am 24. April 2000
Jon K fails to get the point, writing a good story is not enough when it comes to mountaineering books. This book is a great read, but read The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev and you will feel as if JK has taken you for a ride with his good story. This is because a good story does not need to stick to the facts. It is clear from the reaction of the American Alpine Club to Boukreev - awarding him a high honour for his actions on Everest- that they did not share JKs view of Boukreevs conduct.In short JK uses Boukreev as a stooge/villian around which to base his most gripping narative and in doing so absolves himself of blame. Read The Climb after you have read this book and you will get the point.This book will grip non climbers but it a slur to the memory of one of the greatest High Altitude Climbers the world has ever seen - shame on you JK
am 11. März 1998
The author wrote this with an extreme sense of knowledge about everyone who was on Scott Fischer's expedition, which is strange, because he was on ROB HALL'S expedition !!! He makes a lot of the characters seem like complete fools, ex.: Sandy Hill Pittman, which they are not. Also, he barely gives Anatoli Boukreev (d.12/25/97-climbing accident) any credit for saving numerous lives. Krakauer was in a tent for the majority of the rescue, asleep, and he knows everything that happened? Fraid not ! For the TRUE story, read Anatoli Boukreev's book, THE CLIMB.
am 2. Juni 2000
Having never understood why people climb mountains, and after seeing Beck Weathers on television last year, I read Into Thin Air in order to gain more perceptiveness. And Krakauer delivered. Have some time on your hands, because once you begin reading Jon's story portraying the turn of events throughout his journey on Everest in the Spring of '96, you won't be able to stop reading until you've read the last word in his book. This account of ascending Everest is a page-turner even though the outcome is old news. It will leave you wanting to know more about other attempts made on Everest. For those who don't understand why on earth anyone would want to do something as dangerous as climbing Into Thin Air on rock and ice, this book answers that curiosity. Jon introduces his readers to the backgrounds and personalities of the main characters in his book. We can better comprehend the different reasons people spend thousand of dollars and two or more months of their lives in "hell" on a mountain, freezing and injured "just to get to the top." We learn through Krakauer why they continue their rise even though the conditions are pure torture and more life threatening with each step. Why they don't give it up once they've lost feeling in their extremities, separated their ribs, lost their vision, can no longer breathe due to oxygen depleted air. Why they don't turn back even when they see the dead who've attempted to reach the summit on former expeditions. You'll understand because of Krakauer's talent as a writer, his ability to replay his emotions, his thoughts, his experiences, and his opinions through writing. You'll feel the frigid wind, the snow, the ice, the pain, the desperation, the sorrow, and the regrets. The "if only's" will torture your soul just as they have and continue to torture Jon's. He writes in such a way you will have no choice other than to join him on that mountain. You'll meet and get to know the members and guides of Rob Hall's team as well as Scott Fischer, his guides, and some of his team members. Unfortunately, not everyone on the mountain was a "good guy," you'll be living thanks to the dangers the teams encounter due to the inexperience, egos, arrogance, and vengefulness of the few "bad apples." For the survivors, Jon's book is a road in which fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and other loved ones are portrayed as the heroes they were. Although some of the deceased's relatives were upset with Krakauer, it will seem unjust because of the respectful way in which he portrays his fellow mountaineers and the Sherpas. This was one of the best books I have ever read and I recommend it to anyone interested in Mount Everest, Climbing, or just reading a great book. This story is a symbol of strength, determination, and the will to achieve your goals that almost everyone can relate to. If you have nothing to do and want to get intrigued then read Into Thin Air. I promise this will be a thing you never forget.
am 30. Mai 2000
A few years ago, one of alpining's greatest tragedies occurred when a dozen climbers died attempting to ascend Mt. Everest, with eight of them dying during one day -- May 10, 1996.
Jon Krakauer, a contributing writer for Outside magazine, was on the mountain when those people died. And it seems he still hasn't recovered from the incident. "I wish I'd never heard of Everest," he told interviewers from ABC's television show "Turning Point" the next year. "I wish I hadn't gone. It was a huge mistake," he said. "It will affect me the rest of my life."
