Monday, February 17, 2014

The Expedition and the Recollection

     John Krakauer provides his reader with a new perspective on the mountaineering world. He makes a distinction between the “true” mountaineers and the inexperienced ones. He believes that ascents of high picks such as Mt. Everest require a strong training. Krakauer, although an experienced climber, doesn’t believe that he was ready to climb at such high altitude when he himself joined an expedition that would lead him to the highest summit of the world. He strongly criticizes the inexperienced climbers who, with insufficient training, attempt to reach a 29’000 feet summit. Into Thin Air is not solely a narrative on Krakauer’s expedition but it also is a recollection of the previous expeditions that lead both experienced and inexperienced mountaineers to Everest.

     Krakauer’s narrative makes us reflect on the worthiness of high-risk climbs. He is extremely critical of the mountaineers who undertake the ascent of Everest. Into Thin Air continuously puts in question the motivations that climbers have when attempting to reach such height. Meanwhile critical of the mountaineers who have previously attempted to ascend Everest, Krakauer followed in their footsteps.The pessimistic tone that the narrator uses throughout the text leads me to wonder what were his motivations in doing such a perilous ascent.
     It is difficult to fully grasp the motives that lead Krakauer to attempt a deadly climb of Mt. Everest as Krakauer wrote his story after the facts. Into Thin Air seems to be more of an apologetic confession of a man who is trying to heal from a traumatic event than an objective recollection of a climb that resulted in the death of nine people. I find myself trapped between my desire to hear his first hand account and Krakauer’s post-factum comments. 


  1. I agree and think that Krakauer is pretty hypocritical. He said that when he officially got the offer to climb in 2006, he said 'yes' without skipping a beat. He clearly succumbs to the romanticism of summiting Everest, even though he doesn't think he's in good enough shape and even though it will potentially cause him marital issues and even though he knows its an enormous risk and even though....

    He's a great writer and I love the historical background and in-depth character descriptions but I think some of the hypocrisy is hard to overlook.

  2. I agree with both of these posts. I think there is definitely an element of hypocrisy in Krakauer's work. He criticizes many of the other climbers that lack experience, however he essentially is in the same position as they are and freely admits that he's unqualified to take on this expedition. On top of that, although many of the other climbers are climbing to challenge themselves or because its a lifelong goal, Krakauer is climbing it as a part of his job. Even though it is a dream of his, he is motivated to do it because his editor at the magazine asked him to. Perhaps he is even less "qualified" to be there because he is using the mountain for monetary gain, which only adds to the commercialization of the mountain and what we discussed in class on Tuesday.

    Its also interesting to consider how much of this book is fact and how much of it is his thinking about it afterwards. The overused phrase "hindsight is 20/20" is really pertinent here, because Krakauer often makes judgments about what happens, like describes something as "it was a bad decision." At the moment I'm sure it wasn't a bad decision (otherwise the guide wouldn't have chosen to do it) so Krakauer's opinions sometimes may make situations seem worse. Like Agathe described, this book often seems like he is trying to come to terms with what happened and not sticking to objective fact.

    Even after saying this, though, I agree with Caroline's point about him being a great writer. I think this book was one of my favorites out of what we've read so far. His character development and novelistic approach made this book incredibly compelling and enjoying to read.

  3. Alana's point regarding bad decisions is something I have battle with throughout this narrative. Krakauer does not try to hide the fact that this book conveys his personal reflections. While he interviewed many of the survivors and tried to get the facts as accurate as possible, I think it is significant to note that the cover calls this "A Personal Account..." not an objective account or just an account. Where it becomes unclear is where and when his personal opinions are originating. When Krakauer refers to things as bad decisions or questions an individual's judgment is this entirely him reflecting on the tragedy or were these his thoughts at the time. He obviously took extensive notes since he was preparing to write the Outside Magazine article. Do opinions like these appear in his notes from the climb?