Into Thin Air

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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
Into Thin Air.jpg
Hardcover edition
Author Jon Krakauer
Cover artistRandy Rackliff
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish, Chinese, Japanese
Subject 1996 Mount Everest disaster
GenreNon-fiction
Publisher Villard Books
Publication date
1997
Pages416 pp. (Hardcover edition)
ISBN 978-0385494786
OCLC 42967338
Preceded by Into the Wild  
Followed by Under the Banner of Heaven  

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster is a 1997 bestselling nonfiction book written by Jon Krakauer. [1] It details Krakauer's experience in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a storm. Krakauer's expedition was led by guide Rob Hall. Other groups were trying to summit on the same day, including one led by Scott Fischer, whose guiding agency, Mountain Madness, was perceived as a competitor to Hall's agency, Adventure Consultants. [2] [3]

Contents

Summary

Krakauer describes the events leading up to his eventual decision to participate in an Everest expedition in May 1996, despite having mostly given up mountain climbing years before. The 1996 expedition season recorded eight deaths, including that of Krakauer's guide Rob Hall. This was the third-highest recorded number of deaths on the mountain in a single day; the April 2015 Nepal earthquake caused the most at 21.

Krakauer, a journalist for the adventure magazine Outside , said initially his intention to climb Everest was purely professional. The original magazine story was to have Krakauer climb only to base camp, and report on the commercialization of the mountain. However, the idea of Everest reawakened his childhood desire to climb the mountain. Krakauer asked his editor to put off the story for a year so that he could train for a climb to the summit. From there, the book moves between events that take place on the mountain, and the unfolding tragedy, which takes place during the push to the summit. In the book, Krakauer alleges that essential safety methods adopted over the years by experienced guides on Everest are sometimes compromised by the competition between rival guiding agencies, in order to get their clients to the summit.

Controversy

Krakauer's recounting of certain aspects of the climb has generated criticism, both from some of the climb's participants and from renowned mountaineers such as Galen Rowell. Much of the disputed material centers on Krakauer's accounting of the actions of Russian climber and guide Anatoli Boukreev. An experienced high-altitude climber and guide for Scott Fischer, Boukreev descended the summit prior to his clients, ostensibly out of concern for their safety and in preparation for potential rescue efforts. Boukreev later mounted repeated solo rescue efforts, saving several lives. In his book, Krakauer acknowledged Boukreev's heroism in saving two climbers' lives, but questions his judgment, his decision to descend before clients, not using supplementary oxygen, his choices of gear on the mountain, and his interaction with clients. Boukreev provides a rebuttal to these allegations in his 1997 book The Climb .

Galen Rowell criticized Krakauer's account, citing numerous inconsistencies in his narrative while observing that Krakauer was sleeping in his tent while Boukreev was rescuing other climbers. Rowell argued that Boukreev's actions were nothing short of heroic, and his judgment prescient: "[Boukreev] foresaw problems with clients nearing camp, noted five other guides on the peak [Everest], and positioned himself to be rested and hydrated enough to respond to an emergency. His heroism was not a fluke." [4]

The account has also been criticized for not informing the reader that the team members were receiving accurate daily weather forecasts and knew about the storm in advance. [5] [ page needed ]

In Krakauer's 1999 paperback edition of Into Thin Air, he addresses some of the criticism in a lengthy postscript. [6]

Adaptation

Film rights for Into Thin Air were purchased by Sony almost immediately after the book's publication. [7] The book was adapted into the TV movie Into Thin Air: Death on Everest (1997), starring Peter Horton as Scott Fischer and Christopher McDonald as Krakauer. The book and the film both contain the same strong editorial viewpoint regarding the fundamental causes of the tragedy, although the film differs sharply from the book in details regarding responsibility.[ citation needed ]

The 2015 film Everest , by director Baltasar Kormákur, [8] depicts the same events as the book, with actor Michael Kelly portraying Krakauer. [7] According to Kormákur, it is not based on Krakauer's book. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

Jon Krakauer American writer and journalist

Jon Krakauer is an American writer and mountaineer. He is the author of bestselling non-fiction books—Into the Wild; Into Thin Air; Under the Banner of Heaven; and Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman—as well as numerous magazine articles. He was a member of an ill-fated expedition to summit Mount Everest in 1996, one of the deadliest disasters in the history of climbing Everest.

Anatoli Boukreev Russian mountain climber

Anatoli Nikolaevich Boukreev was a Soviet and Kazakhstani mountaineer who made ascents of 10 of the 14 eight-thousander peaks—those above 8,000 m (26,247 ft)—without supplemental oxygen. From 1989 through 1997, he made 18 successful ascents of peaks above 8000 m.

