Why does Jon Krakauer dislike Anatoli Boukreev so much?

Ken writes: I suppose this post will be a little opaque to people who haven’t treated themselves to ‘Into Thin Air’ and ‘The Climb’ (or any of the pages and pages available online related to this issue), …but I am going to say what I think is the source of the antagonism between John Krakauer and Anatoli Boukreev. For my part I didn’t really feel that ‘Into Thin Air’ portrayed Boukreev (B) in such a bad light, but we know that B was sufficiently hurt to want to set the record straight. We also know, from the appendices to ‘The Climb’ in which some of these arguments are detailed that Krakauer (K) pretty adamantly stuck to his account in the face of attempts to correct him. So what’s the story? I think that K feels that even if he’s wrong about particular matters of detail, still his account gets to the heart of the matter, that is, that it reflects a basic truth of the extent of B’s culpability. K accepts his own part in the tragedy. He agonises over the part he played in misreporting what happened to Andy Harris, and about his inability to help the other climbers in his party after he had made it down to the South Col. But from K’s perspective, B was insufficiently remorseful. He didn’t accept that the outcome might have been better if he had acted differently.

So what is the case against B? K doesn’t make the point that B didn’t take Beck Weathers down off the mountain, but that showed a real lack of initiative. This is something that emerges not in ‘Into Thin Air’ but in ‘The Climb.’ B met Beck on the way down, and saw that he needed to be taken down, but he thought he saw another guide, and so left it to them to take him down. Beck was already snow blind and in a bad way and had already spent 8 hours alone. If B was going down, he should have taken Beck with him. One of the things that emerges from both accounts is how differently things might have turned out if the climbers had had a little more time. After B had descended to the South Col, Neal Beidleman was guiding the ‘Mountain Madness’ climbers down and he ‘picked up’ Mike Groom with Beck Weathers and Yasuko Namba on the way. But because it was a big group, we’re told, and because he was having to hold on to Yasuko Namba (while Mike guided Beck), he wasn’t able to lead the group from the front and with no clear leader people walked in the direction that seemed right to them. When they reached the bottom of the fixed ropes above camp four they could still just see the lights of the camp, but then it got dark and without a leader to follow they ended up walking away from the camp and nearly off a cliff. If B had been present guiding the group down with Beidleman and Groom, they would have been able to move a bit faster, and they would have been able to stay on course for the camp. That would have saved Namba’s life.

B argued it had always been Scott Fischer’s plan that B would descend quickly to be ready at camp 4 in case anything should go wrong. But surely it is OK to change the plan to deal with the particular conditions. On the day of the ascent, B going down met Scott Fischer coming up, and K makes a lot of B apparently telling Fischer that he was going down (as opposed to Fischer sending B down). But whether there was a plan or not, B should have told Fischer not to carry on up but should have gone back up himself to round up the Mountain Madness clients with Beidleman instead of descending. Whatever the plan was, he should have used his initiative and judged that Scott Fischer was in no state to proceed to the summit.

In summary: The problem with B, is that he had a preconceived notion of what being a guide demanded; a notion he rigidly conformed to as a guide on the 1996 expedition, but one he willingly gave up when guiding an Indonesian team to the summit the next year (Then, three clients attempted the summit and were inidividually managed by three guides). He didn’t change his conception of where his job ended in light of the events on the mountain and as a result, and Scott Fischer and Neal Beidleman ended up taking up the slack between them. It killed Scott. The case against B then is that he was a jobsworth to a cupable degree.

But, having said all that, I think it’s not so hard to understand why B had the attitudes he did. His command of English at the time was really pretty weak, and it is tiring to interact with people in your second language, and particular to discuss important decisions like who should be responsible for what part of the expedition. It’s really much simpler then just to stick to the plan. And, really, the main factors contributing to the disaster on Everest in 1996 were the lack of radios among all the guides, but most seriously, Rob Hall’s decision not to turn climbers back from the attempt at the summit when the agreed deadline past.

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297 responses to “Why does Jon Krakauer dislike Anatoli Boukreev so much?

  1. Tammy

    Jon disliked Anatoli because Anatoli made him hurtfully aware of his weakness on the mountain that night.

    • Phil

      you are correct Tammy

    • John devine

      i can say that I am A “arm chair” mountaineer but i have read 3 books on Boukreev, my support means absolutely nothing but there is a man by the name of Ed Veistures(Greatest American Alpinist) that calls Boukreev the quentisential mountaineer, and there are proven facts that he has improved Neil Beidlmans quality of life and set some of the greatest records in the history of mountaineering, I apoligize if I misspelled some words but the reason why I am responding to this site is because I think that our heroes are of the innappropriate breed. I believe that by listening to the thoughts of Toyla and his acheivements are far greater than obsession of celeb life. What happened to truely great heros like Boukreev? Are they still out there? Or have all the Peaks been climbed to the best of there ability? I personally believe that if a man that believed in fate like Anotoli believed, the only thing he would hope for was the strength of his Capatalist nation to recover from the poverty that took his climbing career to the brink of complete elimanation.

      • Lynda

        Well said…

      • Michael

        I did not get the impression that Krakauer disliked Anatoli, and I am currently rereading Into Thin Air. My impression is that K was reporting what he witnessed and he was not the only one to witness Scott Fischer’s annoyance with Anatoli’s refusal to do his job. Boukreev’s job on that mission was not to show off his obviously excellent mountaineering skills. In fact, early in the book, Krakauer calls Anatoli one of the four best climbers on the mountain, along with Viesturs, Lopsang and, if I am not mistaken, Breashears. Anatoli abandoned the clients he was being paid to protect. He absolutely left them and Scott. He went down alone for some unknowable reason. Yes, he did rescue several people later on. The question is, could he have prevented the death of Scott Fischer had he simply done his job? I do not know but what I do know is that Krakauer never once compared himself to Anatoli in regards to climbing.

    • Marcia Owens

      Jon is a journalist. He wants to tell a story. Whether it is the truth or his perception of what is the truth makes us all react so strongly. Personally, I think Jon interjected his perception not what really was going on. Why? It makes a better story? It relieves him of his helplessness of not having helped others in his group who died? It gave a living human face to the tragedy since the leaders were both dead and it was too painful to blame them. Read Anatoli’s “The Climb” and it’s easy to see Jon wrote from his perception not reality. Anitoli worked for a different group and Jon makes very convincing wild assumptions that made him, Jon, feel better about what happened. A little survival guilt may play into this as well.. Read “The Climb” and learn Anitoli doesn’t use supplemental oxygen because “if you don’t use it, you don’t run out of it”. Anatoli acclimates by working with the sherpas to prepare the trails at high altitude and doesn’t have a problem with his strength, endurance or thinking while climbing. Others did not acclimate or train as hard, or have the same physiological integrity so they needed extra oxygen. Running out of supplemental oxygen is always a problem on trips when time limits to turn around or bottle necks occur with too many people climbing the same day requiring longer times out at high altitude. It is human error that creates the problem. Interesting, climbing permits are given to many groups in a single season to climb Everest. There is no limit to how many groups or number of people can summit the same day using the same trails and ropes. Larger groups of people climbing the same day makes for hazardous conditions. The government providing permits only wants money to be on their turf. They don’t make rules about safety. They show no interest in making rulings about garbage, sanitary conditions or child labor. It’s up to the visitors to leave no trace behind and travel safely.

      • SHIRLEY BARKLA

        I TOTALLY AGREE THAT JON HAD IT WRONG AND THERE WAS A BIT OF ENVY AND WEAKNESS IN HIS DEFENCE OF HIS REACTION TO A SITUATION THAT ANATOLI RESPONDED TO. NAMELY HE WALKED AWAY FROM WEATHERS WITHOUT REACTION WHEREAS ANATOLI REALISED THAT ANOTHER SHERPA WAS THERE TO HELP WEATHERS. MY OPINION IS JON’S ENVY OF A REMARKABLE MAN AND HIS DETERMINATION TO DESTROY THIS IMAGE WHILST ADDING TO HIS OWN LACK OF COURAGE AND TRUTH. I.E. ANATOLI’S GEAR AT THE SUMMIT. WHAT A NIT PICKER. AMONGST PEOPLE IN ABSOLUTE DISTRESS – WHO DID JON HELP????

      • Nitch

        A lot of other famous mountaineers have pointed out how irresponsible it is to guide without gas in the Death Zone. That was the main point Krakauer was pointing out. The “If you don’t use it, you don’t run out” is a total weak arguement. Of course you stay warmer longer, etc. etc with gas. I’ll take the guy who takes the blame for his actions over the guy who doesn’t. Even if in this case the guy was the great mountaineer, Boukreev.

      • sue

        I like what you said. I read both books years ago and know someone who was on the trip. He survived and helped “toli” write the book the Climb. He believes that krakaur’s book tried to discredit his friend “toli” and upset him to the point that he went to climb, annapurna, i think it was, alone and during avalanche time. i suppose you know he died. My friend hates Krakaur for destroying his friend. And now I read that krakaur is doing the same thing to Greg Mortenson. What a jerk. I will never read a book by him.

      • Doug Chance

        @sue

        > He believes that krakaur’s book tried to discredit his friend “toli”
        > and upset him to the point that he went to climb, annapurna, i think
        > it was, alone and during avalanche time. i suppose you know he died.

        This is a joke, right? Boukrev went and climbed Lhotse solo immediately after the 96 Everest disaster as a reaction to those events. I believe that climb set a speed record for that summit.

        He died on Annapurna in 97 while climbing with Simone Moro. Yes, it was an aggressive attempt in winter, but that’s what he did; he was a mountain climber. To attribute Anatoli Boukrev’s death to his reaction to what Jon Krakauer said in “Into Thin Air” is piling it pretty high. Saying he died on a solo attempt is a straight out lie.

      • @Sue: I know it’s none of my business but I think one shouldn’t say that one will never read a book by someone if one is going to criticize the person. You don’t have to buy a book or a magazine to read it. They are usually available for free at the library and sometimes even online.

        @Doug: Calling Sue out for ‘lying’ is a bit extreme when it is obvious that she is relating something someone else told her (and made that condition quite clear in her writing). Cool it.

      • Nalin

        Marcia, you are right on! Many thanks for your incisive and accurate analysis. K was there to right a story and was safely back in his tent. Had Anatoli chosen to do what K did there would have been more casualties. Anatoli, the lion-heart, ventured back out and up the mountain and guided descending climbers to safety; there were no client causalities in the group Anatoli was guiding. I will give this to K – he is a slick story teller. To those who seek true facts I urge they separate perceptions from reality.

        Interestingly, what I have not seen discussed ever is where the 15+ sherpas in the Hall and Fischer teams were situated on the mountain when the tragedy was unfolding. They could and should have played a critical role in saving lives.

    • Susann Kinghorn

      From reading all the different books I can only say that Anatoli Boukreev is a hero you nowadays rarely find. And I agree with Tammy, since there is no other plausible answer to the question, why Jon Krakauer behaved so unfair towards one of the greatest mountain climbers. I am too old to climb the Himalayas today, but if I would have had the chance in the eighties or nineties, as a leader I would definitely have chosen Anatoli.

      • Paul/Pavel Klimsa

        I agree with you . Jon K is Journalist “PIMP” Writing what people like to hear. Pour soul was sleeping in tent when Anatoli was working his ass off. No respect for JK.
        Pavel Klimsa

      • I have read both books (The Climb and Into Thin Air) and I believe that Anatoli Boukreev was nothing but a hero. He saved many lifes that day and went out in the worst of conditions when not even one sherpa would go out , even with Anatoli. The Alpine Association was having a awards banquet for him at the time of his death. They recognized his bravery and was going to commend him for it.
        Anatoli saved many lifes that day and most were from Rob Hall’s party. Krakauer was only jealous of Boukreev and his ability.

    • Jam

      Very true. It’s been a long time since I read both books but I remember thinking how K seemed to dismiss lost opportunities he could have taken, prefer is prob not the appropriate word but B’s account seems to give a less glossed over account so I ‘prefer’ anatolis book. Both great books of a tragic event though.

      • Paul/Pavel Klimsa

        Much better Book The Summit from Anatoli Boukrev then Jon K.
        Nice done to see what High altitude Clmbers love to do.

    • tammy Jon doesnt DISLIKE Anatoli (who is dead now) He slmply pointed outthe weaknes in the plan that Anatolis team had in GUIDEING their clientstothe top of Everest and getting them back alive. I have been an International mountain guide for twenty two years now and have guided people 100 per cent SAFELY to around 20,000 feet over sixty times now and can tell you a real guide will NEVER go down ahead of his clients, a real guide will NEVER allow the window of time to close and still allow clients to CONTINUE up, a real guide will NEVER pass clients on the way down when the allotted time is up, and a real guide on Everest will NEVER climb Everest or any other 800 meter peak without oxygen and try to say they will be fit enough to make rational decions or physically take dcare without adequte oqygen to their brain. In short Jon on criticized anotoli from a GUIDING standpoint. He did his job poorly. Although it was not clearly enough defined for him and he is not a real guide, just a superb climber. I totally respect his accomplishments but I deplore his unprofessional guiding techniques and the plans they had for their clients. Anatoli was theere on that expeditino purely for the ake of money combined withthe opportunity to to acclimate himself for his next clmb.. Lhotse. HE tiedto combine the two interests and the guiding part tok second seat to the prep for the upcoming climb. Jon’s review and criticism were TOTALLY valid and justified considering a guide’s FIRST and FORMOST job is to KEEP CLIENTS SAFE. thisis harder and requires complete DILIGENCE at 800 meters. IN fact , We know that guiding at this altitudereuqures a one to one guide ratio to be in the SAFE REALM. I know Jon and he’d be the first to say he is not in the league of climber that Anatoli is. And he certainly isnt jealous of Anatolis accomplisment. If Anatoli had done his job on the mountain higher up, the group huddle would never have happened because they ould not have been that late comgin down. Any of the guides beside Anatoli also share in this blunder.
      They should have herded EVERYONE down when it was nearing the time of 1 pm or 2 pm whichever their turnaround time was previously agreed upon or perhaps earlier since it took solong to get everyon thru the hillery step becaue of peope not doing their job of setting fixed lines befoe they arrived there , thereby using and huge amount s of time to get through that section.
      Jon is not a world class climber. However hes a better alpine and all around climber record than most at that time. He was very fit, and one of the few who was actually in shape enough and experienced enough to be a suitable client to climb Everest. I know that for a fact. HIs a climber him. thats not unreasonable when you are tired , at altitude and people are wearing the same color down jackets and gear when winds blowing and you are not roped to them. Ive someitmes mistaken who my clients were even when they were roped to me simply beacues of their similar outfits were the same color.

      • ps Sorry for the typos I’m a guide and my typing skills are poor at best. I hope you get the messge, even thogh my typing sucks heheI have very stong feelings forthis episode and how people view it knowing Jon, and having spent time talking with Rob Hall on several occasions in 94, and most of all from guiding peope successfully for so many years. After the accident, I as approached by the media in Denver TV to interview about this accident which i declined because i saw them as buzzards tryingto feed on peoples demise and passing. I HATE that. I declined offers from many friend to attendthe Imax showing because of the morbid curiosity and armchair critiques aslwell as lack of exereience many had in the high altitude giding world. I had been askedto go ont he 94 K@ expedition which Rob Hall was considering doing. Thats why i talked him about K2. I didnt like the lack of experienced base camp management and removed myself from the team a few months beforethetrip was scheduled to leave.
        Rob alos dropped out and wnt to Everest again I belive to guide a goup? I cant remember now.Another aquiantance of mine, Steve Untch was on that expedition and he was killed while rescuing another member . And Michael Groom was there too. although I never spoke with Michael personally. In fact I think he took my spot after i dropped out if my memory serves me. Feel free to contact me and ask what you ike, but lets not point fingers at Jon. He expected a guided trip to be operating at a safer level than they did. Anatoli’s speed clmbing is a world away fromwhat he was supposed to be doing on this trip.
        he was supposed to be a guide on this particular event. Having siad this we hav learned a great deal fomr this tragedy. Guided clmibs on Everest are done in a much much safe mode nowadays with a one to one guide /climber ratio,. and radios for all the guides and up todate weather reports that are good for every passing 6 hours.
        Its with great satisfaction that I see improvements in guiding in this region, even when so many client of various abilities are opening up their wallets. The are weeded out eventually and still can be brought safely down the vast majority of the time because of added manpower, increased accuracy of weather reports and adherance to them, and
        a one to one guide/client ratio.

      • operasmorg

        “I have been an International mountain guide for twenty two years now and have guided people 100 per cent SAFELY to around 20,000 feet over sixty times now and can tell you a real guide will NEVER go down ahead of his clients, a real guide will NEVER allow the window of time to close and still allow clients to CONTINUE up, a real guide will NEVER pass clients on the way down when the allotted time is up, and a real guide on Everest will NEVER climb Everest or any other 800 meter peak without oxygen and try to say they will be fit enough to make rational decions or physically take dcare without adequte oqygen to their brain…” (blah, blah, blah)…

        Just because you claim to be a guide and clearly aren’t dead yet doesn’t make you the universal arbiter of who’s a ‘real guide’ and who isn’t. I’m actually surprised that any ‘real’ high altitude climbing guide who’s been working for more than a week would still have this amount of black and white guiding philosophy left… and so much willingness to public claim that this and that colleague should ‘never’ do such and such thing. There’s a reason why one rarely hear a professional in any profession saying such things like this about colleagues in public… because they know better from real experience (rather than an armchair one) than to be so certain about what other people should do in their situation.

      • Carrie Anderson

        Having read all of these books, it seems to me that the 8,000 meter plus guide profession was in its infancy in 1996 and that you can’t judge what happened in 1996 by 2012 standards. People learned from the mistakes in 1996. But the real cuprit is Scott Fisher. It seems to me that Bourkeev had permission to do what he did and that Scott Fisher made an error in judgment in allowing him to do it.

      • writoban

        ‘….a guide’s FIRST and FORMOST job is to KEEP CLIENTS SAFE’

        None of his clients died.

        ‘thisis harder and requires complete DILIGENCE at 800 meters.’

        Anatoli was scaling 8000ers all his life, no 800ers that Americans like JK boast of and believes proper preparation to scale a 8000er.

        ‘I know Jon and he’d be the first to say he is not in the league of climber that Anatoli is.’

        Otherwise we wont have known!!!!

  2. lance kermer

    dude,
    you totally lack credibility
    you substituted Krackauer’s name with a K
    and Boukreev’s name with a B.
    Are you lazy?
    you sound like you need a baby-sitter or a butler,
    not a mountain guide.

  3. ken

    Who is going to admit they are lazy? My boss probably thinks so. I could probably do a bit more work around the house. Yes I abbreviated their names, but I don’t see how that affects the substance of my post. You misspelled one of them. You don’t capitalise words appropriately, but I don’t think that affects things either. I am a keen hill-walker, but I don’t pretend to be a mountaineer. I don’t think I need to be to have a view about the events on that mountain. I try to hazard a guess at what might drive the antipathy between Krakauer and Broukreev. That’s more a question about human psychology than anything else. Broukreev’s failings on the mountain were not failings of mountaineering but a failure of guiding and a failure to play a part of a team. I will only ever experience the highest mountains vicariously, but people who go there guiding others should expect their actions to be subject to the scrutiny, and occasionally, the opprobrium, of people who weren’t there.

    • John devine

      Boukreevs failings were only a failure of communication(his lack of english). He is by far the greatest speed climber of our generation, his dedication to fitness and his depth of humanity cant be understood by people who have never pushed themselves to be great. My efforts in running were of no consequence until he inspired me to be a better man. 4 miles turned into 8 or 9, I will not forget the way he looked at a sunset or a rise, the only thing that i will remember is that he was at peace at these times on the mountain. Boukreev has inspired me to be a better man, as far as Krakuer? well I have to say that he is not the man i think of when I need inspiration. Thanx Toyla, its between u and Prefontaine; you r both the reason why i run 30 miles a week. JD

  4. TO

    I am actually in the process of doing an online piece about this same debate that has been drawn out over the last ten years.

    It’s not so much that Krakauer is wrong or that Boukreev was wrong, but that the latter did act heroically in the end, and that Krakauer wasn’t experienced enough to question his actions. In the aftermath, some have decided that by questioning his (Krakauer) character and motives, then it may absolve Boukreev of any wrongdoing.

    Here’s what I see as the biggest difference (and I am by no means finished with the research):

    Boukreev did act heroically, which Krakauer never once disputed, but the fact that his judgement on that day was called into question by an amateur, in regards to high altitude climbing, serves as a rallying cry to rebel against the system- the neophytes who pay big bucks to climb the highest peaks for their trophy case. In some ways, it is a belief that these corperates use the climb to coopt Mt. Everest to their own desires and uses.

    Boukreev, on the other hand, was a true mountaineer, and one of the greatest of his day, and for Krakauer to question his judgement, is ridiculous; at least to those who defend Dewalt’s account of Boukreev’s actions. They feel that Krakauer was using the whole event for monetary gains.

    What those who try to discredit Krakauer fail to recognize was that he never places responsibility for the disaster solely on one person. He is equally critical of his own actions, and in the end, really wasn’t that critical of Boukreev, at least in the book form, other than to say that a lot of people made bad decisions on that day.

    In the end, as far as I can so far tell, the debate should’ve ended on May 11, 1996. Whether Scott Fisher intended for Boukreev to descend on his own, without bottled oxygen, and ahead of their clients is irrelevent. In this particular instance, it was an irresponsible one. However, it would not have prevented the disaster that took place, and from all that I’ve read, I have yet to find one example of Krakauer specifically blaming Boukreev for it.

    In the end, it seems to be the oldest debate known to man: the fight against the system, and those who rebel equate Krakauer to part of that system, which is unfair.

    • Sean

      “In the end, as far as I can so far tell, the debate should’ve ended on May 11, 1996.”

      Is in the end of your post which begins :

      “I am actually in the process of doing an online piece about this same debate that has been drawn out over the last ten years.”

      That’s good stuff.

  5. ken

    Thanks for the comment! I’d love to read your online piece when it comes out.

  6. Salija

    Anatoli Boukreev is mountain legend,what he did that night was heroic and nobel act, but that still doesn’t explain his ascent as guide without rucksack, no excuse for that. I guess that at the time he didn’t quite undrestud his job which is in many way’s as baby sitting.
    Any way I admire that men.
    R.I.P. Anatoli Boukreev

  7. Gayle

    I just finished reading Into Thin Air and also The Climb. I felt Krakauer was extremely harsh concerning Boukreev’s choices on the mountain. This was a true heroic climber who pursued climbing out of pure joy and lovc of the sport….whereas Krakauer felt the reason for climbing at high altitude was to endure pure pain. But the reality is that you only feel that pain if you are not qualified to climb at high altitude. Krakauer may have had a personality conflict with Boukreev, because I feel Krakauer went out of his way to denigrate Boukreev’s choices without finding out the full truth for his choices. Krakauer also did not give an appropriate biography of Boukreev as he did of others on this climb. I am shocked that to this day Krakauer has not written an additional afterword to Into Thin Air to admit the omissions he made. Boukreev saved Sandy Pittman’s life and she never has confirmed that because of her huge ego and hubris. Boukreev was properly attired for the climb…..and on and on.

    I would like to know what others think who have read both these books….thank you

    • Inigo

      I read first Anatoli’s book several years ago, and I was really moved for all the story.
      Now I have just finished reading Jon’s book, and altough it is very well writtened, I can not help but think that Krakaueris totally unfair with Boukreev, i don’t know for wath reasom: Jealousy?, envy?
      The sad history of this is that most of the people has read only one side of the story ,that is Jon’s.
      First , Krakouer is desperatelly looking for bottles of gas while descending.
      It is clear that it meant the only way to survive for most of the people up there. Anatoli describes in his book that here was a sortage of this botlles in the ascent. And he was aware that if he was used to it, and then he couldn’t get more, that would be a big trouble. So it was better to climb with out suplementary oxygen, and use it only if it was really necesary. With the advantage that his clients could breath the bottles that he wouln’t use. I’m attonished that Krakauer saw this as a wrong thing.
      As well as how Anatoli, thinking in advance, preserved all his power just in case it will be needed, as it happened.
      Under my point of view, it is not enough well descripted the suprem effort that Bukreev had to develop that night to get off the tent in the middle of the hurricane, after summit the Everest, and search and rescue that three people.
      Why he did it, when nobody else could even just be awake, complitly exhausted ? This has no fairly highlited as it should.
      Jon later said that the following morning some Sherpas attempted to climba lot of feets searching for the leaders, as this was heroic too, but in not point is the same like Anatoly did.
      He was powerfull, and what is most important, very clever.
      It’s really sad that some bestsellers writters can depict the good reputation of really big people.
      Anyway, the climbing world has given all support to Anatoly, and I don’t think we’ll share Jon work or ideas.

    • Phil

      I read Krakauer’s book.
      Later, I mentioned it to Matt, a guide for EXUM. All he said was: “read ‘The Climb’ “.
      My impression is that Boukreev is (was) a real mountaineer.
      Krakauer is a journalist.

      • rein

        well….yeah… Krak’s is a journalist, he never said he was a climber. Toli should be very respected… he had it right…. but Jon was wrong either

    • SHIRLEY BARKLA

      I ONLY READ THE CLIMB AND VARIOUS OPINIONS OF ANATOLI. FROM HIS C.V. I CAN ONLY SAY THAT JON WAS ENVIOUS OF HIS ABILITY TO DO WHAT JON COULD NOT. THAT IS CLIMB WITHOUT OXYGEN. ALSO JON PASSED WEATHERS AND DID NOT SEE WHETHER THERE WAS A SHERPA TO HELP HIM, WHEREAS ANATOLI MADE SURE THERE WAS SOMEONE TO HELP WEATHERS. AS FOR THE NIT PICKING RE ATTIRE – WELL PHOTOS AND COMMENTS FROM THE DONER SAYS IT ALL. JON IS AN ENVIOUS PERSON AND A LIAR. THAT SAYS IT ALL.

      • Doug Chance

        You people need to learn how to read. During his encounter with Weathers on the descent Krakauer did note that a guide (Mike Groom) above was descending and would be in a better position to help Weathers (since Groom had a rope). But Krakauer is pretty blunt in acknowledging that he was glad that Weathers was willing to wait.

        All this stuff about Krakauer being jealous of Boukreev is ridiculous. Also, please note that while Krakauer did not have extensive high altitude experience, he did some pretty respectable climbing on his own (2nd ever ascent of Moose’s tooth, Devils Thumb, Cerro Torre) before going to Everest.

        Not to mention that Krakauer has no problem praising Boukreev for his actions once the disaster was underway.

        FWIW, experienced climbers (Breshears, Viesturs, Messner, et al) are pretty much universal in considering it irresponsible to guide on an 8000 meter peak without supplemental oxygen. Further, a guide climbing without a pack containing emergency gear (including something as simple as a rope).is incomprehensible.

      • Paul/Pavel Klimsa

        Well I know one thing….. If Rob Hall be alive after ……. Jon Krakauer would sue him or his butt for not returning back from summit 2:00pm ,to get some mighty dolaros,
        so he can write another Shit with pointing the fingers to others.
        Pavel K

  8. Prashant

    Hi,

    Having read Into Thin Air, The Climb and also Lene Gammelgaard’s book which pertains to the 1996 tragedy on Everest, I have a few thoughts to share.

    It seems to me that Jon has been absolutely unfair to Toli, a man who many considered as Tiger Woods of high altitude climbing. Jon puts the blame on Toli for a lot many things without having verified the facts from the people who were climbing on the mountain that fateful day.

    Toli’s climbing without oxygen was approved by Scot, his early descent down the mountain was infact a part of the plan which was discussed between Scott and the Mountain Madness base camp manager (which was mentioned to Jon by Scott’s BC manager but was omitted by Jon in his acocunt ). That Toli was climbing without proper clothing was proved wrong by his summit day pictures, a copy of which was sent to Jon.

    I guess Jon’s intention was to paint Toli as a devil, for reasons best known to him. The fact that Toli’s heorics were recognised by American Alpine Association is ample proof of his contribution in avoiding a greater tragedy on Everest.

    Anatoli Boukreev – Not Forgotten

    • SHIRLEY BARKLA

      I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU. WE HAVE LOST A REMARKABLE MAN AND TO SEE HIM BEING DESTROYED BY A PERSON WHO HAS NEVER HAD THE EXPERIENCE ANATOLI HAD IS OBSENE. GET REAL JON. YOU ARE A COWARD WHO HANGS ONTO COMMENTS THAT COULD MAKE YOU MORE MONEY. THAT’S ABSOLUTELY UNFORGIVABLE.,

    • rein

      the “Wayne Gretzky” of climbing is Messner and Habler…Toli’s good but certainly not in their league.

      • Gera

        In fact, Toli and Reinhold are in the same league, that one of the true mountaineers. That slicky journalist Krakauer was looking only for a lucrative story, he didn’t care about truth.

  9. DewaltClub

    I found your blog via Google while searching for this tool and your post looks very interesting for me. Keep up the good work.

  10. I think the problem is that Jon Krakauer did not have the expertise to judge what was happening on the mountain. He is not, as he freely admits, a high altitude climber, nor was he in in Scott Fischer’s group. Given that, he was in no position to evaluate – and then criticise so devastatingly – Boukreev’s actions. Many of Krakauer’s original criticisms of Boukreev were inaccurate and thus omitted from the book Into This Air, and I think this demonstrates that to a certain extent, Krakauer didn’t really understand what was happening. I think the great pity is that this tragedy (and the memory of a great climber) have been subordinated to this unneccesary controversy. The real point of discussion should be: what are the moral issues around commercial, guided climbs at high altitude?

  11. Brian

    Boukreev may have shown heroism that night, but it was only after he neglected his primary duty on this climb, to be a guide. He was hired to look out for the other clients on the Mountain Madness team. After reaching the summit himself, he knew that without O2 he needed to descend quickly. He showed selfish disregard for the people he was hired to instruct and even the man whom he was working for. If he would have not been so consumed with personal ambition, he would have used bottled oxygen. This would have enabled him to display his supreme knowledge and expertise unto the people who were paying him for it.

    • Sean K

      Brian,

      From your post it is obvious that you have only read Krakauer’s book, and not Anatoli Boukreev’s response ,”The Climb”, nor his fascinating posthumous memoir “Above The Clouds”.

      There is a much broader perspective available to us in these books, along with the accounts by Beck Weathers, Lene Gamelgaard, Ed Viesturs, and David Breshears. With information from these additional sources, it becomes apparent how cultural divides and differing (or amateurish) expectations could led Krakauer to misapprehend Boukreev’s motivations and character.

