I’ve read a lot of books like Into This Air. Travel writing, memoirs, biographies, history. I haven’t read a book like this in a long time, though. I know how it ends. It’s like reading about the Titanic. Along the way you become attached to each person on the mountain, you forget it’s not fiction. Until that is, you’re nearly finished. When Krakauer includes the reactions from the survivors to his initial writing, published in Outside Magazine.
Since reading the book there’s been a lot of news from this season on Everest. This time of year, May actually, is the season for climbing the mountain. It’s not hitting the front pages or headlines. With so many deaths this season the worry of overcrowding has returned. Something Krakauer raised as more people, often untrained and unprepared for such a climb, are led to the top by professional climbing tour guides.
Recently news broke that the Hillary Step is no more. The point, well into the “death zone”, is just below the summit. Nepalese climbers say it’s still there. The step is named after Edmund Hillary, the first to the top of Everest. It’s where Krakauer opens up the book, and where all the stories start to come apart and come together as they try to piece together what happened as everyone headed back down the mountain. A line to get up the step, a line to get down. Precious moments that could be life or death. Because so many people were climbing at once.
As a hiker, and someone who used to rock climb, I was surprised at how much I struggled to imagine what was happening. I took for granted what is described in the book as they cross crevasses on metal ladders, and climb a mountain of ice. It couldn’t be quite that. I was wrong. It is written as it appears.
Well worth the read if you like adventure and travel memoirs, and if you’re curious about Everest. This was as close as I need to get.