Published: September 2011
Unabridged! When Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996, he hadn't slept in fifty-seven hours and was reeling from the brain-altering affects of oxygen deprivation. As he turned to begin his long, dangerous decent from 29,028 feet, twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly toward the top. No one had noticed that the sky had begun to fill with clouds. Six hours later and 3,000 feet lower, as the storm swept the peek with seventy-knot winds and blinding snow, Krakauer collapsed in his tent, freezing, hallucinating from exhaustion and hypoxia, but safe. The following morning he awakened to learn that six of his companions hadn't made it back to their camp, and were in a desperate struggle for their lives. When the storm finally passed, five of his fellow climbers would be dead, and the sixth so horribly frostbitten that he would have to have his right hand amputated. By the time all expeditions had quit the mountain and departed Nepal, twelve people had perished on the slopes of Everest. Into Thin Airis the definitive, personal account of the deadliest season in the history of Everest by the acclaimed journalist and author ofEiger DreamsandInto the Wild.On assignment fromOutsidemagazine, Krakauer, an accomplished climber, went to the Himalayas to report the growing commercialization of the planet's highest mountain. Everest has always been a dangerous mountain. From the first British expeditions in the 1920s until 1996, one climber has died for every four who have attained the summit. This shocking death toll has not put a damper on the burgeoning business of guided ascents, however, in which amateur alpinists with alarmingly disparate skills are ushered up the mountain for a $65,000 fee. To ascend into the thin, frigid air above 26,000 feet--the cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner--is an inherently inrrational act. The environment is unimaginably harsh, the margin for error minuscule. Krakauer examines what it is about Evereest that has compelled so many people--including himself--to throw caution to the wind, ignore the concerns of loved ones, and willingly subject themselves to such risk, hardship, and expense. Written with emotional clarity and supported by his unimpeachable reporting, Krakauer's frank eyewitness account of what happened on the roof of the world is a singular achievement.
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