Cover image for Book Club kit : Into thin air : a personal account of the Mount Everest disaster
Title:
Book Club kit : Into thin air : a personal account of the Mount Everest disaster
Edition:
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Villard, c1997.
ISBN:
9780679457527
Physical Description:
5 bks. (xx, 293 p.) : ill. ; 25 cm. + 1 discussion guide
Language:
English
General Note:
Map on lining papers.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader Grades 9-12 8.9 17 Quiz 19789 English non-fiction.
Personal Subject:
Holds:

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Book Club Kit BOOK CLUB 1 .CIRCNOTE. *****5 BOOKS, 1 DISCUSSION GUIDE*****
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Summary

Summary

When Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996, he hadn't slept in fifty-seven hours and was reeling from the brain-altering effects of oxygen depletion. As he turned to begin his long, dangerous descent from 29,028 feet, twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly toward the top.nbsp;nbsp;No one had noticed that the sky had begun to fill with clouds. Six hours later and 3,000 feet lower, in 70-knot winds and blinding snow, Krakauer collapsed in his tent, freezing, hallucinating from exhaustion and hypoxia, but safe. The following morning, he learned that six of his fellow climbers hadn't made it back to their camp and were desperately struggling for their lives. When the storm finally passed, five of them would be dead, and the sixth so horribly frostbitten that his right hand would have to be amputated.

Into Thin Air is the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Everest by the acclaimed journalist and author of the bestseller Into the Wild . On assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of the mountain, Krakauer, an accomplished climber, went to the Himalayas as a client of Rob Hall, the most respected high-altitude guide in the world.nbsp;nbsp;A rangy, thirty-five-year-old New Zealander, Hall had summited Everest four times between 1990 and 1995 and had led thirty-nine climbers to the top. Ascending the mountain in close proximity to Hall's team was a guided expedition led by Scott Fischer, a forty-year-old American with legendary strength and drive who had climbed the peak without supplemental oxygen in 1994. But neither Hall nor Fischer survived the rogue storm that struck in May 1996.

Krakauer examines what it is about Everest that has compelled so many people -- including himself -- to throw caution to the wind, ignore the concerns of loved ones, and willingly subject themselves to such risk, hardship, and expense. Written with emotional clarity and supported by his unimpeachable reporting, Krakauer's eyewitness account of what happened on the roof of the world is a singular achievement.

Into the Wild is available on audio, read by actor Campbell Scott.


Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

What set out to be a magazine article on top-of-the-line tours that promise safe ascents of Mt. Everest to amateur climbers has become a gripping story of a 1996 expedition gone awry and of the ensuing disaster that killed two top guides, a sherpa and several clients. "Climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain," writes Krakauer (Into the Wild). "And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium and suffering... most of us were probably seeking, above all else, something like a state of grace." High-altitude climbers are an eccentric breed‘Olympian idealists, dreamers, consummate sportsmen, egomaniacs and thrill-seekers. Excerpts from the writings of several of the best-known of them, including Sir Edmund Hillary, kick off Krakauer's intense reports on each leg of the ill-fated expedition. His own descriptions of the splendid landscape are exhilarating. Survival on Mt. Everest in the "Dead Zone" above 25,000 feet demands incredible self-reliance, responsible guides, supplemental oxygen and ideal weather conditions. The margin of error is nil and marketplace priorities can lead to disaster; and so Krakauer criticizes the commercialization of mountaineering. But while his reports of guides' bad judgments are disturbing, they evoke in him and in the reader more compassion than wrath, for, in the Dead Zone, experts lose their wits nearly as easily as novices. The intensity of the tragedy is haunting, and Krakauer's graphic writing drives it home: one survivor's face "was hideously swollen; splotches of deep, ink-black frostbite covered his nose and cheeks." On the sacred mountain Sagarmatha, the Nepalese name for Everest, the frozen corpses of fallen climbers spot the windswept routes; they will never be buried, but in this superb adventure tale they have found a fitting monument. Author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

