Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

4.3 591
by Jon Krakauer

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Reeling from the brain-altering effects of oxygen depletion, Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996. He hadn't slept in fifty-seven hours. As he turned to begin the perilous descent from 29,028 feet (roughly the cruising altitude of an Airbus jetliner), twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly to the top,…  See more details below


Reeling from the brain-altering effects of oxygen depletion, Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996. He hadn't slept in fifty-seven hours. As he turned to begin the perilous descent from 29,028 feet (roughly the cruising altitude of an Airbus jetliner), twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly to the top, unaware that the sky had begun to roil with clouds.... "This is the terrifying story of what really happened that fateful day at the top of the world, during what would be the deadliest season in the history of Everest. In this harrowing yet breathtaking narrative, Krakauer takes the reader along with his ill-fated expedition, step by precarious step, from Katmandu to the mountain's pinnacle where, plagued by a combination of hubris, greed, poor judgment, and plain bad luck, they would fall prey to the mountain's unpredictable fury.

Editorial Reviews
A powerful, cautionary tale of adventure gone horribly wrong, Into Thin Air became an instant bestseller upon publication. A childhood dream of some day ascending Mt. Everest, a lifelong love of climbing, and an expense account all propelled writer Jon Krakauer to the top of the Himalayas in May 1996. With a guide claiming "We've got the mountain wired," Krakauer found that for 65 grand, you could climb the world's tallest peak. This hubris, and a freak storm, claimed the lives of seven members of his expedition, and narrowly avoided killing Krakauer and many more.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.18(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.77(d)

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In March 1996, Outside Magazine sent me to Nepal to participate in, and write about, a guided ascent of Mount Everest. I went as one of eight clients on an expedition led by a well-known guide from New Zealand named Rob Hall. On May 10 I arrived on top of the mountain, but the summit came at a terrible cost.

Among my five teammates who reached the top, four, including Hall, perished in a rogue storm that blew in without warning while we were still high on the peak. By the time I'd descended to Base Camp nine climbers from four expeditions were dead, and three more lives would be lost before the month was out.

The expedition left me badly shaken, and the article was difficult to write. Nevertheless, five weeks after I returned from Nepal I delivered a manuscript to Outside, and it was published in the September issue of the magazine. Upon its completion I attempted to put Everest out of my mind and get on with my life, but that turned out to be impossible. Through a fog of messy emotions, I continued trying to make sense of what had happened up there, and I obsessively mulled the circumstances of my companions' deaths.

The Outside piece was as accurate as I could make it under the circumstances, but my deadline had been unforgiving, the sequence of events had been frustratingly complex, and the memories of the survivors had been badly distorted by exhaustion, oxygen depletion, and shock. At one point during my research I asked three other people to recount an incident all four of us had witnessed high on the mountain, and one of us could agree on such crucial facts as the time, what had been said, or even who had been present. Within days afterthe Outside article went to press, I discovered that a few of the details I'd reported were in error. Most were minor inaccuracies of the sort that inevitably creep into works of deadline journalism, but one of my blunders was in no sense minor, and it had a devastating impact on the friends and family of one of the victims.

Only slightly less disconcerting than the article's factual errors was the material that necessarily had to be omitted for lack of space. Mark Bryant, the editor of Outside, and Larry Burke, the publisher, had given me an extraordinary amount of room to tell the story: they ran the piece at 17,000 words—four or five times as long as a typical magazine feature. Even so, I felt that it was much too abbreviated to do justice to the tragedy. The Everest climb had rocked my life to its core, and it became desperately important for me to record the events in complete detail, unconstrained by a limited number of column inches. This book is the fruit of that compulsion.

The staggering unreliability of the human mind at high altitude made the research problematic. To avoid relying excessively on my own perceptions, I interviewed most of the protagonists at great length and on multiple occasions. When possible I also corroborated details with radio logs maintained by people at Base Camp, where clear thought wasn't in such short supply. Readers familiar with the Outside article may notice discrepancies between certain details (primarily matters of time) reported in the magazine and those reported in the book; the revisions reflect new information that has come to light since publication of the magazine piece.

