A lover of history and science, my boyfriend lent me this book after he finished it. I’ll admit, I had doubts at first—reading about the deaths of climbers on Everest didn’t sound that intriguing. But he loved it, so I tried it.
The book begins with a short but chilling scene in which Jon Krakauer, a writer for Outside magazine, describes the effects of oxygen deprivation on the minds and bodies of everyone around him. The chaos on the mountain is evident immediately. He established in me a deep fear for what would happen next—but then he cut off this masterful in medias res and commenced with the Everest facts in true nonfiction style.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t bored by the slew of numbers and names that followed. Krakauer obviously spent a good deal of time learning about the monster he was to conquer, and he wanted his readers to have the same experience. So I learned about Edmund Hillary and Rob Hall and everyone in between.
And then Krakauer took us up the mountain with him, through all the ascents and descents required of acclimatization, between the ice spurs, and up slippery sheets and cliff faces. I’m going to give it away: he reaches the top, and he lives (duh). But not everyone on the mountain that day was lucky enough to win both victories. A strange series of events combined with a brewing storm cause the mountain to claim 8 lives in one day.
I liked how Krakauer truly showcased his journalistic skills. He interviewed every person he possibly could in order to get the most correct version. In all accounts of memory, some error is present. These errors are amplified when the brain is starved of oxygen and begins to hallucinate and malfunction. He incorporated the perspectives of the Sherpas, the guides, the critics, and the clients. He tries to examine every factor that led to the awful night on the peak, refusing to place the blame on one single person yet refusing to absolve himself, which would have been all too easy. When he talked of feeling guilty about several of the lost lives, I believed him.
Several times, Krakauer alluded to the fact that he was less prepared than the majority of his group. Yet he was one of a scant few to summit and arrive safely at the bottom again. Why did he survive when several guides did not? Only the mountain can say.
While I do enjoy hiking mountains, I will never possess the desire to climb Everest. It is a true feat of mind and body combined with a huge dosage of luck. Next up on my list: Into The Wild.