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.
427 thoughts on “Why does Jon Krakauer dislike Anatoli Boukreev so much?”
Jon disliked Anatoli because Anatoli made him hurtfully aware of his weakness on the mountain that night.
you are correct Tammy
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.
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.
beautifully said John. We need these men, who do things when thing are hard to do…to remind us of what being a man truly can be.
For the record, after the May 10/11 Everest disaster in 1996 , a true Super Man and one of the all time biggest and greatest of heros was made. That super hero was and still is Anotoli Boukreev !! Not only did he Summit the mountain that day and wait on Everests summit for an hour & a half, but he also hurried down to the South Col to get the next batch of O2 ready for his AND ROB HALLS people. When he realized the Sherpa’s had not brought up the second batch to the South Col, Boukreev took it upon himself self to go down find those Sherpa’s with the second batch O2 and hustle it back up to the South Col for the other guides and of course Broukeev’s clients. This is after Broukeev already Summited and got back down to camp. So enough O2 was left for the Mountain Madness team & Guided and 1 bottle of 02 for EACH member. Everyone knows this rule. Krakauer took it upon himself not just to take one of the other teams bottles BUT Three bottles that weren’t for him or the team he was on. Furthermore, when Krakauer was stuck for a few hours freezing and losing consciousness on an incline just above camp 4, it was Broukeev who saved him. Broukeev helped him down the incline and then got Krakauer into his sleeping bag & tent, as well as asked Pemba to get Krakauer some tea. Next Broukeev saved the lives of 5-6 other team clients as well as guides from both teams. This is a fact! NO OTHER SHERPA, GUIDES OR HEALTHY CLIENTS would bother to get out of their tents to help Broukeev in all the many times he risked his life, utterly exhausted to go save these peoples lives. The bottom line is this, Anatoli Broukeev should have been celebrated as the most selfless, hardcore Hero since Ernest Shackleton. Anatoli Broukeevs name should be a household heros name. But when you have arrogant and ostentatious hacks, like John Krakauer writing books as if all his words are based on real facts and set for a non-fiction adventure genre, it becomes more of a tragedy than the actual events of the story it’s self. The reader is left wondering, ” if Krakauer lies about all these details, then why should we believe any of what he claims to have occurred. Reminds me of the book, A Million Little Pieces, which also was all lies the author claimed to be fact and written for non-fiction.
The whole book Into Thin Air is unfortunately a truly sad and tragic book with absolutely no fact checking when blatant inaccurate statements are at every turn or chapter. Maybe Krakauer felt extremely inadequate and cowardly over his actions on the mountain, and as a writer it’s easier to lie about the most amazing and strongest climber on the mountain who is saving lives AFTER summiting, than it is to admit you were a coward and just not a strong enough mountaineer to even safe himself…..
P.S. John Krakauer is a lier, a coward as well as a total douch bag and a of course Hack!
I’m also a high altitude climber from my chair. I agree with you. B for love of the sport; K for the money. K had to be helped to save his own skin. K helped not a single person, yet criticizes B. K is a selfish person who lives with his weakness internally for the rest of his life.
There was never a question of (B)s mountaineering skills! It was how he acted as a Guide with responsibilities to the team that are def. questionable!!!!!!
Agree. I have read all the Everest books. We weren’t there, and if we were how would we respond. I do know Fisher and Hall both made huge mistakes by not honoring the turnaround time for decent. People seek fame and fortune…you can write to make money, but I believe Hall’s team lost the most; not the team AB was on. What does that say? You say, he/she say, they say; but not many were actually there during those moments. We all have opinions; high risk, high reward….maybe.
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.
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????
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
Spot on! Jon is quite simply a journalist, Anatoli was a mountaineer- there lies the difference. People seem to forget that Anatoli was an absolute hero that night, he went back out and saved lives. He had a place on that mountain, and Jon did not. It’s a shame Anatoli is no longer with us to give his thoughts on the Everest movie.
Jon K was writing a story to sell a book. K was saving hid own butt and failed to help anyone. Fisher and Hall broke the cardinal rule of return time to gain fame and further their purse. Greed kills. Which group had more survivors? Hum… K writes very well, but didn’t serve anyone but himself. Anatoli is a hero who helped the team. K has to live with this; poor soul. Covering his butt, but he knows the truth inside. It continues to eat at him and will till his oasding.
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.
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.
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.
All comments on here are obviously biased when condemning Krakauer and praising Boukreev….
Yes yes yes we all know Boukreev is a marvel of mountaineering… and yes we know all about his heroics after and nobody can dispute what he did was short of heroic! – me included.
BUT.. he was a GUIDE! – therefore he should have been climbing with oxygen least of all and his sole purpose should have been for the clients of his team which he was being paid handsomely for!
It seems he just wanted to ascend the mountain without oxygen – this forced him to have to descend quickly without helping anyone!
Krakauer never acted like a hero and even condemned his own actions, he also admits his faults and mistakes.
I am no fan of Krakauer – but in today’s world it is so frustrating when people don’t look at things objectively and give a biased opinion… that kind of thing is rampant in today’s world.
Call a spade a spade! Boukreev could have had a major influence on the days events had he took his job seriously!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
‘….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!!!!