Several authors and editors I respect counseled me not to write the book as quickly as I did; they urged me to wait two or three years and put some distance between me and the expedition in order to gain some crucial perspective. Their advice was sound, but in the end I ignored it—mostly because what happened on the mountain was gnawing my guts out. I thought that writing the book might purge Everest from my life.

It hasn't, of course. Moreover, I agree that readers are often poorly served when an author writes as an act of catharsis, as I have done here. But I hoped something would be gained by spilling my soul in the calamity's immediate aftermath, in the roil and torment of the moment. I wanted my account to have a raw, ruthless sort of honesty that seemed in danger of leaching away with the passage of time and the dissipation of anguish.

Some of the same people who warned me against writing hastily had also cautioned me against going to Everest in the first place. There were many, many fine reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act—a triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument.

The plain truth is that I knew better but went to Everest anyway. And in doing so I was a party to the death of good people, which is something that is apt to remain on my conscience for a very long time.

From the Paperback edition.

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Into Thin Air 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 591 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mount Everest is the highest mountain on the planet with its summit at 29,028 feet above sea level. Since it was first summited on June 2, 1953, many have succeeded, while others have died trying to conquer this peak. These days, many guiding companies have enabled just about anyone with a little climbing experience to climb Everest. Because of this, more and more controversies have risen out of the decisions made on top of the world. The events on Everest, especially during the 1996 climbing season, make one wonder if summiting the mountain is worth all the suffering and death that it can bring with it. Into Thin Air is a gripping story about survival and death, all caused by the tallest mountain in the world. The novel is a personal account by Jon Krakauer, who, at the time of the incident, was a journalist for Outside Magazine. It tells the story of his ascension and summiting of Mount Everest that was soon followed by a storm that killed eight people, including Rob Hall, a very experienced mountain climbing guide. This storm helped to make 1996 the most deadly year on Mount Everest. Krakauer goes into great detail about the history of climbing on Everest, the occurrences of May 10, 1996, and the controversy that surrounds the events. Throughout, he analyzes the themes of death and survival, while looking at the mountain climbing community’s varying beliefs on these ideas. He makes the reader question his or her own beliefs on these subjects as well. While he tells a great story, Krakauer does go into very great detail on everything in the novel. This makes for a very vivid and easily understood story, but at certain points, there is too much detail including facts about things that seem totally unrelated to the novel. However, Krakauer’s ability to connect his in-depth knowledge and personal mountain climbing and journalist experiences to the novel allow him a little leeway, when it comes to his overuse of detail. This book is recommended strongly to anyone who wants to read a story about mountain climbing, especially one that is true and keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat the entire time. Even someone who isn’t involved in the climbing community can find this book to be very interesting and exciting. Krakauer has the ability to bring a reader directly into an experience, as found in his other works including Into the Wild or Under the Banner of Heaven. Into Thin Air is one of the best books that I have read and if I was to rate it, it would definitely be a nine out of ten. Another great story about mountain climbing and survival can be found in the book Touching the Void.
WI-mom4 More than 1 year ago
To begin, I am not a mountaineer, have no desire to climb a mountain, and believe there are some places mortal men/women have no business being (29,000ft up the side the mountain included). With that said, I enjoyed this book very much. Understanding that it is human nature to push our physical limitations and to attempt the impossible, this story was compelling to read, kept my attention and cultivated a sideline interest for the impossible mountains men dare to climb. The side stories are interesting and give a lot to the story. The tragedy and the events leading up to it are well described and give a personal feeling that helps the reader understand and "feel" for the players of the story. Krakauer does a good job in describing the characters, giving the personal backgrounds to help readers understand the personal drives for this near impossible feat, and accounting for the "edge" that contributed to the unfortunate outcome.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
