Have you ever considered climbing a major mountain? Thought it seemed like a life-changing, exciting, cool thing to do? How hard could it be? Well, we met up for another edition of "The Worst Book Club Ever" (lovingly named in jest as we have never met where all members are present, have all read the book, or can agree on a future book) to discuss Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Conclusion - This book graphically puts my nonchalant attitude about climbing into perspective with its description of the terrifying events that took place high on Everest.
This is an older book about Krakauer's experience as part of a deadly 1996 group ascent of Mount Everest where eight people died trying to fulfill their quest of conquering the monolithic monster. Krakauer, then writing for Outside Magazine, describes the entire journey from deciding to join the Adventure Consultants Team, to his climb to base camp, ascending, summiting and descending the deadly mountain. In doing so, he chronicles a series of unimaginable events taking place which leave many people in dire straights high on the mountain and others dead. Krakauer tells his own story of what happened high on Everest through his own eyes and those of his fellow climbers during and after the events. It is very interesting how the participants' memories of the climb change over time.
This is the second time I have read Into Thin Air. The first was almost twenty years ago when I was a young twenty-something year old. My reaction to the book at that time was with the fascination of climbing and pushing your body to such extremes. The unimaginable harsh conditions impressed me and I'm afraid to say I thought the whole idea of the climb was "super cool." Now reading it a second time in my forties, married, and a mother of three, I felt completely stressed throughout much of the book. I found the actual decision to climb - leaving loved ones behind - almost selfish. Reading about the environmental destruction on Everest was heartbreaking and the filth of base camp was absolutely disgusting. Up until my reread of the book, I had been planning a big climb with my children and husband. Upon completion of the book, this is no longer a real desire of mine (small climbs and hikes are still very much on my list:-) The women in our book club who read Into Thin Air, 4 gave it a big thumbs up and 1 gave it a medium thumbs-up (she couldn't get past the fact she thought they were all quite selfish, entitled people, who were completely out for themselves to conquer the summit.) Overall, a recommended read and page-turner for anyone looking for an engrossing, true, fast-paced and ultimately tragic true story.
Goodreads blurb and reviews on Into Thin Air
Other Accounts of the Climb
After the Wind: Tragedy on Everest-One Survivor's Story by Lou Kasischke
The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest by Anatoli Boukreev and G. Weston DeWalt
Climbing High: A Woman's Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy by Lene Gammelgaard
Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest by Beck Weathers
If you don't have time to invest in reading Into Thin Air but are still interested in the story, there have been quite a few movies made about the event. Of course, none, that I have seen, come close to capturing the book but they are still interesting to watch none the less. The latest movie on this topic is the 2015 film Everest starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Worth a watch.