Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

  • I agree that readers are often poorly served when an author writes as an act of catharsis, (pg. Location: 154)
  • Waugh bestowed the name Mount Everest on Peak XV, in honor of Sir George Everest, his predecessor as surveyor general. (pg. 13)
  • Mallory, whose name is inextricably linked to Everest, was the driving force behind the first three expeditions to the peak. While on a lantern-slide lecture tour of the United States, it was he who so notoriously quipped “Because it is there” when an irritating newspaperman demanded to know why he wanted to climb Everest. (pg. 15)
  • While tentbound high on Everest, Mallory and his companions would read aloud to one another from Hamlet and King Lear. (pg. 16)
  • ked across the tarmac of Tribhuvan International Airport and climbed aboard a Russian-built Mi-17 helicopter operated by Asian Airlines. A dented relic of the Afghan war, it was as big as a school bus, seated twenty-six passengers, and looked like it had been riveted together in somebody’s backyard. The flight engineer latched the door and handed out wads of cotton to stuff in our ears, and the behemoth chopper lumbered into the air with a head-splitting roar. (pg. 42)
  • At 20,500 feet, the altitude was deemed too high for safe evacuation by helicopter—the air was too insubstantial to provide much lift for a helicopter’s rotors, making landing, taking off, or merely hovering unreasonably hazardous—so he would have to be carried 3,000 vertical feet to Base Camp down the Khumbu Icefall, some of the steepest, most treacherous ground on the entire mountain. Getting Tenzing down alive would require a massive effort. (pg. 65)
  • I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking, above all else, something like a state of grace. (pg. 170)
  • Whatever motivated him, Lopsang’s decision to tow a client didn’t seem like a particularly serious mistake at the time. But it would end up being one of many little things—a slow accrual, compounding steadily and imperceptibly toward critical mass. (pg. 218)
  • Breashears, who had worked around many helicopters during the course of a long and distinguished film career, immediately found a landing pad bordered by two gaping crevasses at 19,860 feet. I tied a silk kata to a bamboo wand to serve as a wind indicator, while Breashears—using a bottle of red Kool-Aid as dye—marked a giant X in the snow at the center of the landing zone. A few minutes later Makalu Gau appeared having been dragged down the glacier on a piece of plastic by a half-dozen Sherpas. A moment after that we heard the THWOCK-THWOCK-THWOCK of a helicopter’s rotors thrashing furiously at the thin air. Piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Madan Khatri Chhetri of the Nepalese army, the olive-drab B2 Squirrel helicopter—stripped of all unnecessary fuel and equipment—made two passes, but on each occasion aborted at the last moment. On Madan’s third attempt, however, he settled the Squirrel shakily onto the glacier with its tail hanging over a bottomless crevasse. Keeping the rotors revving at full power, never taking his eyes off the control panel, Madan raised a single finger, indicating that he could take only one passenger; at this altitude, any additional weight might cause him to crash while taking off. (pg. 329)

Topic: Exploration