The book that I chose to read is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (click here for the synopsis).
The first thing I noticed, before I even started the book, was the “dedicated to” page. I know that most people tend to ignore them but I like to read it since it gives me a good initial understanding of the author and book. Anyways, the reason it caught my attention was the line: “in memory of Andy Harris, Doug Hansen, Rob Hall, Yasuko Namba, Scott Fisher, Ngawang Topche Sherpa, Chen Yu-Nan, Bruce Herrod, Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa, and Anatoli Boukreev” (Krakauer XI). It’s pretty long, right? I found it odd but I chose to ignore it. It wasn’t until the author mentioned “Anatoli Bourkreev, a Russian climbing guide” (Krakauer 8) that I realized that the “in memory” section was for the people who died during the Mount Everest climb. The realization gave me chills.
Another freaky thing that the author does throughout the story is list his current height from sea level. Due to the fact that I know that the storm hits once he reaches the summit, it’s almost like a morbid countdown. “11,300 feet…16,000 feet…16,200 feet” (Krakauer 44-54) all the way up until he reaches 29,028 feet: the peak.
This countdown, or rather count up, gave me flashbacks to my visit to the Rocky Mountains two years ago. Now, the Rockies are not nearly as tall as Everest (only about 12,293 feet at the highest peak (Oishimaya)), and I didn’t even come close to the summit, but the sheer height is still noticeable. This book made me remember one particular event where I was riding a Gondola up on of the mountains, and an automatic voice would occasionally tell me how high I was. Everytime it would say a new height I would look down to see how far from the ground I was. This experience gives me a pretty good (although not perfect) visual of the author’s climb. Sometimes it is difficult to imagine just how far up a few thousand feet really is, so the fact that I was able to do this gave me a better understanding of how much danger the author was in throughout the whole book. The feeling of terror and helplessness it inspires almost makes me wish that I didn’t know how high up the author was at any given moment.
The author makes a few interesting choices while writing the story. For example, each chapter begins with a quote from another piece of writing about Everest, including multiple quotes from “Thomas F. Hornbein Everest: The West Ridge” (Krakauer 15), a piece of writing by a mountaineer who had previously climbed Everest. The author also sometimes tells the story of what happened to previous climbers such as Enmund Hillary, the first man to climb Everest. Both of these choices are so interesting because a lot of the other climbers that Krakauer tells the stories of actually end up dying on the mountain. It really hits home how dangerous climbing Everest actually is, even without a massive storm making the trek hazardous.
Left: Edmund Hillary, Right: Jon Krakauer
Overall, I think that this is a really interesting book and I’m excited to read more.
Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air. New York, Anchor Books, November 1999. Print.
Biography.com. “Edmund Hillary Biography”. Biography.com. N/a. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/athlete/edmund-hillary
Cunningham, Caroline. “Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster”. Indigo. N/a. Retrieved from https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/into-thin-air-a-personal/9780385494786-item.html
N/a. “An undated stock photo of Mount Everest”. abcNews. 2019. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/International/china-closes-mount-everest-base-camp-tourists-garbage/story?id=61144089
Penguin Random House. “Jon Krakauer”. jonkrakauer.com. N/a. Retrieved from http://www.jonkrakauer.com/
Nag, Oishimaya. worlatlas.com. WorldAtlas. June 11, 2019. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-10-tallest-peaks-in-alberta-canada.html