Mink Machine

Review: Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air

This is the classic eye-witness account by Jon Krakauer of the tragedy that unfolded on the slopes of Mount Everest in 1996. I read it about ten years ago and recently got inspired by an adventuring friend to re-read it.

Since most of the story focus on Mount Everest, it’s not a travel book in the traditional sense. But he initially describes a bit of trekking in Nepal and I would say that 8000 meters up in the air is also a fair bit of traveling, even though it’s a vertical journey.

The weather in May holds a precious window of opportunity for aspiring Everest climbers, so there were lots of different teams of climbers present on the mountain at the same time. Krakauer was part of the team Adventure Consultants led by the well-known guide Rob Hall from New Zealand. Other teams were Mountain Madness led by the charismatic American Scott Fischer, an IMAX team lead by David Breashears and several more.

But as the teams were struggling to reach the summit, a fierce thunderstorm caught them by surprise and turned their plans into mayhem. Krakauer was originally hired to write a short article for Outside magazine, but the hours to follow turned out to be more intense and dramatic than anyone could imagine. When the storm had passed, eight climbers were dead.

Climbing Mount Everest is no picnic. Even expert climbers are not entirely safe up there in the “death zone” above 26 000 feet. As one of many testaments of this, the frozen corpse of Scott Fischer is still up there on the mountain ridge today, fifteen years later.

Also present on the mountain during those ill-fated days was the late Swedish adventurer Göran Kropp. About the same time as my first read of Into Thin Air, I read the book 8000+ about Kropp’s adventures. In 1996 he travelled by bicycle from Stockholm to the Base Camp at Mount Everest, and thus happened to be present during the events described by Krakauer. Kropp then swiftly proceeded to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen! This was an extraordinary feat and Krakauer describes how other climbers including Hall and Fischer were cheering at Göran on his epic struggle upwards.

Since he happened to be in the area at the time, the tragic events are mentioned in his book as well. But even tough it is interesting to read about the disaster from another perspective, I think Krakauer’s book is far superior from a storyteller’s view.

Comments

No comments yet.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured stories

I still love you, New York

"Now I’m back and our roles are somewhat reversed. Like River Song and the Doctor, we meet again under different circumstances."

Reliving history in Washington D.C.

"As I entered the heavily guarded Rotunda in the center, some of the most famous documents in the world laid before me."

Roaming through Banff

"Even though the main town is surrounded by mountains with names such as Sulphur Mountain, it is as far away from Mordor as one could imagine."

The urban maze of Tangier

"There are exciting things waiting around every corner and my bucket list is long, but the Medina has a mindset of its own regarding time and space."

Chilling in Chile

"My weary feet has reached Valparaiso. After almost a month of traveling across the South American continent I realize that this is as far south as I will come, due to weather conditions."

A journey through Iran

"I woke up freezing on a Persian rug with aching back. Behind a corner I saw the damned rooster that kept me awake during many hours."