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Into Thin Air

Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Based on a conversation at school today, I ended up reading the article Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer - an article that shares the name of the book he later wrote. It details his climb to the summit of Mt. Everest as part of a team in what is now called the 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster. (Jon Krakauer also wrote Into the Wild, which I read last year.)

Compellingly written, Into Thin Air tells the story of personal interests, decisions, and unfortunate events that led to the deaths of eight different people in a single day during a summit ascent attempt. He writes of competition between tour guides, of determination, and, ultimately, of triage at 26,000 feet in the most heartbreaking of manners.

In the context of leadership, the story takes on an different angle. Who were the leaders of the expeditions? In this case, it was the "tour guides" who were in charge. How, then, with their vast experience and history of success did the two main guides both end up dead? What factors led to their decision to break their own rules and endanger - and ultimately lose - their lives and the lives of their clients? On reflection, I believe that in the extreme environment they were in, that the safety of the trip was compromised by financial incentives and, for that, the leaders paid the ultimate price.

I recommend that everyone who has the time read the article. It's about 11 pages long, but worth it. It's beautifully written and so much can be learned from the words it contains.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget to read the OTHER side of the story-Anatoli Boukreev's "The Climb". Another great read. There are actually a few other books out there as well, now, about this incident. Nice Post though, it is amazing the strength that John's article has. It has been twelve years, and still people talk..

8:23 PM, April 08, 2008  
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