Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer was on Mount Everest in May of 1996 when disaster struck his team and many others on the mountain that year. This is his personal account of what happened on the mountain that year along with the research and interviews that he did in the time following the disaster.
Krakauer starts his story well before he gets on the mountain. He gives you the background on the mountain: the people who have climbed it in the past, or failed to, the politics of who can climb and which side they could climb, a small background on all the people on the mountain with him. I liked having a context to put his story into. And it is easier to care about the people you are reading about if you know something about them. Of course, in this case, that might not be a good thing. You follow all these people as they climb and face all of the perils along the way. There are some gut wrenching moments when you feel the dread of the moment. When you feel the pull of the circumstances that they feel powerless to change. In many ways it is a horrible story because you know it does not end well but it pulls you in and gets you involved and you can’t look away. There are a lot of people on the mountain, all with different groups, and Krakauer can’t leave anyone out but it took me a while to sort everyone out and remember who was who. And even though he talked to the other people after the fact you do get a feel that it is a one sided story, you don’t get the point of view of the other people involved but you also never feel that Krakauer is being untruthful or deceitful in any way to make himself look better or excuse decisions that were made. I have never had any desire to climb a mountain myself but I kind of understand why someone would. They were pitting themselves against nature, proving something, accomplishing something. But after having heard this story, told so well it sometimes made me sick to my stomach, I really don’t have any idea why someone would put themselves in that position.