Into Thin Air
Mount Everest’s summit in the book into thin air by Jon Krakauer
Commercialism on Everest
Into Thin Air, a national bestselling novel written by Jon Krakauer, told about the 1996 trek to the summit of Mount Everest and the catastrophic events on that day that resulted in the death of eight people. Jon, a proficient climber and journalist, was sent by Outside Magazine to climb Everest in 1996 and write an article about his experience. Rob Hall, a renowned New Zealand mountaineer, led Krakauer and his teammates on one of the deadliest Everest hikes ever. Supplementary teams, including Scott Fischers and Antoli Bourkeevs teams, were also trying to summit when an unexpected storm hit. This is the story of the Mount Everest tragedy of 1996. The novel gave insight into the many ways money played a role in the commercialization of the world’s highest mountain. Commercialism embedded itself in climbing in multiple ways including: the cost to climb the mountain, the fight for which guide service could attract the most media attention, and the pressure on the guides to summit.
The cost of climbing the highest summit in the world was clearly a key component to the theme of commercialism. The fee abruptly rose from “$2,300 for a permit that allowed a team of any size” (25) in 1991 to “$10,000 for a team of up to nine climbers, with another $1,200 to be paid for each additional climber” (25) in the following year alone. The price rose that much because the Nepalese ministers raised the price of climbing permits. By raising the cost of the climbing permits they hoped to limit crowds and still increase the cash flow. In 1993 the price rose to “$50,000 for as many as five climbers, plus $10,000 for each additional climber, maximum of seven” (25). The Nepalese authorities had no idea, however, that China was offering additional tours at a much lower cost. The higher the price rose, the more people knew about Everest and developed a thirst to climb it and learn more about it. Along with the cost of the expedition itself, there was an additional cost to pay for personal sherpas. Sherpas, Himalayan folk living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, were guides that led people up the mountain and carried their items.
The fight for media attention was also relative to the theme of commercialism. Sandy Pittman, a self-proclaimed expert climber, was a person of desire for most of the teams because of her connection to NBC Interactive Media (123). The teams were all looking for a way to catch the media’s eye. Since Sandy had such a close relation with NBC, she became a necessity for the teams and an actual part of Scott Fischer’s team. Who would summit first? was the main question that ran through everyone’s mind that was keeping track of the teams. Since they were such a cohesive team, they even reached the summit first at 1:07 PM (274). The Mountain Madness team most likely had the maximum media attention possible.
There was much pressure on the guides of the teams to see who would reach the top first. Guides knew this and because of it, they often made impaired decisions, blinded by the possibility that his team could be on the headline of a newspaper somewhere. When Antoli Bourkeev pushed his team to summit, he should have stopped due to safety concerns (263). Many other poor decisions were made due to the fact that they were so close, yet so far. Also, the pressure on guides to summit resulted in the loss of many lives (317). This was an unforgettable ordeal that would continue to live in infamy for years postliminary.
The price of climbing the mountain, fight for media attention, and pressure on the guides of the teams to summit, all were forms of commercialism. Most of the climbers only wanted to scale the mountain because of its title of the highest point on earth. They wanted to be able to say that they had been “on top of the world”. For the guides, the thought of being the first out of several teams to summit, loomed in their heads. Along with the extraordinary title of being one of the few to reach the peak of Everest. Commercialism was the main theme of the novel Into Thin Air and was the reason that many wanted to climb it in the first place.
J. Krakauer’s Into Thin Air: A Review of the Gripping Story
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mr. Everest Disaster
As a child, Jon Krakauer dreamed of climbing, but he never dreamed that this one climb would be a disaster. Krakauer was assigned by Outside Magazine to report on the commercial expeditions that were being conducted on Mount Everest in May 1996. Jon Krakauer, the narrator and author, describes a first hand account of this ill-fated journey. Krakauer, his guide, and a group of climbers set out to the top of Mt. Everest to see how wise or safe it was to tackle the world s largest mountain. Unfortunately, 1996 was Everest s worst season ever, and Krakauer recounts the heroism, the human frailty and the regrets of this disastrous climb.
