After finishing Into Thin Air, I was most struck by what Krakauer says at the beginning of chapter 10. He talks about how people who aren't climbers think that climbing is reckless and those who pursue summits are seeking adrenaline highs, when in reality it is all about enduring pain.
"The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any other mountain I'd been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of use were probably seeking, above all else, something like a state of grace." (pg 140)
It is astounding to me that people willingly subject themselves to this kind of pain. Later on, in chapter 11, Krakauer describes the assent of Everest by Reinhold Messner without the use of oxygen. He is quoted as saying "I was in continual agony; I have never in my whole life been so tired." (ph 159-160).
I'm not saying that I don't understand willingly going through pain. By for me, pain that I put myself through comes with the purpose of making me stronger. I run and workout as hard as I can with the specific intention of getting stronger. What I really have a hard time wrapping my head around is that pain on this level is slowly killing you. People come off of mountains like Everest having lost 30 pounds and all of their muscle mass. This type of pain has nothing to do with becoming stronger, except perhaps mentally.
I guess this is part of the point. Becoming stronger mentally, or as Krakauer says, reaching "a state of grace." But to me, being somewhere where your body is slowly dying is not worth this state of grace. I don't think I will ever understand why people put themselves in a place where their life span is decreasing by the hour. Is making it to the top of a mountain worth feeling "lifeless" and without feelings, as Messner describes? (pg 160). I guess everyone has to answer that for themselves.