Immediately after I finished reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer last summer, I was left convinced that Krakauer is one of the great biographical storytellers. The yarn he spun about Chris McCandless still sticks in my memory and refuses to leave! I HAD to read more of his works, so, soon after finishing my review for Into the Wild, I decided to return to my library’s eBook portal once again and download Into Thin Air, his second offering. It’s a story I won’t soon forget.
In 1996, Krakauer was working for Outside Magazine, a publication that highlights outdoor recreation. He was sent on assignment to Mount Everest to write a piece on the over-commercialization of mountain-climbing expeditions. Evidentally, mountaineering is serious business. Companies with major sponsorship deals were popping up. People who could afford the trip got a chance to pursue a lifelong dream in a controlled and supervised environment. An experienced mountain climber, Krakauer was initially planning to climb Everest as far as base camp only; he was never to reach the summit. But, his personal desire to fulfill a lifelong dream of climbing the tallest mountain above sea level trumped all professional protocols, and he eventually convinced his editors that making it to the top would make for a good story. Little did he know that he would experience one of the most tragic events in climbing history. Into Thin Air details the fateful day when eight people lost their lives (four from Krakauer’s team) and many more were left stranded when a freak unrelenting storm blew through during the descent from Everest’s summit.
Into Thin Air is quite an immersive and suspenseful read. Krakauer’s descriptions of the majestic mountain, the crisp thin air, the crunching snow, was rich. The reader also got a look into the lives of a wide cast of mountaineering characters, including Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, duelling leaders of opposing expedition companies, whose big personalities sometimes got in the way of making sound decisions during Krakauer’s trip.
I have never been interested in pursuing the sport of climbing, and Krakauer certainly did not make it appear cool or thrilling. The endeavor is unattractive to me..and frankly a little nuts! At the same time, I can understand the appeal of perseverence that climbing affords; having a goal as hard as climbing a mountain is, how unfathomable it is to imagine reaching the summit. And then the high and satisfaction you get when ticking Mount Everest off of your bucket list.
Into Thin Air was an excellent story – I highly recommend it!
Into thin air / Jon Krakauer (1997)
Other Krakauer titles I’ve reviewed: