Into Thin Air sample essay

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This paper discusses the book titled, Into Thin Air, and illustrates the theme of selfishness and self-preservation evident on the mountain. There will also be a discussion on the presence of heroes. Selfishness and Self-Preservation on the Mountain In this book, Krakauer writes about his experience in an Everest mountain-climbing expedition, despite mostly giving up mountain climbing years ago. Originally Krakauer, being a journalist for an adventure magazine, only intended to climb to Mount Everest’s base camp.

He treated this merely as a professional assignment where he would report on the commercialization of the mountain. However, the idea of climbing to the summit intrigued him and reawakened his childhood desire to climb the worlds highest peak. He asked his editor to postpone the story for a few months so that he could train for a climb to the summit. From that point, the book accounts for chronological events that took place on the mountain and the leads up to the horrific tragedy which takes place during the push for the summit.

In all, nine climbers perished in the second week of May 1996. Since then versions of the event have varied and climbers as well as commentators were pointing fingers. Evidence of selfishness and self-preservation became evident as some climbers traded accusations and absolved themselves of responsibility. Of course there were contributing factors which resulted in this disaster. A massive storm blew across the mountain unexpectedly, catching the climbers completely off guard. This led to errors and weaknesses which were compounded as the storm became more pronounced.

After this climbing debacle there was a belief among others that these “trophy climbers” were unworthy and unprepared for the lofty summit, and attention has focused on the fact that they each paid as much as $65,000 to be guided up the mountain. Krakauer further illustrates the selfishness of some of the team guides alleging that essential safety methods adapted over the years by experienced guides on Everest are sometimes compromised by the competition between rival guiding agencies.

The book strongly emphasizes that climbing Mount Everest is, by order of magnitude, the most difficult ascent possible because it idealizes boldness and risk-taking to such a degree. A climber has to have an incredible ego and a passion for adventure to tackle such a challenge. However, its ideals about respecting your partner and about how you climb being more important than what you climb are profound. Krakauer indicated in his book that he betrayed these ideals. “For that I really beat myself up,” he said.

“I can’t think of a single good thing that came out of this climb. ” Krakauer’s book is a deeply moving narrative that honors the courage of people on Mount Everest while raising profound and highly debatable questions about human behavior during a crisis. “People performed badly at times,” Krakauer said in a telephone interview. “But like everything in life, it’s more complicated that that. Everyone up there was a complicated personality. There were no heroes and there were no villains. It was just this really sad disaster.

” Krakauer had his own sense as to why things went so horribly wrong. “We had never climbed together, there was a disparity in strengths among us, so wisely, we were taught to rely on guides if anything went wrong. Not only that, we were never roped together. Everyone climbed independently, at their own pace, which was good. ” It was obvious there was a lack of intimacy and no bond among the climbers. There was no encouragement to look after fellow team members. Krakauer further stated, “That’s inexcusable to me.

It’s one thing that eats at me the most. If I’d been up there with a bunch of friends, instead of guides and fellow clients, I can’t imagine that I would have left Andy Harris (guide) up there in a storm when I clearly should have seen that he wasn’t feeling well. ” Conclusion Krakauer said in his own words that there were no “heroes or villains” on the summit, however, there was one particularly heart-wrenching passage which he describes. Rob Hall, the leader of Krakauer’s summit team, was alone on the South Summit, slowly freezing to death.

He had a final radio conversation via satellite with his wife in New Zealand before dying a hero soon after for trying to save a handful of amateur climbers who had paid him $65,000 each to be escorted to the summit. This book clearly shows that climbing is a subculture that prides itself on the purity of its ideals. It has weird rituals and rules that only other climbers would understand. It illustrates our unintentional selfishness and self-preservation.


Krakauer, J (1996). Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster