Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

Personal account of 1996 Mount Everest disaster by John Krakauer, author of Into the Wild.

Krakauer was one of the clients of Adventure Consultants, led by Rob Hall. With Mountain Madness, led by Scott Fischer, and Taiwanese expedition team, they headed to the summit on May 11, 1996. Eight people perished that day, including Hall and Fischer, two prominent mountaineers. There weren’t any clear-cut causes of the disaster. Safe to say it was very complex thing, intertwined with human errors and fast-changing weather on the mountain.

There is something so fascinating about these mountain stories, even tragic ones. They are mostly about pain, bad weather, altitude sickness, frostbite, etc… Still, I just can’t get enough.

Every time I read stories about mountaineering, I always wonder what is driving these people to sacrifice everything just to climb some mountain. I enjoy hiking and short mountain climbing, but there is a huge gap between casual hiking and serious mountaineering. Serious mountaineering can kill people. And let’s not forget, many of these serious mountaineers have family back home.

Asked, “Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?”, George Mallory famously answered,

Because it’s there.

After all, it might be that simple.

Why do we do anything? Why Beethoven had to compose symphony even after he lost his hearing? Why does eiken (my twitter friend) stay up late and practice his guitar every night after tiring day job? Why do I spend hours writing this blog in foreign language?

We just do, because we like doing it.

Logic often fails in presence of passion. Maybe it’s not meant to make sense to anyone else, as long as it makes sense to each individual.

Getting back to mountaineers, I think it’s OK that I can’t really understand why people risk their lives and everything to climb mountain. At least I enjoy their stories. Passion is infectious.

Oh, and Jon Krakauer does wonderful writing. I only hope I can write like he does…. Some day!


Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
Jon Krakauer
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