Jon Krakauer was one of eight clients sent to Nepal, the country which is home to Everest, to write about an expedition to the top of the world. On May 10, 1996 Krakauer reached the summit of the mountain, but at the top came terrible events. The book is a chronological account of the lives and deaths of those who participated in the excursion. The first third of the book includes Everest s history, and he explains how deadly the voyage was for him. Krakauer was in a life or death situation when he was descending from the top of the mountain and so many lives were lost on Mt. Everest. I learned through Krakauer why the crew continues their rise even though the conditions are torturous and more life threatening with each step. Why they don’t give it up once they’ve lost feeling in their extremities, separated their ribs, lost their vision, can no longer breathe due to oxygen depleted air? Even in the end, Krakauer regrets going up to the mountain and admits that he wrote wrong accounts in the article. I really enjoyed this book because it was so controversial.
There is one major setting in this book, and that would be Mount Everest but there are many sub-settings also. The Camps, the Summit, and Krakauer s home in Seattle. The Camps was were the climbers stayed and rested before going on to the next camp. The Huddle right by camp four is where two climbers were found dead after a terrible storm. The Summit is the peak of the mountain and where numerous lives were killed. The summit of Mt. Everest is approximately 29,000 feet. After the tragedy at Everest, Krakauer went back home to Seattle. Krakauer described the journey as a poison . Many relatives and friends of the climbers that died were very upset with Krakauer s description of what happened, and so Krakauer apologizes in the very end.
In the book, Into Thin Air , you meet the members and guides of Jon Krakauer s team. Rob Hall was the leader and head guide of the expedition, as well as Scott Fischer, his guides, and some of his team members. Other people who lost or almost lost their lives were important on this voyage. People like Yasuko Namba, Andy Harris, Doug Hansen and others were great inspirations to Krakauer throughout the expedition.
Unfortunately, not everyone on the mountain was a good guy, you ll be living thanks to the dangers the teams encounter due to the inexperience, egos, arrogance, and vengefulness of the few bad apples. . Krakauer encounters many dangerous situations and becomes a person who motivates himself throughout the whole story and makes decision to write about this devastating experience probably made it hard for him since he also a person who slightly made it himself. For the survivors, Jon’s book is a road in which fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and other loved ones are portrayed as the heroes. Although some of the deceased’s relatives were upset with Krakauer, it would seem unjust because of the respectful way in which he portrays his fellow mountaineers.
Having never understood why people climb mountains or why people would put their lives in jeopardy, I read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. For those who don’t understand why on earth anyone would want to do something as dangerous as climbing, Into Thin Air answers that curiosity. Krakauer introduces his readers to the backgrounds and personalities of the main characters in his book. We can then better comprehend the different reasons people spend thousand of dollars and two or more months of their lives in hell on a mountain, freezing, injured, and almost dead just to get to the top of a mountain. This story is a symbol of strength, determination, and the will to achieve your goals that almost everyone can relate to. The novel made me really think how valuable your life is and you should live to the fullest, but don’t take advantage of it or don’t even take every day for granted.
Into Thin Air: Analysis of Sherpa and Their Impact
In Into Thin Air there is a division that is perhaps the most clearly visible of all. It is, perhaps, even more clear than distinction of client vs guide. Each character in the book falls into one of two categories; Sherpa or Westerner. The culture of Everest could be said to be the culture of the Sherpa, the strongly Buddhist people who live in the shadow of the mountain, many of whom make their living leading wealthy foreigners up the dangerous slopes to the top. However there is no small amount of controversy regarding the commercialization of Everest in recent years. In fact, in many ways, it would seem that the Buddhist culture of the Sherpas conflicts directly with the new role they have found as guides of the increasingly “touristy” climbers of Everest. However, upon a deeper inspection of both the tenets of Buddhism and the job these Sherpa do, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Regardless, we must first assess whether there is any “blame” to be placed upon the Sherpa for assisting in the commercialization of Everest. First, it is absolutely crucial to remember that Sherpa culture and religion is completely intertwined with their mountain environment:
“The Sherpas belong to the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism. […] it emphasizes mysticism and incorporates shamanistic practices and local deities borrowed from the pre-Buddhist Bon religion. Thus, in addition to Buddha and the great Buddhist divinities, the Sherpa also believe in numerous gods and demons who are believed to inhabit every mountain, cave, and forest. These have to be worshiped or appeased through ancient practices that have been woven into the fabric of Buddhist ritual life. Indeed, it is almost impossible to distinguish between Bon practices and Buddhism.
