Into thin air – the Everest disaster

There are actually two things that brought me onto this book. First, or what chronically actually is second as I will explain shortly, it showed as related content on Amazon when I was looking for Into the wild, which I have written about here as Jon Krakauer is the author of both.

But actually I heard about the book about a year earlier, but then forgot about it. A week in to my month long trip to Myanmar I was doing a 3 day trek with 7-8 others. One of the guys who I ended up getting to know rather well, was in the midst of reading it and gave it quite a lot of praise. His descriptions made it seem like a rather interesting but also grueling story. As he had just spend some weeks in Nepal trekking, he was really able to relate to the descriptions in the book. Sadly I totally forgot about it, but was luckily reminded later.

I won’t give the entire story away, but it describes the run-up to the expedition and all that happens on the mountain, from the authors point of view and at some points also accounts from others who were on the mountain either as part of the same expedition or one of the other that made a summit attempt at the same time.

Having basically no prior knowledge about what it takes to climb Everest, it was really interesting how much work goes into it. How many weeks you spend on the mountain in preparation for the final stint to the summit. I was very surprised at how hard climbing Everest actually must be. My ignorant impression was that just about anyone with relatively good health could just pay a good amount of money and then within a couple of weeks find themselves at the top of Everest.

There is a lot of discussion about guided tours, use of supplemental oxygen etc. but I am left with quite a bit of respect for people who reach the summit, and just as much for those who choose to turn around just before the summit. Having spend so much time on preparation, dealt with grueling weather for weeks, having told everyone you are going to climb Everest and spend quite a fortune on it – only to turn around close to the top for health or safety concerns – what a brave decision!

The very last part of the book is used to somewhat defend some of the content. There is a guide from another expedition, who’s not described as having made the best decisions based on his function as a guide. Apparently he later wrote a book called The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest that strikes back at Jon Krakauer and challenges his projection of him (the guide). As totally unaware of this beef between the two, it seems rather unnecessary, and you could easily skip it.

Finally, what will perhaps answer a question a reader of my blog post on Into the wild asked. You do hear quite a lot about the author himself. I agree that in Into the wild, it’s perhaps not that relevant to add the content describing his own accomplishments, but given the fact that this book describes an expedition that he himself was a part of from his point of view, though as well as others – it’s quite fair that we hear quite a lot about him. You can’t say he misses the opportunity to mention him being in front of the other climbers on numerous occasions, but in my opinion you can easily ignore it and just be inspired by an incredible story of what it takes to climb this amazing mountain and especially the risks involved. I learned so much about the sacrifices people make in order to stand on top of the world and how climbing it has not changed all that much since the first climbers reached the summit. Very much worth a read.

You can grab your copy here: Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

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2 thoughts on “Into thin air – the Everest disaster

  1. I think I read an article about climbing Everest a while back in National Geographic magazine, and I was really struck by how bad it is for the environment that all of these people are trying to climb it now. The less professional climbers leave all of their garbage strewn around the mountain and the summit, which is pretty horrible.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book. Based on your review, I might decide to give it a shot — once I actually have time to read for pleasure, as opposed to all of the reading I’m doing right now for my graduate classes (which is interesting in a different way, but not the same as curling up with a good book).

    1. He does mention the garbage in the book as well. But also the steps that has been made in order to limit the problem, as well as removing what’s already there. If I remember correctly almost all expeditions are more or less forced to carry X amount of garbage back down from the mountain and are fined if they don’t.
      You’re welcome. Yeah reading for pleasure sure is soothing when you have the required time and energy to let yourself submerge. Thanks for your comment!

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