About a year ago, I read a book called Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth which was basically all about finding the basement of the earth. A group of cave divers descended into a seemingly bottomless cave full of all sorts of unknown danger. For some reason after finishing it, I didn’t return to any exploration books even though this tale fascinated me. It wasn’t until recently when I listened to an episode of Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier’s SModcast in which Mosier recommended Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air that I gave it another go.
Now, going in, I knew next to nothing about Mount Everest. I knew the basics:
a) It’s the tallest mountain in the word and;
b) It’s really difficult to climb.
Just how difficult? Well, for starters there are frozen bodies littered
on it. Try that on for size. I thought I had a grip on just how difficult it was to climb the damn thing but I had no idea that people had died on there and that upon dying, never left. Oh, and don’t forget altitude sickness, falling rocks and boulders as well as blocks of ice the size of large buildings that have been known to detach and fall without warning.
Jon Krakauer gives a stunning account of his attempt at conquering the mighty monster in 1996 with a slew of others. While he goes into pretty extensive detail in describing his arduous journey to the top, it’s what happens when he reaches the summit that is both captivating and terrifying. Greeted by a terrible and destructive storm, Krakauer and his teammates struggled for survival in an attempt to make their way back down the mountain. Some made it, others didn’t. In fact, some of those who survived did so with extraordinary feats of strength coupled with an undying will to make it off of that mountain.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here; I feel I would ruin it if I don’t let Krakauer have his go at telling the full story to you. There are parts of this book where you honestly think to yourself, this can’t get any worse. Then, it does, especially when it comes to Beck Weathers. Sweet cream on an ice cream sandwich, what that man went through is mind-blowing.