Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer


A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. A storm which claimed five lives and left countless more – including Krakauer's – in guilt-ridden disarray.


"With enough determination, any bloody idiot can get up this hill," Hall observed. "The trick is to get back down alive."

At some point during this book Krakauer states that people who climb Everest usually are very aware of the risk they take but they want to do it anyway because that's, basically, how climbers work: always searching for a new thrill. As a climber myself I can only affirm the truth of this observation because never before have I wanted to climb Everest so badly as I do now, that is after I've read this book about all the unexpected ways how the ascent/descent can go horribly wrong.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't actually want to go climb Everest but that's purely for environmental reasons and has nothing to do with me being the bigger person than my longing for new thrills, it doesn't even have anything to do with me considering the risks and deciding against taking them. That being said, this book makes an impressive argument against climbing "this hill" and I'm fairly certain most everyone who does not enjoy the thrill of climbing (and similar activities - I don't think I'll have to mention that I can't wait for the next time I go sky diving?) would ever consider doing it after having read Into Thin Air.

Because, yes, there are a lot of risks connected with the ascent as well as the descent of Everest. Like, a loooottt. You can't even think about all of them at once. It's not even "that hard of a route" technically, as far as I'm informed, but it's so high up and it's so cold and the air is so thin and you can't, conveniently, be rescued from the top of the mountain and no matter how experienced you are there is no guarantee you can make it up and down alive. And Krakauer has quite a brillant way of slowly, but continuously, informing you of all the dangers you haven't even thought about yet. 

Generally, Krakauer's style is very enjoyable to read. It isn't the "flowery" kind of style usually exclusive to fiction but he writes with empathy and an easy going proficiency which is just nice to read. Moreover, he has a way of leading the reader to new topics and from scene to scene which makes the book flow very nicely along. (Basically, I want to write essays like he writes books.) That being said, I usually couldn't muster enough concentration to read more than a couple of hours before I had to take a break. Though, I think that has to do with the nature of "nonfiction" and not with Into Thin Air itself because every time I read nonfiction I feel compelled to take breaks just to let all of the information sink in properly/digest the (rather horrible) truth of a narrative.

Moreover, the whole topic is just really, really interesting. Not just for "people like me" but generally for everyone, I think/hope. Who doesn't want to know about what actually happens when people try to conquer Everest?

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.


In conclusion, I really enjoyed reading this, even if it took me a while to complete (she says, still trying to muster the energy to complete World War Z which she started months ago). 4/5 stars. I really recommend it.


Name: Into Thin Air
Deutscher Titel: In eisigen Höhen
Author: Jon Krakauer
Publisher: Anchor Books
Pages: 368
Where?: Amazon (English edition), Amazon (deutsche Ausgabe)


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