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H.I.V.E by Mark Walden

Count your books with me! Mwoarh!

Count your books with me! Mwoarh!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Book Review-Into thin air by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer is asked to go on a commercial Everest climb to write an article for a magazine. What begins as an assignment turns into disaster when his team and several others are caught high on the mountain during a savage storm that will claim lives. This is the personal experience of a man who survived while watching disaster unfold around him and he is not shy at pointing the finger at those he felt were in the wrong.

I was gripped, disgusted, shocked, appalled and saddened as I made my way through this amazing book. The author has a real gift for enveloping you in the story and sweeping you along on a wave of emotion, caring about those who died, were injured, who survived. When this is the personal recollection of one person, it is difficult to know the full story until you read and compare the accounts of the others mentioned here, which is what I intend to do.

However, from everything I have read so far, I am going to pass judgement one one person. I was disgusted by the attitude of several of the climbing teams especially that South African team leader who had no regard for the mountain or anyone else on it. He was a piece of filth who didn't lift a finger to help, a selfish and despicable character who should never be trusted with the lives of others. To say I hated him with every fibre of my body would be an understatement.

The Russian guide comes in for a lot of criticism in this book but I'm not going to comment on him until I read his side of the story in his book The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev which is on my tbr. It must also be pointed out that whether you think he did wrong on the climb based on this book, he did save lives later on during the search. What I did find appalling was the treatment of Beck Weathers, who was found several times not far from camp but who was just left to die without even trying to save him. The fact that this man survived is a damn miracle and I look forward to reading his book Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest by Beck Weathers

I have sympathy for anyone who made mistakes during the confusion and fear in the storm, and you have to factor in the oxygen shortage and mental impairment of being at such high altitude when judging the actions of people. I think unless you have experienced that environment, you can't really know what it is like and its easy to shove blame around. The heroes of this book who surrendered their own ambition for the summit to help the victims deserve a special mention here as well.

BUT. There are several things that really concern me. Amateurs who have no business being on that mountain are a danger to everyone-the Sherpas, the guides and their fellow climbers. I firmly believe that you should not be given a permit to climb unless you have proved yourself to a certain standard first. It won't stop the deaths on Everest but it might reduce it. Experienced guides made bad decisions that cost lives because they didn't stick to their own rules so future guides MUST enforce this however sad it is for those who are turned back before the summit.

I can understand the appeal and lure of the mountain. I have always wanted to go to base camp to photograph the mountain, and I'm addicted to watching TV programmes and reading books about these amazing mountains and the expeditions on them. But until the amateurs realise that it is not a game, until proper regulation comes in to police the expedition leaders and their clients, I'm afraid we are going to be reading a lot more disaster books like this one.

Other books about this disaster include:

Doctor on Everest: Emergency Medicine at the Top of the World - A Personal Account of the 1996 Disaster by Kenneth Kamler
The Death Zone: Climbing Everest Through the Killer Storm by Matt Dickinson
Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil

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