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Everest 2003





Motivational Speaker: Wade Davis

Motivational Speaker: Wade Davis

Ethnographer, Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Motivational Speaker


Rave reviews for Into the Silence by Wade Davis

#1 Bestseller (Amazon UK)

#1 Maclean’s National Bestseller, 29 weeks top       10 (Canada)

#22 on Amazon (USA)



An Observer Book of the Week [2011]

An Amazon.com Editors’ Pick [Oct. 2011]

A Daily Beast Must-Read Book [fall 2011]

Financial Times best travel books of 2011

Sunday Times best history books of 2011

A New York Magazine Pick for fall 2011

Indigo, Best Nonfiction of 2011

Featured in the Quill & Quire Fall Preview [July/Aug. 2011]


Into the Silence is quite unlike any other mountaineering book. It not only spins a gripping Boy’s Own yarn about the early British expeditions to Everest, but investigates how the carnage of the trenches bled into a desire for redemption at the top of the world. . . . At its heart, Into the Silence is an elegy for a lost generation . . . a magnificent, audacious venture.” —The Sunday Times


Brilliantly engrossing. . . . A superb book. At once a group biography of remarkable characters snatched from oblivion, an instant classic of mountaineering literature, a study in imperial decline and an epic of exploration.” —The Guardian


Magnificent . . . impressive . . . a vivid account.” —The Observer


“Powerful and profound, a moving, epic masterpiece of literature, history and hope.” —The Times


“Davis has produced a magnificent, rigorously researched account of the expeditions that set out to regain glory for an empire in decline but, instead, created some of the most enduring legends of the 20th century.” —Financial Times


The book is not the only one on the subject, but it is the only one most of us will ever need. . . . In Into the Silence, he brings his talents as an ethnographer to bear in portraying the mostly British teams that led the expeditions (a Canadian and an Australian figured prominently as well). . . . Davis’s thorough research gives him an almost omniscient eye. He is as sure-footed a sherpa as we could have hoped for on this journey.”

 —National Post


It is a tribute not only to the power of Davis’s theme but to the grace of his writing that he has brought home anew, almost a century after it began, how unbearably sad the Great War was for contemporaries.” —Maclean’s


“Deeply researched and endlessly informative… Davis compresses a vast amount of information into this book, with one absorbing sub-narrative after another, in a prose style that is a model of exposition, neither lyrical nor cluttered.” - Sydney Morning Herald


A magnificent work of scholarship—Davis’s annotated bibliography is a stunning work in its own right—and narrative drive, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest is a nearly perfect book, one of the two or three best titles to have ever come across this writer’s desk. The story Davis tells is as thrilling as any yarn from the days of romantic travel. . . He has written far and away the best account of this seminal chapter in the epic history of mountaineering.” One pushes to the end of Davis’s story with a growing sense of dread; we know what is coming, yet Davis’s account of Mallory’s last hours is shattering in its pathos.” —The National


“Wade Davis, the National Geographic explorer-in-residence, has managed the herculean task of bringing it all together in Into the Silence. Assiduously researched, this defining and exhaustive book is not for the faint of interest. Set aside a season for this extraordinary expedition.”- The New York Times


“Master historian, ethnographer and world-renowned eco-traveler, Wade Davis has written a genuinely gripping, thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated book. Into the Silence is a masterpiece standing atop its own world, along with the classic “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. Even the annotated bibliography that accompanies the text is a kind of masterpiece.” -Salt Lake Tribune


A sweeping, meticulous and arresting accountInto the Silence is an epic endeavor, and Wade Davis is equal to it. A formidable researcher, the scholarship underpinning this book is impressive, but Davis is an equally formidable writer and Into the Silence stands out as an example of narrative non-fiction at its best.”- Literary Review of Canada


