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Into Thin Air A Personal Account of the Mt Everest Disaster Author:Jon Krakauer A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also ... more »provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.
By writing Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons and lay to rest some of the painful questions that still surround the event. He takes great pains to provide a balanced picture of the people and events he witnessed and gives due credit to the tireless and dedicated Sherpas. He also avoids blasting easy targets such as Sandy Pittman, the wealthy socialite who brought an espresso maker along on the expedition. Krakauer's highly personal inquiry into the catastrophe provides a great deal of insight into what went wrong. But for Krakauer himself, further interviews and investigations only lead him to the conclusion that his perceived failures were directly responsible for a fellow climber's death. Clearly, Krakauer remains haunted by the disaster, and although he relates a number of incidents in which he acted selflessly and even heroically, he seems unable to view those instances objectively. In the end, despite his evenhanded and even generous assessment of others' actions, he reserves a full measure of vitriol for himself.
This updated trade paperback edition of Into Thin Air includes an extensive new postscript that sheds fascinating light on the acrimonious debate that flared between Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev in the wake of the tragedy. "I have no doubt that Boukreev's intentions were good on summit day," writes Krakauer in the postscript, dated August 1999. "What disturbs me, though, was Boukreev's refusal to acknowledge the possibility that he made even a single poor decision. Never did he indicate that perhaps it wasn't the best choice to climb without gas or go down ahead of his clients." As usual, Krakauer supports his points with dogged research and a good dose of humility. But rather than continue the heated discourse that has raged since Into Thin Air's denouncement of guide Boukreev, Krakauer's tone is conciliatory; he points most of his criticism at G. Weston De Walt, who coauthored The Climb, Boukreev's version of events. And in a touching conclusion, Krakauer recounts his last conversation with the late Boukreev, in which the two weathered climbers agreed to disagree about certain points. Krakauer had great hopes to patch things up with Boukreev, but the Russian later died in an avalanche on another Himalayan peak, Annapurna I.
In 1999, Krakauer received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters--a prestigious prize intended "to honor writers of exceptional accomplishment." According to the Academy's citation, "Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer. His account of an ascent of Mount Everest has led to a general reevaluation of climbing and of the commercialization of what was once a romantic, solitary sport; while his account of the life and death of Christopher McCandless, who died of starvation after challenging the Alaskan wilderness, delves even more deeply and disturbingly into the fascination of nature and the devastating effects of its lure on a young and curious mind."« less
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What an amazing book! It should be mentioned that there are other perspectives to this disaster (some which can be read in this Salon.com series of articles), and other books have been written about it, but this does not affect the fact that this is an incredibly well-written book. It reads like a suspense novel. It's just so tragic that you have to keep reminding yourself that these people were real. Real lives were lost.
In 1996, when this book is set, I was living in my home country of England, and I don't remember the story at all, so unlike some who read this book, I never saw the news stories flying about at the time. I would not normally read a book about mountaineering, but this is a book about the people involved and the narrative reads so well, that even those without any interest in the subject should find it gripping.
Currently 5/5 Stars.
Linda K. (Fluffycat6) reviewed Into Thin Air : A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster on
4 member(s) found this review helpful.
So the burning question is, what do people do after they have invested months of their time, thousands of their dollars, and superhuman effort to say they have reached the summit of Mt. Everest, and within a short climb from the top their very lives depend upon abandoning the summit? Well, they go on of course! And that is how it came to pass that eight climbers lost their lives in an attempt to reach the summit of Everest. This non-fiction account of that fateful trip comes to us from Jon Krakauer, who was there to chronicle the entire journey. Populated with a large array of characters, who although difficult to keep track of at times, Krakauer's account keeps us turning the pages if only to figure out how people can be so stupid. One society lady had to reach the summit so badly, one of the local Sherpas literally had to drag her up at the end of a rope, all but unconscious. Of those who died in the ill-timed blizzard, included were a professional Everest guide, who continued the climb even after his own established time to give it up had gone by. That's what you do when folks have paid you thousands of dollars to get them to the top! People certainly are strange. Throw in some egos and bragging rights motivations, and they become stupid. By the way - I LIKED this book! And I do recommend it. (Along with everything else Jon Krakauer has written).
Unbelievable story of hardship and struggle and mans unwillingness to give in. I highly recommend this book.
Currently 5/5 Stars.
Rachel P. (rachelp) reviewed Into Thin Air : A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster on
I loved the way Krakauer wrote this book. It was fast-paced and exciting, without too much technical jargon to bog it down. And if he did mention something that the average person might not know, such as a climbing maneuver, piece of equipment, or historical detail, he always briefly explained it in a footnote.
I'll be the first to admit, my experience with mountain climbing is climbing the steps to the third floor to my kids' messy bedrooms to clean. Stupid me, thought you go to the bottom of the mountain, climb up, say "yippee, I'm on the top", and climb back down. This was an eye opener to the REAL trials and tribulations of climbing - and I mean serious climbing. There are weeks of "acclimation", where you go up a few thousand feet, spend some time there, and go back down - to try to get your body used to the increasingly thin air. The affects of this atmosphere and climate on the human body is unbelievable. Punishing. Borders on fatal each step of the way. Of course it makes you think "why? why would you want to do this?", but I suspect it is like anything else we are passionate about - the incredible sense of accomplishment, pride, self satisfaction. This is an incredible book and I highly recommend it, whether you are interested in climbing or not. I learned a ton!