In this collection, Krakauer writes of mountains from the memorable perspective of one who has himself struggled with solo madness to scale Alaska's notorious Devil's Thumb.
In the closed community of mountaineering there are legendary figures unknown to those outside. Krakauer, who writes about climbing for Smithsonian magazine, introduces some eccentrics and the places they gather. John Gill's reputation rests on ascents less than 30 feet high--he climbs boulders. The hard-drinking, pugnacious Burgess twins from Yorkshire are first-rate climbers and con men; they haven't held a job since 1975, yet manage to wander the globe bagging difficult peaks. Others climb frozen waterfalls in Valdez, Alaska, or attempt hazardous hang-gliding and bungee-jumping in Chamonix, where nearly 6000 people climb Mont Blanc every year. After taking us to Mt. McKinley (Denali), which has claimed more lives than the Eiger, Krakauer also describes canyoneering in the Mogollon Rim of Arizona and recounts his own nearly fatal solo climb of the Devil's Thumb in Alaska. Armchair adventurers can't ask for better entertainment.