Into Thin Air is Krakauer's riveting account of his own painstaking ascent of Everest and the deadly events that unfolded on "the roof of the world" in 1996. His brilliant description of this territory alternately awes and chills the reader: "The ink-black wedge of the summit pyramid stood out in stark relief, towering over the surrounding ridges. Thrust high into the jet-stream, the mountain ripped a visible gash in the 120-knot hurricane, sending forth a plume of ice crystals that trailed to the east like a long silk scarf."
If the cynic in you suspects Krakauer may be capitalizing on the tragedy, he responded to such criticism in the May 1997 issue of Outside: "I'm a writer -- it's what I do to pay the bills." And he stressed that he has given "a fair bit" of money he has made to charities like the American Himalayan Foundation.
And Krakauer does a pretty comprehensive job of castigating himself over the Everest incident anyway. Much of Into Thin Air amounts to a confessional mode through which he scrutinizes and mulls over every facet of that expedition, attempting to pinpoint his particular role in its deadly failure. "The plain truth," he writes, "is that I knew better but went to Everest anyway. And in doing so I was party to death of good people, which is something that is apt to remain on my conscience for a very long time."
Sadly, his cautionary tome hasn't slowed those who hope to make the Everest ascent. The following year, in 1997, more than 300 climbers doled out the $65,000 required to climb Everest; there were more expeditions headed to Everest than ever before. By the time the short margin (the middle of May is optimal) within which climbers can approach Everest's peak came round again in mid-1997, several more climbers had died attempting to make the summit this year, bringing the total number of lives Everest had claimed to more than 150. Probably, the survivors of those expeditions made their way home, shaking their heads, asking themselves the same questions, feeling the same guilt Krakauer apparently still feels.
Take Krakauer's advice: stay home and read the book. His crisp journalistic writing and unflinchingly honesty make Into Thin Air an instant alpining classic and certainly one of the most gripping non-fiction books on the market in 1997.
am 26. April 2000
I can't remember two books that stirred up so many strong feelings as "Into Thin Air" and "The Climb." To understand why, you need to read both books. Once you've read both, you'll have a better idea why certain Amazon reviewers have slandered Krakauer so viciously and unfairly.
First of all, if you're going to read these books, read the new expanded "trade paperback" editions of both titles. The new versions are in a bigger, "deluxe" format that costs a little more but is definitly worth the extra money. Each of these updated 1999 editions includes the addition of a totally new epilogue that answers charges made in the other book. These added chapters are incredibly helpful if you want the real story. The 1999 edition of "Into Thin Air" takes some major digging find at Amazon (for some weird reason there is no direct link to if from the other paperback, hardback, or audio editions-they are all linked to each other, but not to this newest and best edition), but it's worth the effort.
I recommend reading "The Climb" first, and then "Into Thin Air." After reading both books, I was convinced that "Into Thin Air" is definitely the more honest book. "The Climb" should certainly be read in order to get both sides of the story, but you need to keep your BS detector on full alert. G. Weston DeWalt, who ghost-wrote "The Climb" for Boukreev, uses all sorts of shameful tactics to distort the truth. Although DeWalt's prose is plodding and inept, he does have a knack for spinning the facts and pandering. He succeeds at making readers feel that Boukreev was wronged by Krakauer, when actually Krakauer did no such thing. DeWalt's attacks on Krakauer may convince the gullible, but careful, intelligent readers will be able to discern who is being honest and who is not.
am 9. Januar 2000
Unlike most people, I read "The Climb," by Boukreev/DeWalt, before I read "Into Thin Air," by Kraukauer. In "The Climb", DeWalt (who ghost-wrote the book for Boukreev, and lives in my area), spends a lot of space claiming that Kraukauer went out of his way to slander Boukreev. DeWalt is no great shakes as a writer, but he did succeed in convincing me that Kraukauer had been grossly unfair to Boukreev in "Into Thin Air." So then I went and actually read "Into Thin Air," and I couldn't understand what DeWalt was talking about. Kraukauer certainly did criticize Boukreev, at times rather strongly, but his criticisms seem entirely justified and they are balanced by equally strong praise for Boukreev's courage. And Kraukauer directed the strongest criticism at himself. After reading both books, I am in full agreement with the reviewers who think that DeWalt deliberately portrayed "Into Thin Air" to be something it's not in order to create controversy to draw media attention to "The Climb."
