Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air

A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

eBook - 1998
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National Bestseller
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."
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group


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Jun 20, 2020

Into Thin Air Review
5 stars
ages 14-16
As Jon Krakauer leaves to climb Mount Everest, he has absolutely no idea what hardships are in front of him. In this real life account from Krakauer's perspective, Krakauer explains that he had gone to write a story about the climbing experience for Outside Magazine, but ended up with a lot more to tell. Krakauer joins the Adventure Consultants, which is a climbing group led by the world renowned climber, Rob Hall. However, the Adventure Consultants are not the only group to be climbing the mountain that season. With many other groups, such as the one led by Scott Fischer, there was a risk of running short on time, without getting everyone to the top. As the groups and climbers trained and trained, some were already starting to get sick. Some, such as Krakauer, had an easier time acclimatizing, but others had a more difficult time. On the day of the final climb to the top of the mountain, the climbers were met with pleasant weather. However, the pleasant weather would soon turn to become a very dangerous storm, and it is up to the climbers to climb back down alive. Something I liked about this book is that it provided a view into the importance of communication. If people had communicated with each other and listened, maybe the calamity would have been less disastrous. However, not a lot of people were very strict on getting the message across, or listening to their guides. There are so many factors that played into this tragic disaster, but maybe some of it could have been avoided. I would recommend this book to people who like suspense and adventure. It is full of views on professional climbers, and even some newer ones, and it is truly incredible and suspenseful how these people communicate and collaborate on the adventure.

Jan 02, 2020

A fantastic, well written, non-fiction account of the Everest disaster of 1996 that reads like an action novel more than a true account. Coincidentally, 20 years after the publication of this book, 2019 saw devastating and deadly amounts of traffic on the mountain again, once again proving that human delusions of grandeur are far more powerful than learning from our mistakes.

I've read this book 5 times over the years and the story is always fresh and a page-turner.

Jul 29, 2019

WSJ “ranks among the great adventure books of all time". Also, LHTL recommended.

BookReviewer2015 Apr 23, 2019

What a book! The pre-eminent true life tale of Mount Everest.

Apr 20, 2019

i don't think of this as a novel. "After arriving in Base Camp with the ailing Kruse on the evening of May 6, Fischer made two satellite phone calls to Seattle in which he complained bitterly to his business partner, Karen Dickinson, and to his publicist, Jane Bromet, about Boukreev's intransigence. Neither woman imagined that these would be the last conversations they would ever have with Fischer."

Feb 19, 2019

Exhilerating. Exciting. Heartbreaking. I had trouble putting this novel down, and ended up finishing it in about five days' time. Krakauer's storytelling is smooth and educational, without going overboard on exposition. He brings into focus the commercialization of climbing Everest- the dependence on the Sherpas, the mounting trash, and the presence of folks with very little experience who are simply paying to get to the top. This, combined with other mistakes made on those fateful days in May, 1996, led to the deaths of 8 people. It reads, to me, similar to the way the Titanic disaster played out- several poor decisions, along with inexperience, and nature, combined to make the deadliest season on Everest in 40 years. Had Rob Hall and Scott Fischer not been so hell-bent on getting their clients to the top (especially the journalist who wrote this book and socialite Sandy Pittman) for the good publicity; had Russian leader Anatoli simply used supplemental oxygen and waited for his clients at the top and led them down; had the climbers themselves had more experience climbing mountains; had the two Sherpas placed the ropes like they were supposed to, instead of fighting; had they simply turned around at 2pm whether they had summited or not, like Rob Hall planned... they might all still be alive. Those who are amateurs, and simply want to pay to have someone bring them to the top, don't belong climbing Everest. The struggle isn't getting to the summit, it's coming back down alive. Krakauer weaves the events of May 10 together through interviews with others, and his own harrowing experience to determine just what happened to those 8 lost climbers.
I don't usually read this type of book, but I was enthralled, from beginning to end. I'm so glad that I gave it a chance. Since reading this book I've watched several videos and documentaries on the subject, to try to put names to faces and get a visual of the ice falls, and the crevasses and summit. I will be keeping this novel, and adding it my collection of "someday I will reread it".

ArapahoeMarcia Feb 06, 2019

An amazing account of an ill-fated team attempting to climb Everest. Beautifully written. I would recommend watching the IMAX film of Everest AFTER you read this book (the IMAX team was on the mountain at the same time).

Jan 24, 2019

Very good and worth reading. A lot of names throughout book which was confusing.

Nov 08, 2018

During the time that I was reading this book, every night I dreamed I was climbing Mt Everest. Vivid and compelling (the book - well, the dreams were too!). I love books like this for taking me to places and into situations that I would never otherwise get to. I bought my own copy of this. Fantastic read.

DCLadults May 07, 2018

I couldn’t put this down. The stories about the history of other Everest climbers were interestingly told and the 1996 ordeal was intense and absorbing. I came away with a different opinion about what it means to climb Everest in modern times.

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Mar 08, 2019

Into Thin Air, written by Jon Krakauer, is a great read. Ever since he was a child, Krakauer was fascinated with exploration and discovery, so when a magazine company provided him with a fully funded Mt. Everest expedition, he knew his life would change forever. This book is his firsthand description of the events that took place on that expedition. Out of 10, I would rate this book as an 8. Krakauer's storytelling throughout the text is gripping, and I couldn't wait to see what happened on the next page. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story.

Feb 14, 2019

The summer after my senior year I went on an amazing trip to Colorado called Summer Field Studies. This was a trip that gathered students from area high schools--there were over 150 of us, I believe--and we trucked out West to camp, hike, rock climb, mountaineer, and even do some science in the field. It was an incredible experience that was capped off with a group of us summitting Long's Peak, the tallest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. This trip was the inspiration for me seeking out Into Thin Air.

Into Thin Air follows the disastrous 1996 expedition up Mt. Everest. This is not giving anything away, as I believe this is even written on the front cover! Author Jon Krakauer actually was on this trip, so his first hand knowledge adds needed authenticity and excitement. It is gripping! Such a terrible thing to have happened--at least six climbers perish--but Krakauer sheds needed light on the perils of having guided climbs filled with inexperienced climbers up the world's tallest mountain.

yuweizheng Aug 18, 2013

Into Thin Air is a novel about a real adventure and the story is told from the point of view of a witness Jon Krakauer, a journalist who is one of the climbers to reach the summit in 1996.

notTom Dec 16, 2010

This modern classic of the adventure genre is a first-hand narrative of the storm atop Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, which led to the death of eight people in May of 1996. Written only months after it happened, Outside magazine journalist and dedicated mountain climber Jon Krakauer relates the tragic journey to the summit of Everest, led by celebrated guide Rob Hall with granite-like resolve. To provide context, Krakauer evokes the storied history of climbing on Everest and the dangerous yet immensely rewarding art of mountain climbing in general. This Pulitzer Prize finalist is filled with gritty power and clear eloquence: it is an account of both grandeur and loss.


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IndyPL_ToddG Dec 04, 2018

Rob and I had talked about the impossibility of being rescued from the summit ridge. As he himself had put it, 'You might as well be on the moon.'" - Chapter 17

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