      Krakauer’s book is indeed spellbinding, and it’s the most thorough attempt to examine the disaster. But his relentless criticism of Boukreev in the book as well as in subsequent articles and speaking engagements makes it clear that Krakauer had some personal issue with Anatoli Boukreev. The undisputed fact that Boukreev was the only individual, including Sherpa, who was able and willing to head out onto the south col during the height of the storm to rescue stranded climbers (from another party!) should be enough to drive any curious reader to question why Jon Krakauer chose to paint him as the caustic and irresponsible Russian villain we find in Into Thin Air.

      • Mikey Benny

        I find it odd that anyone could read ITA and feel that JK’s criticism of AB is “relentless”.

        JK criticized AB for (a.) going without bottled oxygen, and (b.) going ahead of his clients, rather than guiding them.

        JK praised AB for his heroic acts afterwards.

        What exactly was unfair about his criticism? All I see is a large number of people with emotional attachment to a great man, refusing to suffer any criticism of their hero/friend.

      • Doug Chance

        Stuart Hutchison also went out onto the South Col to look for the missing climbers. True, he didn’t go far from his tent, but he did make an attempt.

    • Buck

      These criticisms are just false. Boukreev stayed on the summit for 40 minutes while 2 MM clients summitted after him. Ambition played no factor – he had summitted Everest before without oxygen. Growing concerned that the others had not arrived yet and the fact that given the delays they would not have enough oxygen for the decent, he determined to return to camp 4 to rest and resupply the team in the likely event that more oxygen would need to be taken up. His decent had nothing to do with his own need for oxygen and in fact he was carrying a safety oxygen tank, which he gave to the other MM guide Beidelman who was running out. Much is made of his passing clients on the way down, but the other 2 MM guides were above on the mountain to “sweep” up the stragglers or turn them around if needed, as well as Hall/Harris and experienced Sherpas. It was clear that his clients would run out of oxygen well before exiting the death zone and that impending calamity needed addressing, far more than a 5th guide being present holding the clients hands on the decent. Then of course the storm blew in sealing fate. Any argument that Boukreev would have been more useful in the death zone at this point is pure speculation.

  12. Dr M.Chandrashekhar

    I have read both the books & other comments on 1996 Everest Tragedy. I feel Jon need not have been so critical of Anatoli who was an extraordinary high altitude climber. The tragedy was primarily due to Commercialism & poor Leadership. Both the Team Leaders had no business to have kept climbing beyond the stipulated time.

    The Tragedy was repeated in 2006 as no lessons were learnt from 1996 fiasco.

  13. sarah

    I first read Into Thin Air and had one view of the situation. I have now read the Climb and here is my opinion.

    The fact was, Scott Fisher was overwhelmed and not leading the team effectively. Whether this was due to illness we will never know. Mr. Boukreev was probably not the best guide for that group or the situation, but he did probably as he was told. The sherpas weren’t fixing lines, they were all going for the summit instead of waiting at camp iv (except for poor Big Pemba). After reading “the Climb” apparently there were times when Boukreev was down low on the mountian “gaining his strength”, SF was off drinking beers etc. Sf was also climbing up and down the mountian, carting Dale Kruse etc. and getting more tired and not delegating. So the only person really guiding the clients was Biedelman. But it is not Boukreev’s fault, as he wasn’t getting the direction from Fisher, and he was being told to do things like fix lines etc.

    But regardless of the mismanagement in the “madness” camp, if Rob Hall hadn’t made his fatal errors things would have been less deadly. Basically the only guide from the Hall team that wasn’t up at the summit dying with Doug Hanson was Mike Groom. So out of pure humanism, the madness team (Beidelman) had to drag Namba and Beck down, and this slowed them down. This group needed an extra guide, and it could have been Boukreev if he hadn’t been down “making tea” at camp IV, but truly it should have been one of the guides from Hall’s team. And Andy Harris had been sick the whole trip so he shouldn’t have been guiding that day, and he really shouldn’t have been up there with Hall and Hanson, AND they should have all been down if they’d turned around at 2 pm. For the madness team, they would have done better if they hadn’t whooped it up for so long on the summit.

    In general I do respect Krakauer, but I think it was a little low to criticize Boukreev. It was Fisher’s fault that he wasn’t guiding the way he might be expected to do so, I don’t think he had ever guided this type of trip before. If he had been with the group that got lost during the storm would they have made it back to camp sooner? Who knows. But if they hadn’t, and he had been with them, getting hypothermic and hypoxic, then he wouldn’t have been able to save them, and more would have died.
    Mr Boukreev risked his life numerous times, and did save several including S.P. So my opinion is that he was a hero for sure. Just maybe not a great guide.

    BTW-does anyone find it curious that Sandy Pittman’s husband Pittman is now married to Brashear’s exwife Veronica and that they got together soon after this?

    • warehouse

      I feel you have said it best. I agree with you on all accounts. After reading both books twice and watching numerous videos on Youtube about the 1996 disaster I now feel that both parties were to blame. I did read Into Thin Air first and feel that many people who read this book before The Climb seem to favor Kraukaur’s side. I will state that Boukreev refers to Into Think Air often and seems to have written The Climb only as a rebuttle to Kraukaur. With the last part of The Climb being all about his assent with the Indonesian team in 1997, it is obvious that Boukreev is feeling the need to justify his guiding expertise.
      I will preface this by saying that it is too terrible that this whole situation happened to begin with, however it did and people are going to thrive on the “whys?” for a long time.

      I also agree with Sarah (see above) that Biedleman was really the only guide, “guiding” Mountain Madness with the clients. Yes, Boukreev did do A LOT on the mountain, but prior to the descent, most of it did not deal with clients. And yes, Fisher approved everything for Boukreev.

      The bottom line, and I did say this later in this write up, but be real…..Krakauer was a client and Boukreev was a hired guide. Krakauer is a writer and Boukreev lived for the mountains. Krakauer had his point of views and saw Boukreev in his own way. Boukreev did what in his own mind was the best (with Fisher’s approval) and Krakauer did what he was capable of (with Hall’s approval).

      The bottom line…….and it sucks……but the only people we can blame, are Fisher and Hall. They were the guides. I do have to agree with something I read, that these two guides were playing “chicken” with each other and it only hurt many others (including themselves) in the long run. Their egos got the best of them.

      Krakauer only wrote his experience down. Many have criticized that he wrote Into Thin Air too soon after the disaster. However, Boukreev wrote The Climb only a year after Krakauer.

      I am not taking sides, just making some key points on both ends.

  14. Rob

    1) I was not there. But I remember events where I was and the participants couldn’t agree on what had happened.
    2) Jon Krakauer states shortly after the events that he KNEW the “plan” between Scott Fischer and Anatoli Boukreev was that the latter would go back down straight after summitting in order to rehydrate and rest so that he would be able to go back up if help was needed. What was not planned is that the expledition leader, Scott Fischer, would be sick, try to summit despite his state and get there too late. Did Boukreev advise him to turn around when their paths crossed? We don’t know.
    Did Scott agree with B.’s intention to summit without oxygen and was he informed about this issue aforehand? We don’t know.
    3) The expedition leader being sick, there was no leader to guide the clients to the summit. Did Scott Fischer delegate his part and appoint a replacement? We don’t know. Probably not, otherwise one of the hired guides would presumably have taken over.
    4) How come an experienced leader like Scoot Fischer hired – to help him with his clients! – a “guide” (who calls himself a “coach”, not a “guide”) whose English is so poor that it was clear from the beginning that there would be problems understanding each other?
    5) What exactly was expected from Anatoli Boukreev? Did he ever receive clear instructions from Scott Fischer – before and/or during the trip? He certainly wasn’t paid $ 25’000 to do whatever pleased him, SOMETHING was expected from him. What? Did he meet with these expectations we ignore?
    6) Personally, I don’t know Jon Krakauer nor Anatoli Boukreev whose account I haven’t read yet. So I am not trying to defend one or the other.
    Compared to other readers I never felt Krakauer was putting a real blame on Boukreev. I understood he was astonished about how freely B. moved, alone, not “caring” for anyone, as it seemed. Later he stated B. made a heroic rescue. Where’s the blame?
    7) It seems that Krakauer after coming back from the summit was in no state to undertake whatever action. I can imagine that, but I was not there and even if was there I couldn’t know how he felt. Who could possibly blame somemone in these conditions (exhausted at over 8000 meters after summitting in bad weather) not to be able to stand up and go rescue others? Do those who formulate such strange ideas pretend they know he was not exhausted enough?

    • Mikey Benny

      <>

      Also very well stated. My thoughts exactly. I think some people are being way too sensitive, and are way overstating what JK actually wrote when they claim he painted AB as a “villain”. The only people I saw portrayed as “villains” in the book were the South African team.

      I finished ITA thinking AB was a bit foolhardy (like most extreme climbers are by nature), but extremely skilled and ultimately extremely heroic. Seems like a good way to be portrayed, all in all. Not sure why people are so offended on AB’s behalf.

      • Trying to find some sense

        AB was offended. JK seemed to prioritize sticking to his story, defending his words rather than reevaluate AB’s counterpoints.

  15. John devine

    Did I right? Tolya is a hero of mine, an unreal human that set out only to understand his life and its meaning. A writer from New mexico or wherever krakuer was from never crossed his mind. Dont insult anotolies achievements by letting some sensationailist warp the truth. If it wasnt for Tolya Krakuer may be dead and he knows that. Anotoli was not an expedition leader, he was a guide. he discussed his actions, and although his leader(Scott Fischer) was not of the right mind, Tolya made decisions that saved alot of lives. I feel humbled by the actions that Anatoli made in his career, I only wish I could be 1/4 the person he is. Thanx for inspiring my life Anotoli,

    John Devine

    j

    • Doug Chance

      > If it wasnt for Tolya Krakuer may be dead and he knows that.

      Please explain.

      I think you’re a bit warped by your admiration of Boukreev.Just out of curiousity, how did you arrive at the 1/4 figure? Why not 1/8? or a 1/16?

      • Billy

        LOL. It’s pretty obivious that Mr. Devine in not the brightest bulb in the barn, so let’s just leave it at that 1/4 figure and call it even.
        New Mexico…sigh…what an idiot.

  16. star hill

    I’m nothing but a hill meanderer, but I am a pretty good reader, both of books and of human nature. I think some of the “mountain climbers” posting here are suffering from a permament lack of oxygen in their brains. It is very obvious, from both the 1996 calamities, and too many others besides, that the main problem is too many people are a) climbing mountains they are not fit for, by trying to buy an experience that is not really for sale, b) trying to profit from an enterprise that the mountain gods will never countenance and c) all forgetting that high mountains, like high seas are only straddled with the most fickle of permissions, and that no human being ever conquers these elemental furies of creation; if they survive it is because the beautiful deadly monster let them. (A little common sense and hubris might help) To that end, as regards Krakauer’s book, I think he does a pretty good job of spreading the blame all around, and if someone takes issue with their hero being criticized for taking money and then disregarding his duties, maybe they should look in the mirror, not at Krakauer. Mostly I think there is an inane jealousy of Krakauer because he’s actually been successful at something, which I suspect these posters know very little about: it is always easier to idolize a deficient big shot than to respect the real deal, if one suffers from dissatisfaction with ones own bona fides. Truly though, neither Boukreev nor Krakauer had much to do with the death toll on that ill-fated climb; it was primarily the competition between the two dead leaders, and the idiocy of the unworthy clients themselves. Which is why unnecessarily high death tolls continue on the world’s steepest stairways to Olympus.

    • Mikey Benny

      Exactly. What I took away from these books, is that the whole commercialization of Everest is contemptible. I did not close the books thinking AB was a bad person.

  17. Kim

    “To that end, as regards Krakauer’s book, I think he does a pretty good job of spreading the blame all around, and if someone takes issue with their hero being criticized for taking money and then disregarding his duties, maybe they should look in the mirror, not at Krakauer. Mostly I think there is an inane jealousy of Krakauer because he’s actually been successful at something, which I suspect these posters know very little about: it is always easier to idolize a deficient big shot than to respect the real deal, if one suffers from dissatisfaction with ones own bona fides. Truly though, neither Boukreev nor Krakauer had much to do with the death toll on that ill-fated climb; it was primarily the competition between the two dead leaders, and the idiocy of the unworthy clients themselves.”

    Well said, Star. And I’ve read both books…
    I didn’t find Krakauer’s account exceptionally critical of Boukreev, but it might perhaps be said that he didn’t assess enough blame on Fisher and Hall; Fisher for his lack of leadership, and Hall for his stupendously poor judgment. He has said certain things that would lead one to believe that this was due to his desire to spare the bereaved families any further suffering, and frankly, I have ALWAYS took that to mean Fisher & Hall’s. ITA seems to cut Fisher & Hall more slack than he does for himself.
    Boukreev, took great personal offense to Krakauer’s account, but it’s doubtful that most who have read Into Thin Air, and have no legendary “heroes” to defend, thought that Boukreev in particular had been singled out. Some people simply have a problem with accountability, and find it easier to shoot the messenger, than to take the message to heart. Boukreev’s biographer Weston DeWalt, took this philosophy to almost unheard of degree in his insinuating comments & rebuttals to Salon.com in 1998 – going so far as to infer that Krakauer’s presence on Everest, as a journalist writing about the expedition, was a large contributing factor in the 1996 disaster. Way to shoot your own credibility in the foot, Wes, and not do Boukreev any favors in the process.
    Is it so damned hard to say “perhaps, if I had done this…”?

    • Mikey Benny

      “He has said certain things that would lead one to believe that this was due to his desire to spare the bereaved families any further suffering, and frankly, I have ALWAYS took that to mean Fisher & Hall’s. ITA seems to cut Fisher & Hall more slack than he does for himself.”

      Exactly.

    • Mikey Benny

      I agree, and came to the same conclusion:

      (a.) I did not find any criticism of AB to be harsh at all

      (b.) AB was personally offended, and defended himself

      (c.) A lot of people idolize AB and are rushing to his side of the issue, when there really shouldn’t have been an issue to begin with.

  18. Hebert Centrone

    Let me be clear Mt Everest is like any other mountain. You want to summit and you don’t tell the boss what to do, Scott needed to prove something, something that killed him! At the South Col making a decision is not simple, and Beck was told to wait and he did that, that was his own downfall. B shouldn’t be allowed to climb without oxs, what he was a superb climber, and it was proven when he went to look for survivors, alone in the middle of a strom. You won’t get much help in Denali, so don’t expect anybody to help you at Camp 4. I met a Polish group who refused to trow me a rope while I was in the middle of crevasse at 7800 feet, so I jumped over and by a miracle I am still alive!. Pointing fingers is easy, while going from 16500 to 17000 my partner left me behind, while he was carrying my tent, finally I spent the night in a preachers tent ( I love that man). So if people are selfish at 7800 or 17000, what do you expect at 26000 feet, or 27000 feet? K, to me is a cowerd to speak about B in that way, a man who can hardly spoke English, a man who guided people for a living not to write a book.
    Russians, and more in the high altitude business are hard as a rock, and on Everest you are on your own, that is why most climber would let you dye, more because you have one chance to reach the summit and 1/2 of that is to make back alive.
    Regardless of what B could have had said to Scott, Scott was going to the summit, because that was his business, and Rob died because he couldn’t live with himself for not sticking with his turn around time. We all make wrong decisions, we climbed Mt Adams and slept in a cave at the summit because we made the wrong decision, and what was worse, my partner almost got killed because I agree with him to descend from a part of Mt Adams that is not a route and will never be one, and my partner wanted to take it and we took it. He fell 300 feet and boulder cut his head open really bad. You can’t stop strong people from making wrong decisions, and that was what killed B in a winter climb.If you climb Mt Everest you are on your own, like I was soloing denali in July!, I turned around because I want to come back and reach the summit, in Mt Everest I would have had kept going, once chance one life to live. Not everybody can pay $25000 to 300000 to climb Mt Everest. K is a strong climber, but I would decline any invitation to join any of his climbing trips, even if it is to climb Mt Hood.
    Thanks Hebert

    • Paul/Pavel Klimsa

      You are 100% right. I woud not climb with Jon Krakaer even 400 ft hill. Be afraid that he would write story about that during hike I pissed on wrong tree.
      Pavel K.

  19. welshenglish

    I think opinions on this depend hugely on which of the two accounts you read first. I read Krakauer’s book long before I read Boukreev’s account and, although I don’t blame Boukreev for the accident, I largely follow Krakauer’s opinions. I also agree almost totally with Kim’s comments (see above).

    Boukreev’s mountaineering achievements are truly great- this is beyond doubt- I can also (obviously) not comment on him as a person. But he seems to have made some errors of judgement on May 10 1996. He refused to accept these errors and never really explains them convincingly in his book.

    Sure Krakauer has far less experience and also made several crucial mistakes that day himself but he openly accepts this. Boukreev’s seems unable to accept that possibly he also made some poor choices that day. He regularly climbed seperately from his clients (who were his purpose for being there) and left his pack behind- why?

    There were of course, many other contributing factors to what happened in 1996. There were also many other people who made far greater human errors than either Krakauer or Boukreev (both Fischer and Hall in particular who, if accountability were to be meted out, must shoulder the blame). In a way, this makes this debate largely pointless. The fact is that people who climb Everest are risking their lives: sometimes things go wrong.

    Nonetheless people should not allow somebody’s achievements to cloud their judgement of an isolated incident. Boukreev is a mountaineering legend, and will remain so, regardless of what he did that day. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t partly responsible for what happened on Everest in 1996. Even legends are human.

    • roko

      well said. Anatoli got more blame than he probably deserved and he did some pretty heroic stuff but he did make mistakes irrespective of the fact that he followed his beliefs and Fishers orders. Everyone makes mistakes. Hall may be a likable and loyal guide who was pretty organized but he should have gotten more blame, especially for not turning people back. But different people read things differently that why our comments differ so much. Same thing on the mountain in 1996, different people saw things differently, and it those conditions and with such stress no under accounts differ. It may be fun debating this but we weren’t there and its hard to judge especially since some questions will never be fully answered.

      Watching and reading the stuff about the new expeditions (Everest: Beyond the limits) its amazing to me that some of the same stuff happens and how money is a big part of Everest. Too bad. Its a deadly place up top with very little margin for error. When weather turns bad (as it did in 1996) bad things happen. And from a decision making point of view (which is the one that drew me to the story), mistakes still happen. Its human nature.

      It was unfortunately a great loss of human life and the emotions probably got better of Jon and Anatoli in the aftermath. It was really hard on them. Even harder on the families of people who were lost, my heart goes to them.

      Happy New Year.

  20. star hill

    My point is yes, climbing much over 10,000 ft is real dangerous even for fit experienced climbers, and yes, if one wishes to spend their free time living dangerously, fine, great, its a free wonderful world, and while its not for me, I’m glad I live in a world where there are people like that. But fit experienced climbers of thin air KNOW the world up there is an individual do-or-die proposition, and while there are some teams of equal climbers who truly see themselves as one unit, and there are stories of collective doing-or-dying, they are the exception. Again, fine. And adhering to a hard core attitude about not wanting to be responsible for someone climbing’s misfortunes because of this personal code ONLY becomes a problem if you take money from someone you and they both know is at a disadvantage from the beginning because they really don’t belong in the thin air of the highest mountains, and when they give you that money, you are by virtue of taking it, telling them you WILL be responsible for them. If Mr. Boukreev had walked over a hundred dying idiots trying to climb a mountain they had no business being on, well, shrug! But when he partnered with weaker climbers, and led them to believe their relative safety could be bought from him, for him then to fall back on that hard-core code of mountain climbing being an individual challenge of doing-or-dying, was simply business fraud; the fact that the business was life and death leaves him, for all his climbing legendary status, a personal asshole. I think that was the only point Krakauer was trying to make. Just for fun, its kind of like the Michael Jackson thing. He was undoubtedly one of the top 5 most talented singer-dancer-entertainers ever of pop music. Thats one side of his bio. But to refuse to look at the other side of who he was because he was so great a talent is just like saying we don’t really need two eyes because one sees everything we need to see.

  21. Wendy

    I definitely think Jon Krakauer singled out Anatoli and Lopsang specifically in his book. Probably this was because they were not in as good a position to defend themselves, one hardly speaking English and one being a Sherpa. No matter what Jon Krakauer thinks of Anatolis methods of guiding here are the FACTS:

    Anatoli going up the mountain without using oxygen did not cause the deaths of Namba, Hall, Fisher or Hansen.

    ALL of Anatoli’s clients came out of the situation ALIVE – 3 thanks in part to him going to rescue them.

    Rob Hall’s clients were ROB HALL’S responsibility and the responsibility of his GUIDES. Why didn’t Mike Groom take Namba and Beck Weathers when he went back to camp. MIKE GROOM abandoned them there!!!!

    Why did Rob Hall leave Beck Weathers alone for 8 hours instead of getting him back down to Camp IV when Beck admitted having problems??? And then some idiot claims Anatoli should have helped him down. NO ROB HALL SHOULD HAVE!!!!

    Scott Fischer’s death was Scott Fischer’s fault and no one else’s!!! Scott Fischer had no reason to summit at all – all his clients had summited and came down – he saw them on their way back!!! If he had turned around right away he may have been able to assist Neil Beidelman and also may have survived!!!

    Doug Hanson’s, Andy Harris’s and Namba’s death were solely the fault of ROB HALL. He is responsible for his clients and trying to force the issue to get Doug Hanson to the summit when it was too late in the day caused him to abandon any other clients that needed help on the mountain. He chose to stay with Doug Hanson which some find commendable but I do not. Doug Hanson should have been turned around at 2 p.m. and Rob Hall with him. Therefore, Doug would not have died, Rob would have been able to help Namba and, most probably, Andy Harris and would have been able to collect Beck Weathers before he almost died and suffered severe frostbite.

    WHY are these facts NOT mentioned in Krakauer’s book – or rather glossed over. Seems he is more worried about Lopsang short-roping Sandy and Anatoli going down the mountain quickly and not using bottled oxygen. He seems to have no interest in making the ADVENTURE CONSULTANTS GUIDES responsible for the death and injury of the ADVENTURE CONSULTANTS CLIENTS!!!!!!

    • L.W.

      I think he singled Boukreev and Lopsang out because 1) their expected responsibilities as guide and sherpa, and 2) when they were of ‘reasonably’ sound mind and body – ascending from camp 4 – they made choices that were contrary to what is customary for a guide and sherpa and that subsequently added to the risk. That is, Boukreev not using O2 and Lopsang short-roping Sandy toward the very beginning of this final climb went against what a guiding company would typically want from these type of employees. Some of the story may have been lost in translation, but I never translated what I read in Krakauer’s book as expressing that Boukreev caused the death of anyone.

      I am left with the understanding that if I were to climb Everest, even as a client, I should understand that in all likelihood, the shit will hit the fan, and that when it does, I should NOT expect my guides to save me. Thus, to me, no one is to be blamed here.

      *I am easily persuaded by what I read and I’ve only read Into Thin Air. I very rarely blame anyone for the suffering of others – life is suffering after all.

    • Rosie Leigh

      Most definitely well said!! Couldn’t agree more!
      Jon Krakauer and the people who defend his statements seem to forget, quite conveniently, that every one of the Mountain Madness clients survived -Thanks to Anatoli Boukreev. Most of Jon Krakauers comments were unfounded, glossed over or completely untrue. And the comments that were true, he had no real reason 2 even bring up. If Boukreev had of descended later and had he needed oxygen 2 climb he wouldn’t have been able to rescue Hill, Fox and Madsen. Infact, he probably would’ve been in a similar state to Jon Krakauer, who was in his tent recovering and sleeping while members of his team died. Krakauer was clearly trying to create a villIan for his story book. Lots of bad mistakes were made on Everest during May 1996 but how anybody could hold Boukreev remotely responsible is beyond me

    • Liz

      Well said Wendy. My thoughts exactly.

      And I think JK cries crocodile tears. He was as self-centred or more-so than most of the clients or guides on this climb. He never helped anyone but himself.

  22. Phil

    Well said, Wendy.
    Krakauer is simply not qualified to pass judgment – on any mountain climber, let alone those who are out of his league.

    • Mikey Benny

      Ridiculous. You don’t have to be a chef to properly criticize someone’s cooking, and you don’t have to be a world-class climber to criticize the actions of a world-class climber.

    • Fox

      You obviously know very little about Krakauer. He is a very accomplished climber, albeit at lower altitudes. You act as though he was a complete novice. Without even knowing you, I would surmise that he is more qualified to pass judgement of AB then you are of him.

  23. Duane

    THANKS Wendy!! Your comments have hit the nail on the head, and are what I have felt for years.

    RIP Anatoli. You were a true hero.

  24. Cathy

    This is fascinating. I haven’t stopped thinking about this event since I read Krakauer’s book 2 years ago. Then Boukreev’s right after that….then “Mountain Madness” about Scott and now Lene Gammelgaard’s book. I feel that Krakauer did an excellant job pointing out everyone’s faults especially his own. I love Boukreev but I believe he took offense to Krakauer’s account perhaps out of a guilty conscience. Does that make Boukreev more wrong in this event. No. The real conflict is personality and cultural diffences in how each man handles the losses. I believe Jon would have been more sympathetic if Anatoli would have spoken openly about his feelings instead of masking his pain and possible guilt. However, Anatoli had the language barrier and a cultural barrier. Oh it is so painful sorting the details when there are two sides to every story…..

    • Dot

      Cathy, I think that’s a good point about cultural differences in dealing with loss. Btw, have you read Maria McCoffey’s book Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow? That sheds some light on how distressed Boukreev was and how he dealt with it.

      • Cathy

        No, I haven’t read McCoffey’s book yet but I am writing it down now and getting that one. Thank you!

    • Wendy

      Cathy:

      Please explain what Anatoli could have been feeling any guilt over? He saved all his clients. The only thing he could possibly feel guilty about was not saving Scott Fischer which would have been impossible anyway. The reason Anatoli was so upset over Krakauer’s comments was because he was unfairly slandered in the American press. I think that would make anyone upset. And Krakauer did NOT do a good job of pointing out everyone’s faults. He forgot to point fingers and lay blame where the fault really belonged – on all of his own guides.

      • Cathy

        Losing Scott. When a person loses another and they were there to possibly change the events, there is a burden of guilt they must wrestle. Often times it isn’t the survivor’s fault but the feelings are still there to work through.

  25. kenanddot

    It might just be Coffey, come to think of it. I wrote the title and name from memory.

  26. TonyRay

    Wendy, your post is RIGHT FxxxING ON!!!

    Krakauer is a wormjournalist. Anatoli had experience and knowledge as a mountaineer that Krakauer could only dream of. That same wisdom is what kept Krakauers hog wash and credibility in check. Krakauer resented the exposure and threat to his cash cow.

    The most prestigious and recognized Alpine Association examined the facts and came to the conclusion that Anatoli acted heroically with great risk to his own life. The climbers he saved would have no doubt died on the mountain without his selfless efforts. Anatoli was presented with the Associations most coveted award for his heroism. I trust the judgement of this group of alpinists over a self inflating journalist anyday.

    The fact that Anatoli climbed without oxygen on summit day is a moot point. The guy was an animal in the mountains. He stepped up and fixed lines where needed which was not his responsibility, allowing the clients from both expeditions to continue their ascent. The guy went without sleep for over 30 hours on summit day helping others. During this time he was faced with a decision, does he climb up to where he was told Scott Fischer the expedition leader was left sick by Lopsang or go to the clients who were lost and freezing on the South Col. As a professional Guide he made the proper decision and rescued the clients, thereby saving their lives.

    Beck Weathers made a statement that when Krakauer descended to his location, he asked Krakauer to help him back to camp IV as he couldn’t see and needed someone to lead him. Krakauer left Weathers, his own team mate and proceeded to camp on his own.

    Where was Krakauer when Anatoli was begging him and others for help in the double rescue…he was sleeping in his tent refusing to help. Krakauer climbed all day on oxygen and didn’t save anyone but himself. So I couldn’t care less if Anatoli climbed with or without oxygen on summit day. Anatoli climbing without oxygen was still twice the man Krakauer was ON oxygen. Krakauer tries to endear readers to him by admitting some of his shortfalls hoping they stay on for the ride through his false judgements and accusations.

    It is common knowledge through the climbing ranks that Krakauer stooped so low as to present himself and an accomplice at one of Anatolis speaking engagements trying to discredit Anatolis mountaineering experience. This Krakauer is a real piece of work not to mention the magazine he wrote the piece for.

    Make no mistake, Anatoli was the real deal, a great climber, mountaineer and person. It is sad that an individual that is jealous of these attributes would further expose his own lack of morals with a strategy of insults, slander and falsehoods. Why Anatolis estate hasn’t sued this guy and the magazine is beyond me.

    I truly wish that Krakauer and others had Anatolis skills, morals and wherewithal on the mountain that night. If they did they would have got off their asses, assisted in the rescue and fewer would have died or suffered life long damage from frostbite. These people refused to help their OWN team mates and want to shift the blame to Anatoli who wasn’t even a part of their expedition. GET REAL!

    Anatoli was NOT RESPONSIBLE for Rob Halls clients PERIOD. Rob Hall had his own expedition guides. Rob Hall had to stay with Doug Hansen to the end as it was Rob who talked Doug into continuing up the mountain when Doug wanted to turn around.

    Andy Harris was a hero for his efforts in helping Rob Hall with Doug Hansen at the Hillary Step, which ultimately cost Andy his life.

    One thing I find very interesting and virtually ignored is the Poisk oxygen debacle. The Fischer expedition bought $30,000 of bottled oxygen for this trip, the majority of which was to be manufactured by Poisk. The year of the disaster Fischer was not able to buy directly from Poisk and had to go through a middle man/broker. The delivery of the oxygen was continually delayed until just a few days before the expeditions departure for Base Camp, which is very unusual. With all the underhanded crimes going on in the Everest camps now, gear and oxygen thefts etc. I ask, would it be to far fetched to examine the possibility that the Fischer Expedition never received the pure Poisk Oxygen they had bought.

    With all the like new-used Poisk bottles laying around and the fact it can be documented that some were retrieved from Everst and packed out prior to the disaster, could it be reasonably assumed that a valuable commodity such as Oxygen may have been counterfeited and black marketed. The used bottles could very easliy have been refilled by others than Poisk and filled with compressed air and not oxygen, then delivered to the expedition represented as new pure oxygen. I know it could very easily be done.

    Fischer became sicker on the Oxygen bottles. Lopsang became violently ill and was throwing up after he started using the oxygen. Other members were having difficulties with moisture freezing and clogging regulators and masks (there is a lot of moisture in compressed air). Coincidence, maybe, but I think it brings up serious questions that merit further investigation.

