Summary and book reviews of Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air

A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air
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  • First Published:
    May 1997, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 1998, 378 pages

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Book Summary

Krakauer examines what it is about Everest that has compelled so many people to throw caution to the wind, and subject themselves to such risk, hardship, and expense.

When Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996, he hadn't slept in fifty-seven hours and was reeling from the brain-altering effects of oxygen depletion. As he turned to begin his long, dangerous descent from 29,028 feet, twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly toward the top. No one had noticed that the sky had begun to fill with clouds. Six hours later and 3,000 feet lower, in 70-knot winds and blinding snow, Krakauer collapsed in his tent, freezing, hallucinating from exhaustion and hypoxia, but safe. The following morning, he learned that six of his fellow climbers hadn't made it back to their camp and were desperately struggling for their lives. When the storm finally passed, five of them would be dead, and the sixth so horribly frostbitten that his right hand would have to be amputated.

Into Thin Air is the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Everest by the acclaimed journalist and author of the bestseller Into the Wild. On assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of the mountain, Krakauer, an accomplished climber, went to the Himalayas as a client of Rob Hall, the most respected high-altitude guide in the world. A rangy, thirty-five-year-old New Zealander, Hall had summited Everest four times between 1990 and 1995 and had led thirty-nine climbers to the top. Ascending the mountain in close proximity to Hall's team was a guided expedition led by Scott Fischer, a forty-year-old American with legendary strength and drive who had climbed the peak without supplemental oxygen in 1994. But neither Hall nor Fischer survived the rogue storm that struck in May 1996.

Krakauer examines what it is about Everest that has compelled so many people -- including himself -- to throw caution to the wind, ignore the concerns of loved ones, and willingly subject themselves to such risk, hardship, and expense. Written with emotional clarity and supported by his unimpeachable reporting, Krakauer's eyewitness account of what happened on the roof of the world is a singular achievement.

In March 1996, Outside Magazine sent me to Nepal to participate in, and write about, a guided ascent of Mount Everest. I went as one of eight clients on an expedition led by a well-known guide from New Zealand named Rob Hall. On May 10 I arrived on top of the mountain, but the summit came at a terrible cost.

Among my five teammates who reached the top, four, including Hall, perished in a rogue storm that blew in without warning while we were still high on the peak. By the time I'd descended to Base Camp nine climbers from four expeditions were dead, and three more lives would be lost before the month was out.

The expedition left me badly shaken, and the article was difficult to write. Nevertheless, five weeks after I returned from Nepal I delivered a manuscript to Outside, and it was published in the September issue of the magazine. Upon its completion I attempted to put Everest out of my mind and get on with my life, but that turned out to be impossible. Through a fog of ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Vanity Fair

A gripping real-life horror story.

Time

A fascinating and troubling account of the climb ... by a thoughtful man and a fine writer.

Newsweek

Remarkable.

Kirkus Reviews

A hypnotic, rattling, firsthand account ... A brilliantly told story, and one that won't go begging when the year's literary honors are doled out.

Publishers Weekly

The intensity of the tragedy is haunting, and Krakauer's graphic writing drives it home ... A superb adventure tale.

Library Journal

A compelling and harrowing account ... A raw, emotionally intense book.

Reader Reviews

jeyaraman

a must read
The way he introduces the members who were with him, the way he explains about high altitude mountaineering ... He takes you to the chilling top of me Everest. then when you lose the members one after another... you just cant control your emotions. ...   Read More

Christine

Amazing
This was by far the best book I have ever read. I could truly say its the first one I have read all the way through. I really enjoy all the information you give throughout the book. I will always remember this book and definitely recommend it to ...   Read More

A reader

read Into thin Air three times, saw the movie once
I enjoyed this book because it was a true story, I enjoy nonfiction more than fiction. Jon writes as if I was right there on the mountain. He is an amazing writer with such an extensive vocabulary. His descriptions of his experience kept me spell ...   Read More

Buhnay

Phenominal.
I have done two school reports on this book. Jon Krakauer's writing style makes the reader feel as though he climbs the mountain along with the expedition, and the reader learns of Everest's horrific history. Though we all know Krakauer makes it ...   Read More

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