Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air

By Jon Krakauer

  • Release Date: 1997-04-22
  • Genre: Specialty Travel
Score: 4.5
From 1,025 Ratings


National Bestseller 

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.

By writing Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons and lay to rest some of the painful questions that still surround the event. He takes great pains to provide a balanced picture of the people and events he witnessed and gives due credit to the tireless and dedicated Sherpas. He also avoids blasting easy targets such as Sandy Pittman, the wealthy socialite who brought an espresso maker along on the expedition. Krakauer's highly personal inquiry into the catastrophe provides a great deal of insight into what went wrong. But for Krakauer himself, further interviews and investigations only lead him to the conclusion that his perceived failures were directly responsible for a fellow climber's death. Clearly, Krakauer remains haunted by the disaster, and although he relates a number of incidents in which he acted selflessly and even heroically, he seems unable to view those instances objectively. In the end, despite his evenhanded and even generous assessment of others' actions, he reserves a full measure of vitriol for himself.

This updated edition of Into Thin Air includes an extensive new postscript that sheds fascinating light on the acrimonious debate that flared between Krakauer and Everest guide Anatoli Boukreev in the wake of the tragedy.  "I have no doubt that Boukreev's intentions were good on summit day," writes Krakauer in the postscript, dated August 1999. "What disturbs me, though, was Boukreev's refusal to acknowledge the possibility that he made even a single poor decision. Never did he indicate that perhaps it wasn't the best choice to climb without gas or go down ahead of his clients." As usual, Krakauer supports his points with dogged research and a good dose of humility. But rather than continue the heated discourse that has raged since Into Thin Air's denouncement of guide Boukreev, Krakauer's tone is conciliatory; he points most of his criticism at G. Weston De Walt, who coauthored The Climb, Boukreev's version of events. And in a touching conclusion, Krakauer recounts his last conversation with the late Boukreev, in which the two weathered climbers agreed to disagree about certain points. Krakauer had great hopes to patch things up with Boukreev, but the Russian later died in an avalanche on another Himalayan peak, Annapurna I.

In 1999, Krakauer received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters--a prestigious prize intended "to honor writers of exceptional accomplishment."  According to the Academy's citation, "Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer.  His account of an ascent of Mount Everest has led to a general reevaluation of climbing and of the commercialization of what was once a romantic, solitary sport; while his account of the life and death of Christopher McCandless, who died of starvation after challenging the Alaskan wilderness, delves even more deeply and disturbingly into the fascination of nature and the devastating effects of its lure on a young and curious mind."


  • Loved this book

    By sjxc0781
    Don't care what you say about intentions of critizing Krakauer's climb, this books was well written and I was gripping the pages tightly the entire time.
  • Interesting

    By Tulsacohen
    The book is easy to read and flows well. Somewhat riveting but was long and a lot of time was spent on guilt. Over all I enjoyed.
  • Good book

    By Jahagsunwbw
    Better than MIKE's
  • Well written

    By Tobes88989
    After watching the movie Everest, I wanted to get a more in depth account of what happen in the spring of 1996. I thought this book was very well written providing details about each climber. I also liked how the author completely describes being on Everest to the point where you feel you are with him on this journey. Great read. Would highly recommend this book.
  • Read THE CLIMB by Anatoli Boukreev instead.

    By Steeltman
    Boukreev got the most prestigious climbing award in the effort of saving everyone under his care. Mountain Madness lost no one with the the exception of Fischer, the leader. Rob Hall's expedition Adventure Consultants, lost a great deal of their clients including himself. Where was the author of this book? Whimpering in a tent with no intention of helping. Way to spit on one's grave. How is Anatoli responsible for individuals in your expedition? Answer that and you'll not need to read further, people. This is of course only my opinion, just as it was your speculation as to the events once zipped in the safety of your tent with only your self serving attitude and lack of consideration for anyone in YOUR OWN PARTY!
  • Great banter

    By mbreale
    Awesome book. Lots of action. Solid read. Lots of profanity if that bugs yea. Love this book
  • Amazing Story

    By LLandCL
    I just read Beck Weathers' account of this same excursion and loved it, so, naturally I wanted to read this next. I am glad I read them in that order. This book was way more journalistic, but, I loved the details. Jon is a wonderful storyteller. I highly recommend this book.
  • Emotional and educational

    By Ktlady1
    This book taught me a great deal about Everest. I cannot imagine the turmoil the author has had to deal with after such a tragedy. I am grateful to him for showing me what makes these climbers keep going up these dangerous mountains. I too know someone who perished on Everest and was unable to understand what this all entailed. Thank you for sharing this detailed report.
  • Fire starter

    By Cory13evans13
    Great for starting a fire the pages just burn so great
  • Fast paced and gripping

    By Hiker at heart
    This book is outstanding yet unsettling due to the tragedy it documents so well. This book is truly difficult to put down. Krakauer is an excellent writer though this book had to be written for the sake of those who lost their lives - and those who still seek to conquer Everest.