Friday, September 18, 2015

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

4 Stars
“Everest has always been a magnet for kooks, publicity seekers, hopeless romantics, and others with a shaky hold on reality.”

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Welcome to one of Kelly’s creepy obsessions! (Advance apologies - this might get rambly.) Okay, so I’m totally obsessed with all things Everest and CAN. NOT. WAIT. to see the movie that details the same tragic events which are covered in this book (even though just watching the preview in IMAX 3-D made me have diarrhea). I have spent the past month watching EVERYTHING Everest-related on Netflix and You Tube Everest. (Note: I highly recommend the television series Everest: Beyond the Limit as well as Ultimate Survival: Everest – unfortunately the IMAX Everest documentary which was filmed during this fateful 1996 expedition didn’t end up so great. Kudos to the filmmakers for attempting to produce a final product, but really once you’ve watched 8 of your fellow climbers die your heart probably isn’t in the project so much.)

Anyway, back to my bizarre fangirl squeeing. Because I’m ignorant I had no clue that Into Thin Air was an Everest book or that it was THE Everest book detailing the storm of the century . . .

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(Note #2: The film is the same story, but the rights to Krakauer’s book were not purchased in order to make it – it’s a conglomeration of all of the survivors’ memories.) I had read Into the Wild and enjoyed Krakauer’s ability to spin a tale, but wasn’t thrilled with the story as a whole so I put his name on the backburner of authors I would read in the future should I come across him. Then everyone started reading Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town which brought him back to the forefront and me searching for his books – which leads to long story long HOLY SHIT HE WROTE AN EVEREST BOOK?!?!?!?!?!

Please note I have zero desire to ever attempt to climb Mt. Everest (or anything higher than a flight of stairs). EVER. First, I’m fat and have resigned myself to the fact that I will always be at least a little bit so. Second, I’m terrified of heights. We’re talking I can’t climb a stepladder. And third, EVEREST. Seriously. You know what you die of on Everest? Your BRAIN F-ING SWELLING TO THE POINT WHERE YOUR EYEBALLS BULGE OUT OF YOUR HEAD. Either that or you drown on your own lung juices. Drowning in water terrifies me, drowning because I was dumb enough to attempt to climb to the height of where a jumbo jet flies is beyond my comprehension. All that being said, I did the next best thing to really make me feel part of the action – I read this book while walking at a 30% incline on my treadmill. Just like being there I’m sure . . .

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I can never wrap my brain around the fact that people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to go on a vacation where there is a one in four chance of dying rather than reaching the summit. That’s cray. I also am one of the nutters who, although totally obsessed with the climbing of Everest, doesn’t really want anyone doing it. Everest is one of the natural wonders in the world – and due to the “cool factor” that one gets should they reach make it safely to the top and back down again it is also the home of 10 tons of garbage and heaping pyramids of human waste. It’s also a place where inexperienced adventure seeking overgrown children think they can buy their way to the top, but as Rob Hall (one of the expedition leaders who lost his life to the mountain) said . . .

“With enough determination, any bloody idiot can get UP this hill. The trick is to get back down alive.”

For a price of between $50,000 to $100,000 nearly anyone can attempt to make the climb and many believe the hiring of Sherpas and the hopes of being “short-roped” if the going gets tough will let them achieve their dream. While Krakauer was lucky enough to be matched up with some experienced climbers (between Rob Hall and Scott Fischer’s groups there was TONS of publicity/advertising money at stake so they needed everyone to summit safely in order to promote their expedition companies) they were still a rag-tag team of climbers that mixed expedition leaders, guides, sherpas, a lawyer, several doctors, a personnel director, a publisher, a postal worker and a journalist together. The reality of an Everest expedition is this - once you’re at altitude and the shit hits the fan. . .

“You might as well be on the moon.”

And with the price being one that the wealthy can easily afford (or that the middle-class can save a lifetime for in order to achieve the biggest bucketlist item out there), Mt. Everest doesn’t even have to throw the curveball of bad weather. This . . . .

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is often times the kiss of death. With the summit visable from this vantage point, climbers are nearly impossible to turn around – leading to a greater chance of hypothermia, frostbite, not making the descent before dark, running out of oxygen, etc. In my opinion, it should cost a million dollars per person to climb Everest. That would be enough money for clean-up and deter the wannabe super(wo)men from attempting the climb. Because seriously, while this book was fascinating in a “watching a trainwreck” type of way – it should have served as Exhibit A of why massive changes in the rules/regulations regarding Everest needs to happen.

Recommended to anyone who likes to experience adventure and defy death from the safety of their reading chair. My only advice is to familiarize yourself with the specific locations which are continually talked about with respect to the Everest climb. Places like the Lhotse Face, Khumbu Icefall or the Hillary Step. It’s easy to forget the danger that is the Khumbu Icefall if you don’t know that this is what it looks like . . .

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