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.