..of the highest point on Earth. Jon Krakauer takes you there weaving together multiple perspectives in such a way that enhances the suspense of his first person narrative. Definitely a great read, that last hundred pages will keep you glued. What I liked most is Krakauer sense of journalism and his efforts to report unbiased information without an agenda. It is clear he went through great effort to gather as much information to tell the story as close to how it happened, attempting to account for differences of perspective and reporting to you, the reader, those differences and giving a post-mortem analysis. Truly a great read that will having you stuck in awe.
TunaSF More than 1 year ago
I have watched many Everest documentaries, but this was an excellent view into the emotional and physical trauma that Everest puts on climbers. The description of the trip up to Everest was enlightening. Then the excellent descriptions and details of the landscape, base camp,the guides, Sherpas, and different teams was very interesting. It was a page turner. I wanted to read more and find out how the disaster happened. I was left with a deep feeling of sadness towards the author and the guilt he is living with. I hope that he has moved on.
Farmer2 More than 1 year ago
This book is very unusual and Jon Krakauer depicts every events in his style which is very interesting. It's an offbeat book that keeps twisting and turning and toward the end you never know what is going to happen next. Jon and all of the people go through alot and he tells the story very well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school sophomore and I chose to do my research project on Mount Everest. I chose this book because it was one of the best options for this topic. I never thought of climbing a mountain because of the dangers and this book sums that all up. This true story of the journalist, Jon Krakauer, takes you throughout his journey on Mount Everest. Once you start reading this book you do not want to stop until you reach the end. This story took my breath away because I know that climbing Mount Everest (which happens to be 29,000ft high) has its dangers, but I never knew how EXTREMELY dangerous it really is. Jon Krakauer went through it all from extreme climate drops to losing some of his climbing partners, even though he went through all these encounters he still managed to make it to the peak of Mount Everest. He wrote every detail of his tasks and what needed to be done about in order to get to the top of Mount Everest. This book is a great read for those who like to read about real adventures and the real dangers mountaineers must face in order to climb Mount Everest.
GerreK More than 1 year ago
I have read this story over and again since it was released, and it is always riveting. The author does a fantastic job of putting one in the middle of the chaos and emotion of this experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Into Thin Air takes the elements that are paired with climbing the treacherous Mount Everest and fuses them with desire of a climbing team bound to reach the summit. Jon Krakauer experiences the dangers of Everest first hand while being led by Rob Hall, a well-known guide from New Zealand. Krakauer describes the difficulties of climbing with such detail that you feel as though you’re a part of the life changing expedition. Krakauer was sent to climb Everest for Outside Magazine and soon after provide an in depth article for the editor. He and seven other clients were anxious to ascend Everest, yet didn’t quite understand the daunting task that lied ahead of them. The only part of the book that didn’t appeal to me was the beginning. There is plenty of background information about the history of Mount Everest, almost too much. It starts to really get interesting when Krakauer is asked to attend the expedition. Krakauer mentions it has always been his dream to stand on top of the world and was rightfully determined to do so. He puts the complex memories of watching some of friends die into words very well. His ability to even put events like that into words is incredible. The most impressive part of Krakauer’s writing style is such in depth explanation about events happening in the book. He adds the grueling affect that you need to fully understand the crux of the book. Krakauer basically helps you imagine the unimaginable. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who likes challenging non-fiction books. I would give this book a 9 because of the story alone, but also the complex detail that comes with it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An Awe Inspiring Read The book, Into Thin Air, written by Jon Krakaur, is a thrilling tale of one man’s journey up Everest. The author was sent out to climb Everest sponsored by Outdoor magazine and report back the results. He found that the short article requested of him in the magazine was just not enough to document the disaster on top of the world, so he wrote this boo. For me, the book went to show just how powerful Everest really is, and how the popularization of climbing it might be overrated. I enjoyed it and found the writing to be thought-provoking and flowing. I liked how the storyline basically went from the first time he ever made it up a mountain to after he made it down Everest. The character development in the story is excellent; it went to the point that I could practically visualize every character’s