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on 16 February 2009
I have no knowledge of climbing (beyond reading Touching the Void) and no urge to try it myself, but I still found this a fascinating and an utterly compelling read. The levels of pain and fear the climbers put themselves through are mind boggling and Jon Krakauer seems to really convey the level of effort involved.

Krakauer was commissioned, as a journalist, to look at whether commercial aspects of guided Everest expeditions were diminishing the achievement, and while he finds a very commercialised situation that doesn't prevent the feat of climbing Everest from being extremely dangerous and difficult.

A number of reviewers have criticised Jon Krakauer for being biased and apportioning blame for the tragedy that his book describes, but it's worth bearing in mind that Krakauer's book is described as a 'personal' account. He doesn't set out to write a definitive truth of what happened merely his version of events as he (and others who he interviewed) can best recall considering the effects of altitude and lack of oxygen at the time.

Krakauer certainly has views on the behaviour and decisions of some of the people on the mountain but to read these as fact rather than personal opinion is to miss the tone in which the book is written. At various points Krakauer questions the actions of Anatoli Boukreev (and other reviewers have suggested reading Anatoli Boukreev's book The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest to get a balanced view), but in no way is he portrayed as 'the chief villain of the piece' as the product description of Boukreev's book suggests.

In fact Krakauer reserves plenty of criticism for himself, errors he made during the tragedy and misinformation he propagated because he was convinced it was true. He describes the heroic efforts of others (including Boukreev) while admitting to his own inaction on various occasions.

So while the book might be as 'biased' as any personal account would be, I don't think the criticisms against it are justified. Read the book and be astonished.
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on 20 August 2002
A detailed and personal account of the '96 Everest disaster. This book provides a fascinating armchair understanding of the physical/mental demands of high altitude climbing and the events leading up to the tragedy that killed 12 people. This account created a widespread fascination of the event, along with widespread debate and controversy. If there is a must read in the mountaineering world, this is it.
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on 4 February 2002
Whether you have an interest in mountaineering or not, this book is difficult to put down. To a non-alpinist, the author has succeeded in portraying the story behind this tragedy in such a way that in the first few chapters, you begin to toy with the idea that mountaineering might hold some attraction. However, in the telling of the summit tragedy and the events thereafter the idea that Everest might be a seductive force is completely erased and you are left with a feeling of utmost horror and helplessness at what these people went through. There is a realisation that it's not just about getting to the summit - mountaineers have a mind-set which demands further examination by lesser mortals.
Jon Krakauer is a gifted writer and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a book to get totally immersed in. I couldn't put it down and read it cover to cover twice.
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on 25 November 2002
This was the first of a series of books I have now read on Everest. The reason for this is that the book makes such compelling, fascinating and inciteful reading you are left for a thirst for more. Undoubtedly a tragedy, yet at the same time a personal triumph, this book should have you enthralled from the very first chapter. The attention to detail is excellent and the fleshing out of the characters is good.
I really felt at times as if i was also there on the slopes with the author, so good is he at reliving the event. The sense of angst and self-doubt that pervades it are also affecting. Recommend , as have others, that you read into thin air by Matt Dickinson as an antidote.
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on 13 February 2003
This book makes you wonder at what some people will do. Their determination to get to the top of Everest is obsessional, and this is an account of the hardship and joys that they go through to get there.
Once you get into the book, it is hard to put down. It is a book I will keep and read a number of times.
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on 29 October 2006
This is an account of the `96 Everest expedition that lead to tragedy as witnessed by one of the climbers involved with the 2 groups at the centre of the tragedy. John Krakauers account is utterly compelling from the first page to the last. You feel exhausted & breathless yourself as he recounts the events that unfolded on Everset in May `96. He`s writing style is fluid, containing enough information & detail to the scene as is needed by the reader to help get a sense of the mountain & climbing it. You also gain a sense of the other climbers & begin to understand there ambitions & what motivated them to try to climb the highest mountain on earth. [ not all come over as descent people & many have very selfish reasons indeed ] I bought this book based on the recommendations here at Amazon & i was so engrossed i read the whole thing in a matter of hours. Even if your not into climbing you will not be able to put this book down. I really felt for Krakauer after reading this & for the families of those that died. A tale of daring, stubbornness, willpower, determination, bad judgement, indicisiveness & ultimately death, well told highly recommended.
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Imagine you are about to start climbing the world's highest mountain Everest, having paid a large fee to one of the climbing guide organizations to get you there and you learnt that for the whole climb you would not be directly connected by a rope to any other climber plus you saw other paying members of your team with less climbing experience starting to wear brand new climbing boots they had not yet broken in?