You disrespect and criticise Boukreev as a guide, yet all of the Mountain Madness clients he was responsible for survived on account of his judgement and heroic actions. Fischer died on account of his own bad judgement – he was too ill to climb and did not equip his team with proper radios. The deaths and injuries sustained by Adventure Consultants clients were Rob Hall’s fault not Boukreev’s. Hall should not have ignored his owns strict guidelines by nursing Doug Hansen to the summit. That very decision cost him and others on his team their lives.
Damned right. Krakauer is sitting in a tent doing nothing while Beck and Namba freezed to death.
In fairness: it wasn’t Krakauer or any of the other clients’ jobs to be anywhere other than their tents. Boukreev was a guide: Krakauer was not.
Krakauer is totally off base with Boukreev. AB was doing the best he could. Something JK could not do. JK did NOT help anyone but himsekf. SELFISH John!! Instead of blaming AB, he should have put the entire bluffer on Hall and Fisher. Those two made a huge mistake by keeping to their own rule of decent time. Greed, fame, and hopes of more money cost many good people their lives.
Well, I would not blame anyone who did not came out of the tents that night as it seems to be a nightmare! I admire and even dont understand how Anatoly did it! It is a kind of SuperMan action he did! From the other hand I agree – if someone was not able to help anyone that terrible night, he has not any right to blame anyone who did by saying he did it not in the right way!
How many times do you need to be told that JK was not a guide and only the guides had to be helping people around!!!!!
Wow! It’s pretty scary creepy how fanatical the Boukreev Kult is! Talk about standing in line for the Kool-aid twice…
Anyhoo, how about everybody forget about Krackhouser and that power drill ghost writer, and listen to Tovarich Boukreev’s fellow guide, Neal Beidleman? Remember him? Because he was actually there. And he’s got some pretty strong opinions on Comrade Anatoli’s decision to return to Camp 4:
“I didn’t believe he had that insight (to foresee the disaster) and furthermore, even if he did, I still felt it would have been the wrong decision. Help was needed there and then, not later when few options remained.”
Read the rest here:
That said, Boukreev made Ivan Drago from Rocky IV look like a fairy with his rescue later. Can you imagine how many people would have been saved if that Russian bear had been on the mountain shepherding his lost little lambs home? I think that’s the point Krakauer was trying to make. He just needed me to help him make it better.
B made mistakes, but made up for them through a superhuman effort to save people trapped on the mountain. K made that abundantly clear in his writing. K also made it clear that he admired B for his strength and capabilities as a mountaineer. I read into thin air and many other accounts of what happened during that fateful day. The truth is that the commercializations of Everest and the amount of people trying to summit–along with the profit incentive for everyone involved–lead to a series of cascading mistakes and flawed follow up to previous plans meant to ensure climber safety. Along with all that, when you add altitude sickness, exhaustion, and extreme weather at the worst possible time… Well, it becomes obvious that no one person is to fault, but rather a culmination of factors and too many inexperienced unfit climbers on the mountain.
K I’d the first to admit that he barely made it out alive and was helped by B. Everyone likely went in with good intentions, but Everest is a deadly mountain, and perhaps it should be controlled more strictly to ensure that bottle-necks and too many inexperienced climbers don’t happen in any one climbing season. But that’s up to the Nepalese government.
K admitted he didn’t do anything to help and is left with remorse for it, but as he made abundantly clear, he isn’t the caliber of climber with the physical conditioning and knowledge of the mountain to have ever been able to offer help. He was utterly exhausted, borderline hypothermic and his body was ravaged by the altitude they had been living at before and during the summit.
It’s very fair to say that his decision or inability to go out again and he’ll probably saved his and probably more lives, since he (K) would have likely gotten lost or just broken down requiring more efforts from the guides to try to save him as well.
And believe me when I say that he wasn’t trying to get rich by telling the story. The likelihood of an article for outside magazine making a person rich is very slim and usually non-existent.
If you want to pin that sort of blame on someone, try sandy Pittman, though I would argue that even she doesn’t deserve vilification. She’s just an oblivious self centered socialite who had no understanding of the costs and dangers and a involved.
If you actually read I’d work, you’d know that he actually views B with more admiration and awe than any sort of contempt.
I consider this as the most likely explanation of such injustice from K. It is extremely sad and ugly that B is not recognized properly for the incredible courage, loyal heart and mental & physical strenthg he has shown in the Mt. Everst tragedy of 1996. I hope that the ones that have read into thin air also read the climb to have a better understanding and be more informed to make their own opinion. I also want to mention that his incredible efforts and exceptional mountaineering expertise he displayed in these events were rewarded by the American Alpine club with the highest honor of valor, the David A Sowles Award and I quote “for his repeated, extraordinary efforts” on the 1996 Everest expedition rescue. And that only says a lot.
I don’t know how much accurate could be his criticism. His group split, Anatoly Boukreev was from Ficher’s team (only Ficher died, no sherpa and no client died) although they were kinda working together. But in those conditions, is it that accurate to say where the mistakes happened, whose fault is it?
Why does he points a finger to one big guilty person, disregarding all adversities?
1) John Taske and John Krakauer were the most unexperienced clients. Not the most honorable decision to make going to Everest if you have no 8.000 meters altitude experience;
2) Krakauer declared that he regrets going to the Everest, easy. But can’t he be criticized for being one of those who made Everest a very dangerous “pay and climb” adventure that costs lives of sherpas, clients and crew? Didn’t he know better what he was going into? It looks like this finger pointing is more an attempt to cure his own guilty feelings.
