In the Shadow of the Mountain
A Memoir of Courage
“In climbing the Seven Summits, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado did nothing less than take back her own life—one brave step at a time. She will inspire untold numbers of souls with this story, for her victory is a win on behalf of all of us.”—Elizabeth Gilbert
Endless ice. Thin air. The threat of dropping into nothingness thousands of feet below. This is the climb Silvia Vasquez-Lavado braves in her page-turning, pulse-raising memoir chronicling her journey to Mount Everest.
A Latina hero in the elite macho tech world of Silicon Valley, privately, she was hanging by a thread. Deep in the throes of alcoholism, hiding her sexuality from her family, and repressing the abuse she’d suffered as a child, she started climbing. Something about the brute force required for the ascent—the risk and spirit and sheer size of the mountains and death’s close proximity—woke her up. She then took her biggest pain as a survivor to the biggest mountain: Everest.
“The Mother of the World,” as it’s known in Nepal, allows few to reach her summit, but Silvia didn’t go alone. She gathered a group of young female survivors and led them to base camp alongside her. It was never easy. At times hair-raising, nerve-racking, and always challenging, Silvia remembers the acute anxiety of leading a group of novice climbers to Everest’s base, all the while coping with her own nerves of summiting. But, there were also moments of peace, joy, and healing with the strength of her fellow survivors and community propelling her forward.
In the Shadow of the Mountain is a remarkable story of heroism, one which awakens in all of us a lust for adventure, an appetite for risk, and faith in our own resilience.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In this thrilling memoir, a Silicon Valley tech hero finds peace by conquering the world’s highest mountains. Silvia Vasquez-Lavado was outwardly successful as an executive, but she lived in fear, often turning to alcohol to cope with her past trauma and abuse. To overcome her challenges, Vasquez-Lavado set a personal goal of climbing all of the Seven Summits, the tallest mountains on each continent. Vasquez-Lavado’s moving memoir draws us into her stunning real-life adventures in some of the earth’s bleakest settings. In the Shadow of the Mountain might inspire you to reach for new heights.
As an adult dealing with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, Vasquez-Lavado looks to the mountains for healing in her triumphant debut memoir. She recounts a trek guiding a group of abuse survivors on a mountain-climbing expedition, finding catharsis together as they share their stories, and immediately afterward setting out to climb Everest. Interspersed with the account of her ascent, chapters cover growing up in an emotionally fraught family in Lima, Peru; being sexually abused for years by a family friend; coming to the U.S. for college; scaling the corporate ladder in Silicon Valley while secretly exploring San Francisco's queer scene; struggling with alcohol abuse and heartbreak; and finally beginning to confront her buried traumas. Vasquez-Lavado recasts mountaineering, contrary to its macho reputation, as a feminist act: "Everest has many names, but they all mean mother. Sagarmatha Mother of the Sky; Chomolungma Mother of the World, stands witness where our own mothers could not." She concludes, "We do not conquer Everest, just like we do not conquer trauma" but must yield to the "chasms" it opens to cross. Vasquez-Lavado's story of struggle and survival is elevated by its faith in the power of women's solidarity. Fans of Cheryl Strayed's Wild should take note.