The author of the bestselling INTO THE WILD (1996) and an acclaimed journalist, Jon Krakauer was assigned by OUTSIDE magazine to write an article concerning how commercialized the climbing of Mount Everest had become. Some climbers have paid as much as $65,000 to join a guided group that would lead them to the summit. Krakauer makes the point that high-altitude climbing is dangerous even for the most veteran of climbers let alone for any novice group member. The author bluntly states that some of the novices were not qualified to climb Mount Everest. Because of this situation, Krakauer witnessed experienced guides taking on more responsibility than usually would be necessary. Krakauer’s group was led by the veteran New Zealand climber Rob Hall. Climbing at high altitude is a painful experience. Individuals can be hit with agonizing headaches, loss of strength, and loss of brain cells. Losing brain cells will make it impossible for a climber to think clearly.
Krakauer describes what it means to reach the summit. Unfortunately, a terrible blizzard struck Mount Everest within minutes of his reaching the top. For all of the climbers on the mountain, the blizzard turned what hopefully was to be a successful climb for all concerned into a nightmare. Because of poor planning, several of the climbers found themselves in a desperate situation that they had no way of protecting themselves against. Guides were forced to attempt rescues that were extremely dangerous. As described by Krakauer, the physical torment experienced by the climbers makes for both exhilarating and painful reading. In the end, several climbers lost their lives on Mount Everest, including two of the experienced guides. In addition to the personal story, Krakauer also makes the point to add historical facts about the climbing of Mount Everest. While he has attempted to be fair to all concerned, there have been participants who have taken issue with Krakauer’s pronouncements. INTO THIN AIR was intended merely to be an article for OUTSIDE magazine, but Krakauer felt it necessary to expand the 17,000-word article into a full-length book. It took great courage for him to complete this brilliant memoir. Rightfully, INTO THIN AIR became a bestseller.