Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest
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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.
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 Everest’s North Col. George Mallory, thirty-seven, was Britain’s finest climber. Sandy Irvine was a twenty-two-year-old Oxford scholar with little previous mountaineering experience. Neither of them returned.
Drawing on more than a decade of prodigious research, bestselling author and explorer Wade Davis vividly re-creates the heroic efforts of Mallory and his fellow climbers, setting their significant achievements in sweeping historical context: from Britain’s nineteen-century imperial ambitions to the war that shaped Mallory’s generation. Theirs was a country broken, and the Everest expeditions emerged as a powerful symbol of national redemption and hope. In Davis’s rich exploration, he creates a timeless portrait of these remarkable men and their extraordinary times.
simply looked.” Ahead of them stretched one of the most remarkable mountain vistas on earth. The Rongbuk Valley spreading south toward Everest rises in twenty miles but 4,000 feet, and it runs remarkably straight. From even a slight elevation, it appears to be flat, with its massive ice fields seeming to lie prostrate along the valley floor, as if detached from the mountain from which they flow. High ridges on both flanks draw the eye irresistibly to the head of the valley, where the sheer scale
mind them in the least.” Of Howard-Bury, Mallory later wrote, “He went quite well, walked strongly and was by no means so clumsy on rocks as one might expect of a novice of 40.” Still, despite Howard-Bury’s evident strength and fitness, Mallory did not trust him for the actual assault, any more than he did Heron and Wollaston, both of whom he genuinely liked. He promised the ever “cheerful and good natured” Heron “a bit of rock from the summit of Everest.” Wollaston amused him, but he was no
an instance of a man protesting too much, and it was not the first time Mallory had glossed over the truth in letters to his wife. Finch and Bruce had hardly benefited from finer weather. Even as Mallory wrote this note, they were trapped in bivouac for a second day in conditions unlike any ever endured by a climber. The men at base camp were not blind. If the efforts to climb without supplemental gas had been such a distinct endeavor, why did Mallory, upon learning of Finch’s success, make
Hickman of Kings, good friend of so many mountaineers; and J. Raphael the football player, whom I took to Wales to climb, and who ran hard up the steep slopes of all his mountains, springing on his toes, and explaining to me that that really was the correct way to climb. They were killed very near to us, and the news came slowly and fatally. The toll of tragic loss, and not only among climbing friends, kept mounting. Dearest of all, Wilbert Spencer at La Bassée, Kenneth Powell the classic
travelers.” More important, as president of the Alpine Club, he promised financial support and the services of “two or three young mountaineers quite capable of dealing with any purely mountaineering difficulties as are likely to be met with on Mount Everest.” The floor then yielded to Sir Francis Younghusband, who spoke on behalf of the RGS. “It is now twenty-six years ago,” he began, “since our old friend Captain Bruce—now General Bruce—made the proposition to me that we should go up Mount