In 1996 journalist Jon Krakauer took an assignment from Outside Magazine to join and report on a guided group climb to the summit of Mount Everest. A massive storm and a series of critical mistakes led to the deaths of four of the members of his expedition. Krakauer survived the climb and his subsequent article for Outside Magazine garnered a lot of attention, both positive and negative. Krakauer's book Into Thin Air is an expansion of his Outside Magazine article and his attempt to try to make sense of the tragic events that occurred on May 10, 1996.
I've read several of Krakauer's books and he always writes on events that leave me feeling very unsettled. I started this novel with rather romantic notions of mountain climbing and the adventurous spirit of those who attempt it. I'm not a climber myself and prior to reading this book, didn't know much about the effects of high altitude climbing.
After reading this book, my views shifted dramatically. The people who climb Everest are just a bit crazy. It's not to say that everyone that attempts the summit has a good chance of dying in the process, but it does seem that if you manage to get that high, the effects of the altitude will leave you severely impaired. You will likely experience a loss of reason and coherence, leaving you to navigate the mountain in a drugged like state.
That's just insane!!!!
Now, I am sure that climbers have strong opinions regarding high altitude climbs and Krakauer's observations, but just solely going off what is written in this book, climbing Everest under the best conditions sounds like nightmare. The events in this book are the worst kind of horror story.
I was even more amazed at the callousness of some climbers, who put their own aspirations above helping a person desperately in need. On the reverse, Krakauer's story is also filled with heroic deeds and selfless individuals.
Irrespective of the disaster chronicled in the book, Krakauer does a solid job of bringing out the various personalities of the other climbers. Mountaineering is a sport that brings out driven, A-Type personalities, even when some of those qualities are masked beneath a hippy exterior. The people in this story and their motives are as interesting as the impending disaster.
This is a very quick and upsetting read. It's an intense ride handled deftly by a solid non-fiction writer.