While Into the Wild is a true story and true stories about our lives can't properly be said to have climaxes as though we artfully organized our triumphs and tragedies, it is true that the most complete definition of "climax" is that it is that moment at which some choice makes the outcome inevitable. This definition can be applied to real-life choices because, as all who have lived long enough for regret know, life irrevocably changes on the turn of a word, on the commission of a single act, on one seemingly right but sadly wrong choice. In this sense, it may be possible to identify a moment of climax in Alex's (Chris McCandless's) story as told by Krakauer.
Three hours outside of Fairbanks, Gallien turned off the highway and steered his beat-up 4 x 4 down a snow-packed side road. For the first few miles the Stampede Trail was well graded and led past cabins scattered among weedy stands of spruce and aspen. ... Washed out and overgrown with alders, it turned into a rough, unmaintained track.
The most intense rising action occurs when Galien drives Alex up Stampeded Trail, three hours outside Fairbanks, Alaska, past resort cabins and ordered stands of trees onto the alder overgrown remnants of the trail past where no vehicle could go. This is where Alex got out to start his adventure, as he thought of it, taking with him Gallien's proffered rubber boots. After the point at which Alex decides to stay and not return to the highway to look for salvation and civilization, the point where he in his exhaustion and need lives off the land he is unfamiliar with while stranded in the bus in the wild, can be said to comprise the climax since it was from that decision that the end is inescapably determined. Up until then, changes in events might still have happened; he might still have been saved. But after deciding to remain stranded and after turning with inadequate knowledge to eating berries off the land, the end of his story is inevitable and he dies.
S.O.S. I NEED YOUR HELP. I AM INJURED, NEAR DEATH, AND TOO WEAK TO HIKE OUT OF HERE. ... IN THE NAME OF GOD, PLEASE REMAIN TO SAVE ME. I AM OUT COLLECTING BERRIES CLOSE BY AND SHALL RETURN THIS EVENING. ... CHRIS MCCANDLESS