Scott Fischer American mountaineer

Scott Eugene Fischer was an American mountaineer and mountain guide. He was renowned for his ascents of the world's highest mountains made without the use of supplemental oxygen. Fischer and Wally Berg were the first Americans to summit Lhotse, the world's fourth highest peak. Fischer, Charley Mace, and Ed Viesturs summitted K2 without supplemental oxygen. Fischer first climbed Mount Everest in 1994 and later died during the 1996 blizzard on Everest while descending from the peak.

Yasuko Namba Japanese mountain climber

Yasuko Namba was the second Japanese woman to reach all of the Seven Summits. Namba worked as a businesswoman for Federal Express in Japan, but her hobby of mountaineering took her all over the world. She first summited Kilimanjaro on New Year's Day in 1982, and summited Aconcagua exactly two years later. She reached the summit of Denali on July 1, 1985, and the summit of Mount Elbrus on August 1, 1992. After summiting the Vinson Massif on December 29, 1993 and the Carstensz Pyramid on November 12, 1994, Namba's final summit to reach was Mount Everest. She signed on with Rob Hall's guiding company, Adventure Consultants, and reached the summit in May 1996, but died during her descent in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster.

Rob Hall New Zealand mountaineer

Robert Edwin Hall was a New Zealand mountaineer. He was the head guide of a 1996 Mount Everest expedition during which he, a fellow guide, and two clients died. A best-selling account of the expedition was given in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, and the expedition has been dramatised in the 2015 film Everest. At the time of his death, Hall had just completed his fifth ascent to the summit of Everest, more at that time than any other non-Sherpa mountaineer.

Cathy O'Dowd is a South African rock climber, mountaineer, author and motivational speaker. She was the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest from both the south and the north sides on 25 May 1996 and 29 May 1999, respectively.

Peter Kittilsby Schoening was an American mountaineer. Schoening was one of two Americans to first successfully climb the Pakistani peak Gasherbrum I in 1958, and was one of the first to summit Mount Vinson in Antarctica in 1966.

Seaborn Beck Weathers is an American pathologist from Texas. He survived the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, which was covered in Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air (1997), its film adaptation Into Thin Air: Death on Everest (1997), and the films Everest (1998) and Everest (2015). Weathers' autobiographical book, titled Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest (2000) includes his ordeal, but also describes his life before and afterward, as he focused on saving his damaged relationships.

Ian Woodall is a British mountain climber who has climbed Mount Everest several times.

<i>The Climb</i> (book)

The Climb (1997), republished as The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest, is an account by Russian-Kazakhstani mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev of the 1996 Everest Disaster, during which eight climbers died on the mountain. The co-author, G. Weston DeWalt—who was not part of the expedition—provides accounts from other climbers and ties together the narrative of Boukreev's logbook.

1996 Mount Everest disaster Death of eight climbers

The 1996 Mount Everest disaster occurred on 10–11 May 1996 when eight climbers caught in a blizzard died on Mount Everest while attempting to descend from the summit. Over the entire season, 12 people died trying to reach the summit, making it the deadliest season on Mount Everest at the time and the third deadliest after the 22 fatalities resulting from avalanches caused by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake and the 16 fatalities of the 2014 Mount Everest avalanche. The 1996 disaster received widespread publicity and raised questions about the commercialization of Everest.

Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa was a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineering guide, climber and porter, best known for his work as the climbing Sirdar for Scott Fischer's Mountain Madness expedition to Everest in Spring 1996, when a freak storm led to the deaths of eight climbers from several expeditions, considered one of the worst disasters in the history of Everest mountaineering. Notwithstanding controversy over his actions during that expedition, Lopsang was well-regarded in the mountaineering community, having summited Everest four times. Lopsang was killed in an avalanche in September 1996, while again on an expedition to climb Everest for what would have been a fifth ascent.

<i>Into Thin Air: Death on Everest</i> 1997 television film directed by Robert Markowitz

Into Thin Air: Death on Everest is a 1997 disaster television film based on Jon Krakauer's memoir Into Thin Air (1997). The film, directed by Robert Markowitz and written by Robert J. Avrech, tells the story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. It was broadcast on ABC on November 9, 1997.

Sandra Hill is a socialite, mountaineer, author, and former fashion editor. She survived the 1996 Mount Everest disaster shortly after becoming the 34th woman to reach the Mount Everest summit and the second American woman to ascend all of the Seven Summits.

