Reaction to Into Thin Air

We found this book to be a truly gripping account of the 1996 Everest disaster. Jon Krakauer has a highly descriptive, engaging writing style that puts the reader with him on the slopes of Everest. He describes every labored breath with excruciating detail. A particularly memorable section was his vivid description of the village he stops at on the way to Base Camp, Lobuje. This is the town climbers must stop at on the way to Base Camp, where Sherpas burn yak dung to heat their dwellings and where people must evacuate their bowls right outside the tents. Krakauer provides several pages of description on Lobuje, with a truly disgusting effect.

To us, this book was more powerful than Into The Wild because Krakauer has much more credibility in this situation. He actually reached the summit of Everest and experienced the pain and suffering of the summit push, whereas he mostly relied on speculation about McCandless in Into the Wild. We think Krakauer struck a good balance between personal first-hand accounts of the climb, portions devoted to historical background information, and the testimony of others. It is not just a book about Krakauer; it is a book about the disastrous 1996 season at Everest and all the events that transpired during the period.

As a group that had very limited knowledge about Everest prior to reading this book, we found that it provided us with excellent background knowledge on the subject. Just like in Into The Wild, Krakauer devotes entire chapters to historical events and the backgrounds of certain key players in the expeditions. These chapters help pace the book out, and allow the reader to feel intimately familiar with the mountain. Krakauer also researched the backgrounds of most of the climbers in his group. The effect of this is to personalize the Everest expedition and to make the reader sympathetic towards the casualties.

Into Thin Air is as exciting as any adventure book we have ever read. Krakauer's harrowing accounts of the ascent made the book very difficult to put down. Later in the book, Krakauer even presents a "twist" - it turns out his recollections were initially incorrect, and Andy Harris had not, as Krakauer reported, stumbled off a cliff. In reality, he had never left the upper slopes of the mountain. Presenting the information in this sequence, instead of just reporting the facts, makes the reader engaged in the narrative.

Jonathan Bloom
Zander Miller
Aziz Kamoun
Chris Jarmas
Daniel Friedman