Krakauer tells a very different story than either Blum or Herzog. His focus lies in spinning a tale, although a truthful one, with vivid imagery and relatable characters. In both accounts of Annapurna I felt like it was really just the most honest retelling of an event that the two climbers could come up with. Krakauer’s approach to writing the book gives me insight on the different motivations of each person he encountered on the mountain as well as the motivations of past Everest climbers.
In Annapurna Herzog was climbing the mountain for France. He hoped to conquer the mountain and lay claim to the summit for his country. In Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, Blum climbed in the name of women, an attempt to prove to people around the world that women deserved to get credit for their ability to make the same accomplishments as their male climber counterparts. In both of these accounts, however, it was ultimately about climbing. Both leaders recognized that they needed skills, experience, and a strong team in order to succeed in reaching the mountain’s summit.
I can’t help but feel like the underlying motivations of the climbers in Into Thin Air actually overshadow the fact that these people are attempting to climb Everest. The commercialization of the mountain has made it possible for just about anyone to sign up for an Everest expedition, if they can afford it. We’ve spoken a great deal about what summits mean and how people are constantly pushing themselves to reach various figurative summits throughout their lives. I think that the ways in which Everest has become accessible to average people who are by no means experienced climbers has turned it into a dangerous summit that people are using to feel as though they have accomplished some other goal without really understanding the risks and dangers that are associated with mountaineering.
The people that Krakauer describes seem to have forgotten the real dangers and difficulties involved with climbing a mountain like Everest and, because of the guides and the accessibility, are using the mountain as a means to feel like they have accomplished other goals. Most of chapter seven is spent describing how wildly unprepared and inexperienced the people on the mountain are. I think that a dangerous cycle now exists where the actual climbing of Everest is overshadowed by the underlying goals, which is made possible by the facilitators and guides looking to profit.
Is there a point where someone should put their foot down and stop putting people on such a formidable mountain without the proper experience? When does the risk become too great? Krakauer described the importance of a strong team that you can trust with your life when you are climbing, at what cost has that element been removed from Everest expeditions?