People do what they wanna do, but in high risk and deadly situations pointing fingers is quite hysterically blaming others when something goes wrong. And a lack of analysis capability for one who’s a journalist.
John Krakauer was on Everest doing what many where not supposed to do, there was a huge storm, bad choices and… Anatoly is the one to blame. Ow, I got it, he blames one, clears his guilty for being part of a disaster and makes a lot of money with his book, then criticizes the movie making more awareness to his book. Got it, not a journalist, a marketing guy.
– Goes free (didn’t paid Adventure Consultants fee) to Everest using his marketing journalism position;
– Ignores self critics for doing something that many criticizes;
– Points his finger towards Boukreev and cleans his guilty for being part of a disaster, a guilty that he seems to fell;
Not Guilty, Honor!
“I never had that conversation. Anatoli came to several tents, and not even Sherpas could go out. I’m not saying I could have, or would have. What I’m saying is, no one came to my tent and asked.”1 -John Krakauer
When there is a life and death situation, you say: “well, no one asked me to help, so I turned my back and drank my hot tea”. And also: “I wasn’t being paid to to that”. In other words, you criticize other, but says “f*ck that old lady, I won’t help her cross the street because no one asked, not saying I could have, or would have, but I wasn’t even being paid for that”. Great…
If he had been a journalist and analyzed this event as one, instead of making a “finger pointing” story, he might get some real respect. Not respect just for selling books (controversial) and rights to a movie.
Books! Books! Who wants the best book on Earth?
“It’s total bull … Anyone who goes to that movie and wants a fact-based account should read Into Thin Air.”2 -John Krakauer
1. The Guardian. “‘Total bull’: Into Thin Air author’s opinion of Everest movie”. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/sep/28/jon-krakauer-into-thin-air-opinion-everest-movie
JK was a climbing cartoon in judgement of others (Sandy Pitt), everyone, in a comic strip he created. Getting sponsored and reporting is like a real estate agent, working for the buyer and seller. JK has no objectivity and is nothing more than a celebrity climbing groupie
Messner and JK both hat d B because he was an a great climber and humanitarian. Did JK win any awards for bravery? No, just filled is already empty pockets
True, very true.
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.
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.
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
You’re totally wrong. AB did his best to help the team members in trouble. JK did nothing. The real culprits are Hall and Fisher. Two of best broke their own rule of when to decend because of fame, greed, and ego. Big mistake that cost many their lives. So let’s put the onus on where it truly falls: Hall and Fisher ERROR!!
Ken, you did the right thing using “K” and “B” in place of Krakauer and Broukreev. It saves space and time when writing it and reading it. And I’m very sorry to have to say something negative about the deceased but I have to agree with you that Rob Moore’s decision to violate his own policy of descending the summit by 2pm played a large role in some of the deaths. If Rob Moore hadn’t allowed “Doug” to continue upward to the summit and instead corralled him to go downward when they met up then there’s a real possibility that Rob Moore, Doug, and Harris would have all survived that nightmare. Perhaps others would have survived as well.
I don’t blame K for not going out in that storm to save people. K was obviously spent. He already had to be saved himself. How can one be expected to save people when the person is in such a dire state that he himself had to be saved? If K had attempted to save people he would not have saved anyone and it’s a virtual certainty that he himself would have ended up dead. If Anatoli really did ask K to assist in rescue (after Anotoli had to save K, which means that Anotoli knew K was in no condition to be saving people) then that was a mistake by Anatoli. K was spent. That’s it. When you’re spent you’re spent.
And Anatoli and K are different physical specimens with different mountaineering skill levels and capabilities. Just because Anatoli was out there rescuing people doesn’t mean K could have done the same thing. These are not the same two men. They have different levels of endurance and skill in a situation like this. Anatoli knew his limitations and he knew he could physically handle the challenge of trying to rescue people. K knew his limitations and he did not believe he was physically capable of handling the challenge of trying to rescue people. For me, that’s the end of it. These two men had different physical capabilities at that time, they both knew their own physical capabilities, and they both made their decisions based on what they believed they would be capable of doing. In other words, it was easy for Anatoli to decide to rescue people because he knew he could but it would have been much harder for K to decide to rescue people because he didn’t believe he could.
I’m a 60-year old man with congestive heart failure, some dead heart muscle from heart attacks, and some partially blocked heart arteries. I could not survive a hike to the camp where Anatoli and K were at that time. But let’s say I had been helicoptered up to that same camp and I was in one of those tents and Anatoli had come to my tent and asked me to go out in that storm and carry freezing people back to the camp. I would have had to say no because I would not be capable of doing it. If I tried to do it I would die without saving anyone. I would rapidly become someone the rescuers would have to save. Of course I know that K does not have the physical disabilities that I do but but at that moment I do believe that K was spent. I do not believe he was capable of saving anyone.
