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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster (1997)

by Jon Krakauer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
13,658308403 (4.19)374
A history of Mount Everest expedition is intertwined with the disastrous expedition the author was a part of, during which five members were killed by a hurricane-strength blizzard. 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. 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 in a desperate struggle 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. 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 eye-witness account of what happened on the roof of the world is a singular achievement.… (more)
  1. 71
    The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest by Anatoli Boukreev (marzipanz, oregonobsessionz, coclimber, bluepiano)
    marzipanz: It may seem like an obvious recommendation, but I would really urge everybody to read The Climb instead of or in addition to Into Thin Air. It really sheds a completely new light on some of what Krakauer writes, and - to me - seemed a far more convincing account of some of the events.… (more)
    oregonobsessionz: While The Climb is not an easy read like Into Thin Air, it does provide a different perspective on the disaster, and answers some of Krakauer's criticisms of Boukreev's actions.
    bluepiano: I may be the only reader of Krakauer's book who thought Boukreev came across as a hero in it. The Climb is a heartening reminder that experience, intelligence, and calm can be the makings of heroism, and it's quite interesting as well.
  2. 60
    The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men against the Sea by Sebastian Junger (kraaivrouw)
  3. 40
    Everest: The West Ridge by Thomas F. Hornbein (BookWallah)
    BookWallah: If you liked Into Thin Air, then you are ready for the mountaineering classic, Everest: The West Ridge. This sparse first person account of the other American team that came after Whitaker in 1963 and put up a route that has seldom been repeated.
  4. 40
    Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest by Beck Weathers (riverwillow)
  5. 40
    Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival by Joe Simpson (VivienneR)
  6. 30
    K2 : Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain by Ed Viesturs (Grandeplease)
  7. 20
    Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson (alaskabookworm)
    alaskabookworm: Couldn't put "Shadow Divers" down; one of my favorite nonfiction adventure books of all time.
  8. 20
    Blind Descent: the Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth by James M. Tabor (PamFamilyLibrary)
    PamFamilyLibrary: Who would guess, but going down into the Super Caves is as dangerous as going up K2 or Everest.
  9. 20
    The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann (g33kgrrl)
  10. 20
    Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains by Jon Krakauer (fichtennadel, Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: If you want some background on "what makes Krakauer tick", do check out his earlier stories.
  11. 20
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (sturlington)
  12. 10
    The Kid Who Climbed Everest: The Incredible Story of a 23-Year-Old's Summit of Mt. Everest by Bear Grylls (FireandIce)
  13. 10
    The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Sławomir Rawicz (sombrio)
  14. 10
    Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey by Göran Kropp (Navarone)
  15. 10
    The Other Side of Everest: Climbing the North Face Through the Killer Storm by Matt Dickinson (riverwillow)
  16. 10
    Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil (normandie_m)
    normandie_m: The events in this book re-opened discussion of the controversies surrounding the 1996 disaster. Heil examines similar themes, particularly the ethical dilemma of whether or not to offer assistance to/rescuing sick climbers when one's own health and supplies such as oxygen are depleted.… (more)
  17. 10
    Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar (sweetbug)
    sweetbug: Both stories of mountaineering adventures gone terribly, terribly wrong.
  18. 10
    Annapurna by Maurice Herzog (Sandydog1)
  19. 00
    Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches by Jill Fredston (alaskabookworm)
  20. 00
    K2: Triumph and Tragedy by Jim Curran (Polaris-)

(see all 26 recommendations)

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» See also 374 mentions

English (298)  Spanish (4)  Italian (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (307)
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
First sentence: 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.

Premise/plot: Jon Krakauer shares his [expanded] experiences on a fateful trip to Mount Everest in the spring of 1996. Not all on his expedition 'team' survived their attempt to the summit. The book is slightly confusing in that there were dozens (probably) of different expedition teams led by various people all attempting to climb Mount Everest. The teams weren't exactly taking turns or going in any specific order. So a handful of teams--with six plus people each--could be near one another on the mountain. His story isn't solely focused on his expedition team. It's about those attempting to make the summit on one specific day, May 10, 1996. It turned out to be a very dangerous day in part because of an unexpected storm/blizzard. His story was about--I believe--the risks of commercialization. Is Mount Everest something that should be attempted by just anyone who could pay...or does it require a certain amount of skills, fitness, and experience. Is money more important than safety? That is just the 'big picture' take-away that I got from his journalistic angle (at the beginning). There were and are many other concerns.

