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Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  2,301 Ratings  ·  426 Reviews
On June 6, 1924, two men set out from a camp perched at 23,000 feet on an ice ledge just below the lip ofMount 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, ba
Hardcover, 672 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Knopf (first published October 6th 2011)
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This hefty volume appears to have been a ten-year labor of love for the author, and it shows. . George Mallory, who died with an inexperienced 22-year old Oxford engineering student, Andrew (Sandy) Irvine, trying to climb Everest in 1924, has been the subject of countless books. How close they got to the top remains a mystery, but his height record stood for nearly 30 years until the accomplishment of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Nicholas Wade wrote his own editor in 1999, the year ...more
I decided to bring this book with me when I went backpacking in the Cascades this summer - and you can tell. One of my crampons sliced the back cover open, while the front cover rubbed against the sole of my day hiking boots, leaving it scuffed like an old baseball. The tops of the pages were also stained by a leaking bottle of whiskey (a back country essential).

It seemed like a no-brainer to bring a book about mountain climbing into the mountains. Turns out, however, that it actually is a brai
Sarah (Presto agitato)
Many books have been written about the British Mount Everest expeditions of the 1920s that culminated so mysteriously in the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, last seen "going strong for the top," on June 8, 1924. What more could be added to the story that hasn't been discussed before? Wade Davis takes a different approach in Into the Silence. He examines the influences of World War I on the expeditions - on the political backdrop in England, India, and Tibet, as well as on the participants t ...more
I tried, more than once (like Malory), but at close to 600 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 contrasting these great slaughters with the individual biographies of those who would eventually be involved in the ...more
Nov 05, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because it's there.

Yes, George Mallory said that. But it was not, I've now learned, some mystic koan of distilled wisdom meant to channel a spirit of emptiness and pure purpose. Om. No, he was just tired during an American tour between his second and third attempts at Everest and replied with pique to being asked for the umpteenth time 'why'. George Mallory did not suffer fools. But why should he, or the other mountaineers of the 1920s? After what they'd been through?

Wade Davis thematically sets
Feb 28, 2013 El rated it really liked it
Recommended to El by: Jennifer
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
Feb 16, 2012 Ian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Thomas Vree
Jun 18, 2012 Thomas Vree rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Paula rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Its a book about the great war and an iconic historical figure who dies on a great adventure. How could it possibly be bad? Because its dry. Arid. 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
Dec 29, 2011 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.e., glacial speed). For me, this was almost two separate books combined. Intriguing premise - couching the attempts on Everest ...more
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.
Oct 09, 2011 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, vine, non-fiction
After devoting two full weeks to this massive book, yesterday I did my own summit push and spent six hours plowing through the final 100 pages, and I must say, I wasn’t disappointed. 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 1924 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 robbe
Apr 04, 2013 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wendy by: Jennifer D., Goodreads First Reads
*note* I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

Reading this book is an Everest climb in itself. It is long. It is dense. 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
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. If you are impatient like me you will have to endure 3/4 of the book before they ...more
Mark Mitten
Apr 06, 2013 Mark Mitten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mountaineering
Mr. Davis did a very thorough and meticulously researched bio on George Mallory, and the team members on the 1921, 1922 and 1924 Everest expeditions. It is a substantial tome, but a very worthwhile read for anyone with a dedicated interest in the history of mountaineering, and of course Everest in particular. I remember when Conrad Anker found Mallory's body on the mountain, and everyone was hoping the mystery would be solved concerning whether or not Mallory & Irvine made it to the top. Dav ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Barb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could. A lot of the book is completely fascinating; I've read a number of books about Everest, but none about the early expeditions. Reading about these men approaching a mountain without knowing anything about it, their equipment (or lack thereof), their experience levels was incredible.

Davis did a great job tying their experiences with World War I into their attitudes about climbing and death. The stories of what these men lived through during the war years and th
Dec 08, 2011 Bette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the most thoroughly researched book I've ever read and yet it's easy to read.

The first few chapters on WWI, in my opinion, should be compulsory reading for young adults everywhere. Davis makes clear the tenor of the times which allowed and encouraged the kinds of mind-numbing slaughter that happened on the European battlefields of WWI, and this helped me understand better how that sort of waste of human lives can happen. These chapters are also the perfect beginning for this bo
Apr 15, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
28 hours and 57 minutes... I spent weeks with Mallory and his companions in the trenches and on the highest slopes of the Himalayas, and even knowing the end of the story all along, I felt empty as this saga came to an end. An absolutely fascinating history, both tragic and uplifting. I learned all sorts of things I never knew (like the Russian interest in Tibet), and filled in a few more gaps in my (still very sketchy) knowledge of the world. The stories of WWI were sometimes a bit too long, ta ...more
Jaimie Ireland
Aug 07, 2012 Jaimie Ireland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book offers some fascinating insights into the politics and personal obsessions behind the attempts to conquer Everest. Thoroughly researched...poignant reflections on the shattered soldiers/mountain climbers' lives and how they were tied to the mountain.
Janette Fleming
Using Geoff Dyer's review as it says everything I would wish to say far more eloquently than I could do ever. I can't express what an magnificent work this book is. It is astonishing accomplishment of research, organisation and narrative drive that make this the definitive masterpiece of mountaineering literature.

