July 30, 2008

Into Thin Air

While in Nepal trekking up to Everest Base Camp it felt appropriate to read Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air". I was not attempting the same physical feat of the author, but I did traverse the same paths up to the base camp, which gave me familiarity with the first few parts of the book. The version of the book that I read included an additional section at the end which offered the author's rebuttal of another book covering the same events. The inconsistencies seemed to focus mostly on the portrayal of people in the book versus the over arching series of events that happened. With that in mind the experience and horror captured in the book was mesmerizing.

The book mentions many times that getting up is easy, the hard part is getting down. The fatigue and oxygen deprivation experienced by climbers reaching the top leaves them ill equipped to make the equally challenging descent back down to camp 4. Amateur climbers combined with what to me felt like hubris on the part of various people in the face of a severe storm resulted in one of Everest's most deadly events. Jon's prose quickly engaged me in the action and his easy storytelling at times almost made me think the book was a work of fiction. Alas the events are true and many exceptional people lost their lives on Everest that May of 1996.

If I ever had any vague thoughts of summiting such a peak this book cured me of any such notion. I don't pose the spirit or mentality he alludes to in the book that has driven so many others to attempt and succeed at climbing Everest. While my drive and curiosity carried me to Nepal and higher than I've ever been, I was happy enough to gaze upon Everest without feeling the need to summit it.

Tags: books everest nepal