appearance and actions. One thing I also enjoyed about this was the author’s attention to detail and telling it just how it was. Even months after the expedition, Krakaur was still conducting interviews with other climbers who were on Everest at the same time he was. These small things add a lot to the overall feel of the book. He also was not afraid to give his opinions on people, something you don’t see often in writers. This lead to being able to tell almost exactly how each person was. I thought the depth that the author discussed his experience told a lot about how cruel and unpredictable Everest really is. It went into great detail just how unforgiving and dangerous it can get up there in a storm, even how some of his companions he had gotten to know over the weeks lost their lives. This book discusses many themes, including life and death, heroism, journey, survival, and individualism. It really makes you think about how precious life is, and how it can be taken away just like that. I would defiantly recommend this book to anyone looking to read a story about adventure, risks, and companionship. This book is sure to touch any other climbers out there also. I really feel like I began to understand Everest a lot more after this, as well as Himalayan culture. There are many things that can only be learned though personal account or experience, and this is defiantly one of those. After reading this book, I am considering reading some of Krakauer’s other works, just because I feel he tells a tale well. These include Into the Wild, as well as several articles in Outside magazine. Overall, I would give this book a nine out of ten.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good book, I enjoyed it even though I am a teenage girl who never has and never will go climbing up a mountain. Let alone Mt. Everest. I'm glad I picked up this book, at first I didn't really know what it was about (hints the title. That was pretty much my thought process as I looked at the book) It was good! I really like how everything was described. The details about the dangers of climbing the worlds tallest mountain. I didn't like that, the whole time I was reading it, I felt like the narrator was talking/thinking in an angry tone. That's how I imagined them to sound like. This book was pretty much about the author -Jon Krakauer- climbing up Mt. Everest during the worst season Mt. Everest has ever had. I would suggest this book to anyone who really loves to climb mountains, likes the cold or a mixture of the two. Or, if you have a friend that wants to climb Mt. Everest and you want to talk them out of it. Just have them read this book... Might make them change their mind. I know it would change mine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Krakauer has made a career of writing dramatic, well researched non-fiction. In this book, he takes the research to an extreme by becoming part of the story himself. The characters and situations are described with a wealth of detail, and a great deal of drama. Krakauer keeps the narrative moving from start to finish, while the reader wonders throughout why anyone would subject themselves willingly to such torture, and pay handsomely for the priveledge. Overall, an absorbing account of climbing Mt. Everest and the overwhelming challenges such an endeavor presents. It is interesting to note that Krakauer's subsequent books have been third person accounts, rather than the life-threatening effort of "Into Thin Air".
Evan_Block3Hoefer More than 1 year ago
Jack Krakauer's Into Thin Air is the detailed and harrowing account of a fatal rogue storm that killed 9 members of four different expeditions trying to reach the summit of Mount Everest in May of 1996. Krakauer, being a member of one of the expeditions, recounts a eerily detailed version of the story, bringing you 29,000 feet above sea level with him on the deadly journey. It is a very well written book, bringing together interviews from surviving members, as well as first hand experience and Krakauer's to the point writing style to make one very enjoyable and touching work. I enjoyed the story in it's entirety but would not recommend it to the faint of heart, it is a rather disturbing true story, and can be, at times, difficult to read. Although, if you feel like you are up to the challenge, and enjoy stories of extreme hardship and perseverance, this is the book for you. Overall I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Last summer I had the opportunity to read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. When I first picked up this book, i did not think it would interest me since it is non-fiction and i tend to lean more towards mystery and fiction. A few chapters in though, i was captivated by Krakauer's story. The story of this motley crew of adults venturing into the Himalayas and all the horrors and woes it holds... it's amazing. Afterwards, I felt myself craving to attempt the fatal summit. John Krakauer has a way with his words; he seems to conjure up images so vivid I felt as if i were there. The most horrible yet fascinating fact of the novel was it all indeed occurred and this narrator exists. These people were/are alive and did experience what was described as a thrilling and treacherous expedition. Every page left me lingering for more. Honestly I can say this is in my top 10 favorite novels of all time & i highly recommend it.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Fantastic telling of a horrible situation.