Into the Silence is a powerful, haunting, heartbreaking read - "An exceptional book on an extraordinary generation."

The death in 1912 of Captain
May 10, 2015 Davidg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful evocation of a different age. It details three expeditions to Tibet in 1921, 1922 and 1924 to explore and climb the highest mountain in the world. Unlike today when the world is small, Tibet is an unknown world and Nepal is closed. Hardly any European has ever seen Mt Everest, let alone get within 25 miles of it. The first expedition is mainly concerned with mapping the region, although this is considered as espionage by the Tibetan authorities and the taking of rock samples ...more
In Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest renowned anthropologist Wade Davis details the first European expedition to summit the highest mountain on terrestrial earth; Mount Everest. From the reconnaissance to map the mountain to the people that Mallory and the other adventurers meet, Into the Silence is a comprehensive guide on the very first missions to Mt. Everest from base to summit and back.

Into the Silence is an perfectly researched and executed, scholarly a
Mar 06, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many people, like me, open this book thinking it's mainly about Mallory and Everest, but it's much broader, more ambitious, and better than that. In fact the two parts that have stayed with me most indelibly are not about Everest at all, but the superb early chapters about the horrors of combat on the Western Front and, earlier, the enthusiastic sexual calisthenics of beautiful young Edwardians at Cambridge - all apparently trying and failing to compete with the priappic reputation of JM Keynes. ...more
Mark Stevens
Jan 15, 2012 Mark Stevens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Into the Silence” is about the process of Mt. Everest becoming a “distraction from the reality of the times” and a nation embracing “a climbing expedition that would become the ultimate gesture of imperial redemption.”

This is a terrific—and terrifically detailed—book about the first three attempts to climb Everest and the indefatigable and odd assortment of people behind them. But be forewarned that the mountain doesn’t make an actual appearance in the telling of this conquest until page 236 of
Chris McLane
Dec 17, 2012 Chris McLane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I hate stopping a book half way through but decided not to complete this title.

It's a book of two halves the first of which is remarkable and absorbing. The second half is however designed more for those engaged in mountaineering and travel writing. Obviously I was aware of this, but when the title won the Samuel Johnson prize, the book was cited for it's excellent history of the context for why these men risked their lives on this adventure. It delivers on that front immensely.

The first half
Filth Ritual
Apr 03, 2012 Filth Ritual rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew very little of George Mallory or the history surrounding Mt Everst prior to this release, but immediately became absorbed with the contents. Davis' effectively and exhaustively details a period that saw men bond so strongly over the horrors of what they chose to speak little of. It exhibits men allottted a second lease on life and choosing not to just embrace but grasp it and take it to new extremes. The comradery within inspires the contemporary audience of the sacrifices that were made ...more
This is a very long and detailed account of trench warfare in WW1 coupled with an account of the first serious assaults of Mount Everest. Many of the mountain expedition men were in the War and had seen and suffered horrible physical or mental wounds. The detail of trench warfare, gas and flame throwers is the most exhaustive I have read. The author writes about all the major battles that Britain and Canada were in. He relates it to the effects the war has on the world and the group who will lat ...more
Jan 22, 2014 Matthew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Couch Climbers
Despite my enthusiasm for this type of book, it took me forever to get through "Into the Silence". To clarify, it took me forever to get through the first 250 pages (about 6 months off and on). I just couldn't get into it, there was almost too much information. It is hard for me to read an account where the author pauses every 2 pages to give 10 pages of back story on every person, place, or thing mentioned. Once we got past the introductions, it started to pick up. Chapter 7, "The blindness of ...more
Nov 06, 2011 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent detailed history of the expeditions to Everest between 1921 and 1924. As such it’s also an extended biography of George Mallory and his companions. It follows on nicely from Holzel and Salkeld’s “The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine” and Macfarlane’s “Mountains of the Mind”.

You would imagine that climbing Everest would be difficult enough, but in 1921 the British expedition had to actually find a route to the mountain across other ranges and glacier fields etc which took weeks
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Edmund Wade Davis has been described as "a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet, and passionate defender of all of life's diversity."

An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, he holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent more than three years in the Amazon an
More about Wade Davis...

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“I want to lose all harshness of jagged nerves, to be above all gentle. I feel we have achieved victory for that almost more than anything-to be able to cultivate gentleness.
George Malory to his wife Ruth at the end of the Great War”
“Marsh had travelled on foot to the source of the Nile and once stood down a charging rhinoceros by intrepidly opening a pink umbrella in its face.” 1 likes
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