Monday, February 18, 2013

The Perfect Storm

Krakauer’s Into Thin Air present’s a rather unique take (and quite a different style read) on our traditional “adventure narrative”. A talented writer, Krakauer blends a riveting account of the events of his Everest expedition with relevant, informative anecdotes. Although we have yet to read the bulk of our texts for the course, Into Thin Air is definitely my favorite thus far. I was extremely impressed by the way Krakauer often utilized humor and sarcasm to lighten the mood of his otherwise serious narrative.

While I certainly feel immense sympathy for the climbers, both living and dead, on Krakauer’s expedition, I am fairly shocked by the number of seemingly neglectful mistakes made by clients and guides alike. Rob Hall’s blatant disregard of his 2:00 pm turnaround time, for example, left me confused and slightly angered. Had all climbers actually turned around at this predetermined time, a number of lives may have been saved. I understand how the complexities of Hall’s relationship with Doug Hansen—convincing him to make another stab at Everest after his first failed attempt—undoubtedly put a great deal of pressure on Hall to bring Hansen to the summit. In the end, this unrestrained ambition unfortunately cost both climbers their lives.

Krakauer’s analysis of the combination of factors that contributed to the expedition’s demise offers a number of interesting insights. The rivalry between Hall’s and Fisher’s expeditions, for instance, imposed additional pressure on each guide to bring the maximum number of clients to the summit. I find it extremely sad and unfortunate that this pressure came, in part, from a business perspective and each guide’s desire for more fame, clients, and in the end, money. Treating Everest as a business enterprise undoubtedly jeopardizes the lives of all climbers involved. Had Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness expeditions not been climbing at the same time, maybe Hall and Fisher would have obeyed their turnaround times in the face of less pressure. In the end, I contribute the disaster more to the uncontrollable forces of the mountain than to the guides’ and climbers’ ignorance. Both factors—climbers’ mistakes and uncooperative weather—combined to create the perfect, deadly, storm. 

1 comment:

  1. I tend to agree with you on the business perspective point. I roundly oppose making Everest a tourist attraction and a business enterprise. I understand a climber's need for money, but the fact of the matter is that many of the clients were unprepared physically and mentally for the mountain. Climbers aspiring to Everest ought to be truly qualified in terms of experience, and I think this involves a lifetime of climbing in a variety of situations. Paying someone to haul you to a summit just so you can say you've done it jeopardizes all lives involved unnecessarily. It's a classic lesson in "you can't buy everything." You want Everest? Work for it. Also the fact that China and Nepal are in charge of choosing who climbs the mountain despite the countries' less-than-competence to do so and their inclination to achieve a net gain is ridiculous.