A handful of people have stood atop Everest, and Krakauer is one of them. Sent to Nepal in May 1996 after his success with Into the Wild (1995), he was to report on the commercialization of ascents of the mountain but was instead compelled to tell an icy story of survival and death. As an inquiry into the outer limits of human strength and into the inner turmoil of survivor's guilt, Krakauer's narrative leaves a reader virtually breathless, sweating as he sweats, gasping as he gasps, crying as he cries over dying friends. The disaster made worldwide headlines last year, and its immediate cause was natural--a freak blizzard caught dozens of people near the summit. But the enabling condition was the mere presence at Everest of amateurs, some with minimal mountaineering skill. Guides, Sherpas, and $65,000 was all one needed to make the attempt. At the summit, the pressures of the guide-client relationship were immense, even overwhelming the imperative to flee the storm that overwhelmed the victims. Krakauer's eyewitness to the unfolding tragedy makes a transfixing drama of hubris, responsibility, and sacrificial heroism, which will mark the memory of all who read it. --Gilbert Taylor


Choice Review

The 1996 climbing season on Mt. Everest was a tragic one: 12 people died in May alone. Nine of them, many of whom were clients and guides in two commercial expeditions, died in a single, two-day storm. Author Krakauer, an experienced climber and accomplished writer, was a member of one of the commercial expeditions working as a reporter for Outside magazine. The deaths and Krakauer's subsequent magazine article caused a public debate on the role of guided expeditions to the world's highest mountain. This book is Krakauer's complete account of the events surrounding these deaths. His sensitive and clear narrative gives an excellent portrayal of the motivations, psychology, physical difficulties, and sociology associated with expeditions such as these. The major weakness of this volume is the illustrations, few but adequate. Well recommended for a general readership, as are Krakauer's other books (Eiger Dreams, 1990; Into the Wild, 1996). A. Spero; formerly, Northern Michigan University


School Library Journal Review

Heroism and sacrifice triumph over foolishness, fatal error, and human frailty in this bone-chilling narrative in which the author recounts his experiences on last year's ill-fated, deadly climb. Thrilling armchair reading. (Nov.) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

And onto thin ice--Krakauer's (Into the Wild, 1995) hypnotic, rattling, firsthand account of a commercial expedition up Mt. Everest that went way wrong. In the spring of 1996, Krakauer took an assignment from Outside magazine to report on the burgeoning industry of commercially guided, high-altitude climbing. Many experienced alpinists were dismayed that the fabled 8,000-meter summits were simply ``being sold to rich parvenues'' with neither climbing grace nor talent, but possessed of colossal egos. From childhood, Krakauer had wanted to climb Everest; he was an expert on rock and ice, although he had never sojourned at Himalayan altitudes. While it has become popular to consider climbing Everest a lark and the South Col approach little more than a yak route, Krakauer found the altitude a malicious force that turned his blood to sludge and his extremities to wood, that ate his brain cells. Much of the time he lived in a hypoxic stupor, despite the standard acclimatization he underwent. As he tells of his own struggles, he plaits his tale with stories of his climbing comrades, describes the often outrageous characters on other expeditions, and details the history of Everest exploration. The writing builds eerily, portentously to the summit day, fingering little glitches that were piling up, ``a slow accrual, compounding imperceptibly, steadily toward critical mass,'' when a rogue storm overtook the climbers; typical by Everest standards, it was ferocious in the extreme. Time collapses as, minute-by-minute, Krakauer rivetingly and movingly chronicles what ensued, much of which is near agony to read. Unjustly, Krakauer holds himself culpable for aspects of the disaster, but this book will serve an important purpose if it gives even one person pause before tackling Everest. A brilliantly told story, and one that won't go begging when the year's literary honors are doled out. (Author tour)


Library Journal Review

This unabridged recording, read by the author, is a "must have." Other reviewers have raved about the unbelievable but true account of Krakauer and his journey to the summit of the highest peak in the world, Mt. Everest (e.g., Audio Reviews, LJ 9/15/97 and LJ 12/97). Krakauer, an experienced climber, was expected to chronicle the thrill of a lifetimeÄparticipation in a guided expedition (underwritten by Outside magazine) to an astounding 29,028' above sea-level. He shares the history, the personalities, the emotion, and the grueling physical acclimatization of the most deadly season ever (May 1996) to reveal the horror that ensues after a blizzard strikes the precipice, ultimately killing nine people from four different expeditions (all climbing to the top on the same day). If your library has not purchased either of the other recordings, this rendition will appeal to the sports enthusiast as well as the dedicated audiophile.ÄKristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 after the 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. Excerpted from Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.