I thought my friend Elaine had recommended this to me, but in fact she recommened Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild - I ended up getting Into Thin Air. It's not the sort of book I would normally pick up, but I did need an adventure book for the Genre Challenge and I thought it might be interesting. I now feel like I learned a bit more about the world, a feeling I love.
Into Thin Air is Krakauer's account of the disaster that struck his and several other expeditions while they were climbing Mount Everest in 1996. Krakauer is a journalist and was doing a piece for a magazine - although he'd always been into mountain climbing so couldn't refuse the chance to climb Everest anyway. He joined one of the commercial expeditions and off he went. Thankfully, he also came back to tell the tale, although it's a story of eight climbers dying and many others only barely surviving...
First of all, I didn't know that there were commercial expeditions! I didn't know that people, sometimes people with very little climbing experience, would pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to companies that would take them up Everest with guides. It's a business and like all business, sometimes loses that feeling for the individual...which unfortunately makes disasters more likely to happen.
I also didn't know how physically taxing and outright dangerous climbing is. That's not correct - I guess I knew, I just never really thought about it. Those who climb mountains have to survive in terrible conditions and with little oxygen, meaning that they are mostly incapable of coherent thinking while up on a mountain...
And I didn't know that there is a whole people - the Sherpas - part of whose livelihood is dependent on climbing. They live in the mountains anyway and act as guides and carriers for the commercial expeditions. Often this is the job the pays most of anything that is available to them.
All in all, fascinating stuff. I'm very glad that I decided to read something so way out of my comfort zone, I am richer for it.
Krakauer insists that the story, told as truthfully as could be, needed to be told. I agree and I applaud his courage and his honesty. Parts of the story are not pretty - including bits about the author's own behavior and choices and the remorse he now feels. I'm sure this wasn't an easy story for him to tell and I thank him for deciding to put it out there.
Challenges: Genre Challenge, Dewey Decimal Challenge