Climbing Mount Everest has never been on my bucket list. Mainly because I’m not much of a climber, also I’m afraid of heights and probably most important, I HATE the cold. But even if I were of the thrill seeking type and Everest piqued my interest, I would probably veto the idea after reading this book.
In 1996, Jon Krakauer is assigned by Outside Magazine to report on the commercialization of Mount Everest, but as a mountain climber himself, Krakauer proposes that he not only report from base camp, he do the climb as well. What he didn’t know is that the climb would be a fight for survival after a storm hits the mountain. The 1996 Mount Everest Disaster would leave eight climbers dead, several injured and ultimately change the lives of all those who survived.
“Into Thin Air” is Krakauer’s account of what happened in a personal narrative that transports readers to Mt. Everest. During this whole book, I felt like I was having a conversation with Krakauer as we travel from his home to various locations in his journey around the world until finally we reach the mountain.
Not only does Krakauer help you see everything he saw, but he captures all your senses. I couldn’t help but snuggle down into my fleece reading blanket as I could feel the wind pummeling the mountain and feel my fingers curl with the cold. I was shivering alongside him in his tent as he tries to get warm.
Interspersed with the details of the events leading up to the disaster, Krakauer also provides some historical context behind why Mt. Everest has become so popular, relaying the various expeditions to conquer Everest, the Nepal and Tibetan government efforts to increase tourism, the background of the Sherpas who know how to traverse the mountain and help guide climbers.
Krakauer notes that he wrote the book not long after returning home and that he has been told that he should have waited to put some time and perspective between him and what happened. Krakauer admits that he needed to get the story down on paper as a way of putting some closure to what happened, but I think it makes the story all the better. It is obvious that he does his research and conducts interviews to fill in where he can’t remember, but overall, he provides an emotional rawness to the story that probably would have been lost if he had waited. We get to know all of the individuals who were involved on that fatal day and we can’t help but feel the loss as he felt it.
This book was hard to put down and every time I did, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again to find out what had happened. However, I know that many of the other survivors have written their own accounts, some of whom have been critical of this book. It would be interesting to read what they remember and compare.
If you are interested in Mount Everest, this book is definitely a must read.