I think that at least 90% of the people who are here posting insults at K over this even would have also refused to go out in that storm to rescue people. I think that these people insulting K are blowhards who are not putting themselves in Ks shoes. I think that the director of Everest was intentionally taking a cheap shot at K suggesting that K is a coward. The director of Everest now says that he was just trying to display how helpless the people involved were but I believe that weak excuse is at least as weak as Ks alleged statement that he was snow-blind. I believe the director lacks the courage to just come out and say that he felt like calling K a coward in his movie. And if the director doesn’t have enough courage to admit that he was intentionally calling K a coward then he surely does not have the courage it would take to go out in that storm anymore than K did.
This argument by Ks critics and Anotoli’s supporters about K being a coward misses the most important point. Even if K said/did the things his critics say he did this merely shows that K is just a regular guy who was scared. It doesn’t show that he’s a coward. Just because someone is NOT a hero does not mean that he IS a coward. A coward is someone who gets too frightened too easily. But given conditions at the time, Ks degree of exhaustion, and the fact that even the Sherpas were too scared to go out in that storm this proves that it wasn’t cowardly to not go out in that storm; rather it was reasonable not to go out in that storm. Anatoli’s level of bravery obviously transcended that of the reasonable regular guy. Anatoli may have had few peers when it comes to courage but that doesn’t make all of the rest of us cowards. Not being as brave as Anatoli does not mean you’re a coward; it merely means that you’re just a regular guy. Anatoli appears to have been something more than that. All of that having been said, I want to repeat that Anatoli knew his limitations and he knew he had more to give. It’s easier to keep giving when you know you have more to give. Anatoli kept giving as long as he could. In other words, maybe he didn’t really put himself at risk because he knew he was capable of doing the things he was doing. Think of the weather that night as an opponent and it’s true that Anatoli faced that opponent down. But Anatoli knew he could face down that opponent and I ask if it’s truly brave to face down an opponent that you know you can beat?
@nameless that’s a weird way to put it. Very very weird. I could’ve written a long post but I’ll go simple. Did you read Anatoli mind to claim that he knew everything and there is no bravery? What did he know? That he would pull off one of the most extraordinary things in a history of climbing? Or perhaps he knew that he would pierce through hazardous night storm at 8000+ like a knife through butter cause he is tough?
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.
“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.
Totally agree with your views…..except, hall and fisher made the worst mistake: decent turnaround time. Hall and Fisher were as much interested in fame and greed as was Krakauer the weak!!
Thanks for the comment! I’d love to read your online piece when it comes out.
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
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
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.
Well pointed, agree, it was also my opinion when I read both books.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.,
Turn off cap lock….
the “Wayne Gretzky” of climbing is Messner and Habler…Toli’s good but certainly not in their league.
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.
I found your blog via Google while searching for this tool and your post looks very interesting for me. Keep up the good work.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best explanation I have read, thanks. No one mentionned this before – worries about oxigen for the clients, which was the main reason.
Explains it all concerning Boukreev’s actions…. What a POS (K) is for writing such slanderous words about (B).
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.
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?
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.
Agreed 100%. JK even said as much in his book.
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?
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.
AB was offended. JK seemed to prioritize sticking to his story, defending his words rather than reevaluate AB’s counterpoints.
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,
> If it wasnt for Tolya Krakuer may be dead and he knows that.
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?
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.
You can’t read, yet you try to write and judge. Boukreev saved that lying coward’s life. Read some independent mountaneers’ opinions on Krakauer vs Boukreev and maybe then some sense will get to your head. Although I highly doubt it.
Krakauer isn’t even a 1/100 of man Boukreev was. He’s nothing more than a liar wanting to sell his sensationalist story.
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.
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.
“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…”?
“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.”
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.
“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.”
Well, Krakauer himself said “They were taking chances trying to get clients to the summit because I was there.” This was in an article by the LA Times about the movie Everest. Here’s a very interesting section:
“In fact, he considers the film a personal affront from Kormákur himself. He’s particularly aggrieved by a scene in which his character is asked to help with the rescue by Russian guide Anatoli Boukreev but replies he cannot because he is “snow blind.”
“I never had that conversation,” Krakauer says. “Anatoli came to several tents, and not even sherpas could go out. I’m not saying I could have, or would have. What I’m saying is, no one came to my tent and asked.”
“Our intention in the tent scene that Mr. Krakauer mentions was to illustrate how helpless people were and why they might not have been able to go out and rescue people…” says Kormákur in a reply sent to The Times through his publicist. “They were not malicious. They were helpless.”
The filmmaker said he had access to a number of books written about the 1996 events on Everest, as well as “all the radio calls that went on in the Adventure Consultants camp.” (Krakauer was embedded with guide Rob Hall’s Adventure Consultants team on Everest, gathering material for an Outside Magazine article.)
Furthermore, the director says, four advisors who were “present on the mountain during that disaster and participated in the rescue” worked on the movie. “The writers and I tried to look at things from a fair point of view without choosing sides,” Kormákur says in his statement.”
Having seen the movie I can confirm he’s not portrayed as a coward or anything; you do get the sense from the characters that everyone wants to help but is either too sick or too exhausted, and they’re all anguished at knowing their friends and fellow climbers are dying. There’s really nothing to be offended by and yet he is. He stills refers to ITA as a completely factual account of the disaster despite that not being true.
I think that the last motion movie on the affair only hints at K. character when he is asking to go up first because (can’t remember the exact phrase) he is only a journalist and not a professional climber.
For the entire discussion, I am surprised that I did not see any serious attempt at analyzing Ratcliffe’s thorough, A day to Die For. The author, who was of the mountain, has his own view of the tragic fiasco there and the individuals in question.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The only thing to remember here is :
All of Anatoli’s clients came out of the situation ALIVE – thanks in part to him going to rescue them.
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.
The only important thing to remember is – All of Anatoli’s clients came out of the situation ALIVE – thanks in part to him going to rescue them. I don’t quite understand the blame.
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!!!!!!
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.
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
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.
Wendy, I cant agree more with this analysis. Not turning climbers around at 2.00pm was plain stupidity. Hall staying with a dying climber (Hanson) who had no right to be there in the first place in not being turned around is also plain stupidity. Not co-coordinating plans between expedition groups was also lunacy. Apparently the cost of roping (eg the Hilary Step not being roped) is huge and each group seeks to rely on the other to do that work (yet still use it to avoid that cost!); also all climbers arriving together!!!!. Fisher seeking to summit after his ‘clients’ were on descent was stupid and misguided. He isn’t there for his own benefit- he is being paid to assure safety of those he guides!…..and didn’t! When you play that dangerous game with the beautiful deadly monster (to borrow Star Hill’s phrase) and in a commercial venture commissioned with the sole purpose of minimising the occasional whim of the monster you expect, or should, that there will be well planned and inviolable rules to follow; about preparation ie (ropes); about co-ordination between expeditions; about safety turnaround times; about expectations and rules for employed guides; about catastrophe plans. he harsh reality is that these commercial ventures were guilty of taking the slumbering monster for granted with their cavalier attitudes. THAT is why all these people died including the guilty…….those leading the expedition parties. As for Krakaer seeking to ‘blame’ Boukreev for his perceived failings all i can say is…..put your pen down Jon, shut your mouth a moment, roll your sleeves up, and get up the mountain and DO!
100% true! All the time wanted to ask Krakauer why exactly he is judging another groups actions, not his groups and guides? WHY?
Well said, Wendy.
Krakauer is simply not qualified to pass judgment – on any mountain climber, let alone those who are out of his league.
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.
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.
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.
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…..
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.
No, I haven’t read McCoffey’s book yet but I am writing it down now and getting that one. Thank you!
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.
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.
It might just be Coffey, come to think of it. I wrote the title and name from memory.
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.
this is a very interesting point, http://7summits.com/forum/index.php?topic=453.0
An interesting twist. Has Todd defended himself? These are pretty serious allegations.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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!!!
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!
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?
They were lovers, as simple as that.
What no one is talking is that inspite of Weather Report which Rob Hall & Scott Fischer had from IMAX Expedition, they put their Clients to such life risk to summit on the 10th…I believe it is not a freak storm…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
Wendy, “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.”
You are right that this is one of the biggest mistake of the several on that mountain that day, but I think in reality no one knows why it hapenned so – all is speculations now. No one was there to see and tell what happenned. As far as I have read about this event – including Ed Viesturs recalls about that day – all of them report this as not tipical action of Rob Hall who was extremely experienced and safe expedition leader! In previous expeditions he tourned around several clients before summit, not this time. No one knows why. What exactly happenned? Was he also affected by altitude and lack of oxigen and not clear enough in thinking? Something else? No one knows…
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.
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.
Thanks for the recommendaton, Wendy. I’ll check it out.
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.
Hey Wendy…you ready to climb?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had that same thought about Krakauer! I thought wow here is Jon Krakauer himself writing on this website! LOL!!!
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!
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.
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.
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?
Rhonda, you mentionned one aspect I wanted to say about different guiding styles there were on the mountain. That is true, but in the opposit to you – I see this as the strong point of Bukreev and the strenght of his team – partly because of this they were stronger, quicker and all survived. I remember the piece in the Climb when he described this disput with Scot Fisher and reasoning – our clients need to get independence in the actions and thinking on the mountain, otherwise – if we will hold their hands now, at lower levels, who will hold their arms over 8000 when they should be able to react by themselves? And as it tourned around – he was totally right, because he really knows what happens with people in high altitude and prepared them well! Everyone, who has been climbing over 8000 says, that in that altitude you are very much on your own, you could not expect someone could save you, it is just not possible! In reality Anatoly did what is NOT POSSIBLE that night!
And if you read carefully The Climb, he wasnt NOT GUIDING, just in oposit – he WAS GUIDING his clients all the way from the first days on the mountain, watching them, evaluating on how do they feel, how do they act, how do they acclimatizate. He make a good acclimatisation plan for them and tried to follow this and was very aware on the delays on the mountain that can couse problems with their acclimatisation. Yes, this was different style of guiding, but in my opinion – better way as keeping hands on that altitude where it is really impossible!
Scots Fishers running up and down was his problem but also his caracter – as Anatoly wrote – this was just Scott, he wanted to be responsible for everything and care people by himself. This was Scott. At least 2 times Anatoly said he will do this, but Fisher refused… What do you think Anatoly should have do?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Remember people……Krakauer WAS a client and Boukreev was a hired guide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!?!?!!!!
Unfortunatly Rob and Scott arent able to defend themselves or to shed light on the situation.
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.
South Col not South Cole.. 🙂
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!
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!!!
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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?
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.
