Into Thin Air: A personal account of the Everest disaster by Jon Krakauer
It was with some trepidation that I decided to review this book as I am aware of the amount of controversy it has provoked among the people present on 10th May 1996, their families and friends. Also I am not a mountaineer, so was sometimes unable to follow in detail the events described. Without singling out individuals, there are a litany of problems detailed by Krakauer, which were felt by many to be an accident waiting to happen. These included overcrowding, indiscipline and inexperience. The book gives an insight into the many disparate people from around the world who were united by their drive to summit Everest that day. It also provides a vivid description of the disaster unravelling amid the problems of their various expeditions.
Getting High: The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal by Bill Walker “Skywalker”
The sheer enjoyment of the author’s experience on this hikes shines through in spite of his dislike of the cold weather, his altitude problems, and his fear of crossing the long rickety suspension bridges along the route. His willingness to share his own weaknesses on his hikes makes him good company for those of us who are not elite athletes. The independence he has developed during his previous long hikes is clear from his determination not to use a local trekking company when he is planning this trek. He recounts his experience of trying to pursue his goal without a porter in an unfamiliar country and a new culture. Although the focus of his writing is more often on his fellow trekkers, he is clearly struck by the beauty of his surroundings and his love of hiking is apparent.
Blind Descent: Surviving alone and blind on Mount Everest by Brian Dickinson.
This is a classic adventure which contains plenty of detail of the logistics of the trip, the glorious backdrop of the Himalayas, and the tension as things gradually turn bad for this expedition. We are left in no doubt about the author’s preparedness for the expedition by his descriptions of the gruelling military and rescue training he has undergone. Personally I found the passages about faith distracted from the enthralling narrative of the book, which is gripping right through to the end. In my humble but more sceptical view it is the author’s experience, which is evident in the precision of his reactions and decisions in a crisis, which ensures the success of his mission. However, whatever your beliefs, it remains a captivating account.
“Everest” the Movie. Directed by Baltasar Kormàkur.
This account of the events of the 1996 Everest Disaster (also covered in Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” above) focuses more tightly on the Rob Hall Adventure Consultants expedition. Characters from Scott Fischer’s and other expeditions make briefer appearances. The film also incorporates the events seen from the perspective of the base camp crew, Rob Hall’s pregnant girlfriend and Beck Weather’s Texan wife back home. This inclusion of the crew and families adds an important human dimension to the more technical information contained in the story, all of which is quite faithfully conveyed.
The cinematography was stunning to watch, managing to convey the smallness of the human beings in the vast Himalayan landscape, and the thundering surround sound makes you feel like you are there on the mountain with them during the storm and avalanches. There are some very fine and convincing central performances, particularly from Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin and Emily Watson. Although many people will know the outcome of the story, the climax of the film remains very moving.
All the above Kindle editions and film rentals were purchased online for the normal price except the Bill Walker book which was offered free for a limited period. I saw “Everest” in the cinema and paid the normal price for the ticket.