Davis is a fine storyteller, and it is hard to resist the drama of the final moments - the image of Mallory and Irvine heading to their death, two black spots moving slowly up the Northeast Ridge, until the clouds sweep in and they vanish “in a world known only to them.’’ One comes away with a feeling almost of tenderness for these men, of admiration for their stoicism in the face of extreme suffering, and their willingness to risk everything for a transcendent ideal. It is, I think, a reflection of the author’s own view. A deep current of sympathy runs through the book... The quest, finally, is not for the summit of Everest, or even for the story of how it eluded these men, but rather for a complex and compassionate understanding of the world in which they lived and died.” -The Boston Globe


Into the Silence is a great piece of exploration literature and first-rate social history. . . . [Davis] writes with extraordinary power about the awesome majesty and hypnotic lure of the great heights.” —The Gazette

“In his magnificent new book, Into the Silence, Wade Davis tells the full story behind this almost mythic story, imbuing it with historic scope and epic sweep, perceiving the quest to conquer Everest as an emblem of Britain's damaged nobility and infatuation with heroic failure.” – Los Angeles Times


Brilliant. . . . The product of a decade’s research, Into the Silence has two supreme strengths, the first of which is the emotional, spiritual and historical context it provides against which to understand the central events. The other is the author’s effortless knack for sketching character. . . . As Davis notes, with the passing decades the tale has come to seem just as much ‘a reminder of national impotence.’ The ambivalent emotional charge of [Mallory and Irvine’s] passing, coming as it did at such a turning point in the history of the British Empire, fully justifies the efforts the author has made to encapsulate it. And encapsulate it he has, precisely, grippingly and with comprehensive wisdom.” —The Spectator

Mr. Davis’s research is extraordinary, the scope of his book ambitious . . . , his writing sensitive and graceful, and the storytelling entertaining.” —The Wall Street Journal


“Anthropologist, ethnobotanist, and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence Wade Davis climbs to new heights with Into the Silence.” —Quill & Quire


Magnificent. . . . With these expeditions Davis is on tried and tested narrative routes, guaranteed to keep the reader roped closely to the page. . . . To keep this mass of material from bulging out of the narrative is an impressive feat of literary organization and management. To that extent the book is like the expeditions themselves: every inch of progress is dependent on an enormous supply train of information. There is nothing burdensome about this for the reader; the technical data is fascinating.” —Geoff Dyer, The Guardian


“Combining the pace of a thriller with a degree of detail as nuanced as any academic study, this is an atmospheric and exhilarating book.” —Time Out


Utterly compelling. . . . [The] annotated bibliography . . . [is] a model of its kind and well worth reading in its own right.” — John Keay, Literary Review


 “This profoundly ambitious book aims high itself, because it sets the subject of Everest in a specific historical context. . . . Impressive book. . . . This is perhaps the first book . . . to survey the matter not as a record of high adventure, exploration, mountaineering technique or political history, but as zeitgeist. . . . Its intentions . . . are terrific, so that although ostensibly it examines in such detail only a few years of the Everest story, in a way it tells it all. . . . Davis’s monumental work ranges far more widely through the matter of Everest, both on and off the mountain, with harrowing descriptions of life and death on the Western Front, with frank dissections of rivalries, motives, inadequacies and confusions, and measured character studies.”

— Jan Morris, The Telegraph


“Lapidary prose . . . propulsive.” —The Washingtonian


“Fascinating.” —Daily Mail


“As with all his works, Davis relies on impeccable research to go into uncommon detail to outline a back story . . . . His own exploration experience helps him get into the minds of the climbers, [and] the descriptions of the ascents . . . are as breathtaking and astounding as any previous climbing literature.” —Publishers Weekly


 “Davis gives us a detailed and rich account of those expeditions. . . . An incredible read . . . it all comes together brilliantly. It is hard to believe that there could be a more detailed account of those expeditions or a more accurate portrayal of the men who were involved in the whole affair. . . . This book puts that relationship [Mallory and Everest] in perfect perspective and gives you a better understanding of the climber and the challenge that would take his life. If you’re a fan of history, mountaineering, or Everest, than you’ll definitely want to own this book.” —The Adventure Blog