Many of the great Himalayan mountains are worshiped as gods. The Sherpas call Mount Everest Chomolungma and worship it as the “Mother of the World.” Mount Makalu is worshiped as the deity Shankar (Shiva). Each clan recognizes mountain gods identified with certain peaks that are their protective deities.” (www.everyculture.com)
They object, often vocally, to climbers sleeping together on the mountain. There is an appearing possible contradiction here. Throughout Into Thin Air, Hall comments that “we would have absolutely no chance of getting to the summit of Everest without their help. […]Without the support of our Sherpas none of us has any chance of climbing the mountain.” (Krakauer 38) Although this is intended to be grateful towards them, it shows an interesting fact. Without Sherpa, fewer paying climbers would be able to climb Everest. In this aspect, Sherpas have contributed directly to the commercialization of Everest. Since the first summit of Tenzing and Hillary, Sherpas have been an invaluable tool for ascending Mount Everest. Yet for all their attempts to appease and respect the mountain, to some they have helped demean the mountain by putting in the reach of westerners who are able to climb the mountain only by virtue of wealth.
Of course, some of the changes in the identity of Everest were inescapable. After it’s discovery and eventual ascent, it became the preeminent goal of the most skilled mountaineers worldwide, a true honor. However, in 1985, Dick Bass, a wealthy Texan with little experience was guided to the Summit, and soon Everest became little more than a prize to be bought. Everest was made into a business, an accomplishment that could be bought by all but the least experienced of climbers. As Krakauer puts it; to many, especially those who had climbed Everest before hand, “Everest,[…] had been debased and profaned.” (Krakauer 22) In effect, this was a second change in the culture of Everest, the first being from Sherpa deity to mountaineer’s ultimate challenge. The Sherpas were instrumental in both of these transitions, offering their skills to any and all seeking to conquer the once unconquered peak. To the extent that Everest has been tamed, it could be said that the Sherpas helped subdue it. From there, it is no small leap to make that the Sherpas betrayed the long traditions of semi-worship the mountains.
However, all of these observations, which appear true on the surface, fail to truly hold water for a number of reasons. To start, while leading their clients the Sherpas stop at a number of temples and shrines along the way, encouraging the clients to experience Buddhism and maintain an air of respectfulness. Although thousands of clients have successfully summitted, the Sherpa have not forgotten the danger inherent in their job. In fact, one of the most saving facts regarding the Sherpas role on Everest is that they have not succeeded in taming the Mountain. The incredibly high levels of danger ensure that they remember that the Mountain must always be respected. Even if many westerners see Everest as an obstacle that can be bought for the right price, Sherpa culture still keeps in mind that the Mountain truly behaves as if it is a living entity that can and will punish climbers seemingly arbitrarily. To this end, the Sherpas display huge cultural and religious devotion to climbing the mountain in the most respectful way possible. Krakauer describes the way that the Sherpas build “beautiful, meticulously constructed stone chortens at Base Camp, one for each expedition.”(Krakauer 75) as a form of protection for the expeditions. Although the Sherpas have indirectly helped the commercialization of Everest, they also ensure that it is done in a way that maintains the Buddhist traditions as part of the experience of Everest.
Of course, one of the undeniable reasons that the Sherpa guide Everest is a need for money. This too, with a deeper reading of Buddhist teachings, is not in and of itself objectionable. Although Buddhism opposes excesses of materialism in the search for happiness, Buddhism acknowledges that a certain amount of material wealth is conducive to happiness, specifically wealth gained from just living. Guruge describes in his book that there are a number of “happinesses” that come from wealth. The most important for our purposes is that of Anavajjasukha , the happiness derived from blameless conduct. That is to say, Anavajjasukha is the happiness someone gets from making money doing something that is just and worthy, in effect all wealth not gained from illegal or otherwise immoral activities, such as prostitution, sales of weapons or crimes. (Gurude 86) In this way, Buddhism suggests that the wealth that the Sherpas make from their work is not anything wrong, but rather a tool to achieve happiness, in the form of enjoying the material wealth and the pride in the work that they do.
However, these are only arguments that suggests that they are not at fault. Upon consideration of what would happen if the Sherpas no longer offered their services, it becomes clear that they are actually performing a great service, one that is in complete harmony with the teachings of the Buddha.
