understand the territory and the participants. Mallory, of course, would be involved in all three Everest efforts, but there was a myriad of other climbers and people overseeing logistics, hundreds of local porters and tons of supplies.
The second attempt in brought both new and familiar characters, along with the notion of using supplementary oxygen. Though a number of height records were achieved, injuries, frostbite and a catastrophic avalanche that killed 7 Sherpas would affect future approaches. The culmination of all the knowledge gained in and would be applied to an ambitious attempt in For Mallory, a return to Everest was both an obsession and carried with it a sense of doom.
The debate about whether the two climbers ever reached the summit was addressed, but no definitive answer could ever be established. I can say with confidence that this is probably the most comprehensive examination of the incredible efforts put forth by Mallory and each of the individuals involved who were determined to conquer Everest. I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.
Reading this book is an Everest climb in itself. It is packed with historical detail, possibly too much. Dozens of characters are introduced, their backgrounds and experiences in the Great War laid out for us so that we slog through Pachendale and the Somme at least three separate times. It will be hundreds of pages before we understand where these men fit into the Everest story. We will read of every political machination and act of snobbery conspired to forward--or prevent--the first British attempt to summit Everest.
We consider giving up, closing the cover, and going home.
There are many shorter books we could tackle and summit. Except that some deep fascination with the unknown, something parallel, perhaps, to what spurred on the climbers themselves, latches onto us. We can't let go now. The summit is all but visible in the clouds. This enormous snowball of facts and politics and natural science that we've been straining against gradually begins to roll on the power of the human story--mostly Mallory and his approaching doom.
The tumbling snowball becomes an avalanche. Getting into this book requires a certain fortitude to stay with it for thirteen long chapters, but it is absolutely worth it. While part of me wishes the book was tighter, less redundant, and perhaps more focused on fewer important players the Mallory sections are by far the strongest , I love the way Davis puts Everest and the early British attempts at "conquest" into context with history, politics, and culture. At times I had the feeling the author was throwing in every last detail from every diary and letter he could find I'm not particularly interested in daily expedition dinner menus , but by the time I reached the last page I was unwilling to let go, as if closing the cover might confine Mallory, Irvine and the rest to the forgotten scree-strewn slopes of history.
Except that I can't seem to let go and forget. View all 4 comments. Oct 08, Mary rated it it was amazing Shelves: Davis begins with WWI and the horrific loss of life and catastrophic injuries that occurred in those grim battles. Often, I had to pause from reading this section in order to comprehend and reflect on the sacrifices made by those brave men. Climbers and climbing are the focus of Davis' work. After four or five, the point has been hammered home. After that, well, I lost count. And so we are treated to such ungainly constructions as this: Davis also deals too often from a deck of favorite modifiers: Perseverance will also bring you to the end, where Davis acquits himself well indeed.
His account of the expedition is succinct and compelling, and by now he has made a convincing case that Mallory was trying to elevate the national mood when, along with an Oxford student named Sandy Irvine, he set out for the summit with what he rated as a mere 1-in chance of reaching it. Last seen through a telescope, the two climbers were specks on a section of the mountain they should have put behind them hours earlier if they were to descend to a safe level by dark.