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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster » User review

Impossible to put down!

  • Jun 5, 2003
Perhaps timing is everything, but don't tell that to Jon Krakauer, an outdoors writer and mountain climber who was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to climb Mount Everest; only to find himself in the middle of the most notable catastrophe to ever strike the mountain. With the 50th anniversary of the successful assent by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, there is renewed interest in Chomolungma (the Tibetan name for the mountain. Previous to the second half of the twentieth century, Everest was a forbidden monolith that crushed anyone who attempted to scale it's heights. But with it's invincibility shattered by Hillary and Norgay, Everest began to shed some of it's mystery, and bit by bit, the appearance (but just the appearance) of it's lethality. By the 90's, the primary requisite for a summit attempt was a bank account large enough to pay for an experienced guide. New problems like the litter of discarded oxygen canisters became a threat to the mountain, as the climbing ranks swelled with serious amateurs anxious to achieve various ego firsts like "first woman over 60," "first Lithuanian" to summit Everest, along with the highest mountains on each of the continents.

Outside magazine sent Krakauer on an expedition with Rob Hall, one of the most experienced of the new crop of guides, whose business it was to get climbers to the summit. Even with modern equipment and climbing techniques that's still a daunting task, not for the faint of heart or the expanded of waistline. However the professional mountaineers of Hillary's generation were being followed on Hall's expedition by a postal employee, a New York socialite and others. They were joined on the mountain by various teams, some so inexperienced as to be comical. Among the other teams was one led by Scott Fisher, another guide that was making a name for his ability to get people to the top and in a bit of braggadocio had even claimed that he had "found a golden staircase to the summit."

Krakauer outlines all of the minutia regarding preparation and execution of an Everest climb. You can almost find yourself wheezing as he describes what existence is like above the elevation that is known as the Death Zone. And he recounts in harrowing detail the storm that hit while Hall and Fisher's teams were near or below the summit, and the efforts of the others to rescue them. I had mixed feelings when I read of the final conversation between Rob Hall, as he sat helpless and dying on the mountain, and his pregnant wife back in New Zealand. Here is a man and woman exchanging their final words, both fully aware of his fate, and yet we mortals who will likely never be tested in this way are privy to his private thoughts and her quiet despair.

Moving from the role of dispassionate observer, into a deeper role of survivor, Krakauer anguishes over what he could have done differently, of the mistakes he believes he made and how he will ever reconcile his grief. Yes, he stood on the summit. Yes, he survived and returned home. But he has no satisfaction about conquering the mountain. And he questions why anyone else would even attempt it.

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review by . June 16, 2010
No one recounts adventure disasters better than Jon Krakauer. After reading this account, I felt a deeper understanding and appreciation of the difficulties of climbing Mt. Everest.  Mr. Krakauer was on this trip, but because of oxygen deprivations, he admits he can not be sure what actually happened at times.      
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
Krakauer's classic. He is an incredible journalist, and does a great job chronicling everything his interest draws him to.
Quick Tip by . June 19, 2010
very good
Quick Tip by . June 18, 2010
To get the most out of this book, please read the January 1981 edition of the National Geographic magazine or the December 1980 editions of Time or some other national magazine to get an idea of how catostrophic this diaster was.
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
intense all though the vocabulary and mountain language makes it hard to comprehend
review by . December 29, 2009
This review is to help people understand the differences between the paperback version of Mr. Krakauer's book and the 'illustrated' version. (So much has been written about the content, that it hardly seems worth putting down my own paltry thoughts about Jon's Everest adventure.)    The first difference, of course, is the size. The 'illustrated' version is 9.1 x 8.8 inches, and is about 1 inch thick. Hardback, the book weighs 3.5 pounds, which is to say it's pretty hefty.     …
review by . November 15, 2009
Pros: The story is an exciting one      Cons: Lack of perspective, structure is a bit spastic      The Bottom Line: I like Krakauer's work, but this book is weak despite the subject matter.  For reasons explained in the review, I am lukewarm about recommending, but I won't dismiss it either.      The bookstore I use (and it isn’t alone), puts Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air in the travel section. A goodly portion …
review by . November 01, 2008
Into Thin Air
Jon Krakauer takes you for a front seat ride up the deadly slopes of Mount Everest, during the notoriously deadly expedition of May 1996. Barely escaping the mountain with his own life, journalist Krakauer remembers the team members and friends left on the mountain. Four out of eleven members died on the fatal mountain.     Inch by weary inch, step by shivering step, Krakauer takes us on his journey up Everest and introduces us to the members of his team. This book is so well …
review by . January 09, 2000
Pros: The glory of it all     Cons: The loss of it all     I gotta tell you the truth, I never real books like this. I am a King/Koontz fan. Blood and guts, that's my style. I buy books by the cover only so naturally "Into Thin Air" equaled kidnapping to me!       Boy was I surprised!      I usually have two or three books going at the same time (talk about plot confusion) so when I opened this one up and started …
review by . September 27, 1999
Pros: Reads like a childhood adventure book, has an ending     Cons: Self-indulgence paraded as heroism, nauseating      This is what one of my grandfathers referred to as an 'aeroport book' -- buy it while waiting for your flight, read it on the plane, pitch it or lose it or just pass it along when you reach your destination; not something worth keeping on your shelf. You know, like magazines.      In this case, a weirdly self-indulgent …
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About this book


Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996,Outsidemagazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer's book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles,Into Thin Airclearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author's own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.
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ISBN-10: 0385494785
ISBN-13: 978-0385494786
Author: Jon Krakauer
Genre: Nonfiction, True Accounts
Publisher: Anchor (October 19, 1999)
Date Published: (October 19, 1999)
Format: Paperback: 368 pages, Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 1 inches
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