As is established often throughout the book Into Thin Air, Everest makes people act in ways that seem insane. Summit fever, the irrational, all consuming desire to reach the summit, is a powerful force that grabs individuals both when they are close to the top and when they are thousands of miles away. For men like Edmund Hillary and Doug Harris, no obstacle, no risk is great enough to dissuade them. True fanatics will always be willing to brave whatever odds are thrown at them. It is easy to blame the Sherpas for the commercialization of Everest, for making it too easy, but in reality, Everest will always attract the ambitious and the foolish. The only effect that Sherpas have on these people is assisting them. The poor souls caught in the passionate net that Everest throws out will eventually find themselves in dangerous, occasionally lethal situations. When that time comes, the Sherpas are there to save their lives, the lives of their clients and friends to whom they feel a duty to. As shepherds of the mountain they function as lifeguards as well as guides, saving the climbers who will inevitably find trouble.
Sherpas play a central role in everything related to Everest; as such it is natural that they could seem responsible for some of the less seemly results of the commercialization thereof. However, when you take a deeper look at the traditions that Sherpas maintain on their climbs as well as the tenets of Buddhism, it becomes clear that nothing could be farther from the truth. Sherpas ensure that the experience of climbing the mountain does not lose its religious and cultural aspects while also saving lives. Although the current system of climbing Everest is not perfect it is clear that the Sherpas are part of the solution, not the problem.
A Documentary Book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer
“Into Thin Air” is about Jon Krakauer, who was originally hired to write an article about climbing Mount Everest for Outside Magazine, but then decided to experience the expedition himself due to dreaming about it since he was a kid. In the beginning, Krakauer states the dangers of Mount. Everest, especially the Khumbu Icefall. After the Khumbu Icefall’s first victim, Jake Breitenbach died on the icefall, eighteen other climbers died also.
The author’s purpose of stating on how many died on Khumbu icefall was to alarm the dangers, as well as to express his challenging adventure and his experience. As well as, Krakauer stated that at one point in time, people were paid so much money to climb the mountain, but many of those climbers never returned. One may confuse the author’s purpose of this article to persuade people to climb the mountain. One would personally think that the money was his final decision to climb the mountain, and in the end, it was accomplished.
Krakauer and his team were led by Kiwi Rob Hall. Krakauer explained how his team, as well as himself, suffered through this journey. Krakauer and his team lost major weight, their stamina was lowered, as well as their energy. Additionally, after Krakauer witnessed the 1996 Everest spring disaster in which twelve climbers eventually perished, Krakauer felt responsible to recall the tragedy as it was unfolded. After spending over a month living in close quarters atop of the world, Krakauer grew attached to Hall, one of his teammates, as well as other climbers from different expeditions, particularly those of Scott Fischer’s Mountain Madness team.
When disaster struck in early May, leaving nine of Krakauer’s friends and adventurers dead, Krakauer was devastated and also responsible for the lives of those lost. Krakauer’s hid his guilt and months later, he realized that he had inaccurately reported the death of guide Andy Harris. Confused and scarred by the experience, he decided to document the calamity in “Into Thin Air”, a book based on information from his experience and journalistic research, with the goal of imparting the lessons that he believes need to be learned in the tragedy’s aftermath. To go along with, in the beginning of “Into Thin Air, ”
Krakauer provides lots of facts about Mount. Everest and climbers who first climbed mountains. He did this by providing mountain climbing and Everest experience more understandable to his readers/audience. Krakauer also provides an excess amount of background information. The background information included explanations of the history of Everest and its early climber, climbing techniques, as well as logistical information regarding the climbers on his team and those from other expeditions. Krakauer relies heavily on imagery in order to accurately depict the Himalayas in print.
However, Krakauer’s main strategy takes shape in his scheme that he uses to climax the drama that took place on the upper reaches of the mountain. As he chronicles his journey from India all the way to his return to base camp after summiting, Krakauer’s tone and diction reflect his evolving sentiments throughout his journey. For example, the tone of the early chapters is one of excitement and nervousness, which quickly turns into fades into exhaustion and discomfort as he realizes the huge task before him.
An In Depth Rhetorical Analysis of Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
In Jon Krakauer’s personal account of the 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster called “Into Thin Air”, Krakauer expresses his disbelief for the fatal accident through various shifts in tone from somber to solemn, or even a journalistic tone. Krakauer places the blame of the accident on the inexperience and conceit of his fellow climbers and guides. Krakauer also expresses his indignation that the commercialization of mountaineering, especially on Mt. Everest, has led to the deaths of many inexperienced climbers. Throughout his story, Krakauer attempts to convince the reader of these opinions through the use of various rhetorical strategies such as foreshadowing, allusions to personal anecdotes of other individuals who were on the mountain at that time, analogies that work to express the imagery of the scene on Everest, appeals to Krakauer’s ethics, exaggeration of certain elements to express his personal feeling of an occurrence, and simile and metaphors of actions and scenery in order to express an image to the reader or to get a feeling across to the reader. Such elements are only some of the various types of strategies Krakauer employs to show his true feeling of the occurrences in 1996 on Mt. Everest.