 “Clearly a labour of love. . . . A formidable, impressive and captivating work that traverses much ground. . . . This is far more than a mountaineering story.” —Otago Daily Times


Into the Silence offers rewards. Davis has a fine eye for the memorable detail. . . . His account of the 1924 expedition is succinct and compelling.” —The Washington Post


“Into the Silence is a complex, subversive work, a postcolonial refashioning of an imperialist adventure. Davis, a Canadian anthropologist and explorer, is rightly celebrated for introducing indigenous perspectives into the mainstream. Here, he continues that work while telling a terrific adventure story and affirming as sublime the hubristic madness of assaulting the highest mountain in the world “because it’s there. Into the Silence, which was this week short-listed for the Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction, stands as a near masterpiece.” – The Globe and Mail

Stunning.” —Daily Express (Verdict: 5/5)

 “Utterly compelling…Not only a thorough examination of Mallory’s determined advances on Everest, but also insight into the psyche of post-war England.” —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Responding to the disappearance of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine during the attempt on Everest in 1924, their fellow climber Teddy Norton wrote, “From the first we accepted the loss of our comrades in that rational spirit which all our generation had learnt in the Great War”. Another member of the team, perhaps consciously echoing Laurence Binyons poem “For the Fallen” (1914), commented that the two men “had gone, without their ever knowing the beginnings of decay”.

       Mallory and Irvine were not the first men to die in the attempt to climb the world’s highest peak, only the most famous. Seven Sherpa porters perished in an avalanche during the previous assault, in 1922, while the explorer and scholar Alexander Kellas and the Indian orderly Asghar Khan both died during the reconnaissance that discovered the northern route to Everest via Tibet in 1921. The reactions to these deaths had been similarly stoic, and sometimes apparently heartless. “It is very rough luck and everyone was very much upset. However, it can’t be helped”, wrote one colleague of Kellas’s death. As Wade Davis points out, the men who attempted to first survey and then climb Everest had, almost without exception, survived some of the worst horrors of the First World War, and in some cases had also been involved in the brutal conflict of 1919 on the North-West Frontier. They were no longer easily shocked by death, even that of their close companions: the war “had changed the very gestalt of death”.

       The story of Mallory and Irvine has been told so many times that another book on the topic inevitably risks superfluity. Yet Into the Silence, which took ten years to research and write, seems likely to stand as the definitive work not just on the ill-fated 1924 Everest attempt, but also on the expeditions of 1921 and 1922, as well as a useful introduction to the history of exploration, diplomatic intrigue and imperial adventures that preceded them. Davis’s lucid and sometimes haunting prose, his masterly handling of a great volume of material, his vivid portraits of the astonishing cast of characters, and of places as diverse as Newfoundland, the trenches of northern France, and the Tibetan plateau, all contribute to this achievement. His understanding of the racial, class and colonial assumptions of the period is sophisticated, but he is scrupulous in judging his characters by the standards of their own time rather than ours.

       Perhaps his most important contribution is his account of the complex and sometimes contradictory impact of the First World War on the climbers, explorers and geographers who were drawn to the Himalayas in the years following the Armistice. It is this, rather than the widely debated but now esoteric question of whether Mallory and Irvine actually made it to the summit before their deaths, that engages Davis and allows him to shed light on the motives and assumptions of his subjects. Davis examines why Mallory returned to the mountain a third time, despite his own inner conviction that it would kill him. Without descending into amateur psychology, Davis locates the answer in a unique set of influences and personal characteristics, foremost among them the experience of Mallory and his contemporaries in the First World War.

