BINGO! This non-fiction read, passed on to me by my in-laws, completed my first BINGO for my library’s summer reading club. Score!
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
by Jon Krakauer
Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster is about Jon Krakauer’s May of 1996 Mt. Everest climb. Despite his summit success, Krakauer descended the top of the mountain in hurricane force winds and white out conditions, staggering back to the safety of his tent while the rest of his team fought for (and mostly lost) their lives. Deemed the deadliest season on Everest, Krakauer lived to tell the story of that storm and the affect it had on his climb, his team and his life ever after.
“Above the comforts of Base Camp, the expedition in fact became an almost Calvinistic undertaking. The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any mountain I’d been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking above all else, something like a state of grace.”– Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
Awards (based upon my brief research):
Pulitzer Prize Nominee for General Nonfiction (1998)
ALA Alex Award (1998)
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee for General Nonfiction (1997)
Boardman Tasker Prize Nominee for Mountain Literature (1997)
My Overall Rating:
5 – Whew! What an exhilarating, fascinating and heartbreaking read! My prior experience with Jon Krakauer was Into the Wild, a story I was so captivated by – one that would set my minor obsession with Alaska into motion when I was just a junior in high school. I knew he was a phenomenal writer. I knew he, like me, must be captivated by the adventures that happen in the solitude of the edges and peaks of the earth. But I didn’t know he was such an adventure seeker himself that he would attempt to climb Mt. Everest.
In May of 1996, I was 6 years old. While Krakauer was probably making international news, having safely summited and descended Mt. Everest while numerous other people (including most of his team) were killed in a violent, unpredicted storm, I was most likely playing with my baby dolls in my parents’ basement. So no, I was not familiar with this story prior to reading this book.
What pulled me in was not the thrill of ascending Everest. It was not the climbing tactics or culture that I learned so much about. What pulled me in was the decisions Krakauer and his team had to make in such a critical time while deeply impacted physically, cognitively and emotionally by the assumed thinness of the air and the shock of the storm.
How do you rally as a team when rallying could mean losing your life? How do you say goodbye to someone who’s been with you through the most strenuous, most formational experience of your life? And how do you face your life after that situation, when you’re one of just a few who survived?
I commend Krakauer for not just making it through his Everest climb, but for the courage to share his story afterward. Without a doubt, he must have received much criticism for sharing, but in doing so, he gave people a peek into a bigger story. Triumphs and failures happen. Sometimes they look like the same thing. Sometimes life goes on after them.