My thoughts: The movie was definitely more action-packed and engaging. I am less sure that it is faithful and true to the events. I think here an there that might be some sensationalizing. I think things might be condensed and arranged for the most drama impact. Perhaps. I watched the movie first. Found it very engaging and exciting. I put the book on hold within hours of watching the movie. The book moved at a much slower pace. For better or worse. It was haunting in its own way. I do think the movie might have had fewer characters it was following.
  blbooks | Sep 6, 2023 |
A captivating book, and my first e-book trying out my new iPad. ( )
  lemontwist | Sep 4, 2023 |
I had to stop reading this while eating because the stress was giving me stomach cramps. The author's writing is so vivid, so compelling, and the story is truly horrifying. In the Prologue the author explains that he wrote the book so soon after the disaster in part to help himself process everything that took place up there, and I could really feel that come through in his writing (this is not a criticism, it is a compliment). Grappling with the choices everyone made, how people's flaws or prejudices or bravery or tenacity played a role, would absolutely require some heavy-duty processing for a survivor, and it makes for fascinating reading. Highly, highly recommend. ( )
  blueskygreentrees | Jul 30, 2023 |
What a fast, thrilling, pulse-racing read. I think I must have seen the IMAX film year ago that was being done at the same time as this book's events, because a lot of this sounded familiar. So much tragedy, so much to go wrong. I think this book could have done with more perspectives from the survivors, but it is well told and devastating. I am not an adrenaline junky, and you will never find me risking serious discomfort for bragging rights. I have tent camped in freezing rain in Yellowstone enough as a child to be happy with a heated bedroom the rest of my days. But there is something about the drive, pushing beyond your limits, and achieving what the corpses along your path couldn't that is still breathtaking and inspiring. I am going to look for more adventure disaster books now. ( )
  KallieGrace | Jun 8, 2023 |
This was a good, honest (I believe) look at a disaster from someone with first hand experience. But honestly, what it really did was make me think. This is the second book I’ve read on climbing Everest, and on one hand I understand the allure of the challenge and being able to say you summited the tallest mountain on Earth, and all that goes with that, on the other hand, everything about it seems miserable. Between the frostbite and the hypoxia and all the medical ailments these people come down with, I don’t understand how you can even enjoy yourself when you get to the top, if one does. Obviously, I’ve never attempted anything close to Everest, but I am an Eagle Scout who’s summited mountains before, and every time I’ve gotten to the top I’ve relished the view, caught my breath, taken pictures and on and on. I’m not sure with their oxygen deprived brains that most people who summit Everest even get a chance to enjoy the view before they are pushing to get back down and recover. Again, I don’t know, I don’t understand the drive to do it because I don’t have it, and I’m not even sure the people who have it can explain it, but man, trying to reconcile the two sides really baffles me. ( )
  MrMet | Apr 28, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
An experienced climber himself, Mr. Krakauer gives us both a tactile appreciation of the dangerous allure of mountaineering and a compelling chronicle of the bad luck, bad judgment and doomed heroism that led to the deaths of his climbing companions.
 
it is impossible to finish this book unmoved and impossible to forget for a moment that its author would have given anything not to have to write it.
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Krakauer, Jonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Karl, AnitaMapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perria, LidiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rackliff, RandyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Men play at tragedy because they do not believe in the reality of the tragey which is actually being staged in the civilised world. —José Ortega y Gasset
Dedication
For Linda; and in memory of Andy Harris, Doug Hansen, Rob Hall, Yasuko Namba, Scott Fischer, Ngawang Topche Sherpa, Chen Yu-Nana, Bruce Herrod, and Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa
First words
Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet.
Quotations
Getting to the top of any given mountain was considered much less important than how one got there: prestige was earned by tackling the most unforgiving routes with minimal equipment, in the boldest style imaginable. John Krakauer
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish between print editions of Jon Krakauer's 1997 memoir, Into Thin Air, and the abridged audio version. Thank you.
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A history of Mount Everest expedition is intertwined with the disastrous expedition the author was a part of, during which five members were killed by a hurricane-strength blizzard. 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. 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 in a desperate struggle 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. 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 eye-witness account of what happened on the roof of the world is a singular achievement.

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