          If Mallory and Irvine’s tale is well known, the story of the Great War has been retold and analysed so thoroughly that it has largely lost its capacity to shock. It is all the more impressive, then, that Davis can still kindle pity and indignation in the reader with his accounts of the characters’ experiences at the Somme, Ypres, Passchendaele and Gallipoli. His sketch of the war is as deft and readable as his summaries of Sir Francis Younghusband’s incursion into Tibet, the tangled history of Sino-British political manoeuvring in Tibet, Nepal and Burma, the beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism, and the work of the Survey of India. Far from suggesting that the men who turned to Everest were simply coarsened or brutalized by their experience of the war, Davis shows how even the dangerous and punishing pursuit of high-altitude mountaineering could be a life-affirming activity. Quotations from the diaries and letters of expedition members illustrate the lyrical, sometimes mystical sensibility with which the climbers approached the mountain. Mallory described his first view of Everest as a “prodigious white fang excrescent from the jaw of the world”, and the idea of literally “walking off the map” (the 1921 expedition mapped 12,000 square miles of territory previously unknown even to the surveyors of British India) appealed to the sensibilities of men who were traumatized by their war experiences and often struggling to reintegrate into post-war society. Climbing for these men was not a death cult but a way of affirming life; yet at the same time they were acutely aware of their own vulnerability and impermanence. As Davis concludes, “They had seen so much of death that life mattered less than the moments of being alive”. Into the Silence is permeated by this mix of sadness and sublimity. A world apart from the gimmicks and media stunts that have surrounded the cult of Mallory and Irvine, Wade Davis’s book stands as a fitting memorial to a story that is at once poignant and stirring.


                                      - Alan McNee, The Times Literary Supplement


“Exceptional research . . . [A] highly absorbing narrative.” —Star-Ledger


Advance praise


Into the Silence is a breathtaking triumph. An astonishing piece of research, it is also intensely moving, evoking the courage, chivalry and sacrifice that drove Mallory and his companions through the war and to ever greater heights.” —William Shawcross


Into the Silence is utterly fascinating, and grippingly well written. With extraordinary skill Wade Davis manages to weave together such disparate strands as Queen Victoria’s Indian Raj, the ‘Great Game’ of intrigue against Russia, the horrors of the Somme, and Britain’s obsession to conquer the world’s highest peak, all linking to that terrible moment atop Everest when Mallory fell to his death. The mystery of whether he and Irving ever reached the summit remains tantalizingly unsolved. Into the Silence deserves to be an instant bestseller.” —Alistair Horne


It’s a brilliant book. I can’t praise it enough.” - Christopher Hitchens


“The meticulously researched and definitive account of a legend… Fascinating and immensely enjoyable.” —Leo Houlding


I was captivated. They were a gilded generation and for me the nineteen twenties and thirties were the golden age of mountaineering. Wade Davis has penned an exceptional book on an extraordinary generation. They do not make them like that anymore. And there would always only ever be one Mallory. From the pathos of the trenches to the inevitable tragedies high on Everest this is a book deserving of awards. Monumental in its scope and conception it nevertheless remains hypnotically fascinating throughout. A wonderful story tinged with sadness.” —Joe Simpson, author of Touching the Void


“The First World War, the worst calamity humanity has ever inflicted on itself, still reverberates in our lives. In its immediate aftermath, a few young men who had fought in it went looking for a healing challenge, and found it far from the Western Front. In recreating their astonishing adventure, Wade Davis has given us an elegant meditation on the courage to carry on.” —George F. Will 


“Wade Davis’ mesmerizing telling of Mallory’s fabled story gives new and revealing weight to the significance of its post-war era and to Mallory’s dazzlingly accomplished and courageous companions. Into the Silence succeeds not only because Davis’s research was prodigious, but because every sentence has been struck with conviction, every image evoked with fierce reverence—for the heartbreaking twilight era, for the magnificent resilience of its survivors, for their mission, for Mallory, for his mountain. An epic worthy of its epic.” —Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance and The War That Killed Achilles


Couldn’t put the damn thing down. Finished it yesterday. There are few books where the aftertaste of ending comes with a sense of sadness that it’s done.” –Thomas Hornbein

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