Into Thin Air
Books | Biography & Autobiography / Survival
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The epic account of the storm on the summit of Mt. Everest that claimed five lives and left countless more—including Krakauer's—in guilt-ridden disarray. "A harrowing tale of the perils of high-altitude climbing, a story of bad luck and worse judgment and of heartbreaking heroism." —PEOPLE A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. By writing Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons and lay to rest some of the painful questions that still surround the event. He takes great pains to provide a balanced picture of the people and events he witnessed and gives due credit to the tireless and dedicated Sherpas. He also avoids blasting easy targets such as Sandy Pittman, the wealthy socialite who brought an espresso maker along on the expedition. Krakauer's highly personal inquiry into the catastrophe provides a great deal of insight into what went wrong. But for Krakauer himself, further interviews and investigations only lead him to the conclusion that his perceived failures were directly responsible for a fellow climber's death. Clearly, Krakauer remains haunted by the disaster, and although he relates a number of incidents in which he acted selflessly and even heroically, he seems unable to view those instances objectively. In the end, despite his evenhanded and even generous assessment of others' actions, he reserves a full measure of vitriol for himself. This updated trade paperback edition of Into Thin Air includes an extensive new postscript that sheds fascinating light on the acrimonious debate that flared between Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev in the wake of the tragedy. "I have no doubt that Boukreev's intentions were good on summit day," writes Krakauer in the postscript, dated August 1999. "What disturbs me, though, was Boukreev's refusal to acknowledge the possibility that he made even a single poor decision. Never did he indicate that perhaps it wasn't the best choice to climb without gas or go down ahead of his clients." As usual, Krakauer supports his points with dogged research and a good dose of humility. But rather than continue the heated discourse that has raged since Into Thin Air's denouncement of guide Boukreev, Krakauer's tone is conciliatory; he points most of his criticism at G. Weston De Walt, who coauthored The Climb, Boukreev's version of events. And in a touching conclusion, Krakauer recounts his last conversation with the late Boukreev, in which the two weathered climbers agreed to disagree about certain points. Krakauer had great hopes to patch things up with Boukreev, but the Russian later died in an avalanche on another Himalayan peak, Annapurna I. In 1999, Krakauer received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters--a prestigious prize intended "to honor writers of exceptional accomplishment." According to the Academy's citation, "Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer. His account of an ascent of Mount Everest has led to a general reevaluation of climbing and of the commercialization of what was once a romantic, solitary sport; while his account of the life and death of Christopher McCandless, who died of starvation after challenging the Alaskan wilderness, delves even more deeply and disturbingly into the fascination of nature and the devastating effects of its lure on a young and curious mind."
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Community ReviewsSee all
"The true story of what ended up being (at the time) the deadliest climb up Everest ever. This was my first book by Krakauer and I enjoyed it. The book is very clearly written by a reporter as he goes into great detail. At times, it can be difficult to keep up with how many different people he provides details on. But for adventure book fans, or climbers, you will enjoy. Also, more updated versions address some of controversy that happened post writing in 1996."
"This book was a absolute joy to read. I was a little hesitant with the reporter writing style at first. But once I got into it it was one of the most raw, alluring, and exciting books I’ve ever read. I keep marveling at how well written it was and how much I was enjoying learning about a topic I had no interest in before reading. I also loved the excerpts Krakauer put in before each chapter. I definitely saved some to re-read in my quotes folder. No complaints, this book is a literacy masterpiece. 29/30 "
"This was a harrowing read that just got more disturbing as it went along. The author can definitely spin a tale, but is it a tale we really want to hear? The complete disregard for other human life in this book left me colder than the sub zero wind chills. I will be the first to admit I do not understand the mindset of any of these characters or why we as a society take such great interest in these types of feats. The real heroes are not the athletes, but the native Sherpas who schlep all the equipment and do all the work for minimal pay. Then rich white and Asian people literally climb all over each other's corpses to try to make heroic claims! It made me sick by the end, and not just because of the high altitudes. Why do the other teams not help each other out?"