  27. Wendy

    Great post TonyRay!!! You are right on about Anatoli. And you bring up a very interesting point about the bottled oxygen. It’s something I had never thought of but it is certainly an interesting possibility. They got their oxygen through Henry Todd who has actually been embroiled in a scandal before. It wouldn’t be too much to a stretch to think he may have been the culprit. (this is just my own thought).

    But really, about Anatoli, I have to say anyone who reads ‘Into Thin Air’ and has ANY common sense should immediately think – how was anyone on the Mountain Madness team responsible for the deaths of anyone on the Adventure Consultants team? That was my first thought – when I knew nothing about the disaster or climbing or Mt. Everest. It seems a completely obvious and pertinent fact to me. Perhaps there are a great many people who read this book and lack common sense!

    • Jessie

      Wendy,

      Are you suggesting that one doesn’t have a responsibility for others who are distressed on Everest, simply because they are on another team? It seems to me the two teams were basically in the thick of the storm together, at similar altitudes, and, as was noted on Krakauer’s book, Neal Beideleman and others went out of their way to help others not on the same team.

      There was also a brief part in Krakauer’s book which mentions three Japanese climbers who were so hungry to reach the summit that they merely passed three members of an Indo-Tibetan team who were dying on the mountain, not even checking to see if their regulators were working properly. When asked about it afterword, one said “There’s no room for morality on Everest.” I have to strongly disagree, as this isn’t the kind of behavior or world I want to live with or in.

      Some of the commenters here are a little too eager to call Anatoli a “hero” simply because he was “badass” enough to climb Everest without oxygen. I don’t think Krakauer ascribed a disproportionate amount of blame to Anatoli, compared to himself or others, but it seems to me the mere fact that Anatoli had climbed the mountain without oxygen in the past has very little to do with whether or not he was an effective guide on this particular expedition.

      It seems to me it was incredibly careless and stubborn on his part, and reckless for Scott Fischer to agree that Anatoli go without oxygen. He wasn’t on a solo expedition. Did the clients on the team have a say in whether they felt comfortable with this set-up? I would bet that if asked, they would have preferred that he use it, because, as we all saw, maybe he would have been more effective a guide with it. Why chance it?

      • Wendy

        Try reading Lene Gammelgard’s book, Climbing High. She was an actual client of Anatoli’s and had nothing but positive things to say about him and certainly had no issue with him not using oxygen. Truth is, Anatoli didn’t need oxygen. He very rarely climbed with it and the problems did not occur because Anatoli summited without oxygen.

        Anatoli’s main responsibility was his own clients. That is who he took care of first and rescued. He had already made two trips in blizzard conditions after summiting that very day and did not have the strength to go back for Namba and Weathers.

        Also, for your information, Mike Groom (who was an Adventure Consultants guide) was in the group huddled in the storm with Neal Beidelman and he left the group to return to camp without either Namba or Weathers. So please tell me why if he couldn’t manage to save his own clients why Anatoli should have saved them prior to saving his own clients?

        And I agree that Neal Beidelman went out of his way to help others not on his team. He also was a hero, no doubt about that. But who are these others you mention that assisted team members that were not their own. Neal Beidelman is the ONLY guide on Everest that night that helped anyone outside his own clients. Certainly Rob Hall did not nor Andy Harris nor Mike Groom.

        If Andy Harris and Rob Hall had been doing THEIR jobs properly no one else would have had to be burdened with assisting THEIR clients!

        THAT is what should have stood out in Krakauer’s book if he wanted to question people’s judgments.

        Anatoli was not a hero because he climbed Mt. Everest without oxygen. Anatoli was a hero because he went out in blizzard conditions with no visibility – after an exhausting summit of Everest that left every other person in camp unable to move – and rescued three people from death. THAT is what a hero is. Someone who risks their own life to save others and that is what Anatoli did that night.

      • Rosie Leigh

        I dont quite understand why some people, including yourself, feel the need to go on and on about Boukreev not using oxygen during the 1996 expedition when he was absolutely fine (as a climber and as a guide) without it. He had fully acclimatised and suffered zero problems related to his none use of oxygen. It’s just absolute nit picking. Ridiculous. If there’s an argument to be had regarding the use of oxygen amongst guides, then using Anatoli Boukreevs actions on May 10th/11th is not the appropriate way to do it. He was a hero and I imagine that the tragedy of 1996 may have been even worse had Boukreev needed oxygen or/and descended later than he did. Jon Krakauer passed by Weathers and refused to help him down. At least Boukreev left Weathers knowing that a sherpa was there.

  28. TonyRay

    Wendy,

    Krakauers book “Into Thin Air” needed a culprit a bad guy if you will. It’s evident he chose the wrong guy to shift the blame on. Since most of the dramatic events took place while Krakauer was in camp four sleeping, refusing to help anyone. One must come to the conclusion that the basis for his writing came from anything but first hand, eyewitness experience. Instead it is obviously a fabricated nonfactual reconstruction of the events.

    Anatoli Boukreev’s book “The Climb” was written from the eyewitness perspective of an actual participant in the events including the actual rescue attempts.

    When reading Kraukauers book you get the feeling your reading an extended egotistical resume of someone who is insecure with his own abilities.

    I didn’t think it was possible to associate any comedy with this trajedy until I was presented with the opportunity to watch the movie “Into Thin Air”. During the first five minutes of the movie it becomes painfully obvious that it is an extremely low budget film. They couldn’t even get the landmarks right on the Everest map. The clothing and gear is wrong. The settings aren’t even close. The facts and reenactments are worse than Krakauers book. On the South Col from camp four they have Krakauer attempting a rescue, braving the elements striking out at night in a blizzard with one of the lead Sherpas begging him to abandon the effort. Makes you want to puke when the facts show Krakauer was hiding in his tent and refused any participation in the rescue attempts. For Krakauer to put his endorsement on this movie with the use of his name only reinforces ones disgust in this persons lowly character.

    It is also interesting to note that the movie didn’t provide a credit for the actress who portrayed Sandy Pittman.

    • Jessie

      “When reading Kraukauers book you get the feeling your reading an extended egotistical resume of someone who is insecure with his own abilities.”

      I didn’t get that at all. I think Krakauer makes it clear in the book that the facts presented were as he recalled them occurring at a high altitude when everyone’s judgment was affected, including his. To say that he was hiding in the tent while a major storm stirred over the camp, refusing to help, is a little too much.

      For one, everyone who made it back to camp that afternoon/evening was in bad shape, emotionally and physically exhausted, and affected by the altitude. Plus, it didn’t seem as though anyone could hear what was going on outside, other than a huge storm. And if Krakauer is “guilty”, then so, too is everyone else who made it back to their tents that day and collapsed from exhaustion and altitude sickness.

      It seemed to me from Krakauer’s book the author feels enormous guilt over what transpired; I didn’t feel that the book was exploitative or overly critical towards others but not to himself. To the contrary, it seemed he ruminated over the “what if’s”. Anatoli, Fischer, and Hall were acting as guides, and they all acted recklessly, putting others’ safety in danger unnecessarily, from allowing the likes of Sandy Pittman to even attempt to summit, to not using oxygen. Of course, and I think Krakauer is the first to state this is his book, nearly everyone involved probably could have done something differently.

      I cannot imagine what it would have been like to survive that disaster. At any rate, it’s easy to judge others when we haven’t been in their shoes, especially those walking at 28,000+ feet.

      • TonyRay

        Anatoli’s client’s lived without any severe injuries or disabilities. Anatoli is a HERO, so get over it already.

        On the other hand, Krakauer is a chickenshit coward who refused to help anyone but himself and then tried to discredit and defame the person who actually saved lives and participated in the rescues. Was it because Krakauer thought Anatoli was stealing his glory, possibly, especially when considering how Krakauer had the movie producers portray him in the movie. The guy is a WORM!

      • Wendy

        Funny, I don’t remember much criticism of Rob Hall in “Into Thin Air”. Maybe I should go back and read it again. Hilarious that you mention guides acting recklessly by “allowing the likes of Sandy Pittman to even summit” but fail to mention the fact that Rob Hall allowed the likes of Doug Hansen to summit and that was the direct cause of his death, Doug Hansen’s death and the most likely cause of Andy Harris’s death, Yasuko Namba’s death and Beck Weather’s severe injuries.

        I’m curious as to whether you have read “The Climb”? It seems to me all your statements are based on “Into Thin Air” which is not necessarily completely factual. If you have not read “The Climb”, I would definitely suggest it so you can get both sides of the story.

    • Wendy

      Oh please don’t get me started on that movie!!! I was so angry with the blatant attempt to make Jon Krakauer look like a hero – despite any facts to the contrary that I had to turn it off!! Of all the ridiculously incorrect movies, this has to be the absolute worst!!!

  29. Cathy

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90374592

    This is a good interview with David Breashears who made the documentary called “Storm Over Everest.”

    In this interview Braeshears recognized Anatoli’s heroic efforts but doesn’t understand why the members of the group were without him in the first place.

    Braeshears to Neal Conan’s “I don’t know what Anatoli was thinking that day. I don’t know what Scott told him. I don’t know if I would have done that myself. It seems more appropriate for a guide to be with their clients on such a big mountain as Everest than down in the high camp waiting for them. It’s hard to provide aid and assistance when you’re – the people you’re in charge of protecting or guiding to safety are up in a storm above you.”

    Now that is a common sense statement if I have ever heard one!

  30. TonyRay

    That statement may sound well and good, but the first thing you have to understand especially when climbing above 8000 meters is the fact that the #1 component for any rescue at that altitude is bottled oxygen. The oxygen that was carried on the mountain that day was already used, in use or in reserve on the south summit for descending climbers.

    Any additional oxygen, rope, equipment or food that could have been used for any potential rescue attempts was located at camp four on the South Col. Many alpinists believe Anatoli made the right decision, positioning himself as to allow the use of these items if needed. The fact of the matter is there was a minimum of four guides and additional sherpa strung out all over the mountain during the descent and no one at camp four to organize a rescue with the neccessary items. Anatoli knew this, Scott knew this and they made the only logical decision.

    While I respect David Breashears personal accomplishments in the mountains I question some of the content in Storm over Everest. Why in the world would he showcase Sandy Pittman heralding her as this great mountaineering woman with great respect for the mountains. When it is commonly agreed that the fact Lopsang had short roped her, literally towing her up the mountain, was responsible for causing many of the crucial delays to the other clients ascent. Lopsang was previously assigned to share the responsibility of laying safety rope ahead of the clients. It can be reasonably assumed that if Lopsang did not short rope Sandy he would have layed the rope on time ahead of the clients, thus allowing for a smooth transition and seperation of the clients to the summit without the bottleneck delays. This would have also allowed a timely summit and descent that would have missed the storm all together. What does Mr. Breashears have to say about this? We will probably never know. Is it because Sandy possibly contributed to his film aspirations?

  31. Wendy

    Cathy:

    AGAIN – Even if David Breashear’s opinions (who was not on the mountain with them so can only be going by second hand information) seem common sense to you – please tell me how Anatoli’s decisions on the mountain caused the deaths of the Adventure Consultants clients?

    Oh and by the way – Anatoli did come most of the way down the mountain with a client – Martin Adams. People for some reason seem to forget that fact. Also, if he had not come down earlier than the other clients (who were with a guide – Neil Beidelman) then he could not have gone out to arrange a rescue. Why does that not make sense?

    Again, I will ask – why were the Adventure Consultant guides not being responsible for their own clients? Why isn’t there widespread criticism of THEIR actions that day? How is sitting on the top of the mountain with one ailing client considered noble but coming down the mountain in the lead with one client then resting in order to assist anyone who might be in trouble considered terrible and wrong? Why is it so incredibly hard to place the blame where it belongs? On the Adventure Consultant guides – specifically Rob Hall.

    • Wendy

      I have to rephrase something as it sounds incorrect. David Breashears was technically on the mountain – but at base camp at the time. What I was meaning was that he was not up on the mountain with them.

      • TonyRay

        One overwhelming fact stands out. ALL of Rob Halls client’s who died on the mountain were assisted by guides on their descent. Rob Halls Guides had run out of oxygen, were disoriented and as helpless as the clients.

    • Shahid Khan

      Dear Wendy,

      The only reason that is ‘wrong’ is that Anatoli was Russian. IMO Jon Krakauer thought he tap into anti-russian sentiments in the American public and conveniently blame Anatoli while getting rich on the resulting publicity. It looks like it worked out really well for Jon Krakauer — the mainstream public version of the story was the Krakauer version. Kudos to the American Alpine Club and Americans like Tony Ray and yourself who refuse to be taken by his lowness and have steadfastly defended Anatoli, a great great alpinist.

      thanks!

      • Wendy

        Shahid:

        I agree that Anatoli was an easy target for Krakauer because he was Russian. Krakauer also targeted Lopsang because Lopsang was an easy one to blame. Neither Anatoli nor Lopsang had much of a means to defend themselves, particularly in the US.

        I appreciate the compliment. Honestly, I just hate to see heroic acts diminished by “journalists”. In reading all the books about the 96 disaster, I never came away with the view that any of the deaths and injuries on the mountain were Anatoli’s fault – or Lopsang’s or Sandy Pittman’s. I believe Krakauer was desperate to put the blame on anyone else rather than his own guides. And clearly, they were the ones who did not properly care for their clients. I wish everyone could realize that. Why people choose to be swayed by a sensationalist journalist who wasn’t even in the camp that Anatoli was a guide for, I cannot understand.

    • Shannon

      Boukreev didn’t come down with Martin Adams. If he had, Adams wouldn’t have started to descend the Kangshung face into Tibet at the Balcony. And if he had gone down with the other clients, they may have moved faster and they wouldn’t have needed rescuing in the first place.

      • aldebaranredstar

        ‘May have moved faster”?–No, they actually got stuck in the storm and they could not move at all. The visibility was zero. The winds were 70 miles an hour. Anatoli got back to camp 4 before the storm at around 5 pm, but the storm was in full force at 6 pm and lasted til 12 am. If Anatoli had not gotten ahead of the storm he would have been stuck on the mountain with everyone else. This is the fact. No one could move during the storm. They got colder, more exhausted with no oxygen while they were stuck waiting for the storm to stop. This is where if Anatoli had been with them he would have been of no help, and would have become weaker and less able to do a rescue. Now if he had stayed with them going down, could they have gotten to camp 4 before the storm hit? No, Beck was blind and the others were oxygen depleted, cold, and slow. There is no way they could have moved at about the same speed as Anataoli. When Anatoli came to the rescue, he brought oxygen and hot drink to get them to the point to make the descent. Until the storm stopped, there was no visibility for movement, either to make a further descent or to do a rescue.

  32. Conrad G

    I have read “Into Thin Air, “The Climb”, “High Exposure” by D. Breahears, and Beck Weathers’ book. I am not a mountain climber but have studied and worked in the field of human behavior. What has stood out to me in Krakauer’s book as well as some of his reported public behaviors related to his dispute with Anatoli, and some of his inappropriate language in letters to magazines and websites on this subject, is his inability to stop himself from assigning blame and criticizing others, and the emotional investment he had to make Anatoli accept blame. It just seems like an dicey position to take about two men, Anatoli and Lopsang Sherpa, who could have easily lost their lives assisting others that day while he is his sleeping bag too exhausted to help. Does he feel that he is a better man that Anatoli was because he can accept some blame? Well, good for him. Maybe he is a better man than Anatoli was, in some ways, but who makes it such a mission in life to make sure that everyone believes you are right, especially when lives have been lost. Krakauer is in a profession where people are paid to criticize his work. It goes with the territory. Anatoli Boukreev’s and Lopsang Sherpa’s profession does not normally, I would think, have print critics in the way and to the degree that professional writer’s, like Krakauer, does. Krakauer shows no insight into how criticizing someone’s professional work ethics and judgments can be a very personal affront. In his profession he has editors, fact checkers, and proof readers to go over his work and help perfect it before it is presented to the public. There are no do-overs for mountain guides at 29,000 feet in a blizzard. He had no idea of what plans Scott and Anatoli had made or not made. Yet he feels free to offer his critique of their work, morals, and ethics. And, he shows a complete lack of understanding of these gentlemen’s cultural backrounds. In the states we all seem to get a kick out of criticizing others. Reality TV in the states is based on the public failures of individuals and the ensuing elimination from the show and shaming those who have failed. And, watching those failed people cry seems to be a big part of the entertainment value. In real life, in the US and other countries failure and public embarrassment are not always viewed as being great entertainment. Sometimes, in some cultures it is seen as shaming the whole family. It would benefit Jon to learn not to project our values onto people from other cultures. Many other cultures do take exception and offense to public criticism, espcially from somone not from their culture. At the end of “Into Thin Air”, in “Author’s Note”, Krakauer does not seem to understand the anger and hurt of some of the relatives and friends of some of the victims of the ’96 disaster. He says his intent was to tell what happened as accurately and honestly as possible in a senstive and respectful manner. Sensitive and respectful? He’s got to be kidding. It is possible to tell the story of what happened in an event without pointing fingers and assigning blame but Krakauer could not resist the urge to do both, with great personal harm to both Lopsang Sherpa and Anatoli Boukreev, who are both, unfortunately, no longer with us. Both may have made mistakes that day on the mountain but my question is, why does Krakauer feel that he needs to be the one to point this out to people who read his books all over the world? In the introduction to “Into Thin Air”, Krakauer says that several authors and editors counseled him not to write the book as quickly as he did. They urged him to wait 2-3 years to gain some crucial perspective. He ignored their advice “mostly because what happened on the mountain was gnawing my guts out. I thought that writing the book might purge Everest from my life.” Seems like he would have been better served to talk with a therapist and work out his feelings rather than to write a book publicly criticizing professionals in a field other than his field of expertise, and from other cultures who do not do things and live life the same way that Jon does.

    • Wendy

      Did you not read “Climbing High” by Lene Gammelgaard? Seems like you have read all the other books relating to the ’96 disaster. I really like her book though she goes into her own personal preparations and philosophies quite a bit (didn’t bother me but might be annoying to others). She has a very clear, concise account of the events that night plus a good insight into what was going on in the Mountain Madness camp. I think you would enjoy it.

  33. Eric Frivold

    Great post Tony. Having a dead or immobile guide is not going to save anyone. Having a guide who has some energy and is carrying oxygen and warm liquid is going to save your life.
    A guide who is without oxygen is as confused and useless and Krakauers account of the events. He should bury his head in shame.

  34. TonyRay

    Hey Wendy…you ready to climb?

  35. Wendy

    I wish TonyRay! Unfortunately, I’m not that much of a risk taker and have a terrible fear of heights! I’d rather just read about it!

    Are you a climber? Based on your posts you seem very knowledgeable, so I assumed you were.

    • TonyRay

      Hey Wendy…believe it or not a lot of climbers as well as pilots have a fear of heights. With practiced skills, technique and most of all judgement a lot of that fear goes away and turns into respect instead.

      Since you read a lot about it you must harbor some desire to try it.

      An inexperienced person doesn’t have to start out on Everest (although many are doing just that now). There are a lot of neat short climbs you can start with. A little instruction would have you ready for a fun climb up Devils Tower or the Grand Tetons. Your confidence would soar and you would be planning your next climb. Believe it or not, these two climbs are actually more technical than anything on Everests most traveled route.

      It’s to bad that a lot of people with the desire to climb will be turned away by stories of diasaster on 8000 meter and above Mtns. There are a lot of places across the U.S. within easy reach that offer fun recreational climbing for all levels of experience.

      If your interested tell the administrator I said it was ok for you to email me direct.

      • Wendy

        TonyRay:

        Thank you for the offer. I do admire mountain climbers and think it is very impressive but I myself am not a risk taker and prefer to stay safely on the ground.

        You are more than welcome to email me if you would like. I do enjoy discussing mountain climbing and Anatoli with you.

  36. No clients (or hired guides) on Scott Fisher’s team died – they were all from Rob Hall’s team. If not for Anatoli Boukreev this would not have been the case.

    • Alex Korjavine

      After reading all mentioned books one comparison comes to mind. “Die hard ” . Remeber the ever rpesent annoying selfcentered journalist and Jonh Mclane? The wanker and the hero. R.I. P. Anatoli. You are a real “Die hard”. I am proud to be Russian , but will never be as brave as you.

  37. There was not enough bottled oxygen on the mountain. If Anatoli had used oxygen there would have been even less. Also, if you are on oxygen and it runs out, you can quickly become incapacitated. The fact that he was acclimatized well enough to climb without oxygen allowed him to continue doing so (and go out to rescue his clients) even after the oxygen supplies were running low and eventually exhausted.

  38. C.

    I’ve read it all and it really seems like a lot of people sneering at Krakauer’s account are doing so not because of any particular factual reason, but because they’d rather be on the side of the mountaineering legend, the Bruce Willis, etc. than the guy who writes. Maybe it makes you feel more like a mountaineer?
    I want to make a point that has been well-made but bears repeating, especially to Wendy and TonyRay who seem to be trying to one-up each other in exalting Boukreev’s divinity and bad-mouthing Krakauer. You don’t become more “in the know” by taking such a simplistic view. Imagine this:

    Let’s say Anatoli Boukreev is practically Jesus Christ incarnate. He is the greatest mountaineer the world has ever seen. His spit turns to liquid gold. Everybody who follows mountaineering can and should idolize him as a great.

    But, on a particular trip during which he has been hired to take care of others, some questionable orders are given, some people are getting sick, and he doesn’t do the thing that most non-mountaineers would imagine people do, namely, stick around with the people who need help, find out what’s going on, and so on. Some deaths result, and might have been prevented if nearly every person on the mountain had made some different decisions, including Boukreev.
    Does that make everything else about the guy vanish? Is he no longer a great mountaineer, a superhuman whose feet we should all dream to kiss?

    I’d argue not really. Certainly not from any account I’ve read, including Into Thin Air, which wasn’t far enough off from the truth for everyone to act like it was an evil hackjob by a guy who hates Russians. The guy spends pages of his book on bad decisions made by everybody on the mountain, not the least of which include clients who shouldn’t have been up there and himself. Some of his evaluation might be spotty (like the Boukreev without oxygen thing) but in the end nearly everyone could have done something different and improved things:

    For example, Boukreev could have insisted Fischer descend. He had very good and understandable reasons not to (Fischer being the boss, language barrier, you name it), and didn’t, but he could have, and that might have helped the situation a lott. Does that mean the dude has to be toppled from the podium of high altitude climbers? Of course not. But to deny that certain people could have done things differently that would have helped (especially while raging on and on about how a certain other person, Krakauer, could have) is disingenuous. Boukreev COULD have done things differently, as could everyone else, as Krakauer points out at great lengths. You could even say he could have done things “even better” or “even MORE heroically”, if you feel.

    Krakauer also makes great points about wider, systemic problems with bad planning and pay-to-climb on Everest, which definitely get a hell of a lot more words than Boukreev’s hasty descent. I would argue that the biggest problem is that so many people want to do it that weaker people pay their way way up there and force these kinds of situations to happen. That’s not Boukreev’s fault, and that is the paramount point Jon Krakauer seems to be making. “Into Thin Air” isn’t some mad racist excuse to blame deaths on the Russian, it’s not even very strong blaming anyone when you put things in perspective – what in the hell is everyone doing up on Everest anyway?? Does anyone think that with 500 people summiting annually that it’s anything more special than running a marathon under a certain time? It’s a lot deadlier than a marathon though, and that’s what Krakauer was saying – small decisions that shouldn’t matter (nor, crucially, impugn anyone’s character) amplify things into disasters, so it’s a pastime best left to extremely strong, special people like Boukreev and peers, who are less likely to need urgent help.

    So get over the KRAKAUER VS BOUKREEV SMASHFEST FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS stuff and understand that there were much bigger messages coming across than who is better: one guy or another guy.

    • TonyRay

      C. you obviously have no experience in the mountains or you are Krakauer ghost writing your piece.

      Once again, all of the client’s Boukreev was hired to help that were a part of his expedition survived.

      What added to the confusion is that every member from both expeditions had already accepted defeat in camp four due to the verocious windstorm that was pummeling the South Col immediately prior to the summit attempt. The wind abruptly ceased and the decision was hastily made by one expedition to go. When the other expedition saw the other team members preparing they too decided to go. This was poor decision making by both expedition leaders and was obviously based on their need not to be outdone by the other which ultimately put their clients at risk.

      Boukreev was a guide employed by one expedition not two. He did his job to the best of his ability and the direction given him by his boss.

      If Boukreev would have stayed on the mountain helping Rob Hall or Fischer one could very easily come to the conclusion that everyone he rescued on the South Col would have died.

      The two expedition leaders were competing for fame and glory that produced a greedy cloud over their judgement, which in the end became a bigger obstacle than Everest itself.

      • Wendy

        TonyRay –

        I had that same thought about Krakauer! I thought wow here is Jon Krakauer himself writing on this website! LOL!!!

      • Mikey Benny

        Why are going going ad hominem on someone who disagrees with you?

        You think Karkauer’s the only one that would think that way? How condescending!

  39. Marcia

    After reading both Into Thin Air and The Climb, I read Climbing High by Lene Gammelgaard who was on the Scott Fisher team. Lene brings another facet to the story which is her relationship with Anatoli and her understanding of his relationship with Scott. Lene never once blamed Anatoli for anyone’s death. On the contrary, she praised Anatoli for going out into the storm to rescue people 3 times after having returned from the summit without oxygen. Anatoli was a rock of strength and determination. He would have saved Scott if he could have. I think Krakauer needed to blame someone for screwing up. His own leader was dead leaving a pregnant wife and an entire team of climbers. Can’t yell or accuse Rob Hall of incompetence at high altitude….Being an American, Krakauer needed to put the blame on someone. Someone has to be accountable for the problem. Someone is at fault and they will pay the price by being humiliated beyond words. Anatoli was a great target because he did a great job getting his team down and no one except Scott died. Anatoli was a force to be reckoned with . I do believe Krakauer was a bit intimidated. I would go as far as to say, Krakauer was unconsciously jealous of his extraordinary abilities. BUT, the blame has to go somewhere….so blame the weakest of the lot…the one with the worst English who Krakauer THOUGHT couldn’t fight back or defend himself in ENGLISH. But Anatoli did and so did Lene. I believe Anatoli was a gentle rock of a giant and a hero. I think Krakauer is suffering survival guilt. Krakauer displaced his own guilt of failing to help anyone by blaming Anatoli.

  40. Rhonda

    I have read “Into Thin Air”, “The Climb” and numerous other articles on the 1996 Everest disaster.. It seems to me that Scott Fischer was expecting a degree of accountability from Boukreev for his clients safety that Boukreev did not demonstrate until too late. Boukreev was paid more than twice what Groom and Biederman were paid to guide and by the summit day Fischer was very frustrated with him for not fulfilling his responsibilities.I’ve read this may have been a conflict in climbing styles. Fischer believed the clients should be “babysat” up the mountain and Boukreev held to a strong ethos of personal responsibility. Nonetheless, Fischer was running up and down the mountain, depleting his own strength, to pick up the slack for Boukreev. Many of the people on that climb, from what I have read, had nothing but contempt for Boukreev after the climb. I am not saying he is a monster but if you feel you need to write a book to explain “your side of the story”, you must have been feeling some degree of guilt.

    • aldebaranredstar

      Fisher escorted a sick client, who was a personal friend (!), down to base camp by his own choice. He could have asked someone else but he chose to do it himself. You act like Anatoli should have done it? But he was helping to set the ropes, haul needed gear, etc. If Scott, who was the leader, wanted him to do something else, he could have said so, or is that too much to ask?

  41. Rhonda

    I would just add one more thing that stands out as questionable about Boukreev’s behavior. Why did he go to the summit without oxygen when he was guiding a group of people? Before his own personal goals, he had a responsibility to be in the best shape he could be in for the clients. Also people on this site have remarked that Fischer’s group all lived as opposed to Rob Hall’s. That is partially due to Hall giving oxygen tanks to members of Fischer’s team like Sandy Pittman.

    • Wendy

      What are you talking about? Hall did not give any oxygen tanks to Sandy Pittman. Lene Gammelgaard gave HER oxygen tank to Sandy Pittman. As stated a million times before, the Mountain Madness team ran out of oxygen and did not have enough for everyone to get up and down the mountain. Hence, Lene having to give hers to Sandy. Now if Anatoli had been using oxygen there would have been even LESS for the clients. Not to mention that Anatoli very rarely used oxygen on the mountains and didn’t need it. It would have been MUCH MORE irresponsible to use up oxygen that the clients desperately needed when he didn’t need it, don’t you think?

    • Rosie Leigh

      Omg Rhonda your comments are ridiculous. Did you say you’ve read books on this subject???? At what point did Hall give oxygen to any of Fischers clients?? Actually, Boukreev had reserved 3 bottles of oxygen for himself incase hr should have needed them. And whilst still up the Mountain, gave a fresh bottle to Neal Beidleman (also a guide for Mountain Madness) who was running low.

      • Nalin

        Those who keep beating the Sox issue to death need to understand one vital fact that supplemental oxygen masks physical symptoms. It’s perhaps necessary for unconditioned, amateur, tourist climbers. A professional guide using Sox will hamper his actual ability to perform life saving functions and may in fact jeopardize his own life.

        We will never fully know why Anatoli descended ahead. Maybe those were Fischer’s instructions. Maybe Fischer saw what was about to befall and wanted Toli to go down and get ready to mount a rescue operation. The fact is Anatoli saved the most lives. The fact is no one in his group perished. So the truth is he discharged his responsibilities as a guide.

        A lot has been said and written about the tragedy. It’s been a topic of research and thesis, as well motivation and leadership discourses. The sublime lesson from all this is that Man is not mightier than the Mountain. Just follow established norms no matter what, such as, turn around at 1pm regardless of where you are on the mountain and live another day to climb again.

  42. Ronnie

    The thing I don’t understand about Anatoli on this particular climb, is since he was acting as a guide why did he not wear oxygen? To me that seems very irresponsible as a guide. This one decision affected everything he did that day.

    • Rosie Leigh

      I agree Nalin. I also don’t understand why people keep saying the same old things regarding Boukreevs none use of oxygen/descent. His not using oxygen did not impact in any way on the 1996 expedition (apart for helping matters) and his earlier descent became the saving grace for Hill, Fox and Madsen. All of the Mountain Madness clients survived (thanks to Boukreev). A lot of decisions could have been made differently, a lot of decisions SHOULD have been made differently but I am unable to see how Boukreev can be held accountable for any of the tragedies that occured during May 1996.

  43. star hill

    Over Christmas vacation and looking for something to do on the computer I remembered this discussion and thought I’d look it up (after a couple years). I was surprised that people are still at it! Well, it mostly made me sad that so many people defending Boukreev (to the death, pardon the expression) are operating out of a “political” mindset, you know, America the great Satan and Russia the great victim? Come on people! Whatever you think about Krakauer and Boukreev, spare me the silly ethnic obsession. And btw, I’m nowhere near a card-carrying American jingoist, I’m a George Soros liberal, but this crying foul about a mountaineering disaster, in the name of “political” and “ethnic” hype strikes me as pathetic. And it only increases my worries about this old world we co-inhabit.
    I would like any information responsible and reasonable people could share about what is the status of guided climbing on the world’s tallest peaks? Have any lessons been learned, or is it just a matter of time before more mass disaster strikes?

  44. Justin

    Star Hill – I think you’re reading a lot of your own opinion into others’ criticisms. I’ve read the comments from top to bottom and did not detect any hint of anti-Americanism. The point most were trying to make (and I can’t speak as to whether it’s correct or not) is that it may not be a coincidence that the two people written about most negatively by Krakauer are the two least able to competently deal with American media, due to language and geographical barriers.

    That said,
    There are two criticisms of Boukreev that get repeated ad neaseum, and neither hold water. First, his non-use of oxygen. It’s repeatedly called irresponsible. But what problems did it actually cause? What irresponsible decisions did it lead him to make?

    The second point is his rapid descent from the summit in order to prepare to relieve any beleagured climbers coming behind. This gets repeated over and over, with the general consensus of his critics being that he cared little for the clients. However, this decision actually turned out to be one of the most prudent on the mountain that day. He was the only person in good enough condition to mount a rescue, ultimately because he had gone down earlier and rested.

    • Wendy

      Nice post Justin. I agree with you completely. The point was not Anatoli being RUSSIAN. It was Anatoli being unable to defend himself. Same with Lopsang. Doesn’t mean we are making a American v. Tibetan controversy.

      My whole problem with Krakauer and everyone hear on this website that wants to fault Anatoli is this: Anatoli did absolutely nothing to cause any deaths on Mt. Everest that day. Anatoli was NEVER responsible for any of the Adventure Consultant clients. If Krakauer wanted to assign blame it needed to be assigned to Rob Hall. HE is the one ultimately responsible for HIS clients and HE is the one that failed them. Criticizing Anatoli and Lopsang just makes no sense at all. He’s just trying to deflect blame away from where it should have been placed – on Rob Hall.

      As for Scott Fischer’s death, that was Scott Fischer’s fault and no one else’s. Both Scott Fischer AND Rob Hall are the ones that acted irresponsibly that day. Not Anatoli. Anatoli was one of the few guides that actually acted sensibly. He did not climb with oxygen (to which Scott Fischer AGREED and PREFERRED) which saved oxygen for the clients, who were in dire need of it. He came down early with Martin Adams because he was in the lead (again AGREED and PREFERRED by Scott Fischer). Scott Fischer had been quoted as saying that he wanted Anatoli in the lead and back to camp early so he could “pull us off the mountain if we got into trouble”. Which is exactly what he did.

      • just me

        “Criticizing Anatoli and Lopsang just makes no sense at all. He’s just trying to deflect blame away from where it should have been placed – on Rob Hall.”

        Well, Krakauer wants to deflect blame from himself. On the way down he was asked by Beck Weathers to help him down because he got snowblind. Krakauer refused to help. There is an account on that in The Climb. I think, that was the basement of all his viciousness and attacks on Boukreev and Lopsang. Like you absolutely correctly noticed – it’s because Russian Anatoli and Nepali Lopsang were the weakest in terms of being able to respond. Would Krakauer attack and accuse in the same way some American he could have easily got sued for lots of money. This lousy rat is very smart.

  45. warehouse

    Remember people……Krakauer WAS a client and Boukreev was a hired guide.

  46. to be honest no one will ever know what actually happened, ive read many accounts of the disaster and believe there was a lot of confusion on the hill on that day.
    we will never know all the details and to speculate is just disrespectfull.
    whats fuelled the fire, the same thing that pours fuel on any fire, the media.
    Its time to let it be, it was a sad day.

    • just me

      We know what happened – Boukreev saved 3 lives, Krakauer rejected to help Beck Weathers. In Russian criminal code there is an article for leaving helpless person in a dangerous situation. Krakauer is actually a criminal. The gravity of his rejection will always press on him no matter how many books he writes and how foam-spitting he would attack the real hero, Russian climber Anatoli Boukreev.

      • Lindsey O.

        just me – Krakauer did not reject/refuse to help Beck Weathers.

        In “into Thin Air”, on page 199, “Come down with me,” I (Krakauer) implored. It will be at least another two or three hours before Rob shows up. I’ll be your eyes. I’ll get you down, no problem.” Beck was nearly persuaded to descend with me when I made the mistake of mentioning that Mike Groom was on his way down with Yasuko, a few minutes behind me.

        Upon hearing Krakauer say this (which he later admitted doing so was a mistake), Beck essentially said don’t worry about it, I’ll just wait for Mike to come and I’ll be fine. Krakauer did not refuse to help, Weathers waved him on and decided to wait for those they both thought were just a short while behind. Now obviously hindsight is 20/20 and the decision they both made turned out to be not the best one. But it is very clear Krakauer did not reject to help Beck.

      • Avi Gross

        I far as I know, Beck’s version of K’s refusal to help him was: “I am not a guide.”
        Israeli law has also a reference to leaving a person to die. It is criminial, however, only if the act of saving does not put the “savior” in any danger.

  47. Stampers

    I’ve read both books and I come away with the feeling that Boukreev acted appropriately. After reading The Climb, I can understand why Boukreev felt compelled to respond to the analysis of Krakauer. Boukreev’s arguments and explanations regarding Krakauer’s assertions of Boukreev’s actions are way more convincing. The argument about Boukreev’s gear being inadequate, questioning his going without oxygen, and Krakauer’s out right ignoring the fact that Scott Fischer instructed Boukreev to descend: none of these arguments, many of which were based in solid evidence have been addressed reasonably by Krakauer in his rebutals. Krakauer shows a malicious side especially in his responses to the questions brough forth by Boukreev and his co-author.

    His open attack during Boukreev’s REI lecture question and answer session sealed it for me. Krakauer seems so caught up in the web he created , so emotionally and financially invested in his version of the story that he had to throw out childish insults in a public forum. I don’t see how anyone could come away from those readings and not feel that Krakauer was irresponsible and out right wrong in some cases in his analysis of Boukreev.

    Boukreev was a hero. Krakauer’s story just has too many holes with regards to his analysis of Boukreev.

    Wendy was right that Rob Hall and Scott Fischer were the ones that should carry the burden of responsibility for the tragedy because of the systemic and judgemental errors influenced by the high stakes financial incentives of getting clients to the top.

    • Rosie Leigh

      Actually Lindsey, if you did alittle more research other than only reading ‘into thin air’ yoy would know that Krakauers version of what happened when he came across Beck Weathers is not the version that Weathers himself has given. Funny that!?!?!!!!

  48. Unfortunatly Rob and Scott arent able to defend themselves or to shed light on the situation.

  49. Cliffhanger

    I have been trekking and climbing in Himalayas for last few years on various expeditions mostly into a support role as I know I do not have the physical strength to go all the way yet. (I don’t mind to accept that.) Highest point I have reached is South Cole on Everest.

    I have read Into Thin Air, The Climb and books from Beck Weathers, Lene Gammelgaard and by many authors. It is very easy for Krakauer’s supporters to criticize Boukreev, but from an un-biased and little experienced person’s point of view I feel Boukreev’s actions were most logical and according to situation required. Here are the reasons I feel for that :-

    1. I had met Boukreev in Kathmandu weeks before he perished in Annapurna winter accent in 1997. I talked with him about the use of bottled oxygen. He was clearly not comfortable using the bottled oxygen as a climbing aid and had his own reasons for it. His non-use of the bottled oxygen did not harm anyone on the fateful day on Everest in 1996 and if he had used bottled oxygen his team members would have been deprived of the same which was already a shortage.

    2. Between Boukreev and Scott Fischer, it was agreed the Boukreev and Lopsang will climb without bottled oxygen as it was possible for them. His performance on the day without bottled oxygen was not affected at all. His decision of descending ahead of all had a logical reasoning behind it. There was no body on the South Cole who could have mounted any rescue if needed, so the most logical aspect was for Boukreev to descend and be ready for rescue if needed. He and Fischer were not aware of 3 climbers from Rob Hall’s team had turned around. The decision to descend fast eventually proved critical as he was the one who had enough energy to save 3 climbers stranded near the South Cole.

    3. Rob Hall had been insisting on the turnaround time to be 1.00 pm as Krakauer had specified in his book. Considering he had put 1 hour buffer to that time, that time comes to 2.00 pm. Hall himself had not followed this turnaround time when he had climbed with Doug Hansen to the summit. The main reason behind this most likely is that previous year Hansen was turned back by Hall due to bad weather and he felt it was his moral responsibility that he ensures Hansen reaches the summit. Hall himself sacrificed his life to get Hansen to summit, but in that process he ignored the most important principle of the guide, the safety first approach. Also the fact that Hall and Fischer had competition between them for the clients and Hall’s 3 clients had already turned back while Fischer’s entire team was marching towards the summit might have forced him not to turnaround. Same mistake was made by Fischer and he too perished. If there was anyone who was guilty for not adhering to the turnaround time he had been speaking about, it was Hall and Fischer, not Boukreev.

    4. Each and every client from Fischer’s team had made safely back to the South Cole except Fischer himself. Where as for Hall’s team, Hall, Hansen, Namba and Harris were lost. Hall and Hansen’s death was clear cut responsibility of Hall’s push for the summit. Harris was lost on the South Summit again in a bid to rescue the two. For these 3 deathe Boukreev can not be held responsible at all. Namba was the only client who was lost neat South Cole camp. She was exhausted to the extent of unable to move and could not be rescued by her own team members and Boukreev as well who had risked his life to save 3 stranded climbers. When Boukreev was mounting rescue attempt, Krakauer was asleep in his tent refusing to participate in any rescue attempt. Neither Mike Groom who was from Namba’s team made any attempt as well. It was Stuart Hutchinson who launched the search attempt but her condition had way to much deteriorated by that time.

    5. Krakauer himself had passed Beck Weathers and had chosen not to force him down with himself after Weathers informed him about his snow-blindness. In Krakauer’s own account he said he was secretly relieved by Beck’s denial to descend with him. This clearly indicates that Krakauer was afraid if Beck may accept his proposal and descend with him.

    6. Was Boukreev responsible for getting down members of Krakauer’s team ? Not surely as Krakauer’s team had 3 guides as well as Boukreev’s. It was error in judgment of Hall that caused deaths of Hall, Hansen and Harris. Fischer was responsible for his own downfall. Boukreev had saved 3 members of his team by going out in blizzard which was his duty as a guide and he stood firm by that.

    Considering this, Krakuer just wanted someone to blame for his team’s inability to save themselves and just didn’t want to put the blame on Hall for error in judgment and Fischer, perhaps because he was from Seattle as Krakauer was. In my opinion Boukreev did what was required in that situation and should not have any guilt or lack of responsibility. If at all any guilt and lack of responsibility is there it is on part of Krakauer which was evident in manner in which he reacted on Boukeerv’s book.

  50. Wendy

    Nice post Cliffhanger. I’ve been trying to say basically the same thing you said in all my posts. Hopefully, your efficient presentation of the facts will get through to the Krakauer supporters! I agree with you 100%

    How interesting that you were fortunate enough to meet Anatoli! And good luck to you in your future expeditions!

  51. Andy Merillat

    I read both books while backpacking in the winter in the North GA mtns recently. Brrrr. Ensconced in my hammock @ night reading by headlamp added to the experience. I read Krakauer’s book first followed by “The Climb”. These were the first two mountaneering books I’ve ever read and I am NO mountaineer.

    I am puzzled why there is even a debate about this. It is CLEAR that if Boukreev didn’t descend when he did the whole thing would have turned out much worse. It is CLEAR that Krakauer was in his tent exauhsted.

    The fact that after doing all he did he proceeded almost all the way up to confirm his friend Scott’s death confirms what a freak of mountaineering nature Boukreev is.

    I cried when I read Boukreev went on to solo summit Lhotse in a record time immediately following the climb to deal with his own guilt and turmoil over what happened. I am sure the “What if’s” plagued him the whole way up.

    The fact is that these paid guides are there to help you acclimate safely, trek with you repeatedly up and down the mountain on trips to camp 1,2, and three to help you get your “mountain legs”. Once into the death zone…your ass is on your own. Let me repeat that. Once above 8000m YOUR ASS IS ON YOUR OWN. I’m sure Krakauer knew this before his summit attempt. I mean really? All these guides and clients live in close quarters, socialize, party, poop and just generally congregate and gossip for weeks during this process. The YOUR ASS IS ON YOUR OWN concept is proved by the # of bodies that litter Everest.

    I do understand how the YOUR ASS IS ON YOUR OWN way of looking at this tragedy might be looked upon as harsh by armchair readers of stories like me. However I suspect, if polled, 100% of the people who have made this trek to the top of the world would agree that I have summed it up accurately. If you get into trouble and someone is brave enough to risk their lives to go rescue you, then that is a selfless bonus on the act of the rescuer. It is not required or expected though, paid guide or not.

    Simply put, Bourkeev is a hero and world class athlete. Krakauer was a paid jounalist there to write a story for profit.

    I lay no blame on Kraukauer for collapsing in his tent from exauhstion and not helping save lives. I would also lay no blame on Boukreev if he did the same thing…because remember…YOUR ASS IS ON YOUR OWN!!!

    • Mikey Benny

      Except, when you pay someone $65,000 to be a GUIDE, you are paying that so that your ASS IS NOT ON YOUR OWN!

      Again: I don’t see any reasonable person, including JK, blaming AB. I see JK’s observations this way: he thought AB’s behavior was odd; it was little more than a footnote in the book. JK then describes AB’s heroism. What is the problem?

  52. monica

    For what it’s worth, I just finished reading the book by Krakauer and I did not even notice there was all this ‘blame’ put on Boukreev, or that he was portrayed in any specifically ‘bad’ light, in fact, it seems to me Krakauer goes on a lot about his own sense of guilt, and if any blame is given it’s about how climing Everest has become a commercial enterprise and how the competition may increase the ambition and drive to ‘summit’, but, in the end, the book seems to me to be VERY clear that even with all the considerations or analyses after the facts, climing Everest is *as such* a highly dangerous endeavour where any number of things go wrong, not least the weather, and the high altitude makes everyone less capable of the kind of ‘sound judgement’ one could expect to have in normal life. Which all makes sense…
    I mean you could quote verbatim from the last pages, that if anything is the one ‘point’ Krakauer seems to be making, aside from the telling of the story – at least to me, as a non-expert ordinary reader, I didn’t get all this nastiness in the book towards anyone really. I don’t see why one should be ‘right’ or the other ‘wrong’ because I don’t see the bone of contention here… I understand Boukreev wanted to tell his own story and I have yet to read his account, but from reading Krakauer’s alone I really did not get any such strong unfavourable impression of him at all.

  53. monica

    Ps – in fact, only by googling info about the book and its author did I learn that there seemed to be some controversy over how Boukreev was ‘blamed’ in the book, I never got that from the book itself…

    To me it seems a lot of people’s actions are described with the author’s own speculation over what maybe could have been a ‘mistake’ or could have been avoided – he’s telling a story, about a very sad tragedy, of humans pushing themselves against any limits and against nature itself, it’s someone anyone can relate to – but it seems to me the author keeps making it very clear, and clarifies again in the concluding pages, that there was NO such thing as individual blame for the whole disaster. I really just finished the book and I still have in my mind the images of the awful physical conditions humans get into at that altitude, with that physical and mental strain, to me it’s a wonder anyone manages to get through alive at all… I wouldn’t even *dream* of judging anyone involved, and it seemed to me Krakauer does a good job of conveying that to the ‘layman’ reader – the idea you simply cannot expect things to go smoothly or sanely when the context itself is that insane (the very fact of climbing Everest is – admirable as it may be, romantic, heroic, epic, whatever you want to call it – but a totally insane act by any point of view). Another notion that stays with me after putting down the book is how much of human fate is down to sheer luck, in general. Such extreme circumstances put that really in focus in ways that perhaps ordinary life doesn’t.

    So, I don’t know where everyone got the idea the book’s point is to point the finger at any culprits, it’s not what it was about to me at all. I can understand within the mountaineering community individuals may take issue and want to rectify things in order not to have any shadow cast on their own person, but really, that’s their own prerogative, it’s not what any ordinary person reading about such a tragedy would first think of. The story is so touching and impressive because it is so much bigger than ‘who did what wrong’. Even to imagine dying up there alone in a storm… or surviving but at the cost of having your hands amputated… It makes you realise this is such an extreme level of risk, that everyone undertook voluntarily, and everyone is ultimately responsible for that initial choice, to even go up there at all…

  54. Alex

    I’m a “living room mountaineer” so my word doesn’t count at all, but all the pros say that the death zone is another world where a lot of confusion can happen. So I think that the circumstances of the 1996 tragedy just cannot be judged on a black and white scale. It was a very complex situation with a lot of unforseenable issues. They were humans and they were definitely not in their world! On that night, everybody up there was a victim somehow and I think that everyone of the survivors from Kasischke to Mike agrees with that.

  55. Bridget

    Any attempt to read a manuscript of a horrifying event that personally effected the emotions, thoughts and perceptions of all involved, then judge it is without merit. We do not hear the tone in which Krakauer or Boukreev
    spoke. We do not understand the effects of hypoxia as present on the day of their 1996 Everest Summit. That was one day. The exact effects, all timed according to Mother Nature, will never be definitively the same. What inspires we as humans to be judge to an event we played no role in? Or to judge the manner that each individual dealt with the aftermath?
    All present for those events, undoubtedly have differing points of view. The sequence of tragedies that unfolded during and after the Everest Climb of 1996 deserves simple respect from we, the readers. We are foolhardy to offer more judgement. Blessings to all individuals affected by those events and what transpired after them.

  56. Wes

    I am sorry that I did not read all the posts but this article really pissed me off. Nobody who was at Everest 1996 says they can pinpoint the exact problems that led to the disaster but they can only speculate as to what those problems were. Yet you are going to tell us what they were? Weston points out in, “The Climb” that.. “to cite a specific cause would be to promote an omniscience that only Gods, drunks, politicians, and dramatic writers can claim (hey Krakauer)..”

    Now I have to admit Into Thin Air is one of the most exciting books I have read, but after reading the Climb you can’t honestly believe his bullshit can you? This is coming from the same guy who says he saw Andy Harris walk off Everest when it turns out it was not Andy Harris… I understand that being that high up on the mountain messes with your head, but if that is the case why pretend you know everything that happened? Krakauer was among the people that went out and saw Yasuko Namba and Beck Weathers and said they both should be left for dead.. Well Beck Weathers walked back to the camp alone Jon.. Good judgement up there. This is coming from the same guy who makes a poor judgement like that, yet can lay blaim on a guy who single handedly saved two people and assisted in saving another.. I know I am rambling and I apologize but people that make statements like those above kind of make me mad. Could things have been done differently, of course they can, but do I blame Anatoli Boukreev for the decisions he made at the time? Not in the slightest. The guy should be recognized as a hero yet a great writer has painted him as a villain, which might end up being his legacy, and that is a tragedy.

    • Andy Merillat

      Boukreev was indeed awarded the American Alpine Club David A. Sowles Award. It is their highest award for courage. It is also quite a big deal.

    • Mikey Benny

      JK blamed himself. You would never get the idea he truly criticized AB in the book, unless you were predisposed to thinking so before reading the book in the first place.

    • Doug Chance

      > Krakauer was among the people that went out and saw Yasuko
      > Namba and Beck Weathers and said they both should be left for dead..

      WTF are you talking about? Like someone’s going to get out of their tent and risk their lives to weigh in on whether or not they’re savable?

      Why do so many people here insist on making stuff up to support their case?

  57. Les Redding

    I have just read “Into Thin Air ” great read. I really can’t comment having not read “The Climb but to say I think the debate in not that Boukreev or Krakauer are not credible but it is like the Politician who to you believe. The human selfishness was incredible. To me the only thing on peoples minds was I have paid and I am going to reach the top and that’s all that counts, IE: Rob Hall not sending back Doug Hansen back when he knew that Doug was clearly in trouble, also why they take so many inexperienced climbers up there is beyond me, that is death looking for a place to happen. Boukreev was a great mountaineer, but as a guide that is questionable in my mind, but I’ll have to read The Climb before I can pass real judgement. Both Boukreev and Krakauer are to be commended for the adventure that they went on.

  58. Kate

    Two points: One, Krakauer had 100% full oxygen when he wrote the article cum books, and two, his editors certainly should have been held more accountable if one is to cut K slack for falling under journalism’s “in the heat of battle” mistakes happening, thinking.

    However, after Krakauer’s all out assult on Greg Mortenson’s book when he has NEVER corrected his own errors from ITA, really says it all.

    The man is an asshole, and don’t buy his books. He is a literary ghoul, digging up dead people to the detriment of the dead and their families. There are no Krakauer fans at Chris McCandalless’ house, or the Tilman home. His books have left a bad taste in the families of these poor men who all died under strange and bizarre circumstances.

    That is what attracks writer’s like Krakauer, and I can only hope he, too, will find the media gleefully re-examining this older issue and hold his ass to flame, too.

  59. Marcia Owens

    Greg Mortenson is a hero not a fraud. Once again the press are going after the good guy! Why now are they discrediting Greg Mortenson over dates in a book when he has literally moved mountains to bring education to girls in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan. Cut the man a break!! Shame on you for trying to bring down this gentle giant. Jon Krakauer once again bullies the brave. You’d think he’d have learned from his attack on Anatoli. What makes Jon the voice of anything other than envy over other’s accomplishments of courage and selflessness. Jon writes but has accomplished nothing but padding his own bank account. Greg is a hero and will remain one regardless of the phony attacks on his credibility.
    Marcia

  60. Guy Montag

    I’ve stayed up too late reading all these posts! Just finished “The Climb” last night. Read ‘Into Thin Air” over ten years ago; just remember a gripping book. I just don’t get why Krakauer won’t admit when he’s wrong?

    For another angle on this issue, I posted my 135 page post “Jon Krakauer’s Credibility Problem” last week (http://www.feralfirefighter.blogspot.com) dealing mostly with Krakauer’s “Where Men Win Glory” book about Pat Tillman (I’ve got a two page summary at the front). He’s hardly one to “throw stones” at Mortenson when he’s also guilty of fudging his story to make himself look better.

  61. Interesting post. I first read Into Thin Air, then The Climb and then Gammelgaard’s book and I think Boukreev’s account makes the most sense. I was actually not happy with Krakauer’s way of singling Boukreev and Lopsang out the most as people who didn’t have others’ interest at heart. He didn’t come straight out and blame them for the disaster, but he insinuated a lot and got quite a lot of facts wrong (and refused to correct them when presented with evidence. How the hell does one defend behaviors like that??).

    It is interesting reading the many comments here. I note that the few who come out defending Krakauer like to make blanket dismissal of all who defend Boukreev as AB’s blind worshipers, while at the same time they refuse to address the fact rebuttals and keep insisting that one team’s guide is somehow responsible for other team’s clients. It doesn’t go to only demand objectivity from others and not from yourselves, you know? If Boukreev and other guides could have saved everyone I’m sure they would have, but their primary responsibility laid with their own clients. And get this, Boukreev worked for Mountain Madness and Krakauer was the client of Adventure Consultants. They weren’t even on the same team.

    I’d say that the persistent attitude that one can pay $50,000 and expect to be able show up at a mountain like Everest ill prepared and expect to make all sorts of bad decisions and have the guides always bail you out even at the cost of their own lives is one that is at best very naive and unrealistic. I don’t think either Hall’s or Fishers’ outfit advertised such a thing. A guide’s life is worth a lot more than $50,000. It is quite childish to expect to not have to be responsible for one’s own decisions just because one had paid for a mountain guiding service.

    Ultimately I’d say that much of the faults should lie on Rob Hall and Doug Hansen. I know they paid with their lives, but that is no excuse because theirs weren’t the only lives that got lost or were very negatively affected that day. Hall should have turned Hansen around at turn around time, and if Hansen refused, he should have put the safety of his other clients and his guides before Hansen’s personal want (‘want’, not ‘need’. He didn’t need to summit. He wanted to. There is a difference) and disengage from him to pay proper attention to his other clients’ need. Instead he thought he was being kind in allowing Hansen to keep going up the mountain very very late and mentally talking himself into having to stick with Hansen as a personal responsibility issue. Well, in doing so he forgot he also had personal responsibility to others on that mountain, too, and to his wife and unborn child in NZ.

    Had Boukreev not descended when he did and had he been using O2 on his ascent, there probably would have been 4 more corpses left on that mountain, since there wouldn’t have been any successful rescue attempt that night. I don’t think that Boukreev could have made much different had he gotten himself stuck with the lost group coming down south summit. He’d have been able to move only as fast as the slowest in his group. And there wouldn’t have been any O2 left at camp.

    Some folks like to diss him for making the logical decision. In such places like the Dead Zone, the guy who makes logical decisions rather than emotional ones is the guy who can save your life. Sometimes the people who always want to hold your hands are the ones you’ve got to get away from.

  62. joe

    In 1996 there was blame to go around. The two people that disserve the most blame are Rob and Scott. But they are dead and we need to point fingers else ware. There were no leaders, no communication and LATE summit times. Half those people should have been turned around.

  63. lori

    I just finished rading both books. What if find confusing is that jon was co critical of Anatoli and his teams actions, but was not as critical of Rob Halls team, that lost clients and guides. Fischer and his sherpa were the only two casualties of moutain madness. Also when jon k, stuart h, john t,
    and mike groom decided that even though yasuko and beck were still breathing and alive they left them out there. But he felt anatoli should have done for his teammates alone what they chose not to do with four of them.
    I feel he should have written about the mistakes of his own team and not speculate or critize mountain madness protocol. Anatoli went back for his friend and team leader scott, what did adventure consultants do for rob. Also he returned the following year to properly bury both scott and yasuko. Did Jon do that? Lori

  64. Rebel

    Well, look at it this way: If you’re trying to summit Everest, wouldn’t you want your guide to be on bottled air so he could be the best he could be? Because I know that I would. As a guide, I think it was his responsibility to serve his clients to the best of his ability. I don’t feel that Jon was critizing Anatoli as much as he was questioning his decisions. Even Scott Fischer (and several on his expedition) was/were complaining loudly about Anatoli’s behavior as a guide. Several of the Sherpas blamed him for the horrible outcome. None of the people that questioned Anatoli’s behavior were interviewed for his book. Neil, one of Scott’s guides who wasn’t interviewed for the book has publicly questioned why that was. In his book he was trying to make sense of the tragedy from all angles. He clearly states that his mind wasn’t functioning and areas were sketchy and he relied mostly on notes and interviews with other people. And Jon does praise Anatoli for his heroic actions and credits him for saving lives.

    And Jon does question Rob as well. He questions why he didn’t stick with his turn around time and says in an interview (directly quoted) “Rob Hall, for instance, fucked up big time, and he died, and one of his guides and two of his clients died.” See http://www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/0697/krakauer/interview.html for full interview.

    Anatoli was an awesome mountaineer for sure. So were Scott Fischer, Rob Hall, and Andy Harris. Notwithstanding, mistakes were made by all.

    Also, I just want to point out that Anatoli didn’t go back to specifically bury the bodies. He was there leading an expedition and buried the bodies while he was there out of respect. Which I do applaud. That was decent and am sure very difficult.

    • Rebel

      The first paragraph is a bit confusing sorry.

      I meant to say none of the people who critisized Anatoli were interviewed for The Climb. This was the book Neil was not interviewed for. And in In Thin Air Jon was trying to make sense of the tragedy.

  65. Gary W

    Well i think you all should now read A day to die by Graham Ratcliffe.

    This is a book that has been 14 years of painful research by someone who was on the South Col at the time and he can now reveal that the commercial teams of Mountain Madness and Adventure consultants both had up to date accurate weather forecasts, they knew the storm was going to hit yet they put commercial competition before client safety and went anyway. Nobody else has had the nerve to reveal this certainly not K who would have known

  66. You all seem like you know it all,not even being there at the time. How can anyone know for sure what was actually going through anyone’s mind; or for that matter what B was doing and why? i have read ita and I feel that k is a really brave person to have even gone on this climb. why don’t all you know-it=alls leave all this alone and find some other way to amuse your little pea-brains and get a real life.
    callmesuperdave!

    • ken

      I think your tone is a bit abusive, Superdave. The books were written for people who weren’t there. They invite us to imaginatively engage with the events of the tragedy and it’s inevitable that we’ll consider what ifs and might have beens. I think that’s entirely legitimate, because it’s partly by considering alternative ways things might have panned out that you can learn from what did happen.

    • Marcia Owens

      Thank you Ken, I echo your sentiments. The blog is not about bravery. It’s about honesty and why Jon has treated another climber with such disrespect and rage. It’s a curious thing to wonder why Jon is relentlessly after the hero’s, Anatoli only one of the many.. Greg Mortinson the latest on his hate list of magnificent people who put themselves last to help the forgotten.

  67. I’d love to read Graham Ratcliffe’s account, though my ‘to read’ pile of book is starting to resemble those Himalayan 8,000 meter peakers, so that’s gonna have to wait a while.

    I recently read Freddie Wilkinson’s ‘One Mountain, Thousand Summit’ about the K2 disaster of 2006, though, and it struck me that as in the Everest 1996 event the only climbers who were able to rescue others after having reached the summit themselves (in K2 case they were Chhiring Dorje and Pemba Gyalje) were also the only two that climbed without O2 supplement. They, like Boukreev and Lopsang Jambu in 1996, were super fit and very aware of their physiology and preferred to climb w/o O2.

    This doesn’t conclusively prove anything, though it is food for thought for those who are so adamant that not using the gas while climbing those 8,000’ers is ‘irresponsible’ or ‘unprofessional’. The only time I’ve read about Boukreev displaying signs of exhaustion during the ’96 event was when he came back from the 1st rescue attempt (where he went up toward S Summit with O2 tanks but couldn’t find anyone and then nearly couldn’t find his way back to the tents). Boukreev used O2 climbing up during that attempt, then stopped using to conserve gas for clients. Krakauer writes that Dr. Hutchinson then found him at the edge of Camp 4 puking his brain out.

    I don’t know why Krakauer thinks that Boukreev not having a radio on him meant that he wouldn’t have known if his clients would need more O2 on their descent. Krakauer was way worried about running out of gas himself on the way down because he knew he was only carrying 8 hrs worth of that stuff. Why wouldn’t Boukreev with his years of experience know the same thing?

    I think that’s what perplex people who question Krakauer’s treatment of Boukreev in Into Thin Air. He always seems to assume the worst when it comes to AB. Even when he acknowledges AB’s feat of rescuing the climbers, he immediately downplays it by saying that it doesn’t compare to the rescue attempt 2 sherpas did when they tried to reach Rob Hall the following morning. I couldn’t understand that comparison at all. Not to take anything from the genuine heroism of the sherpas, they had a night’s rest and visibilty… and a partner. The man just seems to have it in for the Russian guide somehow.

    Thank you Ken for this forum. It sure is fodder for interesting thoughts and opinions. :)

  68. gretchen

    Hmmm… I have read several accounts, and happened on this blog today.

    Remarkably few of the posts (although there are a few) mention what strikes me every time I think about this disaster: everyone, no matter how extraordinarily gifted and/or well-intentioned, is subject to human error, and blaming or second-guessing any one individual in the aftermath of this kind of catastrophe is an exercise in futility, not to mention disrespect.

    When you get into a situation where the margin of error is minimal or nonexistent, and humans are making fallible decisions and judgements, disasters happen. The only worthwhile response in the wake is to try and learn from them. I can’t remotely imagine how I would have performed or responded in such a situation, and I’ve been misread often enough in my own life to know that no one can truly understand your own choices and motives except yourself. Many people made mistakes that day, and many people acted with unimaginable heroism. In some cases, people did both. To me Boukreev was an amazing hero, and it seems petty of Krakauer to snipe at him even a little… but every time I start to judge either of them – or any of the other people involved – I realize how arrogant that is. It was pretty brave to put themselves out there by writing publicly about it at all, thus exposing even more of themselves for us to take pot shots at. And maybe we could cut some slack for the PTSD suffered by anyone who survived that climb…

    When this event happened, I got into a debate at a dinner party with several people who blamed Hall and Fischer for going on such an expedition at all when they had wives and children at home… which is sort of emblematic to me of the hubris of passing judgement from the sidelines. My opinion in that debate was that it was pretty disrespectful of the wives to assume that they had not made a conscious partnership decision to support their husbands in doing this. That said, if anyone has a right to be angry here, I think it’s them and not us.

    Everyone involved was an adult and chose their own path. None of us can read their minds or experiences that day and precious few of us will ever go where they went. How about we all marvel at the heroism that happened, grieve for the losses and tragedies, and hope that we silly humans get better at making decisions about how we interact with our environment and each other?

  69. Laura

    Amazing how the 1996 tragedy continues to take hold of us -15 years later.

    I’ve read both The Climb and Into Thin Air as well as numerous commentaries about the event. Anatoli Boukreev, in my opinion, had personal standards and a climbing philosophy that did not mesh well with the expectations, protocols, and goals of commercial climbing expeditions. He repeatedly spells out different choices that he would have made in The Climb. His rationale and choices appear more sound than either leader’s ideas and choices. And it doesn’t read like Monday morning quarterbacking, either, in that he voiced his opinions and ideas at the time, only to be turned down by his employer. For example, he told Scott that he did not think they should move on from the South Col to this summit because of the weather. Scott did not value his opinion more than his rival’s opinion, however, and did proceed to the summit. Boukreev would have also made sure his teammates rested further down in the forest zone, prior to the summit bid, as he himself did, to build up their reserves. Scott and the climbers, for the most part, did not agree or choose this path.

    Perhaps the most significant value he brought to his team was that of “silver bullet.” Those were his employers words. Scott hired him specifically for his exemplary skills to employ in the case of an emergency. Guess what, he more than delivered. He saved the lives of his teammates. How do you argue with this? Apparently the American Alpine Club found that they would not argue with it, and instead awarded him the David A. Sowles Award for his bravery, a pretty big deal in climbing circles.

    The “controversy” I find most puzzling is that surrounding Boukreev’s descent from the summit ahead of his team. First, he had his employer’s blessing to do so. Second, his rationale -resting up in case he was needed for an emergency- was completely vindicated as it allowed him to save his fellow climbers’ lives later than night.

    I don’t find Anatoli’s strategies and choices hard to understand.

    The other thought I’d like to submit is that climbing is fiercely personal and all about personal responsibility for one’s own self and life. While Jon Krakauer appears to be a talented climber (and great story teller) somehow, he misses this most basic element of mountain climbing.

  70. Marcia Owens

    Thank you for recommending Graham Radcliffe’s book ” A DAY TO DIE FOR” which I ordered from the UK. Not available here. It truly answers my questions about the 1996 tragedy and exonerates Anatoli. I think the book was written with great care as Graham was on Everest, at the same camp as Scott and Rob’s teams, in a tent resting on the night of the tragedy. He and his team mates were unaware that head lights they saw in the dark of night in the distance were lost climbers from Rob and Scott’s team needing to be rescued. After the tragedy, feeling numb and guilty that he had not been able to help, he went home. A year later,feeling guilty lead Graham to do exhaustive research over the next 14 years to uncover what he believes to be the truth about what happened. I think the book was very well written with sensitivity. All facts gathered are referenced. All individuals asked for information are listed with their response or lack there of. There is no single blame, but a better understanding. Clearly Jon Krakauer did not do his homework which should have included that the team leaders had and then rejected daily e-mailed and printed weather forecasts of unstable weather. Calling the storm a “rouge storm” was a lie. The team leaders knew of the weather being unstable and passed both the IMAX and Danish teams retreating down because the weather was unstable. Even with two teams leaving and printed weather forecasts daily, Rob and Scott ignored what they saw, including Anatoli’s suggestion to wait it out for better weather. Jon also placed his personal opinion about Anatoli as fact rather than research as Graham did. Graham quotes an article from March 96 of Scott stating that Anatoli would not be using oxygen. Jon did not get it right regarding addressing some of the most basic and obvious issues regarding weather. Even though he experienced the winds and saw the clouds he never questioned his team leaders push to the summit. They call it summit fever. Sounds right. There are only so many days you can stay at certain elevations without oxygen. There are only so many days the weather is good. There are only so many days to working within the permit for climbing. Graham points out the competition between teams to get climbers to the summit to promote their business. Sadly, poor judgement rather than caution ruled the day making decisions regarding weather patterns, condition of routes with fixed ropes, communication between teams, lack of radios, and finally illness clouding the ability to think straight at high altitudes made for a deadly scene.

  71. Steve O'Brien

    I’d heard about the animosity between Krakauer & Boukreev before I’d even read either book, & upon picking up ‘Into Thin Air’ first, I was rather surprised to see how little criticism was included. Yes, clearly K had question marks over decisions made by B but he also put him in good light on several occasions. We’ll never know the absolute truth – indeed it may have been lost in the fog of hypoxia, even to the two protagonists, themselves – but if B felt a need, as he clearly did, to put across his version of events on what he considered a mistaken or misinformed viewpoint, then this too seems perfectly reasonable. B might have come across to some as a little overly defensive (MM client Gammelgaard refused to have a bad word said against him).
    How things got so utterly inflamed thereafter I’m not sure, but if you want a real villain of the piece, then Ian Woodall fit the bill rather aptly, & perhaps should have warranted a bit more ink. And on the other side of the mountain, the two Japanese who walked past the three dying Indian climbers.
    Another excellent (& highly recommended) book is ‘The Death Zone’ by Matt Dickinson; he too was on the north ridge at the time, filming the hefty, hardly-spring chicken, English actor, Brian Blessed in his attempt to summit. He directly contrasts the heroics of those on the south col route with the actions of the duo high on his side, stepping over fellow climbers in dire need.

  72. kris

    i believe climbers to be the most selfish ego driven people on earth.you selfish people who want to get to the top and leave the others to sink to the bottom.

  73. Linda B

    I recently re-read both Into Thin Air and The Climb. There is no question Toli was an extremely experienced altitude climber and Jon was along as a journalist looking to profit from the adventure. Toli is gone and I do not believe we will ever know what truly happened. May all those that perished rest in peace.

    • Marcia Owens

      Please read ” A Day To Die For” by Graham Radcliffe or check above for my review of what I believe the most coherent and factual account of this disaster.

  74. Fox

    No doubt you have all read this, but for the few that haven’t:

    http://classic.mountainzone.com/climbing/fischer/letters.html

  75. chris

    When I read “Into Thin Air’ I was struck by how clearly Kraukauer was one of the strongest climbers on the mountain, he was able to pass everyone, he was always first in the queue, always sitting and waiting for everyone to catch up– even impatient with the “slow pace” at times. Yet, when it got late, and people were in trouble, he passed by every person not helping. He passed Beck Weathers, suggesting that Beck wait for the next climbers coming down. When Stuart tried to wake him to bang pots so those only a few hundred feet away could locate the camp, JK did not get up. He was the STRONGEST, yet he attempts to portray himself as if he was the weakest, unable to do anything. I am sure he is having difficulty living with his inaction. There were so many opportunities for him to help and save lives. tragic story.

  76. Shannon

    Finding this discussion fascinating. I’ve read Into Thin Air and The Climb, and i must say that I don’t think Krakauer villainized Boukreev to the extent many feel he did. There was plenty of high praise for Boukreev’s talent throughout the book. Boukreev was paid to be a guide. He did not guide. It’s clear: Boukreev climbed virtually alone that day and descended alone, with no clients. Which is fine, if that was his job. But it wasn’t. He valiantly went out into the storm to find the huddle, and he is to be commended for that. But had he done his job, the huddle may not have happened in the first place.

    What Ifs are basically useless, but the truth is had Boukreev descended with clients, even just his OWN clients instead of leaving Neal Beidleman to take care of six clients on his own (never mind the fact that Martin Adams nearly walked off the side of the mountain – and was saved by Mike Groom) it may have changed the outcome significantly. Certainly if there was another guide with the huddle, they all may have gotten down faster and Namba and Weathers might have made it in in one piece. Sadly, we will never know.

    Ultimately, the deaths of Hall, Hansen and Harris are fully and sadly on Hall’s shoulders, and Fischer’s on Fischer’s. But to say Boukreev made good decisions and was beyond reproach that day is sadly incorrect. Nobody made good decisions that day, and everyone paid for it – some more than others.

    • aldebaranredstar

      Boukrev WAS a guide–he set the ropes that people used to climb up and down AND he broke the trail through the snow that they used to go up and down on. Isn’t that being a GUIDE? Or is he supposed to just stand there and point??

  77. Helen Huntingdon

    I saw the comment above about people seeming to choose a “side” based on which book they read first, but I certainly didn’t follow that pattern. I just finished reading “Into Thin Air”, before which I had heard of none of these people, and I came away from the book wondering why the author is so nasty about this Boukreev guy. A quick webseach made me realize I wasn’t the only one asking that question.

    If you read “Into Thin Air” uncritically, you might go along with the author’s assertion that he is just trying to get the facts as straight as possible. If you pay any attention at all though, it becomes clear quite quickly that there are discrepancies in how he treats some people verbally and narratively compared to how he treats others. Some of the easier examples to spot are sentences of the sort where he lists all the white people by name and concludes with, “and six Sherpas”. The implication of such a sentence, which Krakauer as a professional writer would know all too well, is that the white folks are distinct individuals and it matters to know which ones are being discussed, but the Sherpas are an indistinct mass and which ones were there is an unimportant detail. If Krakauer didn’t wasn’t sure of such details when he went to press, it is a very easy thing to note in the text or a footnote that which six Sherpas were present was unknown at the time of writing. Again, as a professional writer, Krakauer would know that this would change the implication from, “It doesn’t matter which Sherpas, but it sure matters which white people,” to, “It matters which people were there, but I have incomplete information.”

    There is a particularly funny example of this sort of linguistic disappearing when he says the Adventure Consultants camp is home to “fourteen Westerners…and fourteen Sherpas.” Evidently Yasuko Namba just stood outside the whole time?

    There is a more complex but equally distinct disparity in the verbal treatment Krakauer gives Beck Weathers versus Sandy Pittman. If you pick the basic facts out of his narrative, they are fundamentally very similar — both are rich Americans indulging a Seven Summits quest to the detriment of their families, both are obnoxiously overbearing personalities who insist on their own way and on dominating conversations. But when Krakauer spends time developing their characters, the discrepancy in language shows up again. Pittman likes to “dabble in outdoor pursuits”, while Krakauer wants to make sure that we know Weathers is “not frivolous”, but “deadly serious”. He doesn’t give a reason why he assesses two people doing the exact same thing so differently, but it should be enough to make any critical reader realize that what they’re getting is an account dripping with personal bias.

    Even so, Krakauer really had me going with his condemnation of Boukreev. He takes the time halfway through the book to establish a Boukreev-“shirking his responsibilities” narrative arc (Krakauer’s wording, not mine). His arguments seemed compelling enough: 1. While he says Boukreev was adhering to good alpine principles as he knew them, he was flat-out refusing to do as his employer told him, and 2. He ascended the icefall as the “sweep” far behind the slowest of the group, instead of with the slowest of the group, lingering to rest, take a shower, and so on.

    Having this established as Boukreev’s character ahead of time lends narrative weight to assertions later on that Boukreev was shirking again on summit day, by climbing without supplemental oxygen, by discarding his pack most of the way up, by descending “early” so as to be back in the tents resting while his clients face peril. Krakauer makes such a thorough job of insisting that Boukreev was shirking that it brought me up short when Bourkeev plunged into a high-velocity whiteout in the unlikely hope that he could find people to help. Even more startling, he then came back and did it three more times, bringing back three people. Krakauer rightly calls this behavior heroic, but sticks to his “shirking” interpretation of Boukreev’s earlier behavior at the same time.

    At this point it seemed to me that Krakauer was no longer making any sense. Four solo rescue sorties in a high-velocity whiteout is not the behavior of a shirker, especially when having climbed above Camp IV was apparently reason enough to be too weak to attempt even one. Boukreev’s behavior is not consistent with the “shirker” theory, but it is consistent with someone who is carefully hoarding their strength to use it in an emergency. That Boukreev was able to come up with the physical reserves that he did suggests an extremely expert knowledge of exactly what he was capable of and what he wasn’t. Maybe all people would maintain their strength better by carrying the weight of oxygen tanks and breathing supplemental oxygen at those altitudes. Then again, maybe Boukreev was telling the truth, and that for a very few people with the right adaptations, skipping the O2, the weight, and moving expeditiously does a better job of leaving energy in reserve for later. That Krakauer refuses to consider that the evidence suggests that Boukreev was correct about his own capabilities makes Krakauer come across as having some kind of ax to grind.

    However, if Krakauer treated all mistakes or maybe-mistakes similarly in the word choices he uses, the narrative placement he gives them, and the amount of text expended, he would at least come across as trying to present a truthful account. But he doesn’t. There’s a startling contrast in how he presents Weather’s repeated decisions to keep going with ever-worsening eyesight versus what he regards as Boukreev’s mistakes. Again, the Boukreev-is-a-shirker theme is set up as a narrative arc ahead of time so that it is already established by the time the story gets to summit day. But while Weathers’ failing eyesight, which gets worth with every increase in altitude, is a known problem since base camp, it is kept hidden from the narrative until Weathers is on the Balcony. This structural trick makes it seem like Weathers’ problem wasn’t fundamentally different from the sudden-onset symptoms other climbers struggled with that day, when in fact it was quite predictable. Weathers didn’t climb as far as he could go while still being able to bring himself back — he deliberately chose to climb as far as he could go, period, assuming it was the job of everyone around him to then rescue him from his own folly, and he was making these choices ahead of time at lower altitude, so he doesn’t even have the hypoxic-reasoning excuse. I don’t have a problem with Krakauer glossing over that ugly reality given the terrible things that happened to Weathers, if only Krakauer would give others equal grace. But the rescuer-of-others gets the opposite narrative treatment, with a significant amount of text and narrative structure devoted to making sure we know Boukreev Did Wrong.

    It’s downright weird, really.

    • Wendy

      Well don’t forget the glossing over of all the bad decisions made by Rob Hall that were much more detrimental to everyone than any “alleged” bad decisions made by Anatoli. You will note Kraukauer was extremely critical of members of the Mountain Madness team but didn’t have any criticism of any of the Adventure Consultants team. He has no journalistic integrity in this matter at all. And I really like your post. It is very intelligent.

      • Helen Huntingdon

        There are a lot of textual oddities in how Krakauer deals with the violation of turnaround time. He makes it clear that it’s bad and that the two expedition leaders did not fulfill their responsibility to tell people to turn around.

        But he cites Boukreev’s actually obeying the turnaround time as Boukreev doing something wrong. This is weird. Krakauer reports that Boukreev expressed concern over the time violations, but he brushes this off instead of saying, “Hey, at least one guide above Camp IV had the sense to do this.”

        Since there is no way to force anyone to turn around at that altitude, I’m not sure what more you can do other than remind people and set the correct example, which is exactly what Boukreev did. When one of the toughest climbers in existence decides it’s time to get the hell off that peak, it sends a powerful message, though obviously not powerful enough to those who don’t want to listen.

        I’m glad you liked my post. There are plenty more textual oddities in the book, but I mainly just wanted to give enough examples to show why, even though I had never heard of any of these people before, I got to the end of the book wondering what Krakauer’s problem is in general and with Boukreev in particular. I suspect those who pointed out that he targeted those least able to respond in the American press were correct, though there seems to be more to it than that.

        Thank you to everyone who provided additional reading suggestions above. Krakauer’s book was enough of an exercise in sorting the facts out of the narrative from all the window-dressing that I’m now curious to read the other accounts.

  78. Piktor

    It seems to me most people here did not read the addendums of JK in the second version of the book (where JK writes more about AB’s biography) and also did not check with other resources. If you do, you will see that many of the things DeWalt stated in The Climb were denied by the people concerned or cited (for example Beidleman).
    JK never disputed AB to be a hero, but simply questioned some of the choices AB took in 1996; not based on his own opinion, but based on statements by other world class climbers (for example Viestur but also Messner, – DeWalt missquoted Messners words).
    Into Thin Air is not about blaming someone but looking for the many causes that led to the dramatic ending and I think that JK did it, also in a fair and objective way. JK recognizes his own faults, also questions certain decisions by Hall and Fisher and I do not see where the problem is in recognizing that also AB, one of the greatest mountain climbers and who prooved to be a hero in that situation could have made some mistakes (climbing is different from guiding and infact when he guided after 1996 AB would use oxygen).
    I think JK he went a little harsh on AB, maybe because he didn’t like the fact that AB would not even accept the possibility that any of his decisions could not have been the best (eventhough JK mentions that in that particular situation of stress due to the altitude decision making is impaired).
    Moro, a good friend of AB told JK he did not understand AB enoguh well and maybe he was right and so, what initially was a simple observation became a huge personality clash.
    I think to remember also that before AB died he met with JK and that they more or less agreed to disagreee and stopped fighting.

  79. TC

    A bit late to the party here, but I think Wendy’s desire (among others) to knock Rob Hall doesn’t begin to take into account the situation Hall was facing with Hansen, nor does it take into account the fact that Hall’s other guide Andy Harris was clearly suffering from some form of altitude sickness – something that Krakauer, who was face to face with the guy, didn’t fully comprehend until after the tragedy (and which he carries considerable feelings of guilt for).

    As far as Hall knew, he had two guides and Sherpas stationed further down the mountain who were capable of taking care of the rest of the team if necessary. Hansen cuts a particularly tragic figure, having been divorced by his wife in the wake of his first aborted attempt and worked two jobs in order to raise the funds for a second attempt, this despite the fact that Hall had personally arranged a discounted price for him to go again. At that point in his life, Everest was all that Hansen was living for. Call it illogical, call it out of character, but you’d have to have had a heart of stone to deny him if you were in Hall’s shoes.

    Another thing that doesn’t seem to be accounted for in a lot of these replies is that the 2pm turnaround time applied to Hall’s team only. Fischer’s team had no such hard-and-fast limits and I’m sure that having been delayed at the bottlenecks, Hall would have realised that to have his team turn around within walking distance of the summit while they watched Fischer’s team continue on to reach their goal would lead to bitter recriminations once they returned to camp. Hall trusted in his abilities to get Hansen to the top, tag it, then turn around while the rest of his team were being handled by the guides on their way down. He could have had no idea that one of his guides, Andy Harris, was already in trouble even before the storm came, and indeed I seem to recall that Harris’s dogged insistence that the oxygen cache at the South Summit was empty – when in fact it wasn’t – meant that Hall was never aware of the option to tie Hansen to the rope, descend for more oxygen and return. Such an action may not have saved Hansen, but if a full bottle of oxygen did not revive him, it’s possible that Hall may have realised there was little more he could do for him.

    Also, the decision for both teams to go together meant that a degree of resource-pooling as it applied to guides and Sherpas was expected. I get the impression that Hall’s team were willing to help Fischer’s clients and vice versa. The decision made sense in a lot of ways, but while there was an informal pooling of resources and indeed cameraderie between the two teams, Hall and Fischer still retained their distinctive approaches to leadership – and when the delays began to bite on the way to the summit, this began to cause operational difficulties. I’ve mentioned Hall having to face a significant Hobson’s Choice regarding the turnaround time, but this was complicated by Fischer’s habit of bringing up the rear and compounded even further by the fact that Fischer himself was struggling, significantly behind Hall and Hansen. Had Fischer been present then a joint decision could have been made to turn both teams around or continue on, but while there was an unresolved element of competition between the teams, the temptation to let the ends justify the means must have been very strong.

    It appears that just as tempting is the desire to lay some kind of blame somewhere, but this doesn’t get us anywhere. Ultimately an attempt was made to summit Everest and return, and decisions made by a whole host of people – almost all of them understandable even if, with 20/20 hindsight, they turned to be unwise – led to the deaths on the mountain, including those of the two team leaders.

    • J Hell

      “but you’d have to have had a heart of stone to deny him if you were in Hall’s shoes.”

      Yes, and that exactly what Rob Hall should have done, him failig to do so meant that he did not fulfill his obligations as the expediton leader. Take Russel Brice for example, him being a strict leader, and not hesitating to take hard, and sometimes even painful decisions is one of the reasons he is such an succesful operator. The expedition leader should take the crucial decision when the clients own judgement if failing, from lack of experience or when summit fever hits.

      Hansen did not buy a ticket to the summit of Everest, he bought a spot on an expedition with the possibility to reach the summit if circumstances were right, and conditions favorable, and the were not.

      Brice is known to have said, that his decisions are not to be questioned while on the mountain, that will be done afterwards, and if necessary:he will deal with it in court afterwards.

      If that same attitude would have existed on the mountain in -96, the outcome would most probably have been different.

  80. Kelly

    Global Warming, El Niño, and High-Impact Storms at Extreme Altitude: Historical Trends and Consequences for Mountaineers Moore, G. W. K., J. L. Semple, G. Hoyland, 2011: Global Warming, El Niño, and High-Impact Storms at Extreme Altitude: Historical Trends and Consequences for Mountaineers. J. Appl. Meteor. Climatol., 50, 2197–2209.
    doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JAMC-D-11-023.1

    Link to an abstract hypothesizing that the storm lowered barometric pressure which might make the hypoxia even worse.

    Its amazing that after almost 16 years these events still hold our attention.

  81. LEB

    After reading Into Thin Air I didn’t feel Krakauer overly focussed on Boukreev as the culprit. It seems to me that he needed someone to blame for the tragedy and felt it would be disrespectful or insensitive to blame either Fischer or in particular Hall as he had left a heavily pregnant wife. In my opinion the two leaders were to blame as if they obeyed the turnaround time the tragedy may have been averted.

    I also think Krakauer’s presence as a journalist on the mountain contributed indirectly to the crisis. Beck Weathers confirmed that Rob Hall felt a particular pressure to succeed as the whole expedition would be recorded and red by millions in Outside magazine. Imagine the bad publicity Hall would receive if Fischer reached the top while he was forced to turn back.

    I found Into Thin Air to be written powerfully and vividly however there were some factors I found a little tedious. One was Krakauer constantly telling us how brilliant he was at climbing, there must have been a dozen or so occasions where he mentioned how he was “2 or more hours in front of the group” even when it has absolutely no relevance. The second problem I had with the book was the postscript. It seemed to deviate from the story of the diaster and turned into a pissing contest between Krakauer and DeWalt, the co author of The Climb, where Krakauer seemed determined to score as many cheap points as he could

    • aldebaranredstar

      You make a great point about K’s presence as a journalist writing everything down for an audience affected ALL the decisions.Imagine if they had all failed to summit–how would that have gone down?

  82. Phlynk

    First of all, I don’t think Krakauer hated Boukreev, but he did call Boukreev’s judgment into question. According to Krakauer, Boukreev deviated in several ways from what was considered standard procedure for a guide.

    Secondly, Boukreev’s prowess as a high altitude climber is totally irrelevant, and I find it strange that many folks who posted here seem to think that is a justification for defending him. Boukreev was hired as a guide and according to Krakauer’s version of events Boukreev did a damn poor job of fulfilling the duties of a guide. Heck, there were climbers present who did not have half the mountaineering skills that Boukreev had, but at least they were around to actually help Boukreev’s clients down off the ridges and onto the South Col, while Boukreev was apparently sitting in his tent drinking tea.

    Boukreev may have represented the epitome of a great climber, but I don’t understand why he would skedaddle back to camp and leave his clients to fend for themselves — they paid for his guiding services and he wasn’t there when they needed him!

    • Laura

      You did not read Boukreev’s book, did you?

    • Asmya

      “Boukreev may have represented the epitome of a great climber, but I don’t understand why he would skedaddle back to camp and leave his clients to fend for themselves — they paid for his guiding services and he wasn’t there when they needed him!”

      Are you out of your freaking mind ? If not for Toli the death count would be 3 more ( even 4 including himself). He went out in a freezing night and located the climbers and brought Pittman, Fox, and Madsen to safety. He did it single-handedly.and there’s been universal appreciation for that. In 1997 Boukreev was the recipient of the David A. Sowles Memorial Award given by the American Alpine Club. It was presented to him by Jim Wickwire, the first American to summit K2. The award is the American Alpine Club’s highest award for valor in recognition of his role in rescuing climbers in the 1996 Everest disaster. Yet, you still have the balls to say that “wasn’t there when they needed him”? If he’d been with them, they would have still stopped at 6pm at the onset of blizzard. When Boukreev managed to save all his clients without any significant injury, what else do you expect. His early decent helped him save 3 lives in this expedition. Say what you buffons have to say, the real hero on that day was Boukreev.

      • Doug Chance

        > Are you out of your freaking mind ? If not for Toli the death count
        > would be 3 more ( even 4 including himself).

        Can you help me out with your logic here? If Anatoli hadn’t been there, he would’ve been one of the unfortunate dead? How could he die if he wasn’t there?

        All kidding aside, there’s a more significant logical issue at play. Compensating (heroically) for earlier lapses in judgement and behavior doesn’t necessarily excuse those lapses.

        > His early decent [sic] helped him save 3 lives in this expedition.

        Please explain how it was better for Anatoli to be out searching and rescuing rather than having originally stayed behind with his clients and shepherded them safely back without any need for a rescue. I am not an expert in such matters, but I’ve read the opinions of many on this topic and they almost universally agree on two points:

        1. Anatoli Boukreev performed heroically and saved the lives of climbers stranded in the storm.

        2. Descending ahead of his clients was unconventional and unprofessional behavior for a paid mountain guide.

        Which scenario would you have preferred if you had been a Mountain Madness client that day? That your guide be near you nearly every step of the way? Or that you experience the sheer terror of being lost and alone thinking you are probably going to die, but are then rescued. I guess scenario two makes for better cocktail chatter, but personally, I would prefer door #1.

      • Nalin

        So following the irrational decisions of the leaders (allowing summitting beyond 4pm in the face of a brewing storm) would have been professional and conventional?

        Regardless of why Anatoli descended – whether on Fischer’s instructions or any other reason – more lives would have been lost if Toli could not mount the eventual rescue.

      • Asmya

        Anatoly has always maintained that it was his and Scott Fisher’s “plan” for Toli to descend early and ready Hot tea and oxygen when their clients stumble in. Scott is not here so it’s anyone’s guess if that is true or not. If he would have stayed with the clients then there is no guarantee that the group would have taken the decision to move to south col instead of spending 3-4 hours near the balcony. Having spent so much time, there’s no guarantee that Toli would have strength to get Sandy,Charlotte and Madsen( even though they were about 250 yards) from the camp.

        Also it’s not the matter of option 1 or option 2 that you suggest. Toli had a plan which was come down early, spare oxygen bottles which he did and be ready for all the eventualities. His plan worked and he saved all his clients. He has expressed his profound regret to not to have saved Yasuko Namba. In fact, the next year he constructed a cairn around her body and he also apologized to Namba’s spouse. As for Beck Weathers, everyone thought he was dead. Krakauer did not even even help him getting down from camp 4.

        The problem many of us have with Krakauer is that he has made several attempts to discredit Toli ( not just that book). He even claimed that Sherpas thought Toli was to be blamed for all the deaths. This has proven to be entirely false.

  83. Avi

    I believe that Graham Ratcliffe’s recent well-researched and comprehensive “A Day to Die for” (2011) should be added to the discussion. It does contribute some facts and personal evaluations and insights concerning B and other key figures on the mountain on May 10-11.

  84. Dancarhunt

    Was Boukreev at his best sans oxygen? ‘Sans oxygen’ sounds like a badge of honor for the hardcore mountaineers. “oh you climbed… well i climbed without oxygen!’ A badge of honor that you seek out on your own dime. When you’re guiding on someone else’s dime, do what you can to ensure that you are at your best physically. Sounds like Boukreev struggled without oxygen, leading him to make questionable decisions

    • operasmorg

      Actually the only time I’ve read about Boukreev having any sort of ‘struggle’ was after his first rescue attempt. He used O2 for the first time to ‘accelerate’ his climb up to where he thought the lost climbers were, then took off the O2 because he needed to conserve it for client use (there was O2 shortage there. The climbers were very late and all ran out of gas both figuratively and literally. That some more usable canisters were found later doesn’t retroactively relieve the real time shortage)… and that was the first time anyone described him as showing any sort of suffering (Dr. Hutchinson reportedly found him gasping and vomiting at the edge of Camp V then).

      It seems to me people seems stuck on this Boukreev not using O2 as a sign of irresponsibility or misprioritization (valuing his macho image over clients safety). I wonder about his physiology. The man was very aware of his own physical condition. He had used O2 before, but seemed to prefer to go without because he thought O2 use would mask physical symptoms that he wanted to always be aware of. Perhaps he really performed better without the gas than he did. Not everyone has the same physiology. It’s similar to many cycling enthusiasts’ criticism of Jan Ullrich for using bigger gear and lower cadence than most other professional cyclists when climbing the big mountains, but his physique (very muscular) was quite different from the others (skinny as sticks), and his own way of climbing was probably best for him (after all, he only ever lost to Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani in the mountains).

      And the fact remains that of the summiteers that year, the only ones that were still physically capable of attempting rescue were Boukreev and Lopsang Jambu — both climbed without supplemental O2 (the same sort of thing happened on K2 nearly 10 yrs later… only the super-fit and alert pros that climbed and summitted without O2 were capable of rescuing others after things went awry.

      I’m not advocating O2-free climbing at high altitude. I’m questioning this persistent over-emphasis on O2 usage and the supposed ‘safety’ it provides. It seems to me Boukreev’s abstinent was well reasoned (don’t forget that he requested that he be allotted O2 supply even though he didn’t use it until he started having to rescue others. Had he not done that there would have been 2 or 3 canisters fewer available on the mountain… and probably none to revive the lost climbers who had used up their own supply before getting back to camp). In the mountain you only move as fast as the slowest in your group. Chances are good that had he stayed with the climbers he’d be stuck with them in the white out rather than being in camp and capable of rescue attempts.

      If Krakauer, who was inexperienced at climbing at that altitude and was perhaps the fastest to return to Camp 4, knew he was gonna run out of O2, surely Boukreev, who made a living climbing at that altitude, knew that his much slower moving clients would. The dude had a degree in physics and O2 consumption rate is only a simple calculation.

    • Laura

      Boukreev is clear in his reasoning in every reference to not using oxygen in his book. His belief was that if you are dependent on oxygen while climbing and then you run out, your bodies’ physical response to the stress can put you in danger.

      He is not alone in this philosophy. His choice to not use oxygen, to me, had nothing to do with attaining a badge of honor and everything to do with responsible climbing.

  85. Harold

    So far in my life I don’t knowingly engage in highly dangerous endeavors due to knowing I would feel irresponsible because I have a family that depends on me … but I’m fascinated by people who do (mountaineering, deep sea diving, hanggliding, etc.) – things I told my life insurance company I had no plans to do when I took out the policy.

    It seems to me anyone who does these things knows they take their life into their own hands and they do so willingly knowing the risks – who didn’t know the risks on Everest in ’96? They all did. Paying for a guide may reduce the risk, but little more, they all still took their own lives into their own hands. Many of the climbers during that season turned back before summitting (including the guy who rode his bike from Sweden who did actually summit a few days later after his first attempt came up short slightly below summit). Everyone who died did at some point actively make the choice to keep going when they shouldn’t have (easy for us to see in the safety of our armchair anyway). Beck didn’t die but as far as I could tell, he’s the only one who was following his leader’s orders to his own detriment, pity his leader seemed to have completely forgotten about him in the thin air up there. But again, he chose to stay in a dangerous place for far too long when he could have descended earlier with someone else who really knew what they were doing. Obviously if he had been able to think clearly under those conditions and/or known the trouble Hall was in, his story would have ended better.

    According to experts who were on the mountain in ’96 such as Viesturs and Adams, Boukreev carried one O2 tank “just in case” which he ended up giving away. The one thing that to me cannot be refuted by anyone is that Boukreev had the talent, experience, intelligence under duress, strength and courage that so many others we’re discussing lacked on that day. The language barrier is unfortunate and the one thing I wish I knew is why he breathed bottled O2 on at least one subsequent climb while guiding – that is the only thing that makes me scratch my head about him. But honestly, I give him the benefit of the doubt; clearly there was a shortage of O2 during the disasterous hours on Everest in ’96 and he was by far the strongest person on the mountain even without using any of the short supply, I don’t see how anyone could fault his judgment. He appears to be the only climber of the bunch who fully understood and actually practiced hiking down to a much lower point on the mountain (even into the woods) during the acclimatizing process after a new ascent in order to build and preserve solid long-term strength. In contrast to everyone else, he was actually for days/weeks preparing for any potential disaster scenario and performed heroically when needed (again even after sumitting without O2).

    Furthermore, Boukreev and Fischer were tight partners on at least one high summit climb prior to the Everest ’96 disaster. I believe they knew each other well and shared great respect for and trust in each other. Regardless of whatever “plans” there may or may not have been that day, second-guessing Boukreev is simply second-guessing a hero who put his life on the line when it mattered most (i.e. when a real known emergency was evident) and saved multiple lives in the process. I don’t think anyone on his team has been critical of his actions in any meaningful way, that’s a pretty important point to me. And most notable is that Martin Adams fully sides with Boukreev even while admitting he likes JK’s writing (Adams is the climber JK claims was essentially abandoned by Boukreev yet Adams himself totally defends Boukreev).

    Also I’ll say that when reading JK’s book, I didn’t detect too much negativity towards Boukreev (especially compared to Woodall) until the appended material at the end. Clearly both got very emotional over the thing (I’m sure we all would in their shoes). Lastly, I have to say I naturally discount the position of the writer who admits to using pot in his book – you lack good judgment. For one thing, impressionable young readers who read after you may be less inclined to resist when offered opportunities to enter that “gateway” knowing that you see it as acceptable (no small wonder you saw things that later you realized couldn’t have been possible when faced with the facts).

    • Avi

      One tends to agree with the above, especially after reading Graham Ratcliff’s (recent) balanced and very detaled book. (Credible, even though he had been a good friend of Boukreev with whom he had previously summitted Everest from the North Side route).

    • Laura

      Anatoli addressed the reason he used oxygen in a later climb in his book: The Climb. He recently had surgery, if memory serves, and he did not know how he might be affected while climbing.

      In other words, his choice to use oxygen at that time is another example of responsible behavior on his part.

    • YZ

      “I wish I knew is why he breathed bottled O2 on at least one subsequent climb while guiding – that is the only thing that makes me scratch my head about him.”

      Boukreev explained this with the contention that he was in optimal physical condition for the ’96 Everest climb, whereas for the subsequent climb where he used oxygen – he was coming off being involved in a serious car crash and two surgeries, which, among other things, limited his training.

  86. Scott

    Being a rock climber for 16 years, mountaineer for 12 and ski mountaineer who relishes the treasures found in the Cascades and Olympics I hold the late Anatoli as my idol and role model. Krakauer is a joke; undisciplined and a fantastic author, I would NEVER climb with him. His captivating writing simultaneously presents the inexperience of Krakauer – just another dip$hit that gets guided to the top of a mountain…far from the spirit of a true mountaineer. Above The Clouds, although not as gripping as Into Thin Air displays the immense reverence and experience that Anatoli carried into the mountains every trip. I hope Krakauer reads this and weeps in the understanding that his name holds absolutely NO respect in the mountaineering community, especially for those of us who anonymously and avidly scale these peaks for the reasons Anatoli so eloquently states, “Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.”

  87. Nalin

    Well said, Scott. Thanks. For me JK has no respect even as an author; he may write well but I will never ever buy his books. Its simply a matter of trust.

    Thanks Operasmorg for making the point on supplemental o2 masking physical symptoms. If Toli had not followed plans, if he had used supp o2 we would have had more casualties that day.
    God bless.

  88. Yaroslav

    Hello everybody!
    This is one of the cases when reading comments is same or even more interesting than the post itself (no offence, author :))
    Anyways, I am happy to see so many people writing good comments on Anatoli, all these people who can see what’s true and what’s not.

    I believe that to call Krakauer a dung beetle would be an insult to all the dung beetles on the planet.

  89. Exile

    “Hatred of the good for being the good means hatred of that which one regards as good by one’s own (conscious or subconscious) judgment. It means hatred of a person for possessing a value or virtue one regards as desirable.

    If a child wants to get good grades in school, but is unable or unwilling to achieve them and begins to hate the children who do, that is hatred of the good. If a man regards intelligence as a value, but is troubled by self-doubt and begins to hate the men he judges to be intelligent, that is hatred of the good.” -Ayn Rand

    The facts appear to show that Boukreev was a hero and his actions that day were heroic. At least subconsciously, Krakauer almost certainly admired the heroism displayed by Boukreev. However, Krakauer’s less than heroic actions that day (his abandonment of Beck Weathers) sit in stark contrast to Boukreev ‘s. Krakauer’s failure to perform heroically (when others had done so) along with the shame he necessarily felt, likely threatened his ego. Sadly, his response was to turn the true hero of that day into a villain by projecting what he must have percieved as a moral failure onto Boukreev .

    Through his writing, Krakauer has attempted to hide a minor sin by committing a deadly one. Krakauer’s failure on the mountain that day was forgivable. His attack on Boukreev is not.

    • zchamu

      The “facts” show that Boukreev was a guide who didn’t guide, who was in his tent drinking tea while clients were still trying to make their way down the mountain. His actions to go back into the storm saved lives, there is no question, but that was his job. And if he had done his job earlier in the day, the rescue might not have been necessary. Yes, Krakauer saved his own ass. He was a client and was not professionally beholden to look out for other people. That was Boukreev’s job, a job which by all accounts he sucked at til it was almost too late.

      • noizxe

        Or, really? No, Maa’m, Boukreev had saved asses of 3 weathly bumbling Westerners who had NO business being on the mountain due to being unfit and only was able to do so because he descended earlier and recovered strength. Amerikkkans tend to think the world is their colonial playground and their money can buy everything–no Maa’m they can NOT. Eat this and stop spewing your sh*t towards Boukreev, who had proven himself to be a hero in that situation and saves lives.

      • aldebaranredstar

        So judgmental and nasty!!! Maybe you forgot that Anatoli set the ropes that the climbers used to ascend and descend, and that he broke the trail through deep snow that they used to summit?? Oh, I guess he ‘sucked’ at that? Yes, he did his job. It was also his job to go back to camp and rest, gather supplies, for possible rescue, which he did. You have a strange idea if you think someone’s “job” means they have to die for someone else. Anatoli did risk his life but he did so with caution and foresight. I guess you would like it better if he had just jumped off the cliff while trying to rescue others when he was exhausted? Is that your idea? Nice that in your opinion K’s ‘job’ was to not help others!! Let’s hope no one needs help around you when you’re not ‘professionally obligated’ to help. I guess the fact that he SAVED THREE LIVES isn’t important b/c it was ‘almost too late”–it’s NEVER too late to save a life and at least he TRIED (the ONLY ONE who had the strength) and SUCCEEDED.

      • just me

        No. To save lives is not a guide’s job. The people knew where they were going, they were aware of all the previous deaths on Everest, they knew people had died on the mountain and were aware that they might die too. They paid money and stepped in by only their own will and decisions. In no way giude are obliged to save anyone by no contract article. Like someone already mentioned below, a desire by both teams’ leaders to extract as much publicity as possible because of the Krakauer’s presence and his editorial task (which again – business, business, business) resulted in this rush to reach me top by as many people as possible.

        Being a guide means exploiting your expertise to help other less experienced people reach their goals. A guide is not a bodyguard nor lifeguard. A guide’s job is to guide, not to save lives of those who put their lives at risk by taking wrong decisions.

        To go on a mountain almost 9 km high knowing that it’s nearly impossible to survive – is a wrong decision from the very moment you take it. It’s a decision to play the russian roulette with the mountain.

        So when someone puts his own life at risk only to maybe save you or maybe to die trying, it’s not a duty, you, office keyboard retard, it’s a sheer heroism. Though, you don’t know the meaning of the word.

      • Rosie Leigh

        Zchamu you clearly need to do some research on this matter. Seriously, you shouldn’t be commenting if thats the only $hit you can come out with.

      • zchamu

        Unless you were there Rosie, you don’t have any more info than the rest of us. So cool it with the attacks and swearing. This is a discussion, not a life and death situation.

      • Rosie Leigh

        Yeah maybe. But what’s more likely is that people aren’t threatened at all by your comments because they’re that ridiculous.

    • just me

      Hugs from Russia, dear friend. What I love about truth is that it might be buried for some time at let lies to take the upper hand for a while, sometimes very long time, but sooner or later truth always comes back with its full mind-dazzling power and everyone who loves truth feels its undeniable power and completness. And when it comes back now it comes back forever.

      • Rosie Leigh

        Sorry for swearing Zchamu. Im just pretty shocked at your small minded comment. You clearly have limited information regarding this subject. And you clearly don’t know what the ‘facts’ are.

      • zchamu

        I’ve probably read everything you have and have come to a different conclusion. Funny how that threatens people.

  90. noizxe

    Krakauer, a lying ambulance chaser and a wannabe who’s really nobody, failed to render aid to Beck Weathers multiple times and failed a basic human task of assisting Boukreev to remove Namba from the mountain, he later was a part of the group that decided to leave still breathing Namba and Weathers to die alone in the snow. Krakauer will get what
    s coming for him, eventually, like lying pieces of dirt like himself do.

    • kenanddot

      No sane person would say Krakauer is lying. You might dispute his version of events but it’s going way too far to say he’s lying.

      • Nalin

        When you twist facts (that have been separately corroborated) in order to sell your own viewpoint, it IS lying.

      • kenanddot

        To me ‘lying’ is intentionally and deliberately saying something you know or at least believe to be false. Krakauer believes his version of events. What proof have you that he believes otherwise?

      • sonuspot

        Im sane, and yes he is lying. If you have any sense… or even a hint of it…read the book… just the tone of the book is irritating…. Jon is always right…. others are all wrong.
        Fact is he slept in his tent, while others were out helping stranded ppl.Maybe he was hatching a plan, on how to discredit others. The dead cant come and argue his lopsided account, can they?
        And do note, how Jon mentions he is poor and just about meeting expenses ……. not now is he? have you heard about….. BLOOD MONEY

        to put things in perspective……..

        After the tragedy…… Boukreev climbed another peak…. Lhatso… I heard, before he came back to america…… catharsis, maybe

        And guess what Jon Krakauer did…… he came back…. wrote an article….. as per the agreement….. (yeah he was so shaken, so moved, but wrote the article anyway. He seems to also be in control, when his finances, his commitments or his health is concerned.But others where all bad people…selfish people, bad (rich ppl), did bad things or whatever shit)……….. Atleast out of respect for the dead….. the article shud have been postponed……. nah that wont happen… so much money to be made

        And then comes up with this brilliant idea. I will write a book, because…..
        a) I will make a lot of money….
        b) I can diss anybody i want
        c) most are dead anyways

        And the worst thing… he describes the writing of the book as cathartic…… yeah my ass……

        and he did make a lot of money……. by giving an untrue account of a huge tragedy…….. such a shame……

        dont compare Boukreev with Jon…. he will turn in his grave…. the guy desrves respect…. Jon has maligned him enough…. such an ass.
        Boukreev continued mountaineering , and died in an ascent attempt.

        Jon , the great climber, never climbed anything again. Did write more books ( about dead ppl)…. and grew rich….. that is his crass class….. and he will continue to do that…… all sick ppl do……

        I heard his book was shortlisted for non fiction pulitzer……. not surprising…… americans never get it right.

    • sonuspot

      I agree…. totally

  91. Dolores

    Anatoli was hired as a guide and was paid quite well for that job.and for that reason he should have stayed with the group, that’s what guides do. . His theory that someone should be at Camp 4 to look after the climbers when they came down doesn’t hold water because some sherpas (much to their disappointment) were made to stay back exactly for that reason! People who are criticizing Jon Krakauer haven’t read all the books and accounts out there.And by the way, when Anatoli died in an avalance he wasn’t climbing alone. How can people comment something like that when they haven’t read up on it?!!

    • Nalin

      I dont know how many books you have read Dolores, but you are Wrong: Toli was climbing Annapurna with Italian climber Simone Moro where he perished in an avalanche 1997.

    • operasmorg

      The knowledge that there were sherpas in Camp 4 is actually a hindsight knowledge. The climbers thought everybody had gone for the summit. They only found out that some sherpas had stayed behind afterward. If you had read more than one book about the incident, you ought to have realized that (and then refrained from accusing others of not reading all the books as being the only explanation for having the gall to criticize Krakauer).

      And, as Nalin said, in his last climb Boukreev was climbing with Moro in a partnership, not in a guided team fix. Again, another common knowledge one should be able to expect from anyone who has ‘read all the books and accounts’ about this tragedy.

  92. obsessed

    Who is to say that a different decision or action by anyone on the mountain would have made for a better outcome? It could equally have sparked another chain of seemingly insignificant events which could have led to an even worse outcome for all anyone knows. If Weathers had accepted Krakauers offer of help, who is to say that they would not have lost their footing and fallen in the fading light? Equally who is to say that if Boukreev had taken oxygen and waited with his clients spending hours in the ‘death zone’ he would not also have ended up lost & spent on the Col in a white out? Painstakingly analysing minute detail is most probably pointless.

    This disaster started before they even reached Base Camp. If you are seriously considering as demanding and dangerous a task as climbing Mount Everest then it is your responsibility to look out for yourself and make sure you are prepared. That includes not only being fit, but recognizing your limitations and those of others, seeing danger as it arises, not losing perspective. If you are so determined to ignore this then it’s you who pays the price and you alone and that is how it should be. Harsh but a necessary consequence of a dangerous past time. If you were drowning at sea the last person who can save you is another person drowning at sea even if their CV said they were superman.

    You pay your money on these expeditions to ensure you get the best chance; the sherpa support, the fixed lines, the camps, the company, the permits, the doctors, the expertise & support, the organisation that goes with all of that. Ultimately though it is still up to you to get yourself up the mountain. You have to still put one foot in front of the other, understand how to use the equipment and what is important.

    However this being true, you still expect your guides to be there for the big day, keeping an eye on you, encouraging you, sharing the pain & joy as your training comes to fruition. If you were at sea you kind of expect your captain & crew to be there with you. When disaster strikes you do not want to look behind you to see the crew, miles away, swimming to shore even if, unbeknown to you, they will get a dinghy and row back.

  93. Dr M Chandrashekhar

    My views:
    1) Both the Leaders were competing against each other & this competition took precedence over proper planning, logistics, back up plan etc.
    2) Inspite of clients paying 65K, Oxygen was in short supply. higher up.
    3) Jon K played a cat & mouse game with both Teams to secure a near free ride up the mountain . He ditched Scott Fisher in the last minute thereby further triggering the competition between the two.
    4) Rob Hall is responsible for Hansen’s death– when he dropped out of the line, Rob was responsible for egging him on inspite of the late hour , changing weather & near exhaustion of Hansen.
    5) When he knew Hansen was beyond any help, he should have saved himself rather than becoming a martyr.
    6) What was the role of Groom ? Inspite of being a Guide, he did not do anything worthwhile, other than saving his own life. Why is Jon K so silent on this point ?
    7) Neil Beidlman should have been awarded by AAA for his stellar role along with Anatoli Boukreev.
    8) Boukreev may come out as arrogant , aloof & not friendly with clients & sherpas but did a stellar job in saving 3 dying climbers though JK credits him with only two.
    9) Jon K wrote his book notwithstanding advice from others to wait for more time–he took the first mover advantage without waiting for the loved ones to grieve & made a kill with his book.
    10) Iam told much more is to be written & are in files & tapes. Why has it not come out ?
    11) Lessons were not learnt from 1996 tragedy– it got repeated in 2006.

  94. Mike

    Being one of the greatest mountaineers does not predispose you to being a great guide on the mountain. A smart person does not automatically make a good teacher or mentor. That said, many things went wrong on that expedition and no one miistake can be the focus of blame.

  95. Okanogen

    Jon Krakauer is a shameless, unethical muckracker. But you have to hand it to him, he’s shrewd and has made a LOT of money off his deliberatly poorly-researched writings, and not only this one. He also, cynically, understands that if it bleeds, it leads, and nothing sells like a controversy. Jon is laughing all the way to the bank over this. Just like he has over his more recent endeavors.

    His attack on Greg Mortenson, however, is not going to go as well for him. Unlike Anatoli, Greg isn’t dead. Plus, Greg has a lot of resources, and the people at the CAI are very, very tough, and very, very smart. They risk their lives with the Taliban, you think they are scared of some twerp in Seattle? They are also none too pleased about how Jon’s lies and fabrications have affected their life’s work, and they are working in a very deliberate manner to fix the record. The luckiest thing that happened to Jon is Greg got a hole in his heart last summer which affected his ability to respond, but I have on good authority that Jon is going to pay dearly for this one, as will 60 Minutes for their ham-handed smear job. It couldn’t happen to a better bloodsucker.

    As for all those who find fault with Boukreev’s actions, I could go into all the reasons why, as a mountain climber (though not to AB’s level), and a person who has met people such as Scott Fischer and Ed Viesturs, I believe you are wrong, but let me put it more simply, the American Alpine Club, which knows more than you, disagreed, plus, every one of the client’s of Mountain Madness both summitted, and returned alive. However, it is perfectly fair to not hate the player, but hate the game.

    The sad truth is very few of those clients, including Krakauer, had any business on that mountain. Having $65K in pocket money, or being a “journalist” doesn’t give you the right to risk other’s lives dragging your sorry ass up a a hill. Here is another interesting concept, something called “personal responsibility”. If you try to climb something you can’t pull off, and you die, it’s YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT. Out of all of the comments I’ve read in this thread, not a single one puts the “blame” as it were, where it really lies: each of the climbers individually. Sorry folks, you knew going into it that it was a possibility, you passed the dead bodies of people stronger than you as a reminder, and you died. You can’t say they didn’t know it was possible.

    • Marcia

      First, I am in total agreement about Jon and Greg Mortenson. Thankyou for your words. I have been very worried about Greg and wondering what’s happening. We need him now more than ever regarding schools for girls.

  96. Okanogen

    I was going to say also that every painful and draining step they took upward was a deliberate choice to accept that risk.

  97. Xingxing Cheng

    Just finished reading “Into Thing Air”. I totally agree with a lot of the previous posters that I fail to see how it portrayed Boukreev negatively. What I saw was a great mountaineer who was not instructed clearly at all on what was expected of him as a guide. He acted out of his mountaineering instincts and heroically rescued two climbers in the midst of a storm. Krakouer was critical of some of his decisions, but the ultimate blame, as plenty of the previous posters pointed out, really should go to the head guides. They paid the price with their lives and no fingers should be pointed at them (Rob Hall’s refusal to desert Doug Hansen shows a great noble character), but as head guides they also bear the ultimate responsibility.
    To suggest that Krakauer is jealous of Boukreev is really absurd. Krakauer reiterates in his book that comparing himself to the likes of Boukreev is like comparing a small town baseball star to a Major League superstar. It’s pretty hard to be jealous of someone who’s way above your league. To blame Krakauer for not being out there in the storm saving other climbers is also a bit much. Of the people at High Camp that day, Boukreev was honestly the only one with the skill and strength to pull off something so great. Hutchinson tried–who is a pretty good climber and didn’t summit that day, therefore the most well-rested–and couldn’t even venture beyond a few feet from the confines of the camp. I think that says it all.

  98. Mariella Cherubini

    Although it may seem paradoxal to (some) clients paying commercial operators a fee (approx. USD 65K) for joining a TEAM of guides, sherpas and other randomly mixed climbers in order to attempt the summit during such an extreme high-altitude mountaineering expedition, you better keep in mind that the competition itself is always, naturally, a deeply PERSONAL experience and, for that simple reason, summitting Mt. Everest is definitely NOT a shared objective, comparable to just another recreative team sport.

    Thus, be warned and don’t expect anyone to risk their life to save yours when, tragically, the sh*t comes to hit the fan on your way.

    Don’t whine when they don’t.

    Be grateful and humble when they do!

    My two cents here…

    Best,

    Mariella

  99. I’ve just finished reading Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and feel that the events that led to the disaster cannot be laid squarely on one person’s shoulders. In my opinion,the problem was the sheer number of people attempting to reach the summit, many of whom were inexperienced and slowed down the others. The Tiawanese party had no reason to add to the traffic jam especially since they had not clarified that they would be climbing on May 10th.Hall should never have taken Hansen to the top way after the turnaround time knowing the shape he was in (Considering that in his previous attempt in 1995, Hansen had a tough time descending). Also, Lopsang not laying the ropes to the top added to the confusion (especially since he was supposed to have reached the summit with a radio). That and the fact that both Hall and Fischer continued to prod their clients to the top well beyond the turnaround time were the chief reasons for the disaster. I also understand the lure of summit fever when you are so close to the top. That is where judgement starts wavering. Of course nobody knew that they would have to battle bad weather on their descent. What surprises me is that Hall’s team fell apart rather quickly high above. His sherpas were out of commission thanks to carbon monoxide poisoning. Harris turned delirious soon after the ascent and even contributed to the confusion regarding availability of oxygen. I mean no disrespect to those who perished up there but the blame wasn’t Anatoli’s or Krakaeur’s to bear. And yet they sparred for years. I do believe the real heroes of the storm were Mike Groom and Neal Beidlemanled.

    I also know that at the rarified heights of the Himalayas, there are no clear heroes and villains. Each man is responsible for his own actions. But for those in the positions of guides, they had the added responsibility of their clients. May the souls of all those who died including Anatoli and Lopsang rest in peace.

  100. Ana

    Hello there, I believe your website could be having web browser compatibility problems.

    Whenever I take a look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in IE,
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    • kenanddot

      Thanks for taking the trouble to say that. we use Safari at home and I don’t think I’ve ever viewed it with IE. It’s hosted by wordpress. So I think I might have to query them to see how to resolve the issue.

      • kenanddot

        OK. It looks like it’s OK in Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera. I just need to check with WordPress on Internet Explorer

  101. Rob

    Maybe this point has been covered elsewhere but doesn’t DeWalt, who unlike Krakauer or Boukreev was not on the mountain, have a vested interest in stoking the flames and creating more animosity than perhaps there really was as between K and B? More controversy, the pitching of one person’s account against another on such an emotional subject means more publicity and more books sold. I would query also, with B’s command of English (or lack thereof) and the deal that was struck with the coauthor and pulihing house for The Climb, how much say B really had in the potrayal of the story as the finished product – there are many ways of telling a story and manipulating a third party account (by context or otherwise) for written word. I have recently finished reading ITA and, as has been pointed out elsewhere, did not think this especially points the finger at Boukreev – clearly he was a gifted climber but his actions as a guide left something to be desired. Being a guide and being a climber are obviously related but they are also different and being a great climber doesn’t ensure being great guide. Clearly as a guide one should be using oxygen to function as close to full capacity as possible – this i would say seems obvious. What is often forgotten is that not having oxygen also makes you much more susceptible to the cold and therefore necessitates getting down the mountain more quickly than would otherwise be the case (which means waiting for clients isn’t or is less of an option?). JK’s treatment of B seems to me to have been fair in the round and it needs to be remembered that he is also quick to point out B’s heroic acts and so the account seems to me to be even handed. If anything (and I imagine this was out of respect for those that have left this world) not enough criticism was levelled at the serious misjudgements of RH and SF, but also the very serious risk put on people’s lives by the sheer stupidity of the likes of Pittman who clearly should never have been on the mountain.

    • operasmorg

      “Being a guide and being a climber are obviously related but they are also different and being a great climber doesn’t ensure being great guide. Clearly as a guide one should be using oxygen to function as close to full capacity as possible – this i would say seems obvious. What is often forgotten is that not having oxygen also makes you much more susceptible to the cold and therefore necessitates getting down the mountain more quickly than would otherwise be the case (which means waiting for clients isn’t or is less of an option?).”

      You clearly got that from Krakauer’s book, which is why you should now read Boukreev’s account. It’s the seemingly reasonableness of Krakauer’s criticism of Boukreev’s actions that doesn’t rub right, his one size fits all prescription of how high altitude guides should act/do… and how O2 use affects the body. As I pointed out before, it’s a curious thing that the only climbers who were capable of rescuing anyone in situation like Everest 1996 or K2 2008 were the ones that climbed without O2. Running out of O2 at that sort of altitude is devastating, and there was a shortage of O2 on Everest. Had Boukreev been using his O2 supplies on the summit bit there wouldn’t have been any left to facilitate any rescue. Boukreev couldn’t have carried any client down the mountain faster than they could move themselves. He would have gotten stuck in the blizzard, O2-less with them. Read all sides of the story is the best policy, I think.

      • just me

        Why read all sides? Is Krakauer equal expert in mountaneering to Boukreev? Well, the american mountaneering community instantly recognized Boukreev and his actions by giving him one of the most prestigious awards. Who’s a Krakauer to talk about oxygen, prescriptions, altitude, about what guides should do?

  102. Rob

    Thanks Operasmorg. I’m looking forward to reading DeWalt’s account so will reserve any further judgement until then. It still puzzles me however that there otherwise seems to be, as far as I can tell, unanimous agreement among esteemed climbers that oxygen should be used when guiding and it is folly to do otherwise. Perhaps if oxygen had been used on the summit bit, as you say, then the outome would have been different anyway. This is just speculation of course but the fact there ended up being a lack of oxygen supply seems to me besides the point unless Boukreev’s not using oxygen was premeditated on what was to follow, and whether or not there is enough oxygen is dependent on the surrounding circumstances (I.e. unforeseen circumstances can mean what under any relatively circumstances is an apple supply under extreme circumstances becomes a shortage). I might add that it is also curious that the following year Boukreev did then adopt the approach of using oxygen when guiding. In any event, as I say, there were bigger issues at play and others far more culpable and nothing can take away the heroics exercised by Boukreev when it came down to it.

    • operasmorg

      @Rob: Thanks. O2 usage in high altitude climbing is an interesting thing that there ought to be a real study about, I think. There was a real O2 canister shortage on the Fisher team on their way up the mountain, I think because one of their clients had to use a bunch of it (I forget his name now, an older guy who ended up having to go down the mountain without summitting). Boukreev, after his days climbing with the Russian team, almost never climbed with O2, so I was pretty impressed that he requested O2 supply for his summit run. He was carrying O2, but didn’t use it (gave it to someone else). So he wasn’t being wreckless, I don’t think.

      He did use O2 a year later while guiding the Indonesian team, but that wasn’t very long after his nasty bus accident. I think he took a while to recover from a head wound (dude nearly lost an eye over it), and wasn’t able to work up to his ideal physical conditioning. I think he still took that guiding job anyway because he needed the money. :P That was a big problem for mountain guides, it seems. Most of them could hardly earn enough to support themselves. Ideally he shouldn’t have guided when he didn’t feel well, but then… in reality people would compromise a lot of ideal to keep a roof over their head, I’m afraid. I don’t necessarily condone it, but I can’t in good conscience condemn it either. I wasn’t walking in his shoes, and it seems his Indo clients were on a mission of their own, too.

      Whether you agree with Boukreev or not, you should read his memoir, Above The Clouds. It was written in Russian and then translated to English, so it’s much more eloquent and contemplative than The Climb (which was pretty much ghosted by DeWalt). A really fascinating read. :)

    • just me

      Oxygen should be used – well, it’s everyone’s personal decision. I actually don;t understand all this chewing of what should be done etc. None of Boukreev team’s clients perished. Krakauer is a skilled manipulator so he easily managed to create a false impression that Boukreev is guilty for death of clients from other group, the group in no way related to Boukreev.

      The real reson behind the whole Krakauer’s attacking attitude towards Boukreev became apparent after reading DeWalt’s The Climb. There DeWalt quotes a testimony of Beck Wheathers. On the way down Beck got snow blind. He asked the following Krakauer to help him down, to be his eyes. Krakauer answered: “Beck, you know, I’m not a giude”. And continued going down leaving Beck to die. Only by some miracle Beck managed to stay alive. After all, Krakauer knew this way or another people would learn about this incindent. I guess, consciously or not, Krakauer was trying to hide his own lousy behaviour. Also, the feeling of guilt often drives people from true repentance into attacking someone thus giving a feeling of fulfilled duty and peace with own conscience. So he needed to redirect the focus of public investigation from his own actions to someone’s else. A poor Russian climber with no ties, not wealth, former cold-war enemy was the nest pick.

  103. aldebaranredstar

    The main problem is that someone who did not rescue anyone or even try to is putting blame on someone who rescued 3 people, and made 5 rescue attempts. This is a problem. It doesn’t matter if you say this is ok b/c of x, y.or z–no, it is not right. It doesn’t make sense and it is not right. K. will always be held in contempt for that–for criticizing someone who did so much more to help than he did. All K. does is sit in the judge’s seat and play God deciding right and wrong, good and bad. Throwing dirt on someone’s good deeds is despicable.

    • just me

      Not only Krakauer didn’t rescue or try to do it – he actually rejected Beck’s plead for help him down. Krakauer is a pig. See him in the street – spit in his face.

      • Doug Chance

        From where did you get the information that Krakauer rejected Weathers’ request for help down the mountain?

        I have a real hard time reconciling the high value you apparently place on helping one’s fellow man with your directive to spit in the face of a stranger. Care to clarify? How do we decide between giving someone a hand up or hocking a loogie in their eye? Will the bad people be distinguished by a curly tail and a hook in their nose?

  104. What John Krakauer will never admit: He was part of the caused of the tragedy since the two leaders (Scott Fisher and Bob Hall) wanted good publicity from him and they try to perform beyond reasonable limits (i.e., tying to summit as many clients as possible) to get that publicity. After the tragedy, John Krakauer quickly publish his article then a book to make as much money as possible. And just to confuse the real debate about who is really responsible, Krakauer invents a vilain who happens to be the one that saved the largest number of people. That is what should be condemned the most: greed and lies. Anatoli Boukreev saved several lives by taking the right decisions and risking his own life. None of the clients under Anatoli died or had any injuries. It is hard to comprehend how someone should have accused Boukreev and get away with it like Krakauer.

    • kenanddot

      Well, if it’s true that Krakauer’s presence as a journalist contributed to the tragedy, which I doubt, it’s a morally innocent way to contribute. You can’t blame someone for being there as part of their job. If anything the number of ridiculous and unqualified vanity climbers in both parties warrant more of the blame. You shouldn’t think you can purchase a summit like a new sweater.

      • Marcia Owens

        I agree that Jon did not CAUSE the tragedy…Read Graham Radcliffe’s A Day To Die For to understand the internal decision making of the teams attempting to summit. I do agree money paves the road to evil. Money buys the trip to the top and may contribute to unskilled climbers putting other climbers at risk including Sherpa’s. Just because you can afford to buy the ticket, the leaders have an obligation to determine who is fit to proceed beyond a certain altitude. That decision may be a conflict of interest as decisions to join a climbing company may be looking at the percentage of climbers summiting. One would want the best shot at getting there when paying a huge sum. Regardless, companies have an obligation to have climbers sign waivers regarding their risk and accepting the fact that summiting is a decision the leader alone may determine. Judgement at high altitudes is poor at best and often decisions are made that make little sense. In many many books about climbs, climbers discuss their cloudy consciousness and slowed thinking. Part of the thrill and risk is danger. Adrenalin junkies will continue to go for the summit even in dangerous conditions.

    • just me

      You nailed it! I can only add the last cherry – apart from all what you said the destiny offered Krakauer a chance to become a true man, to save a life, when Beck Weathers asked Krakauer to help him. But as we all know, Krakauer turned out to be a coward and a hard-hearted person when he refused to help Beck. I think exactly this Krakauer’s action became the source of his hidden guilt which he decided to broadcast onto Anatoli. Yeah, we live in a world of lies. But Anatoli fulfilled his mission and ended his Earth way with dignity and respect, having done everything right: saved the people and also fought back Krakauer’s hellish lies so we know the truth. Rest in peace, Anatoli, we’ll keep the memory of you clean!

    • Rosie Leigh

      Doug, Beck Weathers’ version of events of when Krakauer came across him on the mountain is totally different to Krakauers version. According to Weathers account, Krakauer basically refused to help him down.

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  106. david dakota

    My own impression is that Krakauers main point was that individual mountaineers can only be responsible for themselves. He goes out of his way to show that many showed up out of shape, with no ice climbing skills, not used to altitude, or with bad equipment.

    And then after you summit everest, and you get back to camp 4 most people are incapable of anything but collapsing into a tent.

    The mountain is just not meant to be climbed with a “guide” at all or with current technology. You need oxygen constantly not intermittently so that if a storm comes up you can last a couple days riding it out, but ON oxygen.

    Anything else is a crap shoot which is what Krakauer was saying. He may feel guilt but he didnt do anything wrong. It is not your rsponsibility to “rescue” someone who has made bad decisions. Krakauer did not ask anyong to rescue him.

  107. The Polish Ice Warriors great fan

    Everybody are forgeting fact that nobody fromo Anatolij’s clients got hurt. He saved a lot of lives there… There was other people who made fatal mistakes. In my opinion Krakauer only wanted to sell his book, movie etc., he needed controversy and he created it. That’s it.

  108. Red dwarf

    Read only Krakauer’s book so far, but I agree with some here that Jon’s own survivor’s guilt (and perhaps wondering if he could have done more to save ppl) was the main cause for trying to discredit Boukreev. Bukreev, on the other hand, was aware of his superb climbing skills (check out a part of Reinhold Messner’s interview on Bukreev and Krakauer), and was pretty “relaxed” about his job as a guide (imo, he was there primarily for the money and to prepare for his next climb). None the less, when it really mattered Bukreev showed his true colors and heroically saved clients, which is enough for me to decide who is a bigger man. In Krakauer’s defence, he was in no physical or mental condition to save anyone at that time. In case of Beck Weathers, i guess it was his call not to lead him down the mountain, and it perhaps saved his own life. From a moral point of view, i think Krakauer failed and Bukreev suceeded and that’s primarily the source of “conflict” coming form Krakauer. But we have to ask ourselves, is it really possible to be a moral vertical when one thinks his/her life is in danger? Lots of ppl are not heroes (not being judgemental here), but they mostly feel shame because of it later on…

    • Doug Chance

      I’m still somewhat baffled by the primary assumption made by commenters here criticizing Jon Krakauer, which is that he was “trying to discredit Boukreev”. Yes, in his book, he points out what he viewed as practices unbecoming a guide, such as not carrying a pack of any kind on summit day. To each his own, but I would question the judgement of even a casual weekend hiker who failed to bring a pack of some sort with basic first aid materials, a knife, etc, let alone someone who is being paid to guide relative novices on the highest mountain on the planet. Further, Krakauer’s other major criticism of Boukreev (the *guide*) not using supplemental oxygen on summit day is seconded by almost every other knowledgeable observer (Brashears, Viesturs, Messner)

      But Krakauer does not criticize Boukreev’s undoubtedly heroic efforts in saving climbers’ lives that horrible night.

      As for Beck Weathers, this may seem incredibly calloused, but imho, he has primarily himself to blame for nearly dying. First, for not immediately telling the head of his party about his failing vision at altitude. Second, for mindlessly waiting hours for Rob Harris to return and assist him down. Weathers’ willingness to unquestionably follow Harris’ directions is a perfect illustration of the phenomenon Krakauer was there to document: the idea that one can buy a ticket to the summit and all you have to do is listen to your guide. One could almost argue that the relatively loosely run Mountain Madness team was better equipped because they were given more freedom to act and think on their own. But that’s speculation at best. BTW, by Krakauer’s account, he “implored” Weathers to descend with him but made the mistake (his word) of incorrectly stating that Mike Groom(?) was close behind him and had a rope which would make it easier to assist Weathers down. With that news, Weathers decided to continue to wait, which I just find incredible.

      Let’s not forget that Krakauer was admittedly inexperienced at high altitude and that he was having his own problems descending (due in large part to unwittingly blowing through his last oxygen cannister while waiting to descend the Hillary Step).

      • operasmorg

        Doug: “I’m still somewhat baffled by the primary assumption made by commenters here criticizing Jon Krakauer, which is that he was “trying to discredit Boukreev”. Yes, in his book, he points out what he viewed as practices unbecoming a guide, such as not carrying a pack of any kind on summit day.”

        Would it un-baffle you to know that Boukreev actually carried a backpack with him on summit day, and that the backpack contained O2 tank (which he ended up giving to another climber)? And that Krakauer was alerted to this particular (and a few more) mistaken allegations in his book and he refused to correct them (there are photographs of Boukreev on his summit bit carrying the pack and wearing the same sort of cold weather gear like everyone else, instead of some extra light weight stuff Krakauer alleged that he wore)?

        And to say that Messner and Viesturs seconded Krakauer’s criticism of Boukreev regarding O2 non-usage is quite an exaggeration. It’s true Krakauer didn’t criticize Boukreev’s rescue attempts, but he did go out of his way to downplay it by comparing it with the two sherpas’ attempt to reach Scott Fisher on the next day (totally different circumstances. The sherpas never attempted to summit the day before and had a night’s rest before they went out.

        Boukreev’s guiding method didn’t jive well with American climbers’ ideas about guiding. After reading his book I don’t find that very faulty, though he was probably someone who takes a while to get used to (probably not an ‘immediately likeable guy’ type). At least I think he had his priorities straight. He did his best and he came down the mountain not trying to make anyone else into a bad guy. He just told his story without dramatizing it. It’s the dramatization of the story that grates me about Jon Krakauer…. It is quite unnecessary, especially considering all the dead bodies involved and all the bodies that probably should have been dead but weren’t.

      • Doug Chance

        It was pretty lame of me to mistake Andy Harris for Rob Hall.

        I also was wrong about the specifics of the backpack. It wasn’t that Boukreev never had a pack on on summit day; he did, but afaict ditched it prior to the South Summit. *And he would’ve done this regardless of whether someone happened to take the canister of oxygen of his hands at that point.*

        As for the pack, here’s what’s written in my copy of Into Thin Air: “I was also surprised to see that Boukreev didn’t have a backpack… It turned out that he had departed Camp Four carrying both a backpack and an oxygen bottle… Upon reaching the Balcony, however, he jettisoned the pack and gave his oxygen canister, mask, and regulator to Beidleman to carry for him”. Aside from Krakaurer’s stupid assertion at the end: “to carry for him”, this information conforms to what Boukreev himself says in The Climb, with the lightening of Boukreev’s load occurring near the South Summit. Further, Boukreev says “My original intention had been to leave the oxygen and retrieve it on my descent.”

        It’s hard to be 100% positive, but in pictures available to me of Boukreev above that point on that day, he does not appear to be wearing a pack (see pages 237-239 in the First 1998 Villard Illustrated Edition of Into Thin Air), while they can be plainly seen on the other climbers in the photos. If you can refer me to pictures that show him wearing a pack on the highest portion of the climb, please do. In The Climb, Boukreev admits to not having a radio on the summit, but who knows if he was even provided one in the first place.

        As for guiding without supplemental oxygen, I’m not going to bother to quote each of Breashears, Viesturs, and Messner, but aside from Viesturs disclaimer that he doesn’t like to “second guess” other climbers (followed by verbage that does exactly that), they are unanimous in stating that guides on 8000 meter peaks should climb with supplemental oxygen. G. Weston DeWalt solicited the opinion of a medical expert on the subject when researching The Climb, but didn’t include the expert’s quote, which was that it was dangerous and ill-advised to guide Everest without using oxygen..

        I can understand your objection to Krakauer’s “dramatization” of the events, but let’s face it, that’s what he was paid to do. A writer who doesn’t include character and drama in his work will not be employed for long. Still, by journalistic standards, his book was far better researched and fact-checked than “The Climb”.

      • operasmorg

        It is rather interesting that I am now supposed to provide evidence that Boukreev had a backpack on when he summited Everest… If I may remind you, I was correcting your false statement that he didn’t have any backpack on. You only realized that mistake when you went back to check afterward and came back with a re-qualification that he did have a pack but stashed it before the summit tag. Not quite the same thing.

        As to writers and dramatization. Whether that is acceptable depends largely on whether the writer is writing a fiction book or a journalistic reporting of real life event… And as you yourself had noticed Krakauer’s addition of ‘to carry for him’ in the backpack episode. That is a ongoing thing whenever Krakauer mentions Bourkeev in his book. That is what caused such consternation amongst people who object to Krakauer’s account. He never openly accused Boukreev, but he constantly insert innuendos that cast aspersions to Boukreev’s character. I imagine many who object wouldn’t have minded it so much had Krakauer had at Boukreev openly. It’s his roundabout innuendos that get under the skin. I suspect that’s the source of the ‘Krakauer is a coward’ sort of sentiments you see rather than the often used ‘Krakauer didn’t rescue Beck Weathers’ episode.

        That Into Thin Air became a best selling book and got so much coverage only exacerbated it. Krakauer can feel free to dramatize to his heart’s content his fiction books… But Into Thin Air is not a fiction book. Is it???

      • Doug Chance

        I suppose it depends on whether you view this discussion as a competition or an exchange of information. I would truly like to know whether Boukreev carried a pack with gear above the South Summit. The fact that he started the summit climb with a pack doesn’t justify his conduct as a guide if he ditched that pack immediately before the most intense portions of the climb. Especially given that Boukreev admitted his intention behind carrying the oxygen canister was not in case a client needed it (otherwise, why ditch it and plan to pick it up on the way back; it may be needed further up the mountain). If your point is that Boukreev began summit day with a pack then I’m confused by your contention that Krakauer “refused to correct this mistaken allegation”. The passage from Into Thin Air I quoted plainly states that the Russian guide started the climb with a pack. However, in the pictures I have seen of Boukreev above the South Summit on that fateful day he does not appear to be wearing a pack. If there are ones that show otherwise, I’d like to see them in order to fill out my knowledge.

        As to whether it’s “the same thing”… I fail to see how carrying a pack partway and then ditching it immediately prior to the toughest parts of the climb is any more responsible than not bringing one at all. If a client is in trouble high above the needed supplies, the fact that they are stashed below the choke point that caused so many problems in the first place would seem to be cold comfort.

        Dramatization is not fictionalization. Into Thin Air was extensively fact-checked by Outside editors, with a process that included extensive interviews with all the principals, including Boukreev. That’s a far cry better than The Climb, which drew drastic objections from Jane Bromet concerning whether or not there was a “plan” in place for Boukreev to descend ahead of the clients. She says “As this quote is written, it runs the risk of coming across as (part of) a calculated and distorted analysis of the accident whose sole purpose is to absolve Anatoli Boukreev of fault by attempting to lay blame on others…” For chrissake, DeWalt didn’t even interview Mike Groom, Neil Beidleman, or Lopsang Jangbu when researching “The Climb.” Beidleman wrote to DeWalt, saying “I think that The Climb is a dishonest account of the May tragedy… Neither you nor your associates once called to fact-check a single detail with me.”

        I think Krakauer’s biggest grip with Boukreev is Anatoli’s inability to admit any sort of fault or error in judgement at all, which makes him unique among the survivors of that disaster, including Krakaurer, who wrote “My actions — or failure to act — played a direct role in the death of Andy Harris. And while Yasuko Namba lay dying on the South Col, I was a mere 350 yards away, huddled inside a tent, oblivious to her struggle, concerned only with my own safety.

        My personal take on it is that there was a cultural gap between Boukreev and the other climbers and each “side” struggles with the differences in affect and behavior between the cultures and backgrounds of the other. That much said, the existence of that gap made Boukreev, while an amazing climber nearly without peer, a bad choice to be a guide to the tourists on the mountain that year.

        I don’t know a lot of the details, but my understanding is that, to his credit, he did a far better job bridging that gap on his subsequent guiding gig a year later (alas but one, I think.)

      • operasmorg

        PS: Rob Hall as the guide who put Beck Weathers in jeopardy by ordering him to wait around at South Summit. Andy Harris was another AC guide who died on the mountain.

  109. Mary

    I admit I have not read all the comments. But I did read both books. Not many if any are talking about the preps for the climb. So many things went wrong. Most notably the regular Sherpas backing out due to money issues and replacements not laying the ropes. AB ended up laying a lot of the ropes in addition to other duties he had. He was THE MAN.

  110. Anion

    Wow! So much information and great discussion here! I know it’s very late but I’d love to add a little to it.

    I’m a total non-climber; well, I love mountains, I love heights, but I am not a fan of the outdoors, in general. So I’m not going to climb any mountains (although I admit I’ve always been tempted to try one of those courses for novices). My opinions are based simply on what I’ve read, heard, and seen, and on my own common sense. I have zero mountaineering experience. In other words, take this as you will; I am in no way claiming to be anything but an interested layman.

    Jon Krakauer, despite an over-reliance on beginning sentences with participial phrases, is a really good writer. I’m a writer myself (novelist, NY-multipublished, translations in several countries, all of which is far less impressive than it may sound) and really do admire and appreciate his clean, taut prose.

    It’s a shame he’s always seemed like such an idiot otherwise. I find it astonishingly hypocritical of him to criticize Boukreev for climbing without oxygen–which he’d done before, more than once–while at the same time defending and holding up as some sort of icon that arrogant little imbecile Chris McCandless who wandered off into the wilds of Alaska with a bag of rice, a .22 rifle, and an enormously inflated sense of self-importance. I already mistrusted Krakauer, I admit, for his insistence that McCandless ate poison or mold (instead of the truth, which is that he starved to death) and that before the ingestion of said fictitious poison or mold he’d “been doing pretty good out there,” (instead of the truth, which is that he’d begun the process of starving to death the minute he set foot in the wild; never at any point was he capable of really surviving out there, and with the exception of one or two days he never at any point consumed enough calories to sustain himself. His “doing pretty good” was nothing more than starving a little more slowly than some others might). Krakauer insists that this was noble and wonderful and la-de-da-whatever, instead of being just egotistical and stupid. Krakauer is entitled to admire pretentious fools all he likes, but when he deliberately lies about what killed that man (in order to make it appear he was a lot smarter and more capable than he actually was), and writes about him in such a way as to make it seem that there is something glorious about wandering off to starve in the forest for no good reason and that it’s awesome to do so completely unprepared, he encourages other fools to follow in his footsteps. More than a few people have had to be rescued from Denali because they were out there looking for that stupid bus so they could ogle the decomposition stains on the mattress or something. That’s Krakauer’s fault.

    I digress. My point is that I wonder at Krakauer’s disdain for Boukreev, an actual, real adventurer, while at the same time he elevates and admires a twit who only managed to survive as long as he did in his wanderings around the country because nice people kept hauling him out of the fire. (Yes, Boukreev was a guide, not a lone climber. I’ll get to that.) I believe, and I could be very wrong, that Krakauer was a bit intimidated by Boukreev. (The analysis above of Krakauer’s writing is excellent; I’d add that he makes a point of mentioning that Sandy Hill Pittman is two inches taller than he is, which again sounds like intimidation to me.) I suspect Krakauer and Boukreev simply didn’t connect on a personal level; they didn’t like each other much.

    But Krakauer really liked Hall. That’s obvious. Hall was his friend. And Hall died. So did Fischer; Krakauer also liked him and had known him for a long time.

    What do you do when two men you like and are friends with die in a tragic accident, which also kills other people, and when those friends are pretty much solely responsible for those deaths? If you’re the sort of man who makes up stories about poisonous seeds because you can’t accept that someone you like did something reckless and irresponsible and died because of it, you find someone else to blame. Like, say, a man you don’t particularly care for.

    I don’t think Krakauer’s blaming of Boukreev came because of some Cold-War prejudice (and I frankly take offense at the anti-Americanism and the juvenile “Amerikkans” spelling above). I honestly think it was because he needed someone to blame other than his friends, Boukreev was there, and Boukreev had a solid enough reputation that he could “take it.” I don’t think it was calculated. (I also think there’s more than a little need to make himself look better; by second-guessing and criticizing the decisions of a world-class climber, Krakauer makes it clear that he knows as much as that climber, and is on a level with him, rather than being the guy who refused to leave his tent even to bang a pot with a spoon.) I also believe there was more than a little elitism and “My team is the BEST team”-ism in Krakauer’s account; he belittles Fischer and members of Fischer’s team for mistakes far less egregious than those of Hall and Hall’s team.

    I think his attitude toward Sandy Hill Pittman is partly that, and partly the need to deflect blame. There’s little doubt–and to give him credit Krakauer acknowledges it (to a point)–that the presence of journalists contributed to the disastrous decisions of Fischer and Hall. But Krakauer must elevate himself in this: see, Sandy Hall Pittman was just a dilettante, a silly woman bent on luxury, whereas he himself is a Serious Climber. Yes, they’re both journalists, but Krakauer isn’t one of *those* journalists. He’s the Real Thing. He must draw this imaginary line between himself and Pittman in order to acknowledge the role played by the presence of reporters while still allowing himself and Hall to appear blameless. They’re good, smart, respected guys, men of the mountains, whereas Sandy Hill Pittman is not only a vainglorious fool, but a *woman.* As if women can climb mountains! As if women can be both serious and interested in personal comfort! I mean, so what if Sandy Hill Pittman brought coffee along and had sherpas deliver magazines, you know? She was paying them to do so. It’s not like she forced them to do it with a whip.

    I haven’t read THE CLIMB. Again, my opinion here may be worthless. But it seems to me that if anyone is responsible for the deaths of members of Rob Hall’s team, it’s Rob Hall. He kept pushing Doug Hansen when Doug really shouldn’t have been there anyway; the man was recovering from surgery. Hansen tried to turn around–twice!–and Hall urged him to keep going. He allowed Andy Harris to climb and guide when Andy had been seriously, violently ill; anyone who’s suffered an attack of stomach flu knows that it takes a couple of days to fully recover, and that’s at sea level (or whatever your “normal” level is) with plenty of good food and water and a stomach not struggling with oxygen depletion. (Krakauer never discusses the possibility that Harris’s illness contributed to his death, but I do think it may well have.) He ignored the turnaround time. He told Beck Weathers to just sit there and wait for him. It’s clear from some of Hall’s statements that he considered himself almost infallible at that point. He and Fischer both allowed the presence of journalists to go to their heads. He and Fischer both expressed too much confidence in their abilities; they forgot, it seems, that Everest is not a “yellow brick road” but a deadly mountain. Fischer didn’t hand out radios the way he should have.

    And I do believe they may have ignored the storm warning. I do think it’s likely that it came. I think both Hall and Fischer likely knew it was coming. If you think about it, although it may have made sense to send Boukreev back to get oxygen and tea anyway (although it does open both to criticism), sending him back in the face of an oncoming storm is an *excellent* decision. Why send him back to prepare for rescue if you have no idea whether or not anyone will need rescuing, and no real pressing reason to suspect they will? Yes, you can say he sent Boukreev back because of the violated turnaround time, but again, it would make just as much sense in that case to have Boukreev stay and help the others return faster. But if you know a storm is coming, sending someone back to begin gathering strength and supplies for rescue is simply the correct thing to do. (Incidentally, Neil Beidleman has since said that he believes sending Boukreev back was a bad thing, and that Boukreev should have been on oxygen and helping the clients. He said this after Boukreev’s death, saying that before Boukreev died he didn’t feel comfortable publicly disagreeing with his friend. Beidleman seems to me to be a good and honorable man and a hero; his opinion certainly makes me think, but ultimately I don’t think the outcome of the day would have been too different. The only person whose life may have been saved is Namba, at least so it seems to me.)

    Of course, this rather begs the question of why Boukreev wouldn’t have said this, and why he would go with the “unexpected storm” story. I believe he didn’t for a simple reason: loyalty. What’s better for a man of honor–to drag your friend’s name through the mud for ignoring a storm warning, or to simply say “We made this decision and it was good,” and to know that many people will agree with you? What would be the point, in the aftermaths of those deaths, in placing solid and real blame on Hall and Fischer? What, especially, would be the point in doing that to their families, already in mourning? Why should they have to carry the burden of knowing their men’s bad decisions killed themselves and others? No. Better to hold to your line, and know that many people agree with you. I think it’s very possible this is why others who survived that day call the storm “unexpected,” as well. A sense of decency, and the fact that common knowledge says the storm was unexpected so why argue. Perhaps some of them weren’t informed of the coming storm. Perhaps the Everest “industry” didn’t wish to have it made public that two of their most respected guides deliberately put people in grave danger, and that people died because of it, which potentially casts a pall over all guides.

    I will also agree with the above poster who mentioned the difference between criticism endured by writers and those in other professions. As a writer I must accept that some people won’t like my work, and they’ll be vocal about it. As a professional, the mantra “It’s just one person’s opinion,” must play on an almost-constant loop in my head. I think after a while we begin to think others see it the same way. I also think that it’s very easy for us to forget the size of our audiences. My readership is nowhere near that of Krakauer (I wish it was!), but I’ve been spanked more than once for expressing an opinion that others end up taking as gospel (one reason I am anonymous here). At the time INTO THIN AIR was released, I think it’s very possible that Krakauer had no idea what sort of audience he was reaching; it’s very possible that since his previous book had only minor success, he thought this one wouldn’t be much different. You speak differently to a group of twenty than you do to a group of twenty thousand. He may not have realized his criticism of Boukreev would cast such a shadow; he should have, but he may not have. Writers depend on word-of-mouth for sales. We depend on reviews. But for Boukreev this wasn’t just a review, it was his reputation and a matter of life and death. Nobody can accuse me of criminal negligence for writing the books I write. The same was not true for Boukreev.

    The closest I’ve ever come to climbing a mountain is driving through them and getting out to stretch my legs. I’ve learned some things about the sport, but not enough.

    What I do know, though, is human nature; I couldn’t have achieved even what little success I have as a writer of fiction without being able to craft realistic characters who think and feel and behave as humans do. My theory here is just that: a theory, nothing more. But everything I’ve read or seen about Boukreev suggests strongly to me that perhaps he may not have been the most personable man, but he was an honorable one. I can see an honorable man refusing to publicly blame his fallen friends. An honorable man does not look for someone to blame. There was no way Boukreev could have said “I went back to prepare for the storm” without seriously implicating Fischer and Hall.

    Fischer and Hall were good, brave, honorable men, too. I don’t wish to imply otherwise. That they lost their lives was tragic. I wish them peaceful rest. But that doesn’t change the fact that Hall’s poor decision-making directly caused or seriously contributed to several deaths, and Fischer’s poor decision-making (including the decision to continue on himself when he was ill) contributed to his own death. Perhaps if Boukreev had been on oxygen and stayed at the summit, things might have been different. But there’s no way to know that for sure. They might have been just the same. They might have been much worse without him there to perform those rescues. The blame does not lie on him. It lies, sadly, on two men who died for their mistakes and took others with them, and just as Krakauer cannot admit the recklessness of Chris McCandless, so he cannot admit that these two men were also reckless.

    Sorry this is so long.

    • Helen Huntingdon

      I think his attitude toward Sandy Hill Pittman is partly that, and partly the need to deflect blame. There’s little doubt–and to give him credit Krakauer acknowledges it (to a point)–that the presence of journalists contributed to the disastrous decisions of Fischer and Hall. But Krakauer must elevate himself in this: see, Sandy Hall Pittman was just a dilettante, a silly woman bent on luxury, whereas he himself is a Serious Climber. Yes, they’re both journalists, but Krakauer isn’t one of *those* journalists. He’s the Real Thing. He must draw this imaginary line between himself and Pittman in order to acknowledge the role played by the presence of reporters while still allowing himself and Hall to appear blameless. They’re good, smart, respected guys, men of the mountains, whereas Sandy Hill Pittman is not only a vainglorious fool, but a *woman.* As if women can climb mountains!

      You know, I hadn’t even considered those issues when sorting through Krakauer’s unreliable-narrator narrative. I’d just picked up on the fact that he was spin doctoring as hard as he could with vast whallops of dishonesty (and I was going on nothing but his own book — his spin doctoring and dishonesty is there plain to see if you read critically), and hadn’t really gotten into to fathoming why, because the whole thing is so childish. The singling out Hill Pittman as one of the villains but Wethers as one of the good guys is so beyond bizarre that I wasn’t even sure how to guess at what the heck that was about, but you’ve probably nailed it — a combination of jealousy, bigotry, and defensiveness. Blame the other journalist by claiming to be the good one (there is subtextual resentment in his writing that Hill Pittman had a bigger audience than he did at the time of the climb). She had a bigger audience than Krakauer at the time of the climb, she was an experienced high-altitude climber while Krakauer had no high-altitude experience at all, and on top of that, she had the nerve to be two inches taller than he is.

      • Anion

        Thanks, Helen. (Sorry for the late reply!)

        I definitely got a sense of jealousy re Sandy Hill Pittman, and more than that, one of resentment. There was an underlying feeling of “Who is this woman, with all her money, thinking she can do what *I* do?” He’s clearly got a problem with the fact that she is wealthy, and writes about it and her with an attitude of “Rich women can’t possibly be Real Outdoorsmen like me,” and especially, again, “She’s just a rich girl playing at journalism, but I am a serious outdoor journalist. She doesn’t respect the outdoors, but I do. I’m on the good team, she’s just in it for herself.”

        He’s snide about her friends, snide about her career, snide about her previous climbing experience, which seemed to me, frankly, to be almost as “good” as his. It wasn’t her first time on a mountain–as you said, she had high-altitude experience and he didn’t–but he behaved and wrote as if it was, and she was just a flibbertigibbet little rich girl who decided it would be fun to play in the snow. (This attitude is also very clear when it comes to Yasuko Namba. The woman had climbed six of the Seven Summits, and yet Krakauer speaks of her as if she had no mountain-climbing experience at all, and was just fumbling around up there.) His “Why did she get all the attention?” jealousy is indeed clear.

        He’s also extremely snide about the fact that one of the women–he makes very clear which one it is, but I won’t repeat it outright–was having sexual relations up there, as if that’s somehow shameful and wrong, and how dare a woman enjoy or want sex. Playing it off as “Oh, the prudish sherpas were offended,” doesn’t change the fact that it was gossip he didn’t need to repeat, that it had nothing to do with the climb itself but everything to do with painting the women climbers as foolish sluts who had no business being on the mountain–unless they were in appropriate “support” roles (notice the women in those roles weren’t spoken of harshly).

