Title : Into Thin Air
Author : Jon Krakauer
Publisher : PAN Books
ISBN : 978-0-330-35397-7
This book has been very high on my TBR list ever since I read Abinav's review here. I enjoy reading travelogues and adventure books.
Since the time the first person set foot on the roof of the Earth - the Sagarmath (the mother Goddess), the Mount Everest - the lofty peak has beckoned many people over these years. This book is a first person account of Jon Krakauer who was part of the Mt. Everest expedition of 1996. He was in a team led by well-seasoned climber Rob Hall heading the Adventure Consultants. Another group also planned to reach the top at the same time led by Scott Fischer running Mountain Madness company.
Despite being well equipped with all required paraphernalia, expert guidance, meticulously planned program, well researched tracks, deftly organized trainings camps and human assistance in the form of Nepali Sherpas, these two expeditions mentored by two well known organizers completely fell apart. Everest killed 12 men and women in the spring of 1996, the worst single-season death toll since climbers first set foot on the peak seventy five years ago.
Jon introduces the readers to the main characters who were part of these expeditions which began in the spring of 1996, each one of them having different reasons to 'just to get to the top' where the frailty of human body is evident at every step of the trek and the hurdles of unthinkable magnitude stare mockingly at the human faces - freezing, injuries, blindness, breathlessness due to depletion of oxygen in the air, and dying team mates on the way.
In Jon's words - "With so many marginally qualified climbers flocking to Everest these days, a lot of people believe that a tragedy of this magnitude was over-due. But nobody imagined that an expedition led by Rob Hall would be at the center of it. Hall ran the tightest, safest operation on the mountain, bar none. A compulsively methodical man, he had elaborate systems in place that were supposed to prevent such a catastrophe. So what happened? How can it be explained?"
Who was responsible - wrong judgment of even the so called champions of climbing, ill luck, sudden change of weather, rivalry between two businessmen Fisher and Hall, Everest's vengeance, Nature's fury or its way of displaying its supremacy? These are the unanswered questions which do not fade away easily from the minds of the ones who survived the fate. As Jon reminisces, "As I write these words, half a year has passed since I returned from Nepal, and on any given day during those six months, no more than two or three hours have gone by in which Everest hasn't monopolized my thoughts. Not even in sleep is there respite; imagery from the climb and its aftermath continues to permeate my dreams. "
I really appreciated the way Jon has recounted and almost relived the moments while writing this book, that he spent during those couple of months chasing his childhood dream on the terrain which can be as treacherous and killer as it could get. In the preface, he mentions that through this book he wanted to get the expedition and the guilt feeling of 'what if' out of his system. I do not know whether he accomplished this objective or not but the way he has reported almost moment to moment details of those crucial days, it sounds very honest, authentic and unbiased reporting and he truly deserves compliments for the same.