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 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."
Facing the world's second-highest peak, the Karakoram Range's K2 in Northern Pakistan, mountain climbers encounter incredible dangers, including a huge serac (an overhanging glacier), snow-obscured crevasses, whiteouts and avalanches that have killed even accomplished mountaineers. With clarity and compassion, renowned peak-scaler Viesturs recounts campaigns up K2's 28,000-plus feet from the late 1930s through the tragic 2008 season that saw 11 climbers die in the space of 36 hours. An American master of the climb, Viesturs shares secrets, inside jokes, history and lore such as the "psychological protection" afforded by clipping onto rope or handrails, the climbers' habit of "looking up to see if anything's coming your way," and the "miracle" of "one man with a single ax and a grip of steel stopping the otherwise fatal fall of six teammates and of himself." Admitting to "a disturbing fanaticism" that's driven himself and others to tackle the world's fourteen 8000-foot-plus peaks, Viesturs's you-are-there narration communicates effortlessly the enormous effort, and high adventure, of scaling K2.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I just read Beck Weathers' account of this same excursion and loved it, so, naturally I wanted to read this next. I am glad I read them in that order. This book was way more journalistic, but, I loved the details. Jon is a wonderful storyteller. I highly recommend this book.
As someone who just climb Kilimanjaro into a freak february blizzard that could have killed me. -- I could appreciate at some level what was going on with Jon and his comrades on Everest. But only slightly...being their conditions above 25,000 feet makes a total world of difference, let alone the more technical aspects of their aclimazation and climb. Jon brings this into stark relief and his writing is surpurb. Totally spellbinding. The only thing I wish were illustrations, maps and photos to help me better orient myself.
Read THE CLIMB by Anatoli Boukreev instead.
Boukreev got the most prestigious climbing award in the effort of saving everyone under his care. Mountain Madness lost no one with the the exception of Fischer, the leader.
Rob Hall's expedition Adventure Consultants, lost a great deal of their clients including himself.
Where was the author of this book? Whimpering in a tent with no intention of helping.
Way to spit on one's grave. How is Anatoli responsible for individuals in your expedition? Answer that and you'll not need to read further, people. This is of course only my opinion, just as it was your speculation as to the events once zipped in the safety of your tent with only your self serving attitude and lack of consideration for anyone in YOUR OWN PARTY!