With the best bit about my last, ultimately disappointing read turning out to be the actual climbing of Mount Everest, I decided to stick with that theme but turn to real life for my next read. I’d enjoyed other books by Jon Krakauer and so decided that he’d make a good guide for me. Into Thin Air did not disappoint.
Sent by the magazine he was employed by at the time, the story Krakauer came home with was very different to the one he’d intended, after having survived the 1996 expedition that took the lives of eight people. Into Thin Air charts said expedition and the numerous small-seeming factors that led to disaster extremely well, making you feel like you’re there with him as he describes conditions at base camp, or the horror of crossing crevasses on rickety ladders, or the personalities of the other climbers.
I found it incredibly eye-opening too – I’d laboured under the impression that climbing Everest was a task that only the best climbers could attempt, only to find that increasing commercialisation (by the exact types of expedition that Krakauer was on) meant that anyone with enough money to be admitted to the club could try and quite likely succeed thanks to the fact that Sherpas now pretty much did all climbing for them (even down to carrying each climber’s equipment – or even the climber if necessary – up for them too).
I should have perhaps been less surprised to read about the trash that we’ve been leaving all over Everest since first setting foot on it – I can’t think of anywhere that’s been better when we left than when we found it – but a base camp that’s mostly covered in human faeces was really not something I’d been expecting.
Throughout the book Krakauer details what went wrong and where, and is willing to admit guilt where he might have been able to have made a difference to events (as well as pointing the finger at others who he felt had erred). In all this made for a fascinating book, and one that has made me more grateful than ever that I don’t have to climb anything higher than my stairs.