Jul. 25, 2017

The controversy continues…

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

On May 10, 1996, one of the worst accidents in the history of Mount Everest left eight people dead and others badly injured. Author Jon Krakauer was among the climbers on that fatal day. There were at least three groups on the mountain that day that all elected to summit.

Adventure Consultants, the author’s group, were lead by famed New Zeeland Mountaineer Ron Hall who achieved his fifth summit before becoming trapped by a sudden storm. Another group was Mountain Madness, lead by equally famous American Mountaineer Scott Fischer.

While Hall and Fischer had agreed to work together and planned to summit on the 10th of May, a group from Taiwan also decided that they would also. The sheer number of climbers caused a bottleneck at certain points of the final push to the top. Hall had a rule about turning around if you didn’t make it to the summit by a certain time, but that day the rule was sadly broken.

 Jon Krakauer and a few others reached the summit first and began to make their way back down. The problem was that others were still headed up. There was only a single rope to be used for both ascending and descending. Krakauer and the others had to wait for the way to clear before they could descend.

A fast-moving storm came in just as Krakauer and his group reached camp four. This is where the controversy comes in. Some of the climbers stated that the author misrepresented them in his article for Outsider Magazine. They also stated that Krakauer failed to go to the aid of trapped climbers, even though he had made it back safely.

I feel the major controversy lies not with who did or didn’t do something they should have. The problem lies in an unwritten rule about Everest. Above 26,000 feet lies what is known as “The Dead Zone.” Should a climber become incapacitated in that particular zone, they are often just left to die.

The reasoning is that climbers are drained by the climb into an area where without supplemental oxygen energy burns up swiftly. They are in danger themselves and to try to drag or carry a downed hiker could realistically end with all parties dead.

On this climb, a hiker named Beck Weathers was abandoned to his fate. However, after lying on the exposed ice all night and part of the next day, Beck came around and staggered into camp four. He lost a hand, fingers on the other hand, and his nose but he survived. Was it possible that others might have survived with a little help? We will never know.

The struggle written in this book is a deeply personal matter and a firsthand account of a life or death struggle. I give this book five stars.

Quoth the Raven…

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