Tuesday 23 February 2016

INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer

5 GOLD Stars

Memoir, Everest expedition

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

I had to read this after watching the 2015 film Everest, to find out more about it, as I imagine many people have done.  After studying the reviews of various tomes available on Amazon, I thought this looked like the most sincere and well written account of what happened.

Since watching the film I've been thinking a lot (a bit obsessively, to be honest) about the whole mountaineering culture, and reading various opinions on the commercialisation of 'Sargamatha' (its Nepalese name) and how the locals view the Westerners who want to 'conquer' it ~ and thinking about why mountaineers do what they do.  In this book, Jon Krakauer answered lots of my questions and explained so much about the various conflicts ~ I now want to read the rest of his books, too, because I love the way he writes.  I've been glued to the page since I got this.

Krakauer was a climbing crazed young man whose mountaineering career was slowing down, to a certain extent, when he was invited to go on this expedition as a journalist, to write an account for Outside magazine.  On May 10/11 1996, six of the people with whom he started the trek did not make it back to base camp.  Much has been discussed about the reason for the disaster, but it seems that, ultimately, the fault lies with human error, rather than one person, one party or one set of circumstances.  

Krakauer writes this account as a journalist should ~ he gives facts, not opinions.  If at any point he portrays any member of any party in a slightly negative way, he balances with positive in the next breath (with a couple of exceptions: certain members of a South African team, and some Japanese climbers.  Even then, he expresses no opinion, just gives the facts and leaves the reader to make up his own mind).   A Russian guide, Anatoli Boukreev, felt impugned by his portrayal and had his own account written to counteract it, which I read about before starting this book, but I don't think Boukreev was painted negatively at all.  Rather the opposite, if anything, and he is but human, after all.

Jon Krakauer gives such a clear picture of all the personalities on the mountain with him over those weeks, and made all the technical stuff easy to understand even for know-nothings like me.  His account of the climbers' acclimatisation was fascinating; once the actual ascent begins the eerie atmosphere gathers momentum as the summit gets closer, only to be followed by the much more dangerous descent ~ getting up there is plain sailing in comparison with getting back down, when climbers are already suffering the effects of freezing cold at potentially fatal altitudes.  This book does not sensationalise, but it's riveting, terribly moving, terrifying and just so absorbing, and I don't know if I'm going to be able to read anything else for a couple of days after it.  Yeah, I think it's going to have to be one of his other books.  Highly, highly recommended.

INTO THE WILD by John Krakauer reviewed HERE

UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN by Jon Krakauer reviewed HERE

MISSOULA by Jon Krakauer reviewed HERE



  1. I’ve always wondered what drives mountaineers to do what they do and ultimately risk their lives. Jon Krakauer’s account sounds fascinating, terrifying and sad.

    1. Unputdownable, Cathy - and so frustrating because it was mostly avoidable.

  2. Very interesting, Terry and a great reading find.

    1. I promise not to put the #RBRT books on hold for too long, but I must read another of his first!