Feb 16

Into Thin Air

By Kenneth Feucht books Add comments

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer  ????

Into Thin Air is the account by Jon Krakauer, a reporter working forOutside Magazine, chronicling a climb on Mt. Everest. Krakauer, who was originally slated to climb with a group called Mountain Madness, based in Seattle and directed with Scott Fischer, was then switched to a group called Adventure Consultants, based in New Zealand and directed by Rob Hall. This book is a blow by blow account of the approach, climb, and disaster that occurred on the summit day, leading to the deaths of Fischer, Hall, as well as four other people. While Fischer and Hall were quite accomplished climbers, and experienced with Everest, major decision errors, and arrogance, led to the catastrophes that occurred. Firstly, both groups took extreme pride in getting anybody with any experience at all up the mountain. Secondly, neither group followed their own rules. Neither would fix lines, expecting the other team, or, two other completely inept and inexperienced teams, to fix the ropes, and neither obeyed their own decision to turn back at a certain hour, if the summit wasn’t achieved. In addition, there were simply too many people on the mountain attempting the summit push at one time to allow for speed, efficiency, and safety. It was a perfect setup for disaster. Understandably, clients pay reasonably high fees to be personally escorted to the summit of Everest, but, when one needs to be carried and dragged to the summit, as happened with Doug Hansen and Sandy Pittman, it defies the honor of actually having climbed the mountain. One of the guides, Anatoli Boukreev, a Russian climber of unbelievable fitness, came under harsh scrutiny of Mr. Krakauer for reportedly abandoning several clients to look after his own personal safety, even though it was Boukreev’s personal valor that saved several clients, Pittman and Fox from otherwise sure death. Boukreev actually wrote a book The Climb to defend his own actions. Criticism of Krakauer’s writing, and failure to also look out for his fellow climbers by going ahead of the rest of the team. Part of this was understandable, as the rest of the team was not in good fitness and did not belong on the mountain, or should have turned back long ago. It has been argued the Krakauer’s slick jouralistic prose tended to minimalize his faults, and accentuate others, though I didn’t sense that this was domineering. Certainly, constructive criticism looks at the climbing errors, which occurred in virtually everybody on the mountain, rather than a single person. So you might ask, did they learn their lessons? I don’t think so. Get into the expedition groups’ websites (http://www.adventureconsultants.co.nz/AdventureInternational/ &http://www.mountainmadness.com/ ) and you will find that they are continuing this madness. You can even sign up for a several month ski-expedition to the South or North Pole! Not a good idea. Everest, and even smaller peaks, like Denali or even Rainier, should be limited to those who climb on a regular basis, and have a clue how to do advanced rescue and techniques of the mountain. A recent catastrophe on Rainier was exactly this sort of thing–poorly prepared clients who went through a short class on self arrest and knot tying being dragged up a capricious and unpredictable mountain.

 

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