Within the first page of the book, Krakauer uses a flashback to give context to the reader. Krakauer does so without revealing any personal emotions or feelings in this account in order to set the reader up for his personal opinion on the tragedy later. In the first chapter, Krakauer uses this context to give a foreshadowing of the tragedy that was to come: “Nobody suspected that by the end of that long day, every minute would matter.” This foreshadowing entices the reader to find out what actually happened later in the book. Krakauer reserves the next chapter to tell the reader the history of Mt. Everest itself. He tells the history of Everest up until the moment he decided he wanted to become a mountaineer and climb Everest. After the history, he appeals to his authority by claiming the various mountains he had climbed before Everest. The established authority builds assurance that Krakauer is a reputable source for the occurrences on Everest.In the third chapter, Krakauer begins his account from the beginning of how he got to Everest and his expedition on the mountain. Krakauer sets the scene by revealing some imagery of his first sight of Everest, through the airplane window. Krakauer uses this moment to lightly foreshadow the future tragedy: “That I proposed to climb to the cruising altitude of an Airbus 300 jetliner struck me, at that moment, as preposterous, or worse. My hands felt clammy.” The use of foreshadowing in this chapter is not so much to show the reader what was to come, but rather to express the magnitude of what Krakauer was about to do. Using a comparison between the cruising altitude of a plane and the height of Everest shows how hefty a task it was and engages the reader into continuing their reading to find out what will happen when Krakauer climbs Everest.
Krakauer, in the rest of the chapter, tells the story of meeting his guides and fellow climbers upon his arrival in Kathmandu. He continues this narrative, until the end of the chapter when he, similar to the last chapters ending, gives a light foreshadow of the events that have yet to occur, by claiming that a climber must have trust in the guides when climbing Everest or any large expedition. Krakauer shows his concern over the fact that Rob Hall may not have chosen the best clients for the expedition that they were about to go on. Again, this sets the scene for the tragedy that will happen towards the end of the book. This establishes the doubt in trusting the guides and climbers that the reader will gain throughout Krakauer’s various strategies that he uses to show his indignation of the events at Everest.
Throughout the next couple chapters, Krakauer continues describing the scenery of Everest and its surrounding areas to the readers, using the imagery to help the reader understand the vastness of the Himalayas so the reader can understand what Krakauer and his team went through. Krakauer begins to set the scene for the expedition up Everest itself by using the acclimatization trips as a bridge between the calm and the storm. Throughout such bridge, Krakauer’s tone shifts from ambivalent in that he doesn’t express much emotion in regards to the events that he will have to write about soon, to a caustic, disparaging tone that represents his sorrow from the actions that led to the deaths of 8 individuals on his expedition. This tonal shift works to express the true feeling that Krakauer felt throughout the expedition, realizing that he could have been one of those who died. The reader will see that he is showing regret and gets an appeal of emotion that works to engage the reader into feeling doubt for the deaths that happened there.
In the climax of Krakauer’s story, he is descending the mountain as the massive storm is hitting and fellow climbers are behind him. He was lucky to make it down quick enough that he wasn’t caught in the deep part of the storm. Krakauer symbolizes this event with a strong chapter concluding sentence: “Any impulse I might have felt toward self-congratulation was extinguished by overwhelming apprehension about the long, dangerous descent that lay ahead.” Krakauer, at this point, has acknowledged the possibility of death, that he might become too exhausted to continue. This narrative that Krakauer is expressing is just the tip of the iceberg of what is to come later in that day. This sentence expresses that by signaling that something terrible may come in the future. The reader, of course, already knows that devastation is going to come and this continues to emphasize the doubt expressed previously for the tragedy that will happen soon.
