Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is an utterly distressing page-turner. This book blends the author’s journey to top of Everest with personal stories and (hackneyed) quotes from previous climbers. I have always known that high-altitude mountain climbing is physically arduous. This book woke me up to the realities surrounding Everest:

  • Everest requires a good amount of ice-climbing experience. If you decide to pursue this as a goal, you’ll require ~60 days and $70-75K. You’ll need the two months to acclimatize your body to high-altitudes and the money to procure a climbing permit, a guiding team, and a Sherpa to help you out with the luggage (tents, oxygen cylinders).
  • Sherpas are an ethnic group known for their exceptional mountaineering skills. They’re usually earn $3-5K during a climbing season. They frown upon fornication between unmarried folks and consider it a bad-omen.
  • The most challenging aspect in overcoming Everest is getting your body accustomed to the high-altitudes. Our body starts breaking down severely above 25k ft (also referred to as the Death Zone) because of the paucity of oxygen in the air. The general recommendation is to spend close to ~2 months acclimatizing and making multiple trips back and forth between Camp 1, 2, 3 and Base Camp before attempting to ascend to the summit.
  • You’ll need oxygen once you’re up in the dead zone. Without oxygen, your thinking is impaired, you get exhausted within no time and your body is likely to get cold(er) quicker too.

The staggering unreliability of the human mind at high altitudes makes good decision making extremely difficult.

  • Sleep is hard to come by at high altitudes (Jon hadn’t slept properly close to 57 hours during the course of the climb).
  • You will encounter a lot of dead bodies on the way up to Everest. Trash (mostly in the form of used oxygen tanks) is all too common at Camp 3. The Nepali government has created an incentive-based program for climbers to reduce the garbage that’s accumulated on the climb.

I’ve wondered about the personal satisfaction I’ll receive if I manage to complete an Everest trek. After reading this book, I’m inclined to take Everest off my bucket list.