Jon Krakauer’s Journey To The Top Of The World In Into Thin Air

People have dreamed about standing at the top of the earth to see everyone below, to feel powerful and accomplished. Climbers push themselves to the limits to achieve a moment of pure ecstasy. Jon Krakauer had a dream of this moment, but it was also the moment he almost died. Jon Krakauer reveals what happened during his trip to the top. Even though he wrote a book about the Mount Everest catastrophe a full year before, it soon became clear that he was wrong on many minor details, and this further damaged the family one of those who died. Jon Krakauer uses his Outside article to warn daredevils and outdoor enthusiasts that Mount Everest always wins the battle against mankind’s vanity. Krakauer points out that Everest’s commercialization is detrimental to climbers’ safety by encouraging guides to compete, leading them into making rash decisions.

Krakauer begins the book with a description of the story’s climax, only from his point of view. This is when he reaches a mountaintop and sees an enormous storm coming his way. He foreshadows and knows what’s coming. “None could have predicted that an awful ordeal would soon be upon them. Nobody knew that every minute of that day would count. This first paragraph draws in the reader, making them curious about what happens next. This chapter is lacking in details, which allows the reader to imagine what a “blanket” of clouds turned into. Krakauer provides a brief background of Everest as well as the area surrounding it. The reader will have a better understanding of what took place in the time period to form their own opinions on what actually happened on that day. The political climate of that period led to many bad decisions being made on that day. Krakauer is biased if this information was not provided. His journey begins at Everest basecamp at 17,600 foot and ends at the summit at 29028 foot. The chapters show the author’s progress throughout the book. The whole group spends about two weeks in each camp for acclimatization. As Krakauer’s group reaches the summit, it becomes more apparent that the higher they climb, the greater the number of deaths. After the first death in chapter 11, death had no effect on climbers’ minds. The group becomes weaker as they climb higher. Death can be caused by acclimation illness, accident or storm. Beck, a climber who underwent major eye surgery lost nearly all his vision during the climb. “The lower the barometric he fell, the worse the vision became. When he finally made it back down, he found that several of his legs had been severely frostbitten and needed to be amputated. It is difficult for people to turn around when they are so near the top. So, they tell themselves that they can make it. Hubris is a factor when people are so close to the top that it is hard for them to turn back. The dangers of Everest are often overlooked, particularly at the top. People end up being killed because they don’t take the risk. Krakauer writes in a way that follows the typical pattern of a disaster, going from bad to even worse. Krakauer first describes the challenging journey to the summit. They faced many challenges as they had to overcome unexpected barriers like frozen gear and broken lines. “They had conquered Mount Everest. After a few shaky moments, it turned out to be a great day. Not until they began to descend did the storm begin to take eight lives. Krakauer was safe during this short time. “It took him several hours to realize that the trip had not been a success. Nineteen men, women and children were caught on the mountain in a struggle for survival. Krakauer makes his point by showing Krakauer as a cocky mountaineer who felt safe while on the dangerous expedition. This false sense and exhaustion, combined with the lack of oxygen, caused Krakauer to make a number of poor decisions. Krakauer thought that his confidence would allow him to descend safely, but this was a grave mistake. Krakauer also uses time jumps to reflect Krakauer’s confusion as well as the chaos that occurred during the entire expedition. Krakauer, a journalist with a wealth of experience in this field, would have never been able take the trip. Krakauer starts off with an investigative tone, but as he continues the story, he begins to give his opinion. The first few pages were filled with facts, which allowed readers to form their opinions. Krakauer told the story of Robert Hall from his Catholic family who had been successful in climbing Everest. Hall, who led an expedition with Peter Hillary, Sir Edmund’s son, reached the top of Everest in May of 1990 after ten attempts and three years. Hall’s credibility is established, and the reader has a chance form an opinion of Hall. This writing style is maintained until Krakauer gets to the base of Mount Everest, which allows the reader to get a more unbiased perspective of the expedition. Krakauer writes in an objective manner at the beginning, but as his involvement increases, he starts to give his opinion, especially about those he climbed along with. “Take Beck Weathers…My first opinion of Beck was not favourable: a Dallas-based pathologist with mediocre climbing skills…Yet as I got to better know him, he gained my respect.” His opinions give readers a glimpse of Krakauer and his personality. He isn’t just a bumbling idiot who decides to climb Everest on a whim. It is clear that Krakauer has prior climbing experiences and that his observations of other climbers will give the reader a sense of the people who are going on this trip. Krakauer also showed very little emotion in the chaos. Krakauer didn’t hesitate to act when he first saw a body. It wasn’t until Krakauer was safely on the ground that he realised what had happened. “Safely now, the crushing burden of the preceding day lifted off my shoulder, I wept in memory of my lost companions. Also, I wept out gratitude for being alive. Finally, I shed tears because it made me feel terrible that I had survived while other people died. The lack of emotion he showed until the end highlights the dangers and toll Everest has on people. Krakauer lacked any emotion on the mountain as he could not grieve. He would have never been able to grieve if Krakauer had died. Krakauer writes bluntly because of how serious this event was and what it did to him. He is very direct and doesn’t mince words, especially in regards to death or injuries. “Over