Reader's Comments
Into Thin Air Discussion by John Krakauer Questions

Into Thin Air

by Jon Krakauer

PBR Book Review:

I know this is an older book, but I desperately want to see the movie, and I always try to read the book first. I think what drew me to the book in the first place is I can't imagine why anyone would put themselves through the physical challenge and pain of climbing Mount Everest. I'm genuinely fascinated and maybe a bit envious of the discipline and stamina it takes to accomplish this endeavor. INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer is the actual story of a climbing exhibition to the top of Mount Everest gone terribly wrong. Several members of that expedition lost their lives, and the survivors lives were forever altered. I've heard the stories of Mount Everest in school and the news but was quite surprised to learn how commercial and costly climbing the mountain is, not to mention the training that's required. I found myself googling terms like sea level, highest peaks, oxygen at the top of a Mount Everest, etc.. I wanted to learn more about the mechanics of climbing Mount Everest and the people who would attempt the climb. As the author recounts the journey, his voice is sincere and somewhat tortured. He tells of the agony of the climb and the guilt he carries since returning from the trip. It's an incredibly exciting read. Read this book, it's a piece of history

Book Club Talking Points:

With any disaster, especially when tragedy strikes, comes a difference of opinion. This story is only one man's account of the trek to the summit of Mount Everest. It's an emotionally charged story which opens up many opportunities for discussion as the author tells of the decisions made along the way to the top. Also, from an environmental standpoint, how the explorers treat the mountain and the people who live there is discussion worthy.

*Author Website:

*Other Books by Same Author: Eiger Dreams, In the Land of White Death, Notes from The Century Before, Under the Banner of Heaven, Where Men Win Glory, Three Cups of Deceit, Finding Everett Ruess, Missoula.

*Discussion Questions

1. Much like Krakauer's other book, Into the Wild, many readers lacked sympathy for the climbers and were angered by their lack of skill and the carelessness of the guides who attempted to get them to the top, letting a hefty fee get in the way of sound judgment. What is your opinion?

2. Discuss Rob Hall's decision not to turn around by 2:00 as he had stipulated but to help Doug Hansen reach the summit. It was a difficult decision because it was Hansen's second attempt, and the men had both an emotional and a monetary stake in Doug's success. If you were in that situation (yeah, right...), would you have been tempted to push to the top, to reach a goal that you'd trained for and wished for...and paid for?

3. Talk about the decision to leave Beck Weathers and Yasuko Namba to die, knowing both were still alive. There was only one choice, however difficult: let nature take its inevitable course..., and save the group's resources for those who could actually be helped. It was a classic act of triage.

4. Which individual did you find yourself most sympathasizing with ... which did you most admire ... which least admire?

5. Who pays for the expensive search and rescue efforts? Is it right to endanger other lives (helicopter pilots) to transport injured climbers down to hospitals?

6. What did you make of the survivors' attitudes, especially Beck Weather's, when Krakauer later contacted them?

* Discussion questions provided by :

Book Summary
Anchor; Reprint edition (October 19, 1999) - non-fiction - 332 pages
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. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.

By writing Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons and lay to rest some of the painful questions that still surround the event. He takes great pains to provide a balanced picture of the people and events he witnessed and gives due credit to the tireless and dedicated Sherpas. He also avoids blasting easy targets such as Sandy Pittman, the wealthy socialite who brought an espresso maker along on the expedition. Krakauer's highly personal inquiry into the catastrophe provides a great deal of insight into what went wrong. But for Krakauer himself, further interviews and investigations only lead him to the conclusion that his perceived failures were directly responsible for a fellow climber's death. Clearly, Krakauer remains haunted by the disaster, and although he relates a number of incidents in which he acted selflessly and even heroically, he seems unable to view those instances objectively. In the end, despite his evenhanded and even generous assessment of others' actions, he reserves a full measure of vitriol for himself.

This updated trade paperback edition of Into Thin Air includes an extensive new postscript that sheds fascinating light on the acrimonious debate that flared between Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev in the wake of the tragedy. "I have no doubt that Boukreev's intentions were good on summit day," writes Krakauer in the postscript, dated August 1999. "What disturbs me, though, was Boukreev's refusal to acknowledge the possibility that he made even a single poor decision. Never did he indicate that perhaps it wasn't the best choice to climb without gas or go down ahead of his clients." As usual, Krakauer supports his points with dogged research and a good dose of humility. But rather than continue the heated discourse that has raged since Into Thin Air's denouncement of guide Boukreev, Krakauer's tone is conciliatory; he points most of his criticism at G. Weston De Walt, who coauthored The Climb, Boukreev's version of events. And in a touching conclusion, Krakauer recounts his last conversation with the late Boukreev, in which the two weathered climbers agreed to disagree about certain points. Krakauer had great hopes to patch things up with Boukreev, but the Russian later died in an avalanche on another Himalayan peak, Annapurna I.

In 1999, Krakauer received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters--a prestigious prize intended "to honor writers of exceptional accomplishment." According to the Academy's citation, "Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer. His account of an ascent of Mount Everest has led to a general reevaluation of climbing and of the commercialization of what was once a romantic, solitary sport; while his account of the life and death of Christopher McCandless, who died of starvation after challenging the Alaskan wilderness, delves even more deeply and disturbingly into the fascination of nature and the devastating effects of its lure on a young and curious mind."

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