Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
I have just finished reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer and I must say it is one of the profound books I have read. This is my first tryst with non-fiction and boy! It hits hard.
The author recounts his disastrous experience about his journey to the roof of the world and back in 1996 in this book. During May 1996, five expeditions ventured to conquer the Everest summit but ended up losing much more than they had bargained for. It was the ill-fated climb that led to the sad demise of 12 climbers in a single season – worst tragedy Everest has ever seen. Although all seemed fine the day the summit assault was launched, unpredictable forces of nature sneaked upon oblivious climbers leading to a ferocious struggle for life at oxygen-deprived dizzying altitudes of 26000 feet and above.
Jon Krakauer’s masterly account succeeds in bringing up the harsh realities and the inherent risks of mountaineering. I have come to realize that state of mind and clarity of thought is just as important as physical fitness. At mind numbing heights (literally – due to oxygen deprivation), taking the right decision at the right moment saves one’s life as it happened on the ill-fated day.
The author raises many issues regarding the Everest Expeditions which I thought never existed. The dangerous commercialization of the “conquest to the roof of the world” is a case in point. Anybody who is able to afford the outrageous fee and has a death wish can end up on Everest as it seems. Commercial expeditions charging an enormous fee in return for a supposedly sure shot climb to the summit and back are aplenty! For a moment I believed even I could climb Everest with no prior experience, whatsoever. In the face of adversity, saving one’s ass itself is a big deal. Let alone bring a group of amateur climbers to safety!
One of the other issues raised by the author was trash on Mount Everest! Now who would’ve thought about that? The highest place on earth, I assumed would be as pristine as nature gets but so is not the case. Apparently 50 tons of non-biodegradable trash was abandoned on Everest between 1950 and 1990’s. The trash would consist of used oxygen canisters which are a burden to carry down and camping stuff for most parts.
Into Thin Air being a personal account of the disaster also manages to take us through the emotional pandemonium that ensued during the expedition. Guilt ridden survivors trying to face their demons, the plight of those unfortunate ones counting their last moments on the mountain or the unyielding Sherpas in pursuit of the lost ones, all these experiences come to life with spine-chilling tenacity. Having said that, “Into Thin Air” is a gripping, unbiased and honest narration of the fateful expedition.
This book review is written and submitted by Neelima.