It took me a little while to realize it, but this is it – we’ve reached Everest, the highest of the high peaks, the Holy Grail of the mountaineer. And with the added mythos surrounding this peak comes the added danger. Into Thin Air brought a lesson from “The Devil’s Thumb” back for me, the lesson of expectations. Just by reading the back cover I knew there would be no avoiding the fact that this is a tragedy, but there was still a little thrill of excitement because we were reading about Everest, and who hasn’t seen some documentary or heard some adventurer utter that name reverentially? Surely, I thought, disaster or no disaster, if anything evokes the sublime, it must be Mt. Everest.
And then I started reading. How can you access the sublime and exceed the known limits of your mind when you look out at the vastness of the Himalaya and can’t “summon the energy to care” (7)? The team has already been pushed to their physical and mental limits, I came to realize, to the point where the sublime could no longer be applied. Unless the sublime can be cast in a hallucination caused by oxygen-deficiency, the climbers of Into Thin Air were probably out of luck.
Disenchanted from the start, I read on. It’s time to reevaluate my assumptions of Everest.