'Into Thin Air' is a gripping, haunting account of the now infamous 1996 guided Everest expedition that went horribly wrong, resulting in 8 deaths. The tragedy has been brought to the fore again following Kormakur's recent blockbuster, 'Everest', which, in my view, is a pretty faithful re-telling of Krakauer's book.
Debate still rages about some differences in subsequent accounts of events that day. Particularly, the part Anatoli Boukreev (Fischer's chief guide) played in helping/hindering the unfolding situation. Krakauer offers some fairly mild criticism regarding Boukreev's decision to ascend without supplementary oxygen, suggesting his guiding performance would have been greatly enhanced with it; Boukreev, for instance, may not have felt the need to descend so urgently, ahead of the clients behind him.
It is somewhat damning criticism, I guess, however carefully phrased. And it does rather heap a lot of guilt on one man. A man who did, in the end, rescue 3 clients single-handed. Perhaps Krakauer could have left these sort of judgements to the reader, because the facts themselves, as Krakauer has documented, have not been substantively challenged.
The emphasis though, correctly, in my opinion, remains on the botched organisation and questionable decision-making of the two expedition leaders, Hall and Fischer. And, in fairness, Krakauer even goes on to acknowledge his own impact as client/journalist as another detrimental factor: the press coverage a massive incentive for Hall and Fischer to take risks to succeed.
It's a shame about the bitter, back-biting aftermath. Krakauer himself not immune to it - calling the film version, 'total bull'. Objecting, principally, to the scene where Krakauer refuses to assist Boukreev in the rescue effort due to exhaustion and snow-blindness. Krakauer claims it never happened.
Understandably, a raw and damaging experience to process for all those who survived - a crazy, ego bound, foolhardy quest, in the first place? Whatever your view, Krakauer's account is utterly compelling, demanding much pause for thought.