Anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Davis (The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, 2009, etc.) exhaustively charts the first epic assaults on Mount Everest by determined Englishmen after the devastation of World War I.
Britain had resolved to be the first to scale the as-yet-unexplored reaches of the highest mountains in the world since the empire's first surveying forays into India and Tibet in the mid 19th century. Then, the discovery of Everest's actual height was first established and named after a geographer responsible for the Great Trigonometrical Survey of 1829, Sir George Everest. In this ambitious study, Davis eventually arrives at the first expedition of 1921, sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society but delayed by the war, which had traumatized and practically eliminated an entire generation of young people in England and Europe. For shell-shocked veterans, Everest signified "a sentinel in the sky, a place and destination of hope and redemption, a symbol of continuity in a world gone mad." Enter George Mallory (1886–1924), a graduate of Cambridge, young husband and father, veteran and accomplished climber, who was chosen to head the first exploratory mission up the North Col in 1921, only to be driven back by the summer monsoon. The reconnaissance mission was followed by two others shortly after, organized again by the Alpine Club. The expedition of 1922 was filmed by John Noel and employed oxygen for the first time, controversially; it ended with the highest climb by George Finch but the death of seven Tibetan assistants in an avalanche. Yet again, in 1924, the familiar team attacked Everest, and with Mallory claiming he was "the strongest of the lot, the most likely to get to the top," he set off with the much younger, inexperienced climber Sandy Irvine, and apparently fell to their deaths very near the summit on June 8 or 9. Davis explores every facet of these single-minded expeditions and the deeply committed, bold, hubristic men who made it possible.
More detail-bludgeoning than riveting tale of mettle against mountain.
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A celebrated anthropologist who's currently National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Davis details Great Britain's protracted efforts to scale Mount Everest, which he traces back to 19th-century imperial ambitions and the huge sense of loss following World War I. Everest always fascinates, and this is about more than climbing; with a 75,000-copy first printing and a six-city tour.[Page 60]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In 1924, British climbers George Mallory and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine, as part of that year's British Mount Everest Expedition, disappeared as they attempted to be the first climbers ever to reach the summit. The mystery of their fate has long haunted the mountaineering world, with many books on the topic. Few can compare to the sheer scope and depth here. Anthropologist Davis (National Geographic explorer-in-residence) moves beyond mountaineering history to delve into the history of British involvement in the Himalayas and the backgrounds of the many players in the British quest to conquer Everest. Davis focuses on the importance of World War I in shaping the worldviews of the expedition members and their backers. Describing in harrowing detail the wartime experiences of many of the climbers, Davis uses the Everest quest as a prism through which to examine the vast changes wrought by the war. VERDICT While well written, meticulously researched, and full of gripping descriptions, this work may overwhelm some readers with its epic scope. Best suited to serious readers and scholars interested in World War I, the British Empire in Asia, and mountaineering history. Those seeking a more biographical focus may consider Peter and Leni Gillman's The Wildest Dream: The Biography of George Mallory. [See Prepub Alert, 4/4/11.]--Ingrid Levin, Salve Regina Univ. Lib., Newport, RI[Page 86]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC