Friday, September 21, 2012

The Climb - Anatoli Boukreev

Rating: 5 stars

Despite the contrary opinions of most other reviewers, I exited Krakauer's Into Thin Air with a brave and stoic impression of Anatoli Boukreev. And it is true - the Anatoli Boukreev represented in Jon's novel is a less villian-y rendition of the Boukreev first represented in Krakauer's article for Outside, published shortly after the '96 Everest excursion. Still, the fear remained for Boukreev and many who knew him that Krakauer's telling of events ruined forever the reputation of an expert climber and hero.

The Climb is Anatoli Boukreev's - with the help of G. Weston DeWalt - version of the events surrounding the Everest tragedy. My first impression of the differences between both accounts was this: Krakauer is a hobby climber who writes extremely well; Boukreev is a professional, well established mountaineer. If Krakauer manages to give readers the emotional aspect of the mountain in '96, Boukreev gives the factual, the carefully considered, the professional view of everything that went wrong that summit day. And Krakauer kind of comes off like a petulant jerk.

Still - there's a pleading note to Boukreev's book that checks my desire to whole-heartedly believe one account over the other. It's as if Boukreev is begging us to see that he made no mistakes at all - that he alone may have had all the answers in avoiding what happened to the people on that mountain. Both books do seem to acknowledge, however, that a series of small mistakes and/or misunderstandings led to the loss of lives. Despite this, the fact remains that because Boukreev descended before the other climbers (as he is criticized for doing in Into Thin Air), he was definitely in a position to go later out into that storm and rescue three people, by himself.

It was very difficult for me to start this book just five months after completing Into Thin Air. Reading again the climbers hopes and expectations prior to reaching Everest, yet already fully knowing the outcome, knowing I was subjecting myself to those emotions again was hard. But I'm really glad I did. I'll never climb Everest but I can keep these people alive in my memory because of men like Krakauer and Boukreev who took the time to make this story known.

Further Reading: Letters from Krakauer, Boukreev & Lopsang

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  1. Ok, I'm intrigued. How and when did you get interested in the climbing stories? Do you climb yourself??

    1. Nooo. I hike, and want to someday become an ADK-46er. But I'm worse than an amateur, always needing to go out with someone who knows the woods better than me and can calmly convince my anxiety ridden self that bears AREN'T lurking behind every tree.

      Anyway, I read and loved INTO THE WILD, by Jon Krakauer. Via #fridayreads on Twitter, I found another reader who loves Krakauer, and he suggested I finally pick INTO THIN AIR out of my TBR. And an obsession was born. I also just rented David Breashears' second documentary titled EVEREST: THE DEATH ZONE, which is supposed to cover that portion of Everest where the oxygen is so thin, your body just shouldn't linger too long. I CAN'T STOP.


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