Anonymous 5 months ago
My DeviantArt username is Fritrzmoon. I really don't get on that much, but I have a few things on there.
Anonymous 6 months ago
The story is compelling but I can't believe this book had no pictures
Anonymous 10 months ago
Stories about man vs. nature are always intriguing to me. This one didn't let me down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Compelling and sad story of this Everest expedition. That so many died was such a waste. That so much incompetence led to the deaths is overwhelming. This expedition was a tragedy of missteps by the leaders and the clients alike. Just sad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My family and I rented the book on tape and listened to it as we drove to Denali. Wow, talk about a moving experience. I agree with so many others that Chris was an amazing young man. Yes, he had faults, we all do. Yes, doing some of the things he did were risky borderline crazy. But he lived life. How many of us can say the same thing. I've experienced 2 life changing experiences, no not graduating college, or getting married or the birth of my three kids...#1 Hiking the Inca trail, where I once again found myself after 40+ years and #2 Reading/listening to Into the Wild. The author did an incredible job.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school sophomore and I chose to do my research project on Mount Everest. When I went to choose the book I had four other options and my teacher recommended this book to me. At first I thought it was going to be to long of a book but then I started to read it and I didn't want to stop. That’s when I decided I was going to pick this book. The book Into Thin Air written by Jon Krakauer was a very interesting book. He describes his story with great detail, even a little too much detail at times, but it gave me incite to how hard it is to climb Mount Everest and all the work that is needed to climb it. People spend so much money for the equipment to be able to climb this mountain and personally I think it would be worth it. At points the book is boring and confusing, but in the end it is actually a really great book. The book isn't only boring though, it has its moments where it can be really funny. I would just like to give a warning to the reader that there is some curse words, but to me that is what made it comical. I would definitely recommend this book to future readers. It shows risks, hardship, and is a great adventure book. This book is a great story and can touch anyone’s lives whether you are a climber or a person interested in the Mountain. It can bring excitement into your life and once you start reading you don’t want to stop. Get the book! Read the book! Enjoy the book! You won’t regret it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We all do things that others question, the young adolescence adventures of our immaturity to explore the unknown and to not reap the consequences beforehand.  Some learn to move on and others live to learn from it.  This is one of my favorite books and Jon Krakeur is the greatest adventure author of his time!
TaylorMazza More than 1 year ago
Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth standing at 29,028 feet above sea level, which makes climbing to the top one of the hardest and most dangerous tasks out there. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is a true story about his thrilling and gruesome experience of climbing to the peak of Everest as a journalist for Outsider Magazine. On his journey in May 1996 Krakauer reaches the top despite the massive storm the encapsulated the mountain. The storm killed 8 people and John Hall, a very experienced climber who had led many expeditions to the top of Everest. Krakauer kept me wanting to read more throughout the book and wrote the book in such a way that he didn’t only provide his own perspective. He talked about the people in his expedition group on what they looked like, how he felt they would do on the mountain, and what their motives were for climbing to the top. Krakauer also uses very descriptive language to help the reader feel the cold, the wind, the storm, and the dangers of the mountain. Furthermore, he makes his own feelings and trials be felt as he describes watching people die on the mountain and how he couldn’t help them. Krakauer does a very nice job making the reader feel as if they are experiencing the mountain with him, but at points in the story Krakauer goes off on tangents explaining useless facts or trying to explain something in too much depth that left me as a reader having to read through 3 pages or more about things unrelated to the story. I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to read a book that would keep them on the edge of their seat and wants to learn more about mountain climbing and the true dangers of Everest. For me, I have no interest in ever climbing a mountain like Everest or have any prior knowledge about Everest or mountain climbing, but Jon does an amazing job at explaining and incorporating reader from any background to make it interesting. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago