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The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any other mountain I'd been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking, above all else, something like a state of grace.
But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind.
My hunger to climb had been blunted, in short, by a bunch of small satisfactions that added up to something like happiness.
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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Mass Market Paperback – April 6, 1998
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--Galen Rowell, The Wall Street Journal
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Inside Flap
Into Thin Air is the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Everest by the acclaimed Outside journalist and author of the bestselling Into the Wild. Taking the reader step by step from Katmandu to the mountain's deadly pinnacle, Krakauer has his readers shaking on the edge of their seat. Beyond the terrors of this account, however, he also peers deeply into the myth of the world's tallest mountain. What is is about Everest that has compelled so many poeple--including himself--to throw caution to the wind, ignore the concerns of loved ones, and willingly subject themselves to such risk, hardship, and expense?
Written with emotional clarity and supported by his unimpeachable reporting, Krakauer's eyewitness account of what happened on the roof of the world is a singular achievement.
- Publisher : Anchor; 1st Anchor Books ed edition (April 6, 1998)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385492081
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385492089
- Lexile measure : 1320L
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.5 x 1.25 x 7.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,277,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Wish i hadnt gotten his book and wonder why anyone in their right mind would think Krakauer is any more believable than others.
Krakauer saved 0, Anatoli saved 3.
Math is math, numbers dont lie. People do.
However, I must note that the book itself - or rather, the Outlook article which was responsible for Krakauer's presence on this expedition in the first place - is the real reason so many people died on the mountain that day. Had the expedition leaders not been competing for the attention of Outlook readers, this probably would not have happened; they were seasoned veterans of the mountain and would not, I am sure, made such an elementary mistake as not turning back by the agreed hour. This proved fatal for several people. Krakauer, to his eternal shame, tried to blame this debacle on the other group's Russian guide. Who, as he admits, went out in a blizzard on his own to save his clients and brought them down single-handed. And showed a lot more empathy than Krakauer himself.
That said, I have read no book on mountaineering that better describes the emotions and physical sensations of being in this punishing environment. f you want a powerful 'Rashomon' tale for our times, read this book in tandem with Anatoli Boukreev's /Weston DeWalt's The Climb. They depict the same story but with a very different perspective, and the story itself never gets anything less than fascinating.
However, I rated this as three star simply because I feel the author is condescending and snobby. Yes, he climbed the mountain and very few people will ever even see it, much less climb it.
But I just walked away thinking he thinks he’s better than everyone else. Now that the adventure is over, i understand it might be difficult to get back to normal life, but I just didn’t think he was someone I’d care to talk to at a party.
Top reviews from other countries
For me, this book helped me understand why people enjoy 'extreme' mountaineering and did explain the draw Everest has on people. I actually found the history of it - from being named the tallest mountain on Earth, to her naming and the repeated attempts to summit, really interesting.
As to whether this book and the film accurately portray the disaster... I will say the film mostly matches this book, and the author makes it clear that this is how he viewed the events, that he was not operating at peak efficiency and that a lot of people made small mistakes which added up to make the disaster.
The book is well written, and for the most part is measured. It mixes analytical with personal to great effect. Though it isn't a happy read it is an interesting one and I'd recommend this to people interested in the film, the mountain, or the sport of climbing.
Peppered throughout are references to mountaineers of yore which had me going down the Wikipedia rabbit hole more than once. Although climbing Everest isn't on my bucket list, I find stories of how people push themselves to their physical and mental limits compelling and inspiring. However, Krakauer's account of what happened on May 10 and how four climbers from his team tragically came to lose their lives - the crux of this book - was of course difficult to read.
Much has been made of his criticism of Sandy Pittman and Anatoli Boukreev, but I felt his portrayal of both of them was on the whole handled fairly. Many on the mountain that day made poor decisions in extreme circumstances that led to the final outcome. Krakauer himself doesn't shy away from his own culpability, although it clearly haunts him and must have been painful to write about publicly. If I were to have any criticism of this book, it would be that Krakauer's perception of his abilities and that of others came across at times as hubristic. Whilst I don't refute that many - too many - people attempt Everest without qualified experience (and the mountain has claimed many of those lives), the way Krakauer writes about his own abilities versus that of others felt a little arrogant to me. I also got a little lost later in the book on who was who, which left me puzzled for a while. However neither of these points detract from the fact that this book well and truly got under my skin.
I don't give five stars often and I'm not the most avid reader of non-fiction, but this has been one of my surprise reads this year and I would read it again. I'm considering reading Beck Weathers' book now - that truly is a story of survival.
To his credit Krakauer does not shy away from his own mistakes and responsibilities, though does reinforce the ever person for themselves attitude that he also decries. There is speculation about motives and actions that he could not have been party to, but they do not necessarily feel unreasonable. There is tragedy with this, in his mistaken reporting of Harold being alive and then in the way he likely does, causing more pain for the family, but this was done with the best of intentions.
Not a justification of action, or inaction, but an explanation, one that is perhaps hard to completely accept without the experience of being above 8,000m, but is nonetheless compelling and convincing.
Critical of the lack of relevant climbing experience of the other members of the group, his own does not seem that impressive for the scale of challenge presented by Everest.
Self reflective, and enlightening, the reader cannot help but feel drawn to the personalities as the tragedy unfolds, and poor decision making compounds to big impacts.
A must read for anyone who wants to understand more about the 1996 tragedy.