Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Tuesday September 18, 2007.

Author(s): Jon Krakauer
Publisher: Villard
ISBN: 0679457526
Amazon | Shelfari
While I’ve complained a bit in my reviews of being a pretty slow reader, I’d like to give myself a prop or two here. I read this one as fast as I’ve read a book in some time. The way I appreciated Under the Banner of Heaven probably had a lot to do with how I went into this book. Based upon a few suggestions I decided to look into Krakauer’s other books, and this one was the first available.

I admit I only vaguely remembered ever hearing about this expedition up Mt. Everest, so I was learning a lot about what was once an actual current event as I read. That added a bit to the drama of the book, as tragic as it was. Knowing that what those guys experienced up there was real engulfed me far more than the story would have done had this not actually happened. Anyway, here is the Shelfari review I wrote:

This incredible story did several things for me. The easy ones are: it made me in no way want to take up something like mountain climbing, it made me understand how someone can easily be left for dead (intentionally or unintentionally) on a mountain like Everest, and it made me desperately ant to learn more about Everest, the region surrounding the mountain, and the people who live there. Like Under the Banner of Heaven, Krakauer got me. He pulled me in and made me want to read until I couldn’t stay awake. There was even a part in this when I felt like I was short of breath, just like he was as he went up the mountain.

Climbing Everest takes a certain selfishness and a certain insanity. Why would anyone want to spend that amount of time in misery—short of breath, tired, unable to move, and even teetering on the edge of death? I certainly wouldn’t. But every year, more people give it a shot. in 1996, when Krakauer’s story takes place, 12 people gave their lives to the mountain. A series of bad judgments and miscalculations led to a big tragedy. It had to have been horrible to be there, and even in a hypoxic stupor, Krakauer seemed to understand the predicament he and his team were in. All the training, all the preparation, and all the effort didn’t matter when a storm stranded 19 climbers in the open atop the mountain. It seems so wasted.

Luckily for us, down here where it’s much safer, Krakauer lived to tell the story to the best of his ability, and hopefully his story will be a warning to others that it might not be all it’s cracked up to be on Everest.

My thoughts on such things like climbing Everest did not change. Actually, I might be even more unwilling to ever embark on something even remotely similar. It just seemed like those guys put themselves through over a month of hell, only to watch some of their friends die directly because of that hell. It’s stupid to me. The book was fantastic. I read it wishing that I would have Into the Wild available as soon as I was done. It taught me, kept me interested, and I think it made me change the way I think just a little.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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