Krakauer continues by temporarily letting his personal story go and telling the story of the other climbers who were meant to summit with him. He was one of the earliest to the summit, so there were still many after him who should’ve been there around the same time. Krakauer’s fellow climber Neal Beidleman stuck with Krakauer but became worried for the other climbers as they were not going to make it in time for the 2:00 turnaround. This personal anecdote that Krakauer gives works to be the beginning of the end. This is right before the storm pushes in and after that, the only thing that separates them from death is turning around and going quickly. This is the type of narrative Krakauer is pushing by telling the story of his fellow climbers. This creates a moody scene for the reader, as Krakauer will soon have to tell the story of tragedy and fighting to survive rather than that of him just climbing up a mountain.
Krakauer sustains this type of story for the rest of the chapter, telling the anecdote of Beidleman dragging various climbers through the storm, trying to get to safety. But Krakauer, safe in Camp 4, began to get worried about the missing climbers who had yet to come to the Camp. Stuart Hutchison, who was at Camp 4 with Krakauer, went out six times to search for the climbers, to no avail. Krakauer now tells a somber story of how the climbers died or survived. This emotional appeal impacts the reader and further convinces the reader of the doubt Krakauer had with the inexperienced guides and climbers. This dissuades the reader from holding trust in the guides yet engages the reader in further reading the book to find out what could possibly go worse. And as more and more people are lost in the storm, Krakauer begins to change the narrative from storytelling to a lesson of ethics and trust.
Krakauer, in the last chapter, reflects upon the mishaps and mistakes of his guides as well as his partners who were climbing with him. He uses the 8 lives lost to show that regardless of your will to do anything, at Everest, the mountain has the last say as to whether you live or die. “Guy handed me a beer, Caroline gave me a hug, and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the ice with my face in my hands and tears streaking my cheeks, weeping like I hadn’t wept since I was a small boy.” Krakauer expresses his devastation with what happened on Everest through making a comparison from his young age to now, in order to show how truly saddened he was. In the midst of this pain though, Krakauer finds a way to express some comic relief, when he arrived at his hotel in Kathmandu, he bought some marijuana and “rolled a joint, smoked it down to nothing, rolled a second fatty”. This humor doesn’t last very long though, as Krakauer moves on to again, crying until he can’t anymore. His method of coping with the stress he got from what he experienced on Everest didn’t seem to be very effective as it just got him to cry again. This shows that sometimes, no matter what you do, you will be stuck with the pain of the past, and you just have to move on past it. This message relays to the reader in an indirect way, the reader will feel Krakauer’s “survivors guilt” and understand the consequences of mistakes and inexperience.
Throughout Krakauer’s book, he tells a personal account of what happened, to his knowledge and to the accounts of various other climbers, on Everest in May 1996. Krakauer’s tone shifts throughout the entire book and the mood of the story is changed from a blank mood to a somber mood that stems from the deaths and the guilt that Krakauer felt from the disaster. Krakauer employs various metaphors and simile in order to show the guilt he held for not helping the others and for “surviving, while so many others died.” The sheer imagery that Krakauer expresses is enough to put the reader into the mind of Krakauer, to understand what he was going through, and what the other, less fortunate climbers had to go through. Through a combination of well-phrased sentences, deep imagery, varied tone and mood, and allusions to other climbers accounts and feelings throughout the expedition, Krakauer is able to convey his feeling of guilt and doubt of the occurrence to the reader, making it as if the reader were truly inside the story. To understand the true depth and feeling Krakauer was experiencing, a reader would have to literally go through what he experienced; however, Krakauer gives a glimmer of what it would feel like, to go through the 1996 Everest Disaster.
Loyalty and Its Consequences in ‘Into Thin Air’
Literary theorist and critic Roland Barthes once said, “Literature is the question minus the answer.” In Jon Krakauer’s novel Into Thin Air, the author questions if he is loyal enough to his teammates to take the chance of forfeiting his summit push or even putting his life into their hands. On the South Summit, Krakauer fails to help the guide Andy Harris, an example of how the breakdown of loyalty can lead to disastrous consequences, while Anatoli Boukreev’s heroism on the South Col provides an example of loyalty, selflessness, and good judgment. Rob Hall’s late ill-judged summit push with his client, however, provides an example to the reader where an excessive amount of loyalty can also lead to devastating consequences, or in Hall’s case, death.
