My Book Review / Thoughts: "Into Thin Air"

I found "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer to be one of the most gripping, emotional, unforgettable reads of my life. Into Thin Air tells a fascinating story of hardship, tragedy, heroism and a lack of respect for nature. The amazing part of this story is the author was there, suffering through the storm and watching his fellow climbers die around him. Krakauer was actually on the summit of Everest in May 1996 when tragedy struck.

The basis of the book is Krakauer was sent to Everest by Outside magazine to join New Zealand guide Ron Hall's expedition in the spring of 1996. He was there to write an article about how anyone who is reasonably in shape, has some (and not a lot) of climbing experience, and who can fork over more than $60,000 could be taken to the summit of Everest while Sherpas and yaks carried most of your supplies, cooked your meals, and carried you when you collapsed. One climber even brought an espresso machine. He also wanted to comment on how Everest has become a virtual junk yard, with empty oxygen canisters thrown all over the face of the mountain.

What he found changed his life forever. Krakauer was caught up in a deadly storm, that appeared virtually "out of thin air", leaving members of his and other teams stranded on the summit and on Hillary Step (a ledge just below the summit) with little chance of making it down. The story is gripping, suspenseful and ultimately deeply moving. The reader may think people, especially those with pregnant wives at home, have no business at the summit of Everest, but you cannot help being deeply moved as you read about Rob Hall talking to his wife on the other side of the world, via satellite phone, to discuss the name of their unborn child while Hall is stranded on the mountain awaiting death. This book has stuck with me as few others ever have.

The thing that impacted me the most was to see how a series of poor decisions cost 8 people their lives. None of the choices by themselves would have been disastrous, but when they all added up over the weeks spent climbing the mountain, tragedy ensued.

We often will make poor choices in our day to day life and think nothing of it, but what about when they all come crashing down. There is an old saying that goes, "The devils in the details", and it could have been no more true for the folks up on Everest or us in our day to day lives. We often take life for granted, cutting corners here and there, or just getting to comfortable where we are at. The fact is, we all have "Everest" that we climb every day. Maybe it's your job, school, family, or some other interest. The results of what we do in and with those opportunites will be directly effected by how we take care of the details.

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