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Into Thin Air, Book-Report

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English Language

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Evangelisches Oberstufenrealgymnasium Oberschützen

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2+, 2013

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Text by Michael K. ©
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INTO THIN AIR (JON KRAKAUER)

General information:

The main title of my English Book for our book report is „Into thin air“, though this book also has the subtitle „A personal account of the Everest disaster”. So, as we could suspect, this book is about an expedition to the top of the world’s highest mountain Everest which ends in a disaster. The book was published by Villard Books, a co-publisher of the famous publisher Random House, one of the largest publishing companies of the world. “Into thin air” is written in 281 pages and in the middle of the book you can find eight pages with photos of the described Everest expedition.

It is organized in 21 chapters and each chapter contains a subtitle that tells general information about this chapter. For better imagination I want to make an example: Chapter 11, Everest Base Camp…….May 6, 1996….…17600 feet.

The cover of this book shows the peak of Mount Everest and one climber reaching the summit of our world’s highest mountain. There are many other more popular book covers and also the second subtitle “Death on Everest” is important for the story of this book.

The author:

The author of this book, Jon Krakauer, is a journalist for an adventure magazine called “Outside” from Seattle, the biggest city

in the state of Washington in the USA. He was born 1954 in America and discovered his appeal to mountaineering at the age of eight. By climbing higher and higher mountains all over the world he became a professional climber but still worked as a journalist in his hometown Seattle. Other famous books of him are Iceland, Eiger Dreams and Into the Wild.

In his book he also explains how he got the chance to fly to Mount Everest as a journalist to write an article about an Everest expedition. Basically the action of this book is a half-year-long cutout of Jon Krakauer’s exciting life and written like a diary. So Jon Krakauer is the main character and calles himself “I” in the book, which is also called Autobiography.

He wrote the book in the end of the year 1996 and the beginning of 1997, just after returning from the expedition on Mount Everest. Jon Krakauer did not take notice of his friend’s and other climber’s advice and published the book 1997, only a few months after the big disaster on Everest.

Background information:

The story of this book is non-fictional and about an expedition to Mount Everest in 1996. The author often describes other characters, mostly climbers of the expedition, by telling older stories of them or earlier meetings with them, but in general the book passes off chronologically.

All other books of this author are also non-fictional books, so Jon Krakauer only wants to write about true stories and report the world about realistic facts. For sure this book is an adventure book, but Jon Krakauer also mentions the fact that the expedition he joined was run by some experienced guides for paying clients who had little or no climbing experience.

Jon Krakauer, who had joined this expedition at once, had enough climbing experience and also essential luck, so he could .....[read full text]

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However, the most important expeditions to climb the world’s highest mountain are two charitable organisations: For the cleaning of the mountain the Nepali Everest Cleaning Expedition is responsible and emergency doctors you will find at the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic in the village of Pheriche.

Summary of the story:

The first chapter takes place on the summit and around the peak of Mount Everest on the 10th of May 1996. Jon Krakauer has just reached the top of the world’s so-called third pole at the height of 29028 feet. As he stands on the summit, with one foot on China and the other in Nepal, he has to begin his descent down from there, because of the freezing cold, the strong wind and the limited amount of oxygen.

Fifteen minutes after leaving the summit he comes to the famous Hillary Step, where you need to clip into a fixed rope to pass the next section. Suddenly Jon gets shocked by an alarming sight: Thirty feet below the top of the step 20 climbers of three expeditions (the Adventure Consultants, the Mountain Madness and the Taiwanese Expedition) are waiting at the base of the step to clip into the rope to get to the top.

While waiting for his own descent at the top, Andy Harris, one of the guides, pulls up behind Jon Krakauer. Because of the unsuspected holdup, Jon asks Andy to turn the oxygen regulator in his backpack to lower flow. Instead of that he accidentally turns it to full flow, so Jon’s amount of oxygen is consumed after a few minutes. With the knowledge that new oxygen bottles are waiting for the climbers at the south summit, Jon carries himself to this place and takes a new oxygen cylinder onto his regulator.

