This is one of those books that I bought after seeing the movie Everest and then it sat on my shelf forever. I finally picked it up, knowing what it was going to be about, expecting to see what I saw in the movie. It was exactly what I saw in the film but I was very surprised by this book; the in depth writing, emotion and facts really made this book stand out from all the other non-fictions I have read.
May 10th, 1996 will always be a somber day in Everest history. The mountain has claimed many people but the people who died that day, go down in history. Many teams were pushing for the summit and made it. Meanwhile a huge storm tore its way through the Himalayas. When it finally reached Everest, it trapped and injured numerous people and killed many more.
There was so much that went on in this book, I had to write notes on here just so I could get everything I needed and portray it right! Everest has always been interesting to me; climbing a mountain so harsh and unforgiving that many people don’t reach the top and some die there. Why in the world would someone risk their life to climb a mountain? Honestly, I would do it if I had a ton of money and was an in-shape climber! Just being at base camp would be enough for me because how many people do you personally know that has climbed Mt. Everest?? I would totally want to be that person you knew.
This book definitely made me think twice about it though, it isn’t just some camping trip you take your family on! Jon goes into depth about living on the mountain, about everything that can and will happen even at base camp. He shows you how brutal living on the mountain is: from harsh/tough living conditions, aclimitizing hikes, to the risk of getting HAPE or even death. And that is all before going any higher than Camp 2.
Something that I found different about this book was almost too simple for me to point out. The author provides us with foot notes through the majority of the book. These foot notes are short and to the point! They were very helpful when it came to definitions or short little explanations. They were a great idea and you don’t see too many non-fiction books with them!
What interested me the most and kept me pulled in was, of course, the drama. And by drama I mean the superstitions (if you anger the mountain, something bad happens), the deaths, sickness and accident history. Some morbid part of me found these parts of the book the best parts. I knew people die on the mountain every year and many more climbs get cut short because of sickness, injuries and weather.
What is burned in my mind is the fact that the people that die on the mountain, stay there. When Jon talked about them, he said the first one haunted him. When he saw his second body, he was able to brush it off. There was no avoiding them either as they were used as check points or trail markers on the mountain; one of them specifically named “Green Boots”. Reading this, I knew I couldn’t do what he did; look at them and keep climbing. The sight of their bodies would haunt me for months.
So many times while reading this book I thought about the people who were able to leave the mountain alive and the scrutiny they faced when they got home. Many of the people pointing fingers didn’t know who to blame for the deaths on Everest making me realize how much of a controversial event this was. Thinking back to the book, there was a lot of unknowns; whose responsibility was it to place oxygen tanks at certain check points, judgment about turn around times, climbers pushing themselves to the summit while ignoring the warnings of the guides. There was a lot of misjudgment on the day and unfortunately, no one truly knows who is suppose to be accountable for the deaths on the mountain.
One thing that I didn’t like about the book was there where too many side stories in the beginning. Jon is telling you about a little drama going on while his group was on the ice fall. He named 2 people and added a little bit of their background, only the background goes on for 5 pages and I lose interest in what I am reading. Learning about other well known climbers on the mountain who have achieved awesome things in their climbing career is fine by me but reading 5 pages on it leads me astray and I start scanning through to get back to Jon and the Adventure Consultants gang.
Okay, Into Thin Air in a nutshell:
Facts about Everest
Foot notes added useful information
An in depth look into the disaster
The background and side stories were too long
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Everest or likes a good non-fiction.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Up Next: True Believer by Nicholas Sparks