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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster [Paperback]

Jon Krakauer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,270 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 19 1999
National Bestseller 

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.

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."

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Product Description

From Amazon

Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer's book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author's own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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 the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Storm .. but on a mountain.. Nov. 24 2005
Format:Paperback
many times whilst reading i found myself droping it from view and shaking my head. obviously without spoiling it for others, there is not a better example of this than the last sentence or paragraph.
on several occasions other climbers in desparate trouble were passed, sometimes without even a mere glance, and left to surely die. yet it's as if the climbers never actually weighed up the pro's and cons of stopping for fellow men (and women) but just that, in such extreme conditions, the thought process never even occurs.
one can never imagine this clime unless being exposed to it oneself, Into Thin Air is as close as we'll get.
i found the postscript diminishing the book though. the author defends his book in length which i found unnecessary considering he never attempted to explain the actions of others and also praised them in equal quantities throught the text. Jon Krakauer himself questions the risks involved in having a jounalist as part of the expedition, i prefer to question the risks of not having one present.
the book, whilst no doubt appealing to budding mountaineers, is equally enjoyable to those who relish good narrative non-fiction.
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4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating July 1 2004
Format:Paperback
An incredible account of the Everest Disaster. Krakauer is an expert at including as many details as possible without being too wordy. This book reads like a novel, and in fact the story is so incredible that at times you have to remind yourself that it is non-fiction. I appreciated the vivid pictures he painted of the important people in this book, a talent for which he is as skilled as the best contemporary fiction writers. Reading the book, you can grow so fond of some of the more likeable characters that you feel a deep sense of sadness when you read about their passing. In a sense, Krakauer has accomplished the difficult task of explaining in laymen's terms the technical aspects of high-altitude mountaineering (which is necessary in a book like this), and somehow also gave the reader a sense of the profound grief of the situation. This is something that is lost among the litany of newspaper articles, less-talented writers, and the controversy of conflicting accounts fails to do.
Oh yes, the controversy. I suppose that it is inevitable that when you're dealing with this magnitude a disaster, with equally-high magnitude of some mountaineers' egos, you're going to get arguments. Unfortunately, Krakauer has been sucked into this and actually has devoted a portion of the book to responding to someone's complaint about his account. Frankly, it reads like an internet message board flamewar, and it detracts from an amazing book. Hopefully, a year from now when I think back about this book, I'll remember not the controversy but rather people like Rob Hall, one of the people who died on the mountain.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about a terrible event... June 21 2004
Format:Paperback
It's hard to use superlatives when talking about such a tragic story, but Jon Krakauer's account of his journey up Mt. Everest in May of 1996 is a wonderful piece of writing. From start to finish, this book is fantastic, compelling reading.
In 1996, Krakauer was a writer for Outside Magazine, and had been sent on an expedition to climb Everest. An experienced climber, Krakauer joined a team full of climbers of varous skill levels and led by Rob Hall, the most reputable guide in the business, for his journey up the mountain and summit attempt on May 10. When the following day came, Krakauer found that several of his companions (including--eventually--Hall) were dead, and the survivors were hanging onto life by a slim margin, fighting fatigue and the elements in Everest's 'Death Zone.'
In this book, Krakauer recounts the expedition from his perspective, and tries to identify the circumstances and events that led to the disaster high on the mountain. He attempts to recreate the series of events and decisions that led to so many deaths, and manages to find fault with just about everyone on the mountain, including himself, without being too harsh on anyone. It would seem that the effects of high altitude, along with "summit fever," were the prime culprits, and Krakauer delivers that point gently and with respect to his fallen companions.
Everest is a brutally Darwinian environment, and Krakauer's descriptions of the harsh climate and lonely deaths of his friends make for some of the most compelling reading in the book. He writes of the loneliness of his companions' final moments, in the dark and exposed to the elements, stranded (in some cases) mere minutes from shelter; a saddening and vivid reminder of the merciless nature of Everest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Page by Page Suspense June 19 2004
Format:Paperback
Even if you already know the story of the deadly Mt. Everest expeditions of 1996, you will appreciate Jon Krakauer's own first person account of the Adventure Consultants and the Mountain Madness groups. Both of these expeditions were led by well-seasoned Everest climbers---Rob Hall from New Zealand and Scott Fischer from the States--and had the aid of expert guides, Sherpas from Nepal and "outsiders". But we soon find that even these experienced people are not immune from the human frailties of greed, denial and self-serving. Those Achilles' heels will cause both expeditions to completely fall apart. At the same time, human error combined with the unforgiving terrors of high altitude climbing sets the scene for heroism in many of the climbers and crew.
Krakauer, a journalist who signed on with Hall's expedition to do a story for Outside magazine, doesn't disappoint as weaver of a tale. I took the book everywhere with me while reading it, always eager to find out what would happen next.
If a book that explores deftly our desire to reach an unreachable summit appeals to you....especially when that book does not shy away from the tragedy caused when the desire to reach it undoes common sense and humanity....I highly recommend "Into Thin Air."
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reading!
Another great account by Jon Krakauer!
Published 2 months ago by PNW Batcave
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, captivated me from cover to cover
Great read, captivated me from cover to cover. It's like having a friend that lets you in on the inside scoop of what really happened at the top of the world and what really... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Pedalon
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Touching
Krakauer gives a very touching and eye opening account of what can only be explained as an extremely tragic event.
Published 8 months ago by Matthew Strong
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent !!!
The only thing is that there is some Highlighted section in the book.... and description said there was none. Beside that, it is excellent.... nad cheap!!!
Published 10 months ago by André Pelletier
5.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing read
A sobering and harrowing account of a climbing disaster. As I read it, I wondered "can this get any worse?". Well, it does. Read more
Published 12 months ago by D Holmgren
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely gripping
Great book. It is very engrossing and makes you feel like you were there. The author tries to be fair and present all points of view.
Published 15 months ago by Anda Vulpoiu
4.0 out of 5 stars Everest 16 years after
Into Thin Air - illustrated edition continues to be the book to read for any novice learning about Everest. Read more
Published on May 30 2012 by taptap
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Well written. As a non climber myself I found it very interesting as there is alot of details included to help the reader have a thorough understanding of what was really... Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2011 by nik
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Thinking About It
I enjoyed this novel so much that I immediately read it again after finishing it the first time. That was mostly due to the fact that the bulk of the action takes place in the... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2011 by MrMoe
1.0 out of 5 stars Into Thin Air By Jon Krakauer
I wish I could review this item Into Thin Air by Jon Kakauer, but it has been a month and I have not recieved it yet. Read more
Published on Oct. 18 2009 by A. Charlies Russell
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