Ang Dorje Sherpa

Ang Dorje (Chhuldim) Sherpa is a Nepali sherpa mountaineering guide, climber and porter from Pangboche, Nepal, who has climbed to the summit of Mount Everest 20 times. He was the climbing Sirdar for Rob Hall's Adventure Consultants expedition to Everest in spring 1996, when a freak storm led to the deaths of eight climbers from several expeditions, considered one of the worst disasters in the history of Everest mountaineering.

<i>Everest</i> (2015 film) 2015 film directed by Baltasar Kormákur

Everest is a 2015 biographical survival adventure film directed and produced by Baltasar Kormákur and written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy. It stars an ensemble cast of Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Martin Henderson and Emily Watson. It is based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, and focuses on the survival attempts of two expedition groups, one led by Rob Hall (Clarke) and the other by Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal).

<i>After the Wind</i> 2014 non-fiction book by Lou Kasischk

After the Wind: 1996 Everest Tragedy—One Survivor’s Story is a book by Lou Kasischke that details his experiences as a client on Rob Hall’s expedition during the 1996 Mount Everest tragedy. The accident killed eight climbers—including four from the Hall expedition—and remained the worst climbing accident on Everest until the 2014 Mount Everest avalanche. The book features 55 illustrations by Jane Cardinal and was published in 2014 by Good Hart Publishing.

Adventure Consultants Adventure travel company

Adventure Consultants, formerly Hall and Ball Adventure Consultants, is a New Zealand-based adventure company that brings trekking and climbing groups to various locations. Founded by Rob Hall and Gary Ball in 1991, it is known for its pioneering role in the commercialisation of Mount Everest and the 1996 Mount Everest climb during which eight people died, including Hall, a guide, and two Adventure Consultant clients.

Andrew Michael Harris was a New Zealand mountain guide who died in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Harris was one of the guides for the Adventure Consultants' 1996 Everest expedition, led by Rob Hall. It was Harris' first attempt to summit Mount Everest, though he had extensive climbing experience in New Zealand.

References

  1. Krakauer, Jon (1999), Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday, ISBN   978-0-385-49478-6
  2. Scott, Alastair (1997), "Fatal Attraction; a review of the book Into Thin Air", New York Times
  3. Viesturs, Ed (2006), The Everest Decade; Ed Viesturs on 1996, National Geographic
  4. Rowell, Galen (29 May 1997). "Climbing to Disaster". Wall Street Journal. ISSN   0099-9660 . Retrieved 2015-09-06.
  5. Ratcliffe MBE, Graham (2011). A Day to Die For. UK: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN   9781845966386.
  6. Krakauer, Jon (1999). Into Thin Air. USA: Turtleback. ISBN   9780613663618.
  7. 1 2 McGovern, Joe (25 September 2015). "Into Thin Air author Jon Krakauer is not a fan of Everest". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  8. Hopewell, John (6 August 2013). "'2 Guns' Helmer Kormakur Set to Climb 'Everest'". Variety. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  9. Sperling, Nicole (18 September 2015). "Everest director Baltasar Kormákur clarifies film's source material". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 September 2015.

Further reading

This account critically analyzes the Adventure Consultants team and provides an alternative explanation for the events of those few days on Everest. Krakauer has rebutted the claims of this book in a postscript to the 1999 printing of Into Thin Air.
This book puts forward evidence that detailed weather forecasts were being received by several groups well in advance of their teams' summit attempts. These forecasts highlighted clearly the oncoming strong storm that struck the mountain on 10th/11th May causing the tragedy. While most of Ratcliffe's comments are directed towards the two expedition leaders for ignoring the forecasts and continuing on the summit attempts, thereby exposing clients to such high risk, he also makes clear that in his view, Krakauer and many others' description of the storm as "sudden and unexpected" is wholly inaccurate. Furthermore, Ratcliffe suggests that Krakauer, by not mentioning the forecasts, did not produce an accurate or adequately researched account.
The first-hand experience of Lene Gammelgard, of Fischer's expedition.
Mike Trueman, a member of the 1996 International Polish South Pillar Team, was at Camp 2 as the 1996 Everest tragedy unfolded. He was asked to descend to Base Camp where he coordinated the rescue effort. His book published in May 2015 complements the story related in Into Thin Air.
A first-hand account of Hall's expedition.
A first-hand account of the storm's impact on climbers on the mountain's other side, the North Ridge, where several climbers also died. (Later republished as: Dickinson, Matt (2000). The Other Side of Everest: Climbing the North Face Through the Killer Storm. New York: Crown. ISBN   978-0-8129-3159-4.).
The first-hand account of Lou Kasischke, of Rob Hall's expedition. Kasischke details the events surrounding the summit attempt as well as the decision that saved his life.