If you have read "The Climb," you owe it to yourself to read this 1999 edition of "Into Thin Air," which has a detailed new postscript that sheds much light on the Boukreev-Kraukauer controversy. If you are fascinated by the '96 Everest tragedy, both books are worth reading, but after reading Kraukauer's postscript my mind has been completely changed. I used to think "The Climb" was the more accurate book. Now I believe DeWalt took great liberties with the facts in order to make Boukreev look infallible, and to make Kraukauer look bad. Both books portray Boukreev as a hero, but I am convinced that "Into Thin Air" is a much more accurate, much more truthful, much more carefully researched book. Its honesty comes across on every page. "Into Thin Air" is literature of the highest order.
am 6. Mai 1999
I was deeply moved by this book. I'd already read the paperback version, but when the Illustrated Edition came out I decided to spring for it in order to see the pictures. The pictures are great, but another reason to read this edition of the book is the new postscript, where Krakauer answers the charges leveled against him in The Climb, by Boukreev and DeWalt. Another reason to buy this book is that Krakauer has donated all the proceeds to a memorial fund that helps needy Sherpas. I thought that was pretty cool.
I don't understand the reviewers who think Krakauer was unfair to Boukreev, or those who think The Climb is more honest than Into Thin Air. I suspect that people who think The Climb is honest have not read the Illustrated Edition of Into Thin Air (and its postscript). This postscript convinced me that The Climb is a manipulative, dishonest, self-serving book, designed to boost Boukreev's reputation and generate controversy in order to sell more copies of the Boukreev-DeWalt book (the blame for this probably belongs to Weston DeWalt, IMHO, not Boukreev). DeWalt apparently decided that the best way to generate controversy and sell his book was to claim that Krakauer was unfair to Boukreev, and to level personal attacks on Krakauer and his credibility.
The Climb presents the illusion of being honest because it is raw and rough and crudely written, sort of like the literary version of Cinema Verite. But it is a mistake to equate poor writing with credibility. My biggest problem with The Climb is that it's impossible to tell when the writing is really Boukreev's and when it's DeWalt pretending to speak for Boukreev.
Don't get me wrong. Anyone who is interested in the Everest disaster should read both books. Boukreev was a hero (which Krakauer pointed out quite clearly, I thought), and his version of what happened is interesting. But you should take what Boukreev writes (or what DeWalt writes claiming to speak for Boukreev) with a big grain of salt. I wish Boukreev had found a better writer than DeWalt to do his book for him. What a wasted opportunity. The Illustrated Edition of Into Thin Air is by far the most interesting and credible version of what happened on Everest.
am 5. Dezember 1998
The 'Illustrated' version of 'Thin air' is the result of all those readers that wanted more photos. There are some good images here, some never published before, but unfortunately all in BW. Check out 'Mountain Without Mercy' for terrific color images.
The 'new' afterword however is a big disappointmet for me and several other people I have spoken to. Instead of taking the opportunity to close gracefully Krakauer doggedly pursues the author of highly-regarded 'The Climb,' DeWalt, and even the maligned Boukreev even as he lies in his icy grave on Annapurna. Far from 'burying the axe' Krakauer is like a mad dog unable to give up his viewpoints. He accuses deWalt of sloppy research by not interviewing every participant directly. But it's clear that Krakauer as a self-described 'journalist' commits much greater sins by blatantly ignoring or warping the firsthand information that he gathered and the accounts of other individuals who were involved. Which do you think is worse? I certainly have an opinion.
Krakauer further blames the deceased Boukreev of being unable to admit any mistakes. Gee, doesn't that sound really familiar! Perhaps it's time for Krakauer to come clean on his many 'journalistic' mistakes. How about in his next 'Return to Everest' piece scheduled for Outside magazine.