If you rephrase that Tolya wasn’t a great babysiter, than that would be closer to the truth. Of course, those who need babysitting should not leave the thick air.
B did well. K was a writer. Ed Viesters is the best and says it well in his books; summitting is optional, decending is mandatory. Hall and Fisher blew it for fame and didn’t follow their own rule of turn around time. Ed V has climbed all 14 ers and has lived to write about it!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Smorg, You write beautifully, and have echoed my thoughts perfectly! Thanks for your sage comments.
Best post!! You are right that had he tried to stay with the others, he would have been stuck in the storm like them, gotten weaker and had no strength to rescue and had no oxygen to help or hot drinks.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No doubt you have all read this, but for the few that haven’t:
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.
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.
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??
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.
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.
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.
I Agree Wendy……….and as my name implies/states…….im always right!!! lol
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Yes, I read the storm lowered oxygen by 14%. Interesting link to climate change.
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
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?
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!
You did not read Boukreev’s book, did you?
“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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
“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.
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.”
Scott, thank you for your beautiful insightful words. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of Jon.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yeah maybe. But what’s more likely is that people aren’t threatened at all by your comments because they’re that ridiculous.
Drinking tea? Interesting comment. I’ve just finished lou kasische’s book After The Wind. When he returned to his tent, he undressed, climbed in his bag , slept, woke up later cold, dehydrated, blind. Boukreev returned and drank tea. Which one was able to attempt a rescue? Is it possible that boukreev’s behaviour, while incomprehensible to clients and casual readers, is extremely comprehensible to the few people in the world with his skill set and experience?
He went down early to camp 4 by agreement with Fisher (as was his role) to be sure to be able to mount a rescue if one was needed as ended up happening. Reading between the lines, it would seem that this was a well established strategy of the expedition group to use Bourkreev’s speed climbing abilities in this way. If it wasn’t then Fisher (as leader of his group) could/should have reversed the decision as they passed on his way down. Your assessment is flawed, judgemental and quite offensive IMO
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.
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.
I’ve probably read everything you have and have come to a different conclusion. Funny how that threatens people.
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.
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.
When you twist facts (that have been separately corroborated) in order to sell your own viewpoint, it IS lying.
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?
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.
I agree…. totally
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?!!
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.
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.
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.
Wow. A sensible message, not pointing fingers or assigning blame? Will probably be ignored. (but thanks, anyway)
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was going to say also that every painful and draining step they took upward was a deliberate choice to accept that risk.
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.
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…
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.
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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.
“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.
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?
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.
@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. 😛 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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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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.
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.
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…
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).
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.
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”.
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???
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Helen, I totally agree with your comments. Well said!!
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…..
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.
“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.
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.
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?
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.
Everyone that died did so at 2pm. Stick to the plan made at 68 degrees.
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.
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.
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.
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new movie in making – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2719848/board/threads/ – it can’t be worse than Into thin air..
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
climbing is a selfish endeavor to start with. what do expect from such people.
I can’t help but find that an interesting comment. In the years since I first commented on this page, I bought and read a copy of Lene Gammelgaard’s book on the same events, and she said pretty much the same thing. She made it clear multiple times in her book that high-altitude climbing is not a safe or sane endeavor.
It was interesting to read her thoughts weighing that versus Denmark having it’s first woman on the summit if she made it.
Krakauer talked in his book about how destructive this type of climbing was to families, including his own broken and spat upon promise to his family not to do these kinds of trips anymore.
Interestingly, according to Gammelgaard, both Gammelgaard and Boukreev agreed with Krakauer that climbing at that level was destructive to families. They considered it absolutely morally untenable to go on such a climb if the climber were married and/or had children, unless of course that was the climber’s only way to support their family well. Unlike Krakauer the hypocrite, Boukreev never married and he told Gammelgaard that was his reason why. Gammelgaard was single when she made the climb and quit climbing after she saw how deadly this one was — the risk to others couldn’t be justified, in her eyes.
Gammelgaard’s book has some excellent insight into her preparation, including mental preparation, which prioritized both a safe return and self-extraction. She makes her points well without sounding the least bit preachy, and when I go hiking ever since reading her book, I’m careful to file “flight plans” of my intended route and time of return with someone along with an emergency plan, but much more importantly, I turn around early and often, because safe self-extraction is the best favor to park rangers, other hikers, and the environment that you can provide.
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
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.
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.
Boukreev main worry was his Lothse climbing. He didnt guide with oxygen so people cant say afterwards he was climbing it with that kind of
help. Of course he was not responsible of the deathly failures and he behave like a hero when the moment came. But his mind was in other place and I doubt he care much about the clients, people who he despise as undeserving ones in his yard.
“Boukreev main worry was his Lothse climbing.” Excuse my ignorance, but did he say that or are you just assuming this based on other things? I’ve always thought he did his job admirably and don’t see any evidence that he was in need of oxygen, just rest.
Bokreev excelled at speed climbing at high altitude. But to have to wait hours, not minutes, over 8 th for slower ones is something that can exhaust your physical and mental faculties. I believe he descended because he believe he couldnt do any good the way he felt, and Fischer probably had let it to his judgement.
The cause of all the problems was the management of Hall and Fischer. Boukreev did what he believed was asked for and was authorized to do. In this sense Krakauer is unjust to him. Boukreevs task as he saw it was not to stay with the clients herding they up or down. If Fischer had wanted something different he must have hired another guy.
