Jon Krakauer Biography


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Jon Krakauer is a indefatigable outdoorsman with an insatiable love of nature and a prolific writer who balances journalistic instinct for a good story with humane sensitivity for his subjects. His writing career has circled a lifelong passion for adventure, the wilderness, and mountain climbing — his most abiding interest.

Krakauer was born in Massachusetts in 1954, moved to Oregon with his family shortly thereafter, and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Krakauer has recorded in his books Into the Wild and Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster how his lifelong passion for climbing was born in the mountains of the Northwest. He was influenced early in his life by the first successful ascent of Mt. Everest's forbidding West Ridge by the American team of Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld, on May 22, 1963. While other boys his age idolized the American Astronauts who took humanity's first steps on the moon, young Jon was inspired by Willi Unsoeld, his personal hero and fellow Oregonian. Unsoeld, a Krakauer family friend, was frequently around when Jon was growing up, and the boy occasionally played with the oldest Unsoeld children. His first real climb, up the side of a local volcano in the nearby Cascade Range, was accomplished in the company of his father and Unsoeld when Jon was eight.

After that initial ascent, Jon's love of climbing and the wildness of the remoter reaches of nature shaped his life and subsequent career. He devoted his early adulthood to climbing mountains, always taking particular pride in his accomplishments as a "technical climber," preferring difficult ascents that very few but the elite among mountain climbers would attempt. Eschewing most of the trappings of success and stability that the vast majority of people aspire to in their lives—such as steady employment— Krakauer lived precariously, trying out jobs in various trades like carpentry and commercial fishing, in order to subsist and finance his climbing. In one interview, Krakauer tried to sum up his feelings by claiming that climbing "matters." He argued, "it's very physical, you use your mind and your body. It's like full-body chess, and it gets you to beautiful, beautiful places."


(The entire section is 916 words.)