The good news is that Krakauer has come a long way as writer. His strained luke-warm first offering titled 'Eiger Dreams' was reportedly rejected by more than 15 publishers. Read it and you'll know why. The bad news is that all of his loose/ugly handling of the Everest facts makes me wonder how accurate his powerful 'Into the Wild' work was. I initially enjoyed the book but now I have to wonder about this mans' hubris and ambitions.
am 28. Oktober 1998
I've just finished the book, and I have to admit I'm rather surprised by the amount of polarization it's created. To be fair, I noticed some cultural bias in Krakauer's assesments of other people on the mountain, but I have to wonder if that's grounds for all the accusations leveled at him. I wasn't there to challenge his words, but I know for a fact that Jon Krakuaer wasn't responsible for the safety of Rob Hall's, or anybody else's team on Everest. So who was responsible? Why, that would be the leaders of the various teams, of course. You might recall that they wanted to call all the shots on the mountain. So what really did happen? Based on what I read, which may be incomplete information, I'm left with only a sketchy picture, which is the main beef I have with the book. I can imagine that it was a combination of several bad judgement calls, including not keeping up with the weather reports (they had sat phones, why not sat weather reports?) and not defining clear safety boundaries for the clients. Perhaps the guides were too ambitious to get their clients to the summit, and ignored some danger signs early on. That's my take, anyways. If an objective, disciplined, and rigorous exploratory group, with the knowledge and skill of NASA were to climb the mountain, I suspect they would approach the challenge with a much safer mentality. But such as it is, I read about a group of climbers who seem a little too self-assured, haven't developed full safeguards for themselves and their clients, and I'm not surprised that disaster struck under those extreme circumstances. It became a war zone up there, where everyone was fighting for their own life. And Jon Krakauer was merely one of many hoping to see their homes and families again.
am 25. November 1997
Not a great book, but "6" is "above average" so I'll start with the positive points.
Krakauer does a good job of describing the brutal conditions, the technique of the climb, the history of Everest and its would-be conquerors, and the little-known deleterious effects of high-altitude exposure. I'll admit that at times, I could swear my fingers started to feel numb as I read on. I certainly learned a lot from Krakauer's book too, and I applaud anyone's physical ability and mental tenacity to even come close to the summit (granted, the expediture of over $65,000 for a hike may add extra incentive to summit the mount).
But so much of the book read like a dossier of who Krakauer felt acted nobly and who he felt acted shamefully in these extremes. OK, so Ian Woodall was an arrogant bastard: are you finished grinding your axe? OK, you've deemed Sandy Pittman's celebrity-seeking motives and panicky behavior less than honorable and made her out to be an amateurish, whimpering socialite. Yes, you feel horrific guilt at the loss of Hall, Harris, and the others.
Near the end of the book I was asking myself "Why is he so defensive? Why is he harping on isolated details of "who-saw-who-at-what-time" during the final descent? Why did I keep reading between the lines: "THIS WAS NOT MY FAULT!"
In the final chapter I got my answer: Krakauer lists several of the nasty-grams he got in response to his first article for "Outside" magazine, in which relatives of the deceased and even total strangers lambasted him for abandoning suffering colleagues and having the arrogance for passing judgement on the other climbers. (Some of those angry sentiments are mimicked in posted reviews here.) I realized then that I hadn't been reading an accounting of man's survival in a barbaric environment, or man's need to conquer the elements -- just one man's need to soothe his conscience and "set the record straight".
I don't want to play psychologist to a man who has experienced something I never could understand. I am only speaking as a dissapointed reader, especially hearing almost nothing but praise for "Into Thin Air." I wish nothing but the best for Mr. Krakauer and his family. But to blindly trust one writer's opinion as to who the "good guys" and "bad guys" were (I'm referring to another reviewer's over-simplified description of the climbers) is unfair to the others who suffered. And I don't want to read a dozen other personal accounts just to counter-balance the views of the first one to make it to print.
Early on, Krakauer mentions the advice of friends, pleading with him to wait a while before writing this book, so that the raw emotions could subside and this would be less of a catharsis for him. Perhaps he should have heeded that advice.