Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Imagine standing on top of the world, with a view so vast and breathtaking that for a moment, you forget all of your pain and worries. Imagine the sense of satisfaction, all of your hard work paying off as you rejoice from the summit of Everest, the king of the Himalayas. Did you at once think about the the guides and the Sherpas who risked their lives to give you your five minutes of bliss? Into Thin Air is Jon Krakauer’s personal account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster that claimed the lives of eight people.
A journalist for Outside magazine, Jon Krakauer won a spot on a New Zealand-based Expedition led by the experienced mountaineer Rob Hall. Originally the plan was to write an article about the commercialization of Mount Everest, but his childhood dreams of standing on top of the world’s highest peak led him to join an attempt for the summit. But while acclimatizing at Everest Base Camp he discovers that many of the climbers both in his expedition and in other groups have little to no experience climbing and mountaineering, and especially no experience climbing above 8,000 meters, the death zone as referred to by climbing veterans. These inexperienced climbers have bought their way into Everest, paying up to $75,000 to join expeditions such as Rob Hall’s “Adventure Consultants,” which offers guide services and resources to assist climbers in reaching the summit.
On midnight, May tenth 1996, a group of climbers set out for the summit. By three PM the weather began deteriorating. Jon, Hall and the remainder of climbers who reached the summit began their descent, already past the safe time for departure. Along the way they encounter Doug Hansen, who fell behind but had his heart set on reaching the peak. Hall and the Sherpas warned him that it was too dangerous to continue, but he persisted on, forcing Hall to accompany him to ensure safety. Perhaps he wasn’t thinking straight from oxygen deficiency at the high altitudes. Perhaps he felt he had come to far to turn back. Regardless, Hall and Hansen were trapped in a blinding snowstorm of winds traveling sixty miles per hour, thousands of feet from shelter. John Krakauer and the rest finally arrived at a campsite high on the mountain, but many were still trapped by the storm, including Hall and Hansen. Guide Andy Harris departed on a desperate attempt to rescue the trapped Hall and Hansen. All three as well as five others fell victim to Everest.
Jon Krakauer left on his expedition to write about the commercialization of Everest, but little did he know that same commercialization would nearly end his life. People with little to no experience buy their way onto the mountain, a place they have no business on. Hall and Harris were killed because Hansen was stubborn and did not want to turn back. He lacked the experience to know the risks. One-in-four climbers who attempt Everest die in the process. Everest is a savage, deadly place, where mere seconds can determine life or death. Inadequate climbers have no place there. Commercial expeditions risk the lives of sherpas and guides alike. The guides vow to ensure the safety of their climbers, but when these inexperienced climbers make mistakes, the guides are forced to put their life on the line to save them. Not only are they staring in the face of death, but they pull their peers down with them when they climb with insufficient knowledge.
John Krakauer uses vivid imagery to describe the mountains and conditions along the trip, as well as insights on the history of Everest. He explains in great detail the risks involved with climbing the highest peak in the world, as well as the difficulties and extreme conditions the climbers endure. This book illustrates perfectly the dangers high altitude climbing, and the selflessness of the guides that lost their lives on that tragic day. ~ Student: William L.
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