Now he hurries down from south summit and the first chapter ends with the sentences “It began to snow lightly and went to hell. Nobody suspected that by the end of that long day, ever.....

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After the expedition group checked in at Base Camp they pitch their tents at the campsite in the ad-hoc village and Rob Hall shows them all important tents, buildings and other places of their new home for the next six weeks. Jon describes how the next time at base camp passed and what life at the height of 17600 feet looks like. He mentions his personal problems because of the thin air as well as likeable meetings with climbers and guides of other expeditions.

After getting a phone call from his wife Linda, Jon also begins to send faxes regularly to his hometown in the USA. In this chapter also the climbing strategy of his expedition gets introduced: The group will set up four different camps on the way to the top and they have to provide all these camps with food, water and oxygen tank bottles. Because of acclimatization the expedition team has to make several excursions to each of these camps before the final ascent to the summit.

So in the following days the members of the Adventure Consultants Guided Expedition climb up through a dangerous, frightening icefall, called Khumbu Icefall, to Camp One at the height of 19500 feet, sleep there for a couple of days and get back to Base Camp. On this first climbing part Jon Krakauer learns that he is one of the most experienced climbers of the team and worries about some teammates.

On the next day they return to Camp One with the intention to climb up to Camp Two. After two nights at Camp One the members of the expedition continue to Camp Two, which is at the height of 21300 feet. On the way to Camp Two Jon Krakauer catches sight of two dead bodies lying in the snow and is shocked of Rob Hall’s comment that these climbers have died some days before.

The team has to acclimatize at Camp Two for three day, before heading down to Base Camp. Back at Base Camp Jon has to realize that a Sherpa of the Mountain Madness Guided Expedition just died at Camp Two because of less acclimatization.

In chapter nine Jon Krakauer’s expedition group goes on their last acclimatization trip: They climb up to Camp Two and after a night they should struggle up to the third Camp. But suddenly after one night at Camp Two, when they want to continue to the Camp Three, the effective temperature is forty degrees below zero because of a strong wind. Instead of descending from there the team carries on climbing and only stops after a call of their guide Rob Hall to get down.

The climbers of the expedition turn back at the so-called Lhotse Face at the height of 23400 feet with a little frostbite, which is only 600 feet below the third Camp and then reache.....

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In the end Jon Krakauer arrives at the summit of Mount Everest, with 29028 feet the highest mountain of the world. But, as described in the beginning of the story, he soon has to descent from there and has not enough time to enjoy the great view. As mentioned at first, Jon climbs down with some impediments to South Summit and then notices that the weather turns out terrible.

Because of the strong wind and snowfall it is hard to find the right way down, but Jon just hurries towards the tents and finally reaches Camp Four, at the so-called South Col with his teammates and Andy Harris. Waiting at the Camp they look out for other lost climbers and then guide them down to their Camp. Many climbers get lost in the snowstorm while searching for their teammates and others find back to their tents with the news that they found some climbers dead or badly hurt.

On the next morning Jon Krakauer notices that the tent of Andy Harris is empty and follows his footsteps, until they end at the edge of a cliff. Back at the Camp Jon finds out that the guide Scott Fisher and some of his climbers are missing since one day.

The next days all climbers who have arrived at the Camp search for their teammates and guides and find most of them, including the guides Scott Fischer, Rob Hall, Andy Harris, Bruce Herrod and Chen Yu-Nan, dead. When they decide to descend to Base Camp, Jon notices that only half of the ascended climbers are descending now. After a short section of walking, the group learns that some climbers cannot get down to Base Camp on their own because of injuries or frostbite.

So Jon Krakauer organises a helicopter for them and then walks down to Base Camp on his own.

Some hours after he checks in at Base Camp, the rest of his expedition group leaves the camp with him and returns to Namche Bazaar, the village where they wait for their flight to Kathmandu.

In the last chapter of the book Jon highlights the aftereffects of this Mount Everest disaster expedition, like depressions or the dissolving of lots of relationships and marriages. After all he lets to know his own opinion about the uncountable news reports and his own article for the ad.....

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