Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I guess I haven’t been doing the lightest of reading over the past few days, but this book definitely has me thinking.
Into Thin Air is a personal account from a man who climbed Mount Everest as part of a commercial climb in 1996. The climb ended in tragedy, with the mountain claiming the lives of many of the members of the teams. The author, Jon Krakauer, attempts to tell his recollection of the events, keeping in mind that everyone lacks clarity when you are at that altitude and your mind and body are deprived of oxygen. He discovers along the way that he misjudged and misremembered events that happened on the mountain, and the story has a huge element of surprise when he learns where he made mistakes.
It seems wrong to say that I “enjoyed” this book, since it is about such a tragic subject. I guess the best thing that I can think to say is that this book was fascinating. Before I picked it up, I knew very little about climbing Everest. I had no idea that an attempt to reach the summit included going up and down portions of the mountain several times, and over a period of 4 weeks. I assumed that it was more like climbing a less-imposing mountain, where you are always camping higher until you reach the summit. I didn’t know that it was much more of a two-steps-forward/two-steps-back endeavor.
I also didn’t realize that helicopter evacuations are not possible anywhere near the top of the mountain, so your options for getting the injured down from the summit are very limited. I guess I had never considered all of the physical limitations that come with that kind of altitude. Supplemental oxygen is a necessity for survival over more than a day or so, and all oxygen must be carried up. That means that if something goes wrong, there isn’t an abundance of time for action.
I would highly recommend this book, even though the subject is so sad. There are still great stories of survival and human strength contained in it. It really underscores the fact that tragedy can happen to even the best climbers. Nature is just such a powerful force.
One of the perks of working at a big medical research center was the cool guest speakers and Dr. Beck Weathers was one. It is a remarkable story.
Another book you may like is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The book does deal with cancer but not much on a personal level. It is the story of the cell line used for medical research. It may not be the right time for you to read it but it’s something to keep in mind for later.
Wow, I’d love to hear Dr. Weathers speak!
I really liked The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I happened to be reading it the week that my mom was diagnosed. In the weeks following her diagnosis, as I finished the book, I kept joking that I was taking my mind off of cancer by reading a book about cancer. 😛 I felt thankful, frustrated, amazed and sad as I read it. One of the book groups in town is discussing it this month, and I thought about going just to hear what other people have to say about the book. I wonder how much of my impression of it comes from the fact that I had just been thrown into the world of cancer as I was reading it.
Right now I’m reading a book all about the evolution of the American buffalo. I am suddenly noticing bison-related things all around me. It is amazing how a book can bring out your awareness on a topic. Plus, thanks to this book, I’ll never forget that when bison ejaculate, their hind feet come off of the ground. 😛 I should write a blog entry about it. I’m sure I’ll get all sorts of bizarre hits from google, LOL.
The bison one sounds interesting and thanks for searing the bison ejaculation thing on my brain now. I just finished a book about the American grassroots basketball program. It’s not really a topic I was interested in before reading it but I did enjoy it. The name of the book is “Play Their Hearts Out”. The author followed a group of kids for six years and they are now in college. I will be following some college basketball this year to see how the kids fare.