The Dark Side of Everest Memoir: Jon Krakauer 'Into Thin Air'

The Dark Side of Everest Memoir: Jon Krakauer 'Into Thin Air'

In 'Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster,' journalist Jon Krakauer narrates his firsthand experience climbing Mount Everest with a group led by Rob Hall in 1996. The book is an account of how things could go wrong, leading to the death of several climbers from four expeditions.

Krakauer describes his experience of climbing the highest peak in the world and the challenges of the terrain, the moments of astonishing beauty, the plodding determination that carries the exhausted body ever onward, and the effects of high altitude on the body and mind.

Commercialization of Everest

Krakauer's book offers an insightful account of the commercialization of Everest, which had led to an increase in the number of climbers who did not have sufficient mountaineering experience. The book highlights how outfits like Hall's had made it possible for climbers with more disposable income than actual mountaineering experience to have a go at the summit.

Krakauer is critical of the practice of guides leading commercial expeditions of clients without the skills or experience to make the climb without constant hand-holding. He argues that the industry has become too focused on profit, leading to the exploitation of inexperienced climbers and the degradation of the environment.

The Limits of Human Endurance

Krakauer's book highlights the limits of human endurance when it comes to climbing the highest peak in the world. He describes the debilitating effects of high altitude on the body and mind, which, at 8000 meters above sea level, supplemental oxygen can only partially mitigate.

Krakauer also points out errors of judgment that might have facilitated or compounded the perils of the situation, but it's more in the nature of pointing out the fallibility of human nature and the general unreliability of the human brain in a state of hypoxia.

The Human Cost of Climbing Everest

'Into Thin Air' is an emotional account of the tragedy that unfolded on Everest, leading to the death of nine climbers. Krakauer describes the moments of hopelessness and despair as the climbers realized the futility of their situation, with their bodies becoming increasingly vulnerable to the subzero temperatures as their supplemental oxygen supplies dwindled.

Krakauer comes down against the practice of guided commercial expeditions, but he acknowledges that he himself did not rightly belong there. Guides are under pressure to get their clients to the summit, regardless of their abilities or the risks involved. This has led to an increase in accidents and fatalities, as well as overcrowding on the mountain.

Into Thin Air

'Into Thin Air' is a well-told story, supported by carefully researched background and dozens of interviews with other participants in the events. Krakauer brings his fellow climbers alive for the reader, describing not only their mountaineering prowess but also their determination, amiability, families, and human faults and foibles. The book is a thrilling tale of adventure that offers a glimpse into the tragedy that can result from climbing the highest peak in the world.

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