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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Paperback – October 19, 1999
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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 provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster. With more than 250 black-and-white photographs taken by various expedition members and an enlightening new postscript by the author, the Illustrated Edition shows readers what this tragic climb looked like and potentially provides closure for Krakauer and his detractors.
"I have no doubt that Boukreev's intentions were good on summit day," writes Krakauer in a postscript dated August 1998. "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 a avalanche on another Himalayan peak, Annapurna I. Krakauer further buries the ice axe by donating his share of royalties from sales of The Illustrated Edition to the Everest '96 Memorial Fund, which aids various environmental and humanitarian charities. --Rob McDonald --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Heroism and sacrifice triumph over foolishness, fatal error, and human frailty in this bone-chilling narrative in which the author recounts his experiences on last year's ill-fated, deadly climb. Thrilling armchair reading.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Jon Krakauer gives what I feel was a very thorough accounting of his experience on that ill-fated expedition, as well as a fair bit of well-researched information on what others that were climbing during that time went through. Particularly powerful is the way he delved into what each phase of the expedition felt like in the moment, and how all of the events and decisions that unfolded affected the ultimate outcome. Certainly he points out his own shortcomings during this excursion as well as those of others; he also heaps praise where it is deserved. In the end you can feel the pain that the author carries with him as a result of this experience, and you can feel the doubt he feels over whether any of it could have turned out differently.
Krakauer's intent in publishing this book is to shed light on the 1996 Everest tragedy, and the many other tragedies that have occurred on this and other mountains. The takeaway is that preparedness is important, as is making the right decisions at the right time, communicating with your team and those around you, and cooperating during times of trouble. But above all that there remains an uncertainty when you take on a risky operation that no amount of careful planning and execution can negate. Into Thin Air will make you stop to think about how your actions have consequences not only for yourself, but for those around you. Perhaps it can even make you pause before endangering or hurting others, and if it does then I think that Krakauer did us a service by writing about his team's experiences on Everest.
At that time, Krakauer was a journalist writing for Outside magazine. His employers had assigned him to write a story about the commercialization of climbing Mount Everest. In order to write his story, Krakauer, who was already an experienced mountaineer, would join the Adventure Consultants team in climbing Everest, and then write about his experiences afterward. (New Zealander Rob Hall, who was widely regarded as the best commercial guide in the business, led Adventure Consultants.)
Krakauer admits writing “Into Thin Air” in order to explain the Everest tragedy from his perspective. He also admits that he was still very emotional about his experiences while he was writing both his 17.000 word article for Outside magazine and his book. In his book’s introduction, he assures readers that he did the best he could to get his facts correct, not just by relying on his memory of events, but by interviewing as many of the expeditions’ other members as possible.
Krakauer writes with great precision and detail when describing the events of May 9-12, 1996. As I read each page, I found myself transported to the Everest base camp, the Khumbu Icefall, the South Col, and into the "Death Zone." I could picture the towering seracs and bottomless crevasses of the icefall, the windswept barrenness of the South Col, and the sun-scalded but frigid summit. As the storm struck with its savage ferocity, I could feel the terror, despair, and gritty determination of each mountaineer still trapped high on storm-ravaged Everest. The deaths of Krakauer’s fellow mountaineers were heartbreaking, and the stories of those who survived were inspiring.
If Krakauer had left his story right there, it would have been an outstanding book about death and survival on Everest. However, Krakauer felt the need to try to explain why the tragedy occurred, and he did so by heaping blame on certain individuals for what happened. He is especially scathing in his criticisms of Mountain Madness guide Anatoli Boukreev and client Sandy Hill Pittman. To his credit, he also severely chastises himself for his own failures to help others when he was called upon to do so.
When I finished “Into Thin Air,” I was left wondering: what was the point of publicly censuring others for their faults, foibles, and ambitions? Mistakes were made, yes; but would those mistakes have cost anyone their lives or their limbs if there had been no storm..? No one will ever know, but I think it is doubtful.
Despite my lingering questions about “Into Thin Air,” I still think it’s an excellent book that tells an important story about the tragedy on Mount Everest. Highly recommended. (4½ Stars ^ 5)
I did enjoy reading this book kind of like when you crane your neck on the freeway to look at an accident or watch a police chase on television. I feel like the author Jon, told it like it was high up on Everest.
Most recent customer reviews
I found the book compelling from the get-go, and downright gripping at times.Read more