When Krakauer abandons responsibility on the South Summit, his breakdown of loyalty leads to a tour guide’s death. On the South Col, instead of helping Andy with his regulator, Krakauer decides not to argue with Andy about whether or not there were full oxygen bottles: “Turning to Andy, I said, ‘No big deal, Harold. Much ado about nothing.’ Then I grabbed a new oxygen canister, screwed it onto my regulator, and headed down the mountain” (188). Desperate to get down the mountain, Krakauer “abdicate[s] [his] responsibility” (188) and continues climbing down the mountain. As he watches the series of events unfold over the next few hours, however, Krakauer feels the full force of his failure to act. He later expresses regret over what happened on the South Summit, saying, “My actions – or failure to act – played a direct role in the death of Andy Harris” (283). His nonchalant act of brushing off Andy’s delirious state and failing to help Andy plagues Krakauer. He mentions that as he was huddling in the safety of his tent, concerned with only his own safety, his co-climbers were dying. The breakdown of loyalty between Krakauer and Harris does not only lead to Harris’ death but also leads to Krakauer’s incessant survivor’s guilt. Krakauer’s failure to help Andy Harris shows the reader that the breakdown of loyalty, especially in such dangerous conditions, can lead to catastrophic consequences and in Harris’ case, death.
Anatoli Boukreev’s actions on the South Col provide an example of loyalty and selflessness, all while keeping good judgment. When he hears of a group of climbers in need of help, Boukreev sets out to search: “The Russian resolved to bring back the group on his own. Bravely plunging into the maw of the hurricane, he searched the Col for nearly an hour but was unable to find anybody” (213). Having just climbed down from the summit a few hours earlier, Boukreev is exhausted. He, however, stays loyal to his climbers and decides to set out on his own. Even more, Anatoli continues to search for his lost climbers: “Boukreev didn’t give up. He returned to camp, obtained a more detailed set of directions from Beidleman and Schoening, then went out into the storm again” (213). Anatoli Boukreev’s heroic actions and persistence are not in vain—he saves three climbers, bringing them back to the safety of the tents. His loyalty and selflessness for his teammates save many lives. He is not able to save the other two, however, for fear that he would not be able to safely carry so many helpless and frostbitten climbers. Boukreev’s heroism is an example of good judgment, selflessness, and loyalty, and proves to the reader that strong loyalty among teammates can lead to better outcomes.
Rob Hall’s lapse of judgment in climbing to the summit with Hansen at well after 4:00 P.M. provides an example to the reader where an excessive amount of loyalty can also lead to devastating consequences, or in Hall’s case, death. “Rob had called him from New Zealand “a dozen times” urging him to give it another shot-and this time Doug was absolutely determined to bag the top” (224). The previous year, Hall had turned Hansen around at 2:10 on the South Summit, just 330 vertical feet below the summit of Everest. Hall had called Hansen from New Zealand dozens of times to persuade him to give Everest another shot, and to raise money, Hansen had worked two full-time jobs, and the students of Sunrise Elementary School had even sold t-shirts to help fund his climb. To not reach the top of Everest the second year after all the fundraising he and the children had done would be extremely disappointing not only to Hansen himself but also to the Sunrise Elementary students. “Hall did not turn Hansen around at 2:00 P.M.–or, for that matter, at 4:00, when he met his client just below the top. Instead, according to Lopsang, Hall placed Hansen’s arm around his neck and assisted the weary client up the final forty feet to the summit” (225). Because he continued to climb even hours after the official turn-around time, Rob Hall had a “serious lapse of judgment” (225) as he did not tell Hansen to turn around, but assisted him in his final climb to the summit. Hall, however, was under immense pressure to succeed in guiding Hansen to the top. Realizing that climbing Everest was Hansen’s dream, Hall was extremely loyal to Hansen’s wish and honored it by allowing Hansen to climb on. Hall’s loyalty to his client helped Hansen reach the top but also resulted in both their deaths. Because Hall had a lapse in judgement in not turning Hansen around on the official turn-around time, this tragic event shows the reader that even an excessive amount of loyalty can also lead to disastrous consequences.
In Jon Krakauer’s novel Into Thin Air, the author addresses the importance of loyalty, saying that loyalty among teammates results in the survival of the team and the breakdown of that loyalty results in the death of others. Krakauer’s inability to help Andy Harris directly results in Harris’ death, while Anatoli Boukreev’s heroic act of saving his team from the blizzard results in the survival of three clients that would have perished without Boukreev’s help. Rob Hall, however, perishes with his client Doug Hansen on the South Col when Hall has a lapse of good judgment and continues to guide his weary client up well past the turn-back-time. Although Krakauer does not forfeit his own summit push, he loses his best friend on the expedition, Hansen, and faces survivor’s guilt that never goes away.