Into Thin Air : A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
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
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.
I picked this book up as a tonic for the hottest days of summer and found I had to put it aside several times as the story felt so immediate and personal. The desire to reach the fullness of the story was in direct opposition to a palpable sense of dread that grew with each chapterâ"the writing is that good.
bookaddict reviewed Into Thin Air : A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster on
Helpful Score: 5
A fairly gripping nonfiction account of tragic events during the author's ascent (with a group) up Everest. I enjoyed this, although I found it a bit self-indulgent, and the author has admitted since that he probably wrote it too soon after the event--he said he got some details wrong, and his story was affected/distorted by the emotional aftermath. But definitely worth the read. I liked Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven and Into the Wild as well.
Other books about climbing that I recommend more strongly than this one are "K2: A Woman's Place is on Top" and "Touching the Void". For other nonfiction books on extreme sports: "To the Edge" is a phenomenal book about ultramarathoning and "Winterdance" is a terrific account of the Iditarod sled race, and "Shadow Divers" is just a wonderful book about deep wreck diving.
"Into thin Air" is a brilliantly written adventure saga that ends in tragedy. Jon Krakauer takes us step by shivering step, on his journey up Mt. Everest, during the notoriously deadly expedition of May 1996, where 4 of 11 climbers lost their lives. Barely escaping with his own life, journalist Krakauer remembers the team members and friends left on the mountain.
I really liked this book. It gave me a whole new appreciation for Mt. Everest. When someone says they are going to climb Mt. Everest I am truly impressed. I liked it so much that I sent a copy to my nephew in the army.
Nancy H. reviewed Into Thin Air : A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster on
I had wanted to read this book from the time I read an excerpt in Reader's Digest. At that time, the book was, of course, only in hardback, something I rarely purchase. By the time it was issued in paperback, I had forgotten all about it. When I joined Paperback Swap and began searching for books, it returned to my memory, and I'm glad it did.
While reading it, I was constantly checking for Google images of the various locations on Everest to get a sense of the difficulty of each portion of the climb. I also read other accounts on the internet of the tragedy of May 1996, including a multi-piece feature from Outside magazine done on the tenth anniversary. With all that, I feel that this is a very accurate accounting of the events that unfolded. I was disturbed to read toward the end of the book a scathing letter sent to Krakauer from Fischer's sister, in which she stated, "You have commented on what SHOULD have been done by the leaders, the Sherpas, the clients, and have made arrogant accusations of their wrongdoing. All according to Jon Krakauer, who after sensing the doom brewing, scrambled back to his tent for his own safety and survival..." She later says, "There are no answers. No one is at fault. No one is to blame." Really? Sounds like you're placing at least some of the blame squarely on Krakauer's shoulders, who was too wiped out physically to have been of help to anyone and probably would have died himself if he had tried. Letting out her anger was a good idea, but not at the expense of Krakauer's emotions after the fact.
I don't believe that Krakauer was making "arrogant accusations"; I believe he was simply reporting the event and trying to be as factual as possible. By his own admission, the large article he had written for Outside magazine shortly after those terrible events contained some inaccuracies, and the book was written partly to correct those inaccuracies. (The most serious mistake occurred because he had not received return phone calls from one trekker prior to writing the article, and at the time the incident occurred, he was confused due to hypoxia and fatigue, fairly common at that altitude.)
The tragic events of May 1996 occurred not because of any one big error on anyone's part, but rather due to a series of errors. I believe that Into Thin Air reports those errors without admonishment, leaving the reader to form his/her own opinion as to why so many died. However, I disagree with one of Krakauer's statements: that trying to learn from the mistakes is "for the most part an exercise in denial and self-deception." There is a lot to be learned from this incident. It is obvious, though, that with the continued commercialization of climbing Everest and the other "seven summits," with little regard for the experience and ability of those willing to pony up the fees, it hasn't happened.
This is a bittersweet true adventure tale of the 1996 tragedy on Mount Everest that claimed the lives of twelve climbers. Krakauer recounts with brutal honesty what went wrong amidst the heroism of climbers both on his expedition and from others.
I loved this book. It told the story of an expedition to Mt. Everest, that seemed to be flawed from the very beginning. Of course no one expected the storm that was brewing. Some of the climbers were novices, and climbed very slowly. Even one or two of the guides would not come off the mountain at their turnaround time. So many mishaps, wrong decisions and bad weather made this an awful trip. Of course everything Jon Krakauer writes is superb. Even if you aren't into adventure books you would like this one.