Boukreev lead the pack up, fix the ropes where it was needed ( and this was a problem he was not reponsible of) an saw people reaching the top. Enough for him probably.
I have a read a few of the books relating to the Everest 96 disaster (by Krakauer, Groom and Boukreev). Krakauer makes important and valuable points about the organisational and systemic failures on the day, which appear to relate primarily to the commercialisation of the mountain. These observations are important and necessary, and would hopefully be used to avoid future problems as far as possible. However, I agree that Krakauer’s book did not sufficiently capture the brave actions of individuals/guides such as Boukreev and Groom, who risked their own lives, and did what they could on an individual level to assist climbers in deplorable circumstances. I think the systemic problems highlighted are a separate issue to the actions of the individuals.
Hi everyone. I found this tricky discussion after the screening of the Everest movie (2015). I am far from climbing but I am living in the same city where Boukreev lived and my father in law personally knew him. So I can roughly judge what kind of person Anatoliy was. Based on that I believe Boukreev did everything he could in the situation and amount of information he had.
I have read a great deal about the whole Krakaeur v Bourkreev controversy. IMO the accusations and debate caused by Krakauer were/are reprehensible. Why?
1) He has made himself the self appointed arbiter of ALL facts which he deems pertinent to his conclusions. The reality is that even with the detailed interviews he has undertaken he still cannot possible be in that exalted position. He probably knows less than 5% of total facts. The questions remaining unresolved (such as the ‘authority’ or otherwise for Bourkreev to descend with Fisher permission and the reasoning behind the failure to rope the sections of the climb which indirectly caused delays that occurred.) he then hypothesises answers and OFTEN at conflict with the person themselves!!!!! ….notably Bourkreev and Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa. He then repeatedly wants to argue the point with them afterwards when what they add (that wasn’t readily available earlier) is discounted as untrue because it conflicts with his ideal assessment of facts initially.
a) He cant know that the second conversation between Fisher and Bourkreev (in which purportedly AB was asked to descend to Camp ahead of all), didn’t take place….yet that is exactly what he indirectly and dishonestly asserts. Even worse, he falsely asserts he was actually there and overheard the first conversation between Fisher and Bourkreev overheard by Adams! ……as a means of supporting his hypothesis.
b) He cannot be sure (via his insinuation) that Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa was short roped to Hill as an ill judged abandonement of his responsibilities.ie not roping the trek in advance of clients as was decided would happen by both expeditions to be done by both Sirdar and didn’t. Even if Lopsang Jangbu didnt arrive at the designated time because he was sick as a result of pandering to Hill too much then so what? Does that create culpability for Lopsang jangbu? NO it doesn’t. It means there was a failure in communication and a failure to respect the mountain because someone (not necessarily Lopsang Jangbu) should have known and fixed the issue but didnt. In any event covers this in his printed reply where he states there was always an understanding amongst all parties that whichever team is there first will rope.
2) He conveniently makes certain assumptions about ethics at that altitude.
a) He assumes that the purpose of ALL guides is to assure safety of their individual team members and those of other teams too at whatever cost. Certainly safety is the essential ethos (and no doubt promoted by the commercialisation of expeditions accordingly), but not, IMO at any cost. Did Fisher and Bourkreev have that very discussion when Bourkreev was employed?….and if so do those employment conditions preculde Krakaeurs finding of culpability for Bourkreev accordingly? That said, what we are talking about here is an extreme adventure where 1 in 4 die. No one has the right to assert and enforce their own individual assessment of responsibilities to guides in that context at that altitude. Do the guides do as Hall did and lay down their life for the members that they support when he could have saved himself or do ALL parties accept as was implied by Bourkreev that his purpose as guide wasn’t to wipe the backside of those clients who had no right to be there at all, being ill equipped as they were but rather to ‘ready’ the mountain so each who were there could test themselves at their own risk? I believe that it had to be the latter…..that the role of the expeditions themselves was to prepare, get you there so that you can test yourself against the mountain……not to assure safety because at a risk profile of 25% deaths that simply wasn’t possible. Then there is the question that the guides work as a team. Some have skills suitable to certain tasks (like Bourkreevs ability to rapidly ascend and descent the mountain but a poor communicator) which marks them to fill certain roles, whilst others are the wipe their backside sorts who can hold hands and pander. Each role is part of a team. Does the fact that Fisher reprimanded Bourkreev entitle Krakauer to conclude he had zero worth as part of a team of guides? IMO no. Fisher likely knew that despite Boukreevs taciturn persona that in a crisis he would be invaluable as he ultimately was. That was why, i assume, Fisher paid Bourkreev twice the amount to be guide than the others.
b) Ordinary humanitarian ethics dictate that we all do as much as can be done to save a life. That line becomes blurred when the actions to be a saviour require significant risk to your own life. Does leaving a person near death (like Weathers) contravene that basic tenant of morality?Difficult question. Bourkreev showed the true essence of the sort of human being he was by venturing out into the blizzard alone on 3 occasions to save others and taking that risk when others didn’t…..including i might add Krakaeur. Given Krakaeurs insistence that Lopsang was somehow responsible by poor judgement in becoming sick from short roping Hill and this was the reason he failed to venture up the mountain early to rope those sections, then surely the same principle should apply to him. After having returned to camp after summitting he went to bed exhausted and failed to help when the decision was made by Boukreev to go out in the blizzard. Should he not have anticipated the need to return to search activities or is the responsibility of a Sirdar much more onerous ie he has no right to be sick (whatever the reason) and be in bed when he should be up the mountain roping the sections required? Once again it comes back to the same issues. Krakaeur had expectations beyond the true essence of a guides/ expeditions responsibilities.
