This week, an interesting parallel occurred as family members from the Midwest relayed their horror stories of the polar vortex as I delved into Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, the story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster which killed several climbers amidst miserable storm conditions. Windchills, whiteouts, and frostbite were the talk of the week – all of which I was merely hearing about on the news, via iMessage, or in the story of this ill-fated summit attempt which left many dead or injured. I feel a little guilty I was inspired to snap this week’s pic during my 80-degree, winter-in-SoCal hike as so many I know endured sub-zero temps for days. (Sorry… kinda?)
It feels a bit strange to say I “enjoyed” reading Into Thin Air — more accurately, I was hooked from page one. It’s quite the page-turner and I could barely put it down. I don’t follow mountaineering at all, and I’d never read much about what happened during this disaster. Everything was completely new to me despite the book being over twenty years old. I zoomed through it at every spare moment. I do enjoy a good adventure tale, and I love getting into the heads of people who do unusual things. In fact, reading about the misery – even on a good day – of an Everest attempt pushed me out the door to the first hike of the year. Who was I to use my lingering cough as an excuse on a gorgeous winter day?
After finishing the book, I read about the controversy over Krakauer’s version of events, and how many of the people mentioned in the book took issue with how they were portrayed. Krakauer seems to have some credibility issues (he’s also the guy who drummed up a flimsy expose against Greg Mortenson a few years back). That put a damper on my opinion of the book, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the read. There are apparently counterpoint books available, as well as a 2015 movie, Everest, which tells the story of the same excursion, through the eyes of a different mountaineer. I’m going to move on after this week, though, because it’s just a book I picked up a few years ago at a library book sale and finally got around to reading.
In the book, Krakauer says there’s little sympathy among Americans for mountain climbing woes. I would be one of those people. The ordeal in the story was brutal and the loss of their friends traumatizing for certain – but my well of sympathy runs a bit dry for opt-in danger. This is recreation, and a pricey one at that (it cost $65,000 in 1996!) This life risk is a choice; this hardship a hobby. While I am endlessly fascinated by the logistics and process of making the climb, and I admire the tenacity to complete the task — I feel less sympathy for those that suffer on this path than those trapped in hard lives due to reasons beyond their control.
Did reading Into Thin Air make me want to climb Everest for myself? Nah. There are some things – especially nature – I feel are best left alone.
Progress on the reading challenge, however, thrills me! Books should never be left alone, sad and unread. The fast pace of this week’s main read let me pick up some ground and close a bit of the gap between where I should be and where I am. I’m also now in Book Two in War and Peace, now trudging through the battlefields rather than the soirees, and I find it a little less enjoyable. Ah well.
Stats, Week 5 (change from last week)
Books completed (total): 4 (+1)
Books to go: 56 (-1)
Pages read (total): 1612 (+483)
Pages to go: 21146 (-483)
Pages per day: 50.38 (+5.22)
Pages per day to complete entire goal by end of year: 63.50 (-0.11)