six weeks before, there had already been several serious accident,” somebody fell down a crevasse. A heart attack was also reported. And another person developed High Altitude Pulmonary Esdema (HAPE) which continued to worsen up until his death. Krakauer never sugarcoated events, not even when bodies were found. Few climbers had even given the corpses a second glance as they walked by. It was almost as if the climbers had agreed to deny that these dried-out remains were real. Krakauer is very direct in his writing, which makes it clear what he means about Everest’s dangers. Krakauer as well as the readers realized the importance of this event for Krakauer. Krakauer is trying to scare his readers and make them think twice about climbing the mountain. Krakauer did not see only two dead bodies while on Everest. Krakauer makes sure that he has the correct dates, times and altitudes for each event. The reader can keep track of the events as Krakauer progresses chronologically. The storm that raged at the summit of the mountain was at its strongest within 16 hours. This image shows how quickly a storm can progress from cloudy clouds to a full blown blizzard. Every minute counts when it comes to life and death. Krakauer’s exact times showed the reader how this storm could not be easily seen or avoided. Krakauer gives not only the specific times but also the history of Everest as well the countries that surround it, Tibet and China. The expeditions started soon after Everest’s first ascent by two climbers. This led to some concern. “The government in Nepal realized that these crowds that were flocking towards Everest created problems regarding safety, aesthetics and the impact on the environment”. Nepal decided to fix the problem by charging climbers thousands of dollars in spring 1996. However, Nepal didn’t realize that China charged less for climbing permits. As tensions between China and Nepal increased, the debate about the commercialization Everest was more important. This history helped readers understand why Krakauer’s climb to Everest was so popular and why he was offered it. As Mount Everest became a common climb for rich and egotistical people, the permits were expensive. Everest marketing was growing as was competition between both countries. Due to the growing competition, only the richer and more ambitious could climb Everest. They just needed a guide that was willing to push through the toughest expeditions man can undertake. This increased the competition among guides to earn money, as they all wanted to be seen as more capable of getting someone safely up and over the mountain. This ultimately resulted in many bad decisions. This pressure often clouds the judgement of guides, particularly when it comes the people that they send on these climbs. Many climbers did not have much mountaineering training, but they still took part, putting them and their teammates in danger. Overconfidence and egos of the climbers led to some deaths. Because they believed that the guides who were stressed had the highest rate of success, climbers put a lot of faith in them. The story of the commercialization Everest was originally intended to be told in this book. However, after its publication, it caused even more controversy. Jon Krakauer, in the epilogue of his book, includes letters he has received after it was first published. He acknowledges that he himself made mistakes on the expedition. One of his deceased guide’s sisters wrote him: “Perhaps take a look at what you do by appearing to know EVERYTHING…What i am reading is your OWN ego desperately trying to make SENSE out of everything that happened.” Krakauer admits indirectly his faults by putting this into the book. He also acknowledges the role of egos in the expedition. Krakauer had to learn the hard way that nature always wins when man’s ambitions are too big. This same letter appeals to guilt in the reader. Everyone has experienced guilt at one time or another. Krakauer suffered from survivor guilt, which tore him apart. His failure to react killed a teammate on the day the storm occurred. “…whileYasukoNamba laid dying…he wasn’t more than 350 yards from her. He was in a small tent, oblivious, and only concerned about his safety. Krakauer was guilty of many mistakes, and they were all evident. However, his worst mistake was to agree to the trip. The backlash would have been less severe if Krakauer had decided not to take the trip. But his ego won out and he made the decision. This trip was a difficult one for Krakauer, but the guilt he felt afterwards helped readers understand what it meant to him. People feel sympathy for him when he shares his feelings. Krakauer reveals his feelings of regret and guilt in the final chapter, but Krakauer keeps the reader entertained by appealing to their adventurous side. The whole book revolves around this single adventure, which has many twists. The reader is continually engaged as they wonder what will happen and if the person who has been chosen to survive or not is still alive. Krakauer appeals the people’s desire for adventure and escape from their own world. Krakauer said, “I was thrilled by the new perspective I gained from a reorientation of the plane of ordinary existence”. Krakauer’s decision to embark on the expedition was based entirely on his desire to explore and experience new things. Krakauer’s ambitious goal seemed relatable to thrill-seeking adventurers. Krakauer depends on his ability to keep readers interested by doing the impossible. Humanity has always had the instinct to go beyond what has been done before. This instinct has helped people to make progress, but it can also be a danger to mankind. Jon Krakauer travelled around the world and has seen many things, but he regrets his trip to Everest. People die every day for the sake of showing off their accomplishments. Everest, for example, is an example of how people will push their bodies beyond the limit at the highest point on the planet. Nature will always triumph over mankind in the end. Those who forget this truth will regret their actions until they die.


  • davidwong

    David Wong is a 29-year-old educator and blogger who focuses on helping students learn in creative and interesting ways. He has a background in teaching and has been blogging since 2006. David's work has been featured on a variety of websites, including Lifehack, Dumb Little Man, and The Huffington Post.