These two examples reflect many of the contradictions which this book evidences very well of the recent mass commercializing of an activity that by its nature will always be governed by the natural physical and prevailing weather conditions. Mountain guides have existed for centuries but the mass exploitation of Everest shows how a simple concept can quickly lose the plot.

As one of the two books written by people who were there at the time of the tragedy in May 1996, Jon Krakauer (JK) has come in for his fair share of praise and criticism and the latter is openly covered at the end of the book. The book itself was written shortly after the 1996 events from a magazine article that was JK's reasons for originally making the climb. While JK was a climber of many years experience, though he accepts not at the very top levels of that sport, his book is a very good account of what he saw and believed happened.

The story is told in pretty much chronological order alongside coverage of the history of attempted Everest ascents, Nepalese culture and Sherpas plus many other aspects including the attitudes of the different teams attempting ascents in 1996 and the range of mountain illnesses that can afflict anyone without warning. Overall, it makes for a well constructed story. However by the end while I have never personally climbed mountains, there seemed an almost fatal inevitability that high altitude climbing above say 20,000 feet and commercially guided expeditions are never going to be easy bedfellows unless perfect conditions prevail, because:

a) People's access to the commercially guided team option was based on money not skills and experience.
b) The role of the guide was open to interpretation and operates variably as to what is required of them at such dangerous high altitudes from the evidence presented here.
c) The commercial pressures lead to doing things that if climbing only with other professionals would never have been permitted (the lady journalist requiring the transporting of a heavy and ultimately non-functioning radio by a Sherpa being the most extreme, but not the only such, example).
d) With little advance training, unquestioning reliance was placed by team members on the guides always knowing what to do as right and an incorrect assumption that they would never suffer the health problems other climbers at that altitude did.

JK does not ultimately pull all these self observed lessons together and in his final analysis seems to accept that matters will never easily change. What does come over (though again stated indirectly) is that to succeed at this high level of "thin air" mountaineering, requires a very clinical and focussed approach with self preservation being paramount to making it back safely, whether experienced or not.
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on 24 October 2001
This book has left me with feelings I had not felt before and I think it will be a long time before I read a book with as much intense presence . First and foremost it is a gripping read and is unputdownable. I have read this book on 3 occasions and I am still getting more from it each time I turn the last page. The first time I read Into Thin Air I did so in one continuous sitting. Krakauer reveals in his writing his concerns, remorse and sadness which tinge this moving story. I will never forget Rob Halls brave and fatal risk which enabled Doug Hanson to reach the summit. Enjoy this book but share its sadness as it will stay in your mind forever. I hope John Krakauer will continue to write in the same vein as he has in this book. A must read for all intrigued by the events of May 1996 and all adventure readers everywhere.
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on 27 February 2010
A gripping read which I thoroughly enjoyed and couldn't put down. However, if you're looking for a balanced view of events on Everest in '96, you should read other accounts of the story. I don't want to criticise Jon's skill as a writer, it's an excellent read, but remember, he is a professional writer and this is a somewhat self centred view of events from a man who makes his living telling stories. Jon himself had to be assisted on the mountain and was so exhausted that he could not even stir from his tent when asked to help rescue other climbers who were desperately fighting for their lives. Despite this, Jon seems to have gone out of his way to criticise the actions of others who did actually save lives. Read 'The Climb' by Anatoli Boukreev. It's a real eye opener after reading 'Into Thin Air' and a great read too.
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on 14 March 2006
Definately worth a read! The book is written in great detail and Krakauer has obviously done his research by speaking to all parties involved in the tragedy.
I take his personal opinions with a pinch of salt as he points the finger at a number of individuals directly and indirectly.
This book must be bought along with Boukreev's "The Climb" to grasp what really happened in 1996.
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