What I Loved About Into Thin Air

Into thin air
*picture extracted from http://www.amazon.com*

I was only 9 when I read about the catastrophe that hit an expedition up to Mount Everest. This was how I learned that Mount Everest was the toughest mountain to climb. I think till to date, it still is and for those who have reached its peak, it is indeed a lifetime achievement for them. I’ve always thought to myself that if I can climb and reach the peak of Everest, therefore I’d die a contented person.

There is something intriguing about Everest that always sparked the curiosity in me. I felt like I wanted, or needed to know more. I needed to understand more. And  last year, in 2015, Universal Pictures came out with the movie Everest. I wasn’t really expecting much when I went to watch the movie, but somehow it made me start to think deeper. My thoughts just kept sinking deeper and I ended up searching the internet for more information. I found so many articles related to that fateful event. However, one particular article stood out among the rest. It was one which said that Jon Krakauer, a journalist who had experienced the tragedy first hand, found the movie to be bullshit!

How could it be when I enjoyed the movie so much?!! I went on to read and later found that Jon Krakauer had also written a book, his personal account of what happened on the mountain that day. I knew I had to get the book. I wanted to know his part of the story too and so I decided to get the e-book cos I could start reading immediately! It almost doesn’t seem to do the book justice when I write it out here, because so many times I found myself flipping pages back to re-read what I had read just to get an even better understanding. For me, I rarely flip pages back when I read. If I do so, the book has to be really really good that I want to understand every word written in it.

Every part of the event, to me, was described perfectly. If you search the internet, you will find a lot of information on climbing Everest, and the details of the hike up. This book is more about the people who went on the expedition to Everest. The people, who for various reasons, sought some sense of achievement by giving their all to reach the peak.

“Why put yourself in such danger when there is no guarantee that you will reach the peak?” This was my first question, and I eventually understood why after reading.

Here’s a few things I loved about Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer :

Disclaimer : There may be spoilers beyond this line. So if you have not watched the movie or read the book you may want to do it first before reading this list.

1) The author begins by introducing each character and explaining what their personalities were like. It was almost like I got to know everyone in person. For example, in the movie, we only see Rob and Scott as business rivals. But we never knew the reason behind it, how they started of as climbing buddies, or how Scott had strived throughout his whole career life to be just as good and famous as Rob, but never actually achieved the success he deserved.

2) During the hike up to base camp, the author describes every part and detail of their journey. From the difficulty they faced, carrying their heavy load of belongings, to being forced to take a dump by the side of a walkway in Lobuje with no proper sanitation due to heavy human traffic hiking up to Everest base camp. I could almost imagine myself in that situation trying to walk or tiptoe through a path without stepping on someone else’s waste.

3) You start understanding the reason behind every climber’s reason for wanting to climb Everest and reach its peak. Even when they knew that they could no longer take it, or even when the weather was so obviously worsening. For some, it was the sense of accomplishment. For others, it was what they needed to make some people proud of them. For Scott, it was to gain recognition just so he could save his dying business.

4) You get a closer peek into every person’s life. The author, Jon Krakauer had experienced everything first hand. He learned stories from people he spoke to personally, people he became acquainted with through the journey. I wasn’t a fan of Scott when I first watched the movie, but after reading about him, I begin to admire Scott for his perseverance and courage. Incidents that were supposed to break him, made him even more determined because he knew what he wanted to gain from the climb.  

5) I learned to see Sherpas in a different way. I don’t think Sherpas have been given enough recognition over the years because this was deemed as what they were supposed to do. It was their job and their responsibility to get people to the top. However, would people have actually made it to the peak without the help of Sherpas? The job of a Sherpa comes with so much responsibility. The lives of climbers are in their hands, and their own lives are at risk. Most people only attempt Everest once, but for Sherpas, it becomes almost a norm ascending and descending whenever their jobs require them to. And because it is actually their job, people perceive them as indestructible, even when tragedy strikes.

6) When faced with danger, there is no separation of teams or groups. The people on this expedition came in various groups. The expedition started with each team leader/guide, determined to get his whole team to the peak. But as the native people say, ” Whether or not we reach the peak is not decided by us, but by the Gods of the mountain.” No one could have foreseen the disaster that was bound to hit the climbers that day. They knew that the weather would worsen and a storm would hit, but sometimes, like all of us we just think that a storm would just be a storm, and we only need to brave through it. It took great courage for those who risked their own lives going out into the storm again to help the others. Nobody cared about their teams, or where they were from. Their only thought was to get anyone within sight to safety, but sadly some still didn’t make it.

Reading the book did not change how I felt about the movie. To me, both had different areas of focus. The movie focused more on the event itself, reenacting mainly the gist of the whole expedition. It was after all a movie and it would be impossible to fit all the details of the event into a 2 1/2 hour movie. Therefore, I still find it acceptable.

The book focuses more in-depth on each character, which is why we readers get to understand the story in a more personal manner. We got to understand why some people decided to take up the challenge, and why some people needed that challenge. The book is based on the author’s own personal experience and that is why everything written was described so articulately that we could even imagine ourselves being in the picture.

If you haven’t watched the movie or read the book yet, I would recommend you watch the movie first to get a gist of what actually happened, then go into the details by reading the book. That way, it would be easier to digest the story and you’d understand each character better. 🙂

I would say, hands down, this is one of the best books that I’ve read!






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