Into Thin Air Questions and Answers
by Jon Krakauer

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In Into Thin Air, who was the first person to die that year on Everest?   

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From reading Jon Krakauer's account of the disastrous 1996 Mt. Everest expedition, it is tough to figure out which climber first died while attempting the summit on May 11.  However, the climbers from that group were not the first to die on Everest that season.  The first climber died two days earlier, on May 9.  His name was Chen Yu-Nan, and he was from Taiwan.  He died from injuries sustained during a fall.  

What's interesting to note about the 1996 expedition is that while it claimed a lot of lives, it claimed fewer than the statistical average.  Krakauer, in the final pages of Into Thin Air, gives his reader some historical insight into how dangerous climbing Mt. Everest has always been.  1996 was no different, but it was a far safer year than most previous years.  

Although a record number of people died in the spring climbing season on Everest, the 12 fatalities amounted to only 3 percent of the 398 climbers who ascended higher than Base Camp which is actually slightly below the historical fatality rate of 3.3 percent. Or here's another way to look at it: between 1921 and May 1996, 144 people died and the peak was climbed some 630 times-a ratio of one in four. Last spring, 12 climbers died and 84 reached the summit-a ratio of one in seven. Compared to these historical standards, 1996 was actually a safer-than-average year. 

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