Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Paperback – Oct 19 1999
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"Intrinsically irrational" is how Jon Krakauer characterizes the compulsion to climb Mount Everest in his audiobook Into Thin Air. The highly publicized fates of the May 1996 Everest expeditions, including the tragic loss of 12 lives, seem to bear out Krakauer's statement. Listening to Krakauer read his own account of the events in this unabridged version adds a uniquely intimate and thought-provoking dimension to the tragedy. Although Krakauer reads his account with journalistic professionalism, it's impossible to forget that you are listening to someone unburdening himself of a great weight, an unburdening that sometimes nearly approaches a confession.
Since the 1980s, more and more "marginally qualified dreamers" have attempted the ascent of Everest, as guided commercial expeditions have dangled the possibility of reaching the roof of the world in front of anyone wealthy enough to pay for the privilege. In 1996, Outside magazine asked Krakauer, a frequent contributor, to write a piece on the commercialization of Everest, and Krakauer signed on as a member of New Zealander Rob Hall's expedition. The disastrous outcome of the 1996 expedition forced Krakauer to write a very different article.
Those who read Krakauer's book may wonder whether the audiobook can possibly shed more light on the unfortunate events. It does. Krakauer's chronicle is chilling and horrifying. He recounts with excruciating detail the physical and mental cost of such a climb. Even under the best of circumstances, each step up the ice-clad mountain is monumentally exhausting, and the oxygen-deprived brain loses the ability to make reliable judgements. And on May 10, 1996, when Hall's expedition and several others made their summit assault, the conditions were far from ideal. The mountain was so "crowded" that climbers had to wait their turn near the summit while their bottled oxygen dwindled by the minute. By afternoon a blinding hurricane-force storm had stranded a number of climbers on the highest, most exposed reaches of the mountain.
By writing and reading 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. (Running time: 467 minutes; six tapes) --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 the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
1) too bad Jon Krakauer had to play reporter throughout it all- and the writing was detached as a result of that /or maybe just that he has a passionless, bland quality in his own personality that seeped out in his writing... that said the quality of writing is great..it was had a flat monotonous tone almost...
2) in true american style the characters are described as charicatures.. probably again he didn't bother or care to get to know them well or on any deep level ( which is an ugly american trait this kind of superficiality and self absorption- worse in other climbing books by americans for sure..) ...so i didn't care when any of the people died. but when you're writing a book like this...i should care. at least about a few of them. but they were written about in such a two dimensional way that i didn't care.
3) he seemed to miss the major axis of the "story" i thought which would have brought more pathos, and even drama to the narrative ...He minimized the very moving and very dramatic story with Rob Hall who from what it sounds like from the documentaries I happened to watch later - who seems he literally sacrificed his life to help his client he came to care about Doug. Rob Hall sounds like a remarkable soulful and caring person, ...too bad Krakauer doesn't really seem to even take notice of his final act of compassionate heroism ( despite Hall's mistakes as a guide)..
3 ) At times i got a bit mixed up near the end as the writing became disjointed- as to who was where and who was with who...
4) Although his assessments I think were correct, especially regarding Bukreev, he should still also reward his acts of heroism despite his terrible mistakes.Read more ›
Krakauer writes in a very good way, it is simple and quite concise. It gets to the point. But it also gives you a lot of 'parallel-info'; information you really apreciate while reading. I found myself many times going back trough the pages looking for a particular description, either of a place or somebody.
What happened that year on Everest is a big tragedy. Of course there are worst things almost everyday in Africa, India, Indonesia or Bangladesh, but the surroundings, the whole story is the sort of thing that makes you wonder about what we are, what we do, and in particular, why we do it.
By the way, you must read 'The Climb' by Anatoly Boukreev after or before this (preferably after). Krakauer's words make you think the other climber was irresponsible, but in reading the russian's book you start thinking in a different way. Maybe it was just a matter of different cultures, maybe it was just that the clients did not understand the way Boukreev lived and feeled the mountain.
In any case, the best way to get into it, is reading both books.
Krakauer wrote this book shortly after the events happened. And it's easy to tell from the way the book is written that the events were still very much raw for him and he was still processing and coming to terms with what happened. The trauma of it all comes through very clearly. He does a reasonable job of acknowledging that some of the things he wrote/said prior to writing this book might have had damaging effects on the characters of his fellow climbers or caused grief to loved ones left behind by those deceased. However, Krakauer does make judgements on his fellow climbers and guides, and paints some individuals in a negative light. It's easy to understand why some of the accusations he makes would draw ire from the people involved. But it is helpful for an outsider to hear some speculation on why the events unfolded as they did, and possible mistakes that were made that might have prevented or reduced some of the harm.
Regardless, this book is a fascinating story and a great read.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Don't watch a movie, read this book, it'll make you cry and rejoice and you'll imagine the peril .Published 1 month ago by Serge B
Very interesting read . So much about climbing and the fortitude it takes. Liked it as much as into the wildPublished 2 months ago by Robert P.
My husband and I read this book in 2001 or 2002 and loved it. I loaned this book to a neighbour who left in on her coffee table and her husband picked it up after supper and read... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Visa
Reading this book makes you feel as though you are right there on the mountain and it's an impossible read to put down!Published 3 months ago by Misty
Into the wild is better. There's a lot of characters so it becomes a bit hard to follow at times, but I mean, it is a true story so you can't really write people out of it. Read morePublished 3 months ago by pdangelo
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