As my readers know, one of my three new years reso’s included reading at least 1 book a month for the year of 2016. Well, we’re one month into 2016 and I can proudly say that I’ve actually already stuck with this new year resolution.
January’s reads included ‘If I Stay’ by Gayle Forman and ‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krakauer. Easily! EASILY! I can say that ‘Into Thin Air’ was my favourite out of the two and I’m gonna give you a breakdown/review of why.
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
One thing that people don’t know about me is that I get really into anything that is remotely secluded, life-threating or that has a shit load of facts and unknown events behind it. This book included all three of these factors.
Adventure Consultants Expedition 1996: (standing: John Taske, Stuart Hutchinson, Helen Wilton, Beck Weathers, Lou Kasischke, Mike Groom)(front row: Doug Hanson, Susan Allen, Jon Krakauer, Andy Harris, Rob Hall, Frank Fischbeck, Yasuko Namba)
In the mountaineering season of 1996, May 10-11, a devastating disaster happened on Mount Everest that saw 8 people loose their lives over these dates. The Adventure Consultants mountaineering company run by Rob Hall, the Mountain Madness company run by Scott Fischer and another expedition all planned summiting Mount Everest on May 10.
South Col Route up Mount Everest
Source: Assam Everest
Source: Assam Everest
These three expeditions as well as some other expeditions resulted in congestion upon the Hilary Step due to lack of fixed ropes. From here, everything went downhill for two of the most respected climbers in the mountaineering world- Rob Hall and Scott Fischer- and their clients.
Author of Into Thin Air and 1996 Mount Everest Climber and Summiter Jon Krakauer
Source: The Inertia
Source: The Inertia
Jon Krakauer- a journalist for Outside magazine who was on Hall’s Adventure Consultants expedition and author of this book- summited Everest on this day and was one of the lucky one’s to descend the mountain alive. Some weren’t so lucky. While Krakauer was decending the mountain a large storm hit Everest. With an initial turn-around time of 2.p.m, Rob Hall left the summit with client Doug Hansen around the time of 4pm; way over the turn-around time. By then, the storm had intensified and the mountain was making its own weather. Hall was caught upon the South Summit with a struggling Hansen who couldn’t walk for himself due to exhaustion, no supplemental oxygen and hypoxia throughout the storm. Andy Harris, a guide on Hall’s expedition, ran oxygen up to Hansen and Hall so that they would be able to get down the mountain easier although when Harris reached Hall, Hansen was ‘gone’.
The night went on, Hall and Harris sat 29028 feet above sea level in a raging storm on top of Everest unable to move due to barely any supplemental oxygen, frostbite, hypoxia and exhaustion. After several rescue attempts, the storm was too bad for any help to be given to Hall and Harris. Hall later radioed into Base Camp with the news that Harris was also ‘gone’.
With one last call to his wife, Jan, Hall was unreachable and barely alive. Yasuko Namba, one of Hall’s clients, was found dead and Beck Weathers- another of Hall’s clients- was also assumed dead. But suddenly, to Krakauer and everyone else in Camp Four’s surprise, Weathers walked into Camp 4 with frostbitten hands, feet and nose- alive… barely.
1996 Adventure Consultants Expedition Mount Everest Climber Beck Weathers
Source: Life in an Echo
The next days followed with search teams finding Hall’s, Namba’s and Fischer’s frozen bodies dead on the mountain. Weathers was helicoptered to Kathmandu where he received treatment and survived.
Krakauer’s description of not only summit day, but the whole expedition through Kathmandu, Namche Bazzar, Pheriche, Lukla, Lobuje and every other town is accurate and descriptive. His emotion is clear through his words and his descriptions of other people almost make you think you know them yourself. The order of events and the writing style makes a clear timeline of the events and when/where they occurred. Krakauer is honest and admits where he was at fault but also stands up for what he believed was truly the case. Krakauer openly describes the grueling conditions of Nepal, the trek, life at base camp and the other four camps and is honest about his feelings as he conquered Everest.
Nothing can describe why I am intrigued with not only the 1996 disaster, but Mt Everest in general besides from this quote from the movie that ‘Into Thin Air’ inspired, ‘Everest’. Rob Hall says “Human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitudes of a seven-forty-seven”.
And that’s it exactly. The fact that the human body is able to survive 8.84km’s above sea level with the help from supplemental oxygen, but a helicopter can’t fly that high is astounding in my eyes. The whole concept of mountaineering intrigues me.
This book and this story has had such an influential impact on myself. If I had the physical capabilities and expertise… and money to climb Mt Everest I would in a heartbeat. Maybe myself and other people who would do the same thing have a glitch in our brains. Who would volunteer to climb 8.84km’s up a mountain that creates its own unpredictable weather and participates in an activity that is so life-threatening. This also intrigues me, how the human brain can say yes to something so deadly. All the people involved in the 1996 Everest Disaster held this personality trait and Krakauer perfectly questions this himself. That is what makes this book so powerful.