Sunday, July 10, 2011

Into Thin Air

by Jon Krakauer

Rated: PG-13

In the spring of 1996, Jon Krakauer, a journalist on assignment for Outdoor Magazine, joined a commercially guided expedition to summit Mount Everest in 1996. This book chronicles the details that such a quest demands, the extreme physical and psychological toll the journey takes, and provides some insight into the motivations of those who are driven to make the journey. Some may remember that 1996 was a particularly tragic year for those trying to summit Mt. Everest and Mr. Krakauer experienced first hand some of the events that contributed to that tragedy. While I can't vouch for its authenticity, I think Mr. Krakauer tried to give an honest accounting of events in his book. He interviewed many of his fellow climbers to ensure the timeline was as accurate as possible rather than simply relying on his own memories - which can be blurred and sketchy due to impaired brain function at 29,000 feet.

I found the book fascinating, heartbreaking and, particularly in the latter portion, guilt-ridden. Mr. Krakauer tries to identify the intricate, intertwining variables that may have contributed to the tragedy but that seems a difficult task when several key players are no longer alive to explain their decisions.
There is one instance towards the end of the book of drug use to escape mental anguish. There is profanity in this book, rare at the beginning but with increasing frequency in the latter half. This profanity includes many of the "harder" curse words. There are graphic descriptions of 3rd world bivouacs, various injuries, and death.