Volume 92, Issue 19

Tuesday, October 6, 1998

no funny business


Everest journey exposed

Into Thin Air
Jon Krakauer
Anchor Books
$9.99/378 pgs.

When Jon Krakauer, American journalist and world class mountain climber, signed on to scale Mount Everest in February of 1996, he did so thinking it would be the ultimate achievement of his already impressive climbing career.

He had no idea that by the time he descended to base camp after reaching the summit of Everest, nine climbers would be dead, others would loose limbs and more deaths would follow.

The climb was for the magazine Outside. It was his job to write a detailed account of his voyage up the mountain and the types of difficulties he might face. Krakauer wastes no time expanding his Outside article into a gripping full length work.

Into Thin Air is a fascinating adventure story that leads one into the world of mountaineering with exact detail and accuracy. A story brimming with physical struggle, personal greed and moral enigmas fits expertly between its two covers.

The fury of confusion on Everest is perfectly clarified and told in its entirety. His work is presented with brutal honesty and he is never afraid to place blame where it is due any more than he is willing to describe the most grizzly of details. Pages are filled with the tales of climbers "showing off," limbs that have been frozen solid and people contracting coughs so violent they separate ribs.

There are tones of rocks, sub-zero temperatures, vertical ice sheets, told by one tiny person trying to get up and back down alive. It is a sport that brings out incredible courage or extreme cowardice. During that week, some climbers would lose their lives, while others would ignore the cries for help from fellow comrades because their own goal of reaching the summit seemed more important.

The novel hooks the reader very quickly and never slows its pace. Every chapter ends in a mini "cliff hanger," making Into Thin Air a gripping and worthwhile read. In explaining the drive which lures people into spending months alone on a freezing mountainside, Krakauer also uncovers the drive that enables people to walk over teammates calling for help. As it is stated in the final passages in the novel, "there is no morality at 20,000 feet."


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Copyright The Gazette 1998