Exhilerating. Exciting. Heartbreaking. I had trouble putting this novel down, and ended up finishing it in about five days' time. Krakauer's storytelling is smooth and educational, without going overboard on exposition. He brings into focus the commercialization of climbing Everest- the dependence on the Sherpas, the mounting trash, and the presence of folks with very little experience who are simply paying to get to the top. This, combined with other mistakes made on those fateful days in May, 1996, led to the deaths of 8 people. It reads, to me, similar to the way the Titanic disaster played out- several poor decisions, along with inexperience, and nature, combined to make the deadliest season on Everest in 40 years. Had Rob Hall and Scott Fischer not been so hell-bent on getting their clients to the top (especially the journalist who wrote this book and socialite Sandy Pittman) for the good publicity; had Russian leader Anatoli simply used supplemental oxygen and waited for his clients at the top and led them down; had the climbers themselves had more experience climbing mountains; had the two Sherpas placed the ropes like they were supposed to, instead of fighting; had they simply turned around at 2pm whether they had summited or not, like Rob Hall planned... they might all still be alive. Those who are amateurs, and simply want to pay to have someone bring them to the top, don't belong climbing Everest. The struggle isn't getting to the summit, it's coming back down alive. Krakauer weaves the events of May 10 together through interviews with others, and his own harrowing experience to determine just what happened to those 8 lost climbers.
I don't usually read this type of book, but I was enthralled, from beginning to end. I'm so glad that I gave it a chance. Since reading this book I've watched several videos and documentaries on the subject, to try to put names to faces and get a visual of the ice falls, and the crevasses and summit. I will be keeping this novel, and adding it my collection of "someday I will reread it".