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Into Thin Air Study Guide

Into Thin Air By Jon Krakauer

Krakauer, a journalist for adventure magazine Outside, is scheduled to write an article about the commercialization of Mount Everest. He climbs to Base Camp, where the fever overtakes him, and he contacts his editor and asks for a year-long extension, because he has decided to climb to the summit. Throughout the book, Krakauer alleges that essential safety procedures developed over years of experiences are casually discarded by rival guide companies competing over the privilege of taking clients, often with no mountaineering experience whatsoever, to the top of the deadly mountain.

Krakauer details his teammates, his guides, and the other expeditions on the mountain. He tries to put together a timeline of the events that take place during the weeks of his climb. He joins a guide service called Adventure Consultants, led by Rob Hall. The service is designed to acclimatize their clients quickly and guide them successfully to the summit of Mount Everest.

The climb is divided into camps: Base Camp, Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3, and Camp 4. After weeks at Base Camp, the group takes trips up to the higher camps to speed up the acclimatization process, and in early May, makes the push to the summit. They all have trouble adjusting to the altitude; they tire easily and move slowly. Some of them are qualified, others are incompetent and rely heavily on the guides.

Everything falls apart once the actual summit push begins. Rob Hall sets a turnaround time of 2pm - everyone must about face at that time, regardless of how close they are to the summit. Only Krakauer and a few others make it to the top by 2pm, but the turnaround time is not enforced - people are making it to the top as late as 4pm. One of the later arrivals is Rob Hall himself.

A storm hits that afternoon, and Krakauer takes refuge in Camp Four on his way back down the mountain. He is well ahead of his teammates and has no idea what they have coming to them.

Hall and his client get stranded due to their lack of respect for the turnaround time, and his client's oxygen runs out; he cannot continue. Another group, led by rival guide group Mountain Madness, gets lost in the blizzard after electing to take a less direct but easier route to Camp Four. After a few of them make it to Camp Four, another guide goes down and rescues all but two of them. One of them makes it back on his own.

After he published the article he had come to write, Krakauer wrote this book because he had to say more. He struggles with survivor's guilt and a drastically refined view of his own mortality.

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