        While I agree that he speaks of Wethers as one of the good guys, there’s quite a bit of initial resentment aimed at him, too, because he’s wealthy. It’s unintentionally funny, actually, that Krakauer talks about being offended by some of Wethers’s conservative political views and describes a discussion about the minimum wage. Krakauer speaks up to disagree with Wethers on the subject; funnily enough, Wethers actually has facts and knowledge to back up his arguments, whereas Krakauer has none, so he basically slinks off in sullen, resentful silence–the way all children do when they cannot support their opinions. (I’m not saying I have a specific opinion on the subject, or that I agree or disagree, it just amuses me that he initially portrays Wethers as a bombastic blowhard, but is incapable of actually debating with Wethers because Wethers actually has information to present.) But at least Wethers is a man, so he escapes much of the derision aimed at Hill Pittman and Namba, and yeah, after that, Wethers is treated with approval. He deserves the approval, but so did Pittman and Namba; or rather, none of them deserved to be treated with the subtextual (and in some instances outright) contempt aimed at both women and Pittman especially.

        Again, it just seems to me that there’s a desperate attempt on his part to make sure we see his team as the Good Team, his side as the Right Side; he was part of a band of toughened adventurers, Real Men, but the others were simply tourists.

    • Anion, I agree with most that you have said. I think the reason K did not like B was because B was on Fisher’s party and not his.

      • Anion

        Totally, Galen (btw I love your name). I thought more than once while reading that had Boukreev been on Krakauer’s team, his portrayal would have been *completely* different. A true mountain man, rugged and independent and strong!

  111. Ian

    Not a mountaineer but read both books some time ago and must say I found Krakauer’s account, and reasoning, far more cogent than the Boukreev ghostwriter’s version.

    Irrespective of Boukreev’s later heroic actions on the South Col, to argue that he was better placed to help his clients from Camp 4 (after they had got into trouble) rather than being on the mountain (to actually help prevent them getting into trouble in the first place) is highly imaginative.

    In any case, this isn’t a situation for siding with one party over another – and I don’t think Krakauer’s book particularly does. There appears to have been a multitude of reasons (and dare I say bad decisions) from just about everybody, all interacting and multiplying, to produce a lethal cocktail once the storm struck. While believing that no one who climbs Everest can complain or blame anyone else if they come a cropper, I do think (in hindsight!) by far the biggest mistake was the two tour leaders (and particularly Rob Hall) ignoring the Golden Rule to turn back at the designated time.

    • Helen Huntingdon

      Irrespective of Boukreev’s later heroic actions on the South Col, to argue that he was better placed to help his clients from Camp 4 (after they had got into trouble) rather than being on the mountain (to actually help prevent them getting into trouble in the first place) is highly imaginative.

      I do think (in hindsight!) by far the biggest mistake was the two tour leaders (and particularly Rob Hall) ignoring the Golden Rule to turn back at the designated time.

      You are contradicting yourself here a bit. One of the few things people who are not high-altitude climbers can be certain of just by reading about it is that the turnaround time must be absolute. Boukreev obeyed it. With the team leaders on the mountain violating it and the simple fact that you can’t force someone to turn around in that situation, Boukreev exercised the most emphatic reminder of turnaround time available to him by following it himself.

      Have you ever been in an emergency situation where no one reacts, or reacts by trying to keep on with what they are doing even though it’s no longer appropriate? I have, and it’s freaky. Being the one person to leap into correct action often has a galvanizing effect on the others — there’s a fair bit of recent literature on this phenomenon.

      It’s easy to claim the path of true virtue in such situations is to leave no one behind and be the last one out, but that show a fundamental misunderstanding of how people act in such situations. If you read up on the reactions of groups in emergencies, you’ll find that the greatest power any one person has to save lives may be simply to model the correct behavior, which Boukreev did.

  112. louhudson23

    I am not a climber in any way shape or form. I am an accomplished and noted motorcyclist with a long list of individual accomplishments. I am also a professional motorcycle tour guide as well as riding instructor. I can only say that whatever my individual accomplishments,my role and responsibilities as a guide are completely different and any shortcomings or mistakes I may make as a guide are not reflective of,nor relevant to my individual expertise or accomplishments. I say this simply as a response to the critique of Boukreev as a guide which in turn leads to such virulent defense of him as a climber. One has little to do with the other. That is not to say that he did or did not make mistakes as a guide,but that responding to the critiques of his guiding by defending or recalling extensive and heroic personal climbing accomplishments makes no sense and I do not understand the repeated comments which do exactly that. Krakauer ,whatever his shortcomings as a person or writer,at no time fails to acknowledge Boukreev’s accomplishments as a world class mountaineer. His criticism of Boukreev,valid or not, is centered solely on Boukreev’s actions as guide.It is pointless and irrelevant to answer those criticisms by recounting Boukreev’s individual climbing accomplishemnts,as so many here do…..

  113. Lisa Johnson

    I read both Into Thin Air and The Climb soon after they were published. I felt that Jon Krakauer was unfair to Boukreev when I first read his book because he did not want to blame a man he considered a friend and who he admired and sympathized with, Rob Hall. Boukreev may have had a different idea of his responsibility as a guide than some others on the mountain (he did not consider himself a babysitter, he was an experienced no nonsense professional) but he did what his boss asked of him. As a former climber and a safety professional I know the first rule of safety and rescue is to keep yourself alive so you can help as much as possible. You are never to put yourself in a situation where you are likely to die because then you are of no use to anyone. Rob Hall and to a lesser degree Scott Fisher disobeyed the cardinal rule of safety. Anatoli Boukreev did not. Yes, it is romantic and heroic to die with your friends but it is better to save them. I think Anatoli got blamed because he didn’t die. The professionals did not blame him, they understood. Jon Krakauer is a good writer and wrote a good emotional account of what happened but he is no objective observer of the facts. That much was clear from the beginning.

    • Anion

      “I think Anatoli got blamed because he didn’t die.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      And I totally agree that he just didn’t want to blame Rob Hall. Like I said in my initial comment, this is a man who has now floated three ridiculous theories–presenting them as absolute fact–in a desperate attempt to prove that Christopher McCandless didn’t starve to death, even though it’s very clear from all evidence that he did. Krakauer just can’t admit it. The desire to shift blame, to avoid blame, to convince himself and others that people Krakauer admires are perfect but other people are fools and dilettantes, is very clear in everything I’ve ever read by Krakauer, and I think this is another example of it.

  114. Ivan the Terrible

    Read both books. First of all, it is true that Krakauer doesn’t single out Boukreev as the villain, but Boukreev’s sharp reaction to Krakauer’s criticism is perfectly understandable.

    1. Given that Boukreev was the only one to attempt the rescue of the stranded climbers, again and again, in extreme conditions–and succeeding, against unbelievable odds!–is it so strange that he would feel ill done by Krakauer?
    2. Krakauer did not bother to check his facts regarding Boukreev or get his point of view, but instead limited himself to his own unreliable impressions (seemed distant, lightly dressed, etc.) and hearsay (Fischer complained that Boukreev didn’t do enough handholding with the clients, etc.)
    3. As an amateur, Krakauer did not possess sufficient expertise to question Boukreev’s actions, such as climbing without supplementary oxygen. Boukreev knew his own abilities better than anyone, and the fact that he was the only one in the entire camp capable of venturing out in that storm proves it. It is also ridiculous to say that Boukreev was forced to descend because he wasn’t using gas. Boukreev stayed on that summit for an hour and a half without oxygen–how long did Krakauer stay there, with all his oxygen? A couple of minutes?

    And those who blame Anatoli for attending to his own acclimatization needs just need to remember what happened to Scott Fischer who hadn’t done that and what would have happened to his group if Boukreev hadn’t been in top form.

  115. Jon

    I think all of your criticisms of Krakauer are dumbfounded, from the beginning he makes it very clear that he does not consider himself an expert mountaineer, nor does he claim to have any expertise in Himalayan Mountain Climbing. He states from the beginning of his book that he was a journalist on this expedition. Krakauer did not ignore Anatoli’s on side of the story, having in fact interviewed him and questioned him; also providing a manuscript to Anatoli of the original article before it was published for his approval. In no way shape or form does Krakauer attempt to pain Anatoli as a villian; nor does he attempt to paint himself as a hero, in fact he acknowledges mistakes and missed opportunities of his; his critisism of Anatoli stems from his decision to summit as a guide without Oxygen, which left him in a state of hypoxia. Ed Viesturs had summited Everest twice without oxygen before acting as a guide in 1995, in which case he used oxygen because he believed that it was his duty as a guide to be in the best state of mind and physicality. Nobody is saying that Anatoli was not instrumental in the saving of lives during the storm, but to criticize Jon for not being a guide or an expert, granting him no authority to point fingers, and then hypocritically accuse him of not doing the duties of a guide or expert is wrong. Granted, the man slept as climbers died, but as you all clearly stated, he was not an expert, nor was he a guide, he was not as rested as Anatoli; what possible help could he have done? The answer is none, at that altitude, inexperience, hypoxia, starvation, exhaustion, freezing temperatures, insomnia, all betray you…someone like Jon would have just become another liability; probably another climber needing rescue if he had attempted what Anatoli did. Lets also not forget that Anatolia did not wait for Martin Adams (one of his clients) and had it not been for guide Mike Groom, Adams would have walked off the west side of the damn mountain to his death.
    And if we are all going to be hyper-critical, than it would be fair to say the the credit for saving the lives of Pittman, Fox, and Tim Madsen( the three climbers Anatoli is charged with saving) is due partially to Mike Groom and Neil Beidleman as well for having “guided” five of the six mountain madness clients ( the sixth being Martin Adams who was already back in camp with Krakauer) and two adventure consultants’ clients. Groom and Beidleman “guided” seven other people down the South Col. and were responsible for getting them to within several hundred flat meters of camp IV. Anatoli thus rescued the partially rescued climbers, which in any standard is an act of sheer heroism and will to power. It is a shame that the spirit of his heroism and the spirit of all the climbers who lost their lives that season is being reduced to fodder for what is certain to be the arguments (or i should say shouting matches) of people who have not been to altitude, nor climbed such great peaks, nor ever put in a situation of lie or death where your life hangs effortlessly in the balance of another’s life. From a strictly academic and grammatical point of view, I find Jon Krakauer’s book to be a better read, and a better presented case, having interviewed and relied on the words of all the other survivors( Anatoli included) as opposed to the words of one man in an attempt to discredit another. After all, do we not buy books like this to be entertained; for what possible right do we have to judge any of these people?

    • Rosie Leigh

      Boukreev was not in a state of hypoxia. He also reserved fot himself 3 bottles of oxygen incase he should need them at any point during his ascent and descent of Everest. He did not need them, instead he later gave them to others who did. You obviously didn’t follow up on Krakauers comments after the release of his book or you would know that he clearly did have some kind misplaced problem with Boukreev. I agree that the comments in Krakauers book didn’t paint Boukreev as a villain but at the same time there was absolutely no point in saying the things he did. And please remember, Boukreevs clients ALL survived.

  116. Kevin

    Everyone that died did so at 2pm. Stick to the plan made at 68 degrees.

  117. Rosie Leigh

    Jon Krakauer had no right to make the comments he did regarding Boukreev’s actions on 10th/11th May 1996. Ive read comments on here saying that the plan between (Fischer and Boukreev) for Boukreev to descend early should have changed according to the arising issues on the day of the summit bid. I cant help but wonder that if their plan had changed and Boukreev had not descended when he did, there would have been a lot more casualties on Everest that night\morning. Boukreev was able to go back up, not once but twice. He brought Charlotte Fox back to camp and gave oxygen and hot tea to Sandy Hill Pittman and Tim Madsen to keep them going until he returned. He then ascended on the 11th to try and locate Scott Fischer who had sadly perished. He did this with no help from anybody, including Krakauer. I agree that Krakauer didn’t speak too harshly of Boukreev in his book but I am unsure as to why he said those things at all. Especially as they were proved to be wrong. Boukreev did wear good, modern, high altitude clothing on the day of the summit bid as photos have shown. He also reserved 3 bottles of oxygen for himself should he have needed them -which, luckily for some, he didnt. Also, Scott Fischer was the expedition leader, and by people who agree with Krakauers ‘theories’ that fact seems to keep being forgotten. Boukreev had discussed his not using oxygen, early descent etc with Fischer. Things such as descending early were not done by Boukreev of his own accord. While I have agreed that in his book Krakauer didnt speak to harshly of Boukreev, he did later take his opinions to a whole other level by stating (amongst other things) that all of the sherpa’s blamed the whole tragedy on Boukreev. Wtf!!! That is another of Krakauers comments that has been proved untrue. The well respected mountaineer and writer, Galen Rowell tried to prove\disprove Krakauers statement and spoke to more than 30 Sherpa’s some of whom were on Everest during May 1996. All of whom said they had the utmost respect for Anatoli Boukreev and didn’t blame him or know any other Sherpa’s that blamed him for anything that occured on Everest dduring that tragic season. I personally think that there were a whole lot of issues on the spring 1996 Everest expeditions which weren’t dealt with as they should have been. Boukreev’s abilities and decisions should not been the ones being brought into question. Lets not forget that while ALL of the Mountain Madness clients survived (thanks to Boukreev) the members of JON KRAKAUERs team unfortunately did not. I think Krakauer come to terms with his own issues before calling into question those of others. And seeing as his comments were totally unfounded or untrue, I have to think of what his real motives may have been.

  118. M. Everett

    i just read into thin air, withhout previous insight to this exaggerated petty gossip flamed by jerks not there. i didn,t get any “k doesn’t like b” in the story whatsoever.

  119. tonyRay

    It has been a long time since I first posted on this subject and was surprised it is still alive. There seems to be some confusion as to whether or not Anatoli was carrying a pack on the summit day…he most certainly was, up to the South Summit. Safety rope had not been laid from the South Summit along the knife edge ridge to the Hillary Step. Anatoli Boukreev and Neil Beidleman volunteered to lay rope and break trail so that the clients could continue the ascent. Anatoli took the lead with the extra burden of carrying the weight of 150ft of rope and breaking trail in deep virgin snow. You people can’t imagine the strength and stamina a task like that entails. With this in mind it is easy to understand why he ditched his pack at the south summit. Any extra o2 bottles always get left at the South Summit as everyone has sufficient o2 to make the summit and the extra o2 is changed out on the descent. This fact can easily be verified in the Frontline Documentary titled Storm Over Everest which depicts a photo of Anatoli breaking trail over the knife edge ridge carrying the rope. What is disturbing in the photo is that the slack rope between Anatoli and Beidelman is held suspended in a giant arc by the wind showing that high winds were already building before the first person cleared the Hillary Step on the ascent. Neil gives a full detailed account of what he and Anatoli were doing in the picture. Anatoli more than fulfilled his Guide duties that day as it wasn’t his job to lay rope and he’s doing this labor intensive work without supplemental oxygen…Anatoli was an animal in the mountains. It is also interesting to note that Messner is shown in an interview in a nonpressurized small aircraft with no supplemental oxygen circling the Everest summit. When they ask Messner if he is worried about being up that high without supplemental oxygen he laughs and says it is all in your head, your mindset. One thing to keep in mind is that there is a lot more oxygen in cold dense air than there is in hot thin air. Kudos to all those who have defended the truth and heroism of Anatoli. On the other hand Krakauer has further exposed himself to be the worm everyone knew he was years ago, with recent junk journalism, unjustly defaming other subjects.

  120. Pingback: Vikings Star Clive Standen Joins Cast In Everest – CinemaBlend.com | Love, Sex & Other Dirty Words

  121. marta

    new movie in making – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2719848/board/threads/ – it can’t be worse than Into thin air..

  122. rory y

    I just finished reading Into Thin Air. And I’ve discovered some of the controversy about the book.

    My take is this:

    There is plenty of blame to go around: pushing up Everest so late in the day
    as a central part of the disaster and the burden of blame for this goes to the group leaders, Hall and Fischer. The Russian guide deserves his share of criticism for not “baby-sitting” as closely as he should have. But a lot of people seem to have performed unwisely.

    I don’t think anyone can fault Krakauer (as some have) for not rescuing anyone himself. (“Cowardice,” etc.) I’ve never hiked anything remotely near Mt. Everest conditions but I’ve done some comparatively very minor mountain hiking and know that when I’m exhausted there isn’t much left to share. There’s a point where the reason for being wherever you are evaporates and all you can think of is survival: getting back out. It’s primal.

    My greatest criticism Krakauer’s way is that his mere presence as a journalist contributed to the disaster — especially in terms of the various hiking teams wanting good publicity. I’ve discovered that he has commented a little about this, and it appears THAT criticism in his direction hits home. He gets this. He knows he was part of the problem (How much? Who knows?)

    But I don’t think it’s fair to merely drop the entire load for this on him. The magazine that sponsored him should be dragged into the fray. Is it not ironic, too, that in a quest to investigate the “commercialization of Mt. Everest” that their sponsored article (and Into Thin Air) could only commercialize it further? How could everyone involved not recognize that this would be inevitable? (A quick check online revealed that nearly a 100 more people have died on the mountain since the 1996 tragedy.) I mean, are we to take it seriously when an appendage of the mass media coughs up many thousands of dollars to do a story on “commercialization?”

    The deal the magazine cut with the “adventure” company to allow Krakauer to go on the ordeal was the essence of “commercialization”: both the “adventure” company and the magazine had something to economically gain. So, of course, did Krakauer.

    As someone who has worked in journalism a bit in the past, I can say with certainty that events occur differently when a camera (or a pen) is pointed (or poised) in the subject’s direction. There was a lot at stake for these hiking groups and Krakauer manned the gateway to potential better fortunes. Who acts comfortably, NORMALLY, when they know they’re under a microscope?

    “Journalism” is fundamentally a parasitic endeavor — whether following a group up a mountain or photographing dead bodies in a war zone. Krakauer is a smart guy and fine writer. I’m sure he recognizes what I suggest is true.

    Ultimately, however, the people who died have to take considerable responsibility for their own fates.I think that, although Into Thin Air is a good read, anyone who does this kind of maniacally insane, pointless “adventuring” through Hell’s inverse brother is crazy. Suffering is common enough in the everyday world — risks are omnipresent for us all in every direction. Why seek more?

    I’ve never understood the desire to court death so closely. To my sensibilities, there are a lot of other equally asinine ways to test your mettle:
    jump out of a speeding car, saw your arm off, lock yourself in a freezer and try to get out, swim naked across Lake Superior in winter, etc.

    Like it or not, if you choose to dance with Death for $65,000, then the ultimate responsibility for your potential demise is you. Unlike most of us, you expressly chose the name of your graveyard. And for what? To have the
    dubious satisfaction of climbing up a giant hunk of rock and (maybe) brag that you did it.

  123. fred

    If you sat in your tent while another guy went out on a dangerous rescue mission you have absolutely no business throwing stones at the guy who did something while you did nothing for his behavior. Period.

  124. Really interesting thread, having just completed both books (plus a few other books on the 1996 tragedy). As a few people have commented, the argument about Bourkeev versus Krakauer (and in particular whether Bourkeev was correct in his actions) seems almost insignificant compared to the poor decision-making by Hall and Fischer. In every book, there is resounding consensus that only these two leaders were empowered to make decisions on if/when to turn back and held complete authority on whether to turn people around or abort an ascent. The late arrival at the summit compounded by the storm was the single biggest factor in the many deaths. The lesson – as learnt decades ago as a result of aircraft crashes that led to Cockpit Resource Management – is that entrusting all decisions to one person and not allowing dissent is a recipe for disaster!

  125. rdalemeyer

    http://aspenpeak-magazine.com/home-page/articles/full-exposure-neal-beidlemans-return-to-mount-everest This article sheds some light on the issue and was written by Neal, a member of Scott’s Team, and a fellow guide who was not in his tent. Also Dave Breashears was quoted as saying that he was not sure why Anatoli was not with his clients. Regardless Anatoli was a hero, and an expert in his trade. I am just a messenger, and am employed in aviation safety. Seldom if ever do we find a single point of failure in any catastrophe. Just as in this case, there is not single point of failure. All were human, and all, if given a chance to roll the time machine back would have done at least a couple of things differently. We learn from our mistakes and we move on. Neal too, seemed to want to move on, however, he clearly highlights the actions of Anatoli in this article. Question is, do we learn anything, and move forward in a more safe manner? I could point to the loss of the recent MAL 370, and simply meniton that a emergency SATCOM transciever, GPS system in the hands of the flight attendents, or an air marshall could have helped to track the aircraft. Same system used on the mountains and in wilderness areas runs at about 300 US dollars and can report position automatically. An aircraft was lost from apparent intentional actions from someone in the cockpit. Looking in hindsight and pointing fingers is human nature. Reality all gave some, and some gave thier all. peace to the families that have suffered.

  126. Robert Meyer

    http://aspenpeak-magazine.com/home-page/articles/full-exposure-neal-beidlemans-return-to-mount-everest

    This article sheds some light on the issue and was written by Neal B; a member of Scott’s Team, and a fellow guide who was not in his tent. Also Dave Breashears was quoted as saying that he was not sure why Anatoli did not remain with his clients. Regardless Anatoli was a hero, and an expert in his trade. I am just a messenger here, and I have been employed in the aviation safety and electronics business since the early 1980’s. Seldom if ever do we find a single point of failure in any catastrophe. Just as in this case, there is no “single point of failure.” All were human, and all, if given a chance to roll the time machine back would have done at least a couple of things differently. We learn from our mistakes and we move on. Neal too, seemed to want to move on, however, he clearly highlights the actions of Anatoli in this article. Question is, do we learn anything, and move forward in a more safe manner? I could point to the more recent loss of MAL Flight 370, and mention that something as simple as an emergency SATCOM transceiver-GPS system in the hands of the flight attendants or in the hands of an air marshall could have helped to track the aircraft after other systems on board were disabled. Same system used in the mountains and in wilderness areas runs at about 300 US dollars and can report position automatically. An aircraft was lost from what appears to be intentional actions from someone in the cockpit. Looking in hindsight and pointing fingers is human nature. Reality is…all gave some, and some gave thier all. Peace and Comfort to the families that have suffered.

  127. mahituna

    climbing is a selfish endeavor to start with. what do expect from such people.

  128. Robert Meyer

    I have read three books on this topic, and much on the web. Neil B. in his article listed here makes this comment. ….But Anatoli, a highly respected mountaineer and an imposing figure from the town of Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the former Soviet Union, climbed without supplementary oxygen. This was his hallmark and he doggedly stuck to it, despite the direct disapproval of our boss and expedition leader, Scott Fischer. Anatoli’s decision necessitated he head down shortly after reaching the top, leaving me to wait for Scott and the rest of our clients.
    Read more at http://aspenpeak-magazine.com/home-page/articles/full-exposure-neal-beidlemans-return-to-mount-everest#7kgMxsHFVEsRWkO3.99

    http://aspenpeak-magazine.com/home-page/articles/full-exposure-neal-beidlemans-return-to-mount-everest

    I say this as part of the argument is did Scott F. approve of the climb without oxygen. Seem here that people who were there, seem to think that Scott F. believed that his guides should climb with oxygen.

    Peace to those who were lost and the families that are “left behind,” not to mention those who lost hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Tragic.

  129. Lina

    After reading the posts on here, this discussion boils down to a couple of main points, as far as I can see:

    On that mountain, was Boukreev’s allegiance to himself, to his clients, or to every fellow mountain-climber making that arduous trek up the mountain? The discussion on Boukreev’s actions seems to all come down to the commenter’s personal philosophies/beliefs about mountain morality: are you there to be responsible for yourself, your group, or for every mountaineer you come across in your climb?

    -Boukreev seemed to believe that on the mountain you are responsible for yourself (at least to some degree). This would make sense because – after all – he had summited many peaks alone and – in climbing alone – I would imagine he’d do so with the understanding that if he came across trouble that he would save himself or he would die: that he would not expect another climber to drag him down the mountain. I think Boukreev – as a mountaineer – primarily operated under the assumption that that your allegiance is to yourself: that – at 8000 feet – a climber’s obligation to another climber is to give them meds, hot drink, or oxygen and urge them to go down + radio back to camp that they’ve found someone in bad shape. Dragging someone down the mountain when you yourself can barely keep from becoming hypoxic, snow-blind or any number of other altitude based conditions is NOT realistic, so it would make sense that Boukreev likely had this mentality.

    -Boukreev also demonstrated – and should have demonstrated – an allegiance to his clients After all, if he was being paid $25 000.00 for this trip. Some people might say that Boukreev didn’t show allegiance to his clients when he ‘left them on the mountain’ but it seems like Boukreev and Fischer were being proactive: send down the expert guide – the one that doesn’t need oxygen and can scale mountains relatively quickly – and prep him for the trouble that will, inevitably, come later (since people were already running out of oxygen and it’s predictable that weather turns worse on Everest in the early evening, clearly Boukreev knew that he’d have to be in good condition and bring up supplies to those who summited too late). Mountain Madness still had 2 other leaders up on the mountain [even if one – Scott Fischer – was potentially Hypoxic and may have had HACE or HAPE (Oedema)], and having Boukreev come down the mountain proved to be prudent because a tired Boukreev would have gotten caught in the storm itself, would not have retrieved the oxygen and hot drink required; but a rested Boukreev could go back out and rescue the Mountain Madness clients, instead of potentially dying with them. 3 people’s lives were saved because Boukreev descended early. There is no evidence that Boukreev staying with his clients would have saved any more clients and I would imagine that he would have saved 3 less clients….
    I think people are very quick to blame Krakeur for doing nothing to rescue the other climbers from his own group, but we would do well to remember that Krakeur and Boukreev had different roles on that mountain: Krakeur was a climber, while Boukreev was a guide. I think of it like this: Krakeur probably would have gone back out to rescue Rob Hall if Hall had been drowning in a backyard pool, but Krakeur would NOT have tried to rescue Hall if he was drowning in an ocean. The simple fact is that Boukreev – as a fantastic mountaineer, as someone who had summited Everest before, and as someone who could climb without oxygen – was better equipped to save the climbers than Krakeur was. That being said, it seems really lame that Krakeur would criticise Boukreev’s decision to go down the mountain early, when Boukreev’s decision to descend was what allowed Boukreev to go out rescuing people while he (Krakeur) chose not to rescue anyone.

    -Boukreev’s seemed to show some allegiance to others outside of those whose expedition he was responsible for overseeing; but the bigger point here is that Boukreev had already saved THREE members of his own team and was – undoubtedly – exhausted and facing even poorer weather limitations; It’s easy for us – down here at sea level, not faxing Hypoxia or exhaustion to question the actions of the mountaineers that day but – be realistic – what would YOU have done? Remember that Boukreev was the ONLY climber that saved 3 others’ lives (while the other climbers that did make it back to camp did not attempt to save others). So the guy who saved THREE other climbers should have saved MORE climbers? Why is there no blame assigned to the guys that saved ONLY themselves? Some people might say: well Boukreev was a guide, while the others were just climbers, but the whole point here is that if we believe that Boukreev should be frowned upon for not going back out for a FOURTH time to save climbers from other expeditions, then EVERYONE at that camp should also be blamed for not going out to save climbers from other expeditions. Why was it only Boukreev’s responsibility to save all the climbers (regardless of which mountaineering group they belonged to)???? Boukreev clearly knew his limitations: he saved the people he could save with the amount of energy that he had and he knew that if he went out on that mountain again that he would die in the process of trying to save others. How would his dying help anyone stuck on that mountain? Jeez, how quickly people cast stones at Boukreev from their glass houses….

    So, regardless of whether you believe that Boukreev’s loyalty should lie with himself, with those in his group, or with every climber up on that mountain, you have to admit that Boukreev demonstrated allegiance to each of the 3 categories. Although I am not sure that Krakeur’s portrayal villanised Boukreev, I don’t think enough time was allotted to exploring the rationale for Boukreev’s actions. After all, many of those actions made sense in light of information that came out after Into Thin Air was released.

    Also, one of the things that we have to remember about Krakeur’s book is that he wrote it just months after the ’96 disaster, when he had NO perspective. And – realistically – Krakeur is from a culture that loves to play the blame-game. I’m not saying this to be anti-American, but it’s very true that in the U.S. people have the tendency to want to lay blame when things go wrong (i.e. American’s are crazy about their justice system where someone HAS to be held responsible; and it HAS to be one person’s fault, not a serious of smaller actions by several contributing people/factors), and that appears to be what happened here. Who else is Krakeur going to blame? Scott Fischer and Rob Hall – the men who should have shouldered a good deal of the blame – were dead, and if you were an author writing a book just a couple months after Everest would you really want to blame the deaths of people on those who had perished, knowing that their bereaved wives and families would be reading?? The fact is that due to competition between them Fischer and Hall made some very poor judgement calls, but no one wants to blame the dead guys: that seems crass. It was probably a lot easier to blame the guys with the language barriers (Boukreev and the Sherpa guides) that wouldn’t defend themselves. I’m not saying that this is right, but I can see why Krakeur didn’t want to throw all the blame Fischer and Hall’s way, even if that’s where it belonged.

    Finally, the issue of oxygen – although interesting – is not relevant to the events of that day. Boukreev was a better climber WITHOUT oxygen. He was acclimated and did not need oxygen, as the clients needed it. He climbed with 3 emergency O2 which other climbers were able to use because Boukreev did not need to use them. Many people seem to believe that Boukreev descended early because he was afraid he wouldn’t last without O2 and that it was irresponsible of him to climb without it, but I don’t think there is evidence of this? Can anyone verify this? My understanding of this was that he didn’t need the O2 because he’d acclimated very well – even at 8000+ metres – and that his choice to descend had been not due to respiratory issues but to be proactive about rescuing the clients OTHERS had allowed to summit too late in the day.

    I think this Boukreev vs. Krakeur debate completely misses the point. The point is that the problems on Everest that lead to the ’96 disaster stemmed from the fact that there was a CRAZY amount of people allowed to make summit attempts that year. I find it very interesting that the governments are interested in taking money to issue permits to climbers yet they don’t cap the number of climbers allowed to attempt summits for safety reasons. In addition, the commercialisation of Everest is – in general – the issue here. Paying a Sherpa to drag you up the mountain isn’t mountaineering. Everest should not be an experience that anyone without asthma can buy for $65000.00. Realistically, if people want to assign blame for this situation the first place that people should look should be at expedition leaders that allowed climbers – who lacked the proper training and experience – to be dragged up the mountain by Sherpas when those Sherpas should have been tending to their assigned responsibilities (i.e. fixing the ropes that would have resulted in no bottlenecks/ no late summitting/ no being stuck on the mountain when the storm hit). If everyone had stuck to the agreed turn around time, the ’96 disaster never would have occurred. If we must assign blame, let’s put the blame where it belongs: NOT on Boukreev, but on the decisions (primarily made by Fischer/Hall) that made Boukreev’s rescue efforts even necessary.

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