In my opinion the true failures were by the expeditions (ultimately Hall and Fisher) not the individuals involved. Namely:
I) Adequate preparation should have entailed ensuring SOMEONE roped the sections in advance
II) ALL guides should have had radios so that proper communication took place
III) Clear guidelines ought to have been identified, communicated and enforced (ie 2 pm turnaround) to be sure safety was premium
iV) Adequate consideration and communication should have been made of the known weather crisis looming to guides and clients alike (it was known well in advance)
v) Guidelines should have been known and adhered to when a leader was in crisis. Hall was ridiculous to have remained on the peak with Hansen when there were others to be saved too. The fact that weathers stayed low waiting hours for Halls return was crazy and nearly ca=used his death
Vi) Fisher had no right to be attempting to summit when he was already fatigued from a previous rescue.
vii) Protocols should exist to ensure spirit of cooperation exists between expeditions
viii) Protocals should exist to ensure that the guides themselves are thinking straight at this altitude and are checked by radio interaction at regular intervals. Someone suffering cant save another
ix) There should be at least 2 fast ascent guides waiting in ready at high camp.
That is my opinion
When we go walking in the mountains, my friends bring first aid kits with the usual gauze, tape, neosporin …. I bring what i have for more serious conditions and a little book to refresh on some emergency techniques I learned about over the years (i.e. chest compressions, heat exhaustion, immobilization). It’s not that basic first aid kits aren’t necessary or important — they don’t need to be redundant. The more tools you have, the better.
Anatoli seems to have been hired more as special forces. Leaving the escorting to others without his skill set, left him available for his highest and best use, in his judgment — which certainly could not be expected to be perfect, but should not be questioned as reckless or inhumane, given how many he saved. The guides who stayed to help clients navigate the terrain performed to the best of their abilities, the one who went down and prepared for extraction performed to the best of his. They weren’t captains at sea — would it be reasonable to assume they would go down with the ship before leaving any client behind? In any case, it seems that if any of the professionals acted callously or inhumanly, the list of survivors and casualties would have been different. That’s true too if human judgment were perfect, but it’s not.
Everest the movie takes poetic license “re-enacting” the dynamic between Hall and Hansen after 2pm, but given that both died that day, it’s hard to take issue with. It does a fairly good job as a blockbuster movie of depicting the relevant decisions, without assessing blame. It does suggest that the storm was not expected until May 11.
Anatoli did an amazing job. He saved lifes that day. He went down bc he wanted to assist climbers with oxygen etc if something went wrong.
Read both these books about 10 or more years ago, and my lasting impression is this. Krakauers recount of the climb went to great lengths in portraying how people’s perspective and actions became greatly compromised at altitude. Indeed himself mistaking one of the climbers for someone else. The fact he did so, as well as questioning Boukreevs motivations on the mountain, for me at least, leaves enough reader doubt to suggest that we were getting a hazy recount from kraukauer himself. That there may have been a massive error in judgement on his part vis a vis Boukreev’s part in the ordeal, without actually coming out and saying so. The entire thing about Boukreevs oxygen free ascent, is simply his opinion, which the reader can either be shocked by, or care less. kraukauer openly admits to being exhausted. Fair to say then, that his efforts to detail facts accurately are flawed. Certainly were Boukreev was involved.
I was delighted when I found out that Boukreev decided to tell his own side of the story.
Boukreevs book set the record straight in much of what kraukauer missed. Apparently much is still disputed, but once I read both accounts, I was happy that I had enough information on the nature of such arduous climbs to see how both men felt so strongly about their positions, and that they might never see eye to eye on some matters.
Reading people’s remarks about jealousy or envy on kraukauers part seems a bit of a stretch in light of both accounts. If nothing, there was a mutual respect for the others talent level in both accounts of the climb. In terms of kraukauer’s mountaineering skills, which have been pretty well raked over by some here, I’d only point out that he was among the few on the day, who actually made it to the summit of ‘Everest’ on time, and back to camp – per the original plan, so surely he’s more than your Sunday national park hiker, as some would have us believe.
In the end, after reading both accounts, my conclusion is a grudging admiration for both climbers and a “what the fuck do they climb mountains for in the first place?” combo of humbled respect and incredulity.
I wanted to add here – since it has been mentioned in a few other posts – but I thought the recent movie, recounting the Everest ordeal, was a load off rubbish. Both books I read on the event were gripping and wrought with tension. The movie was akin to a remake of Titanic, set on Everest.
I have not seen the film “Everest”, nor have I read Jon Krakauer’s book, or Anatoli’s book. Also, I was not on the mountain that day. Nevertheless, I feel I am fully qualified to pass judgment on all involved, primarily because it is fun. It is important that deaths contribute to life!
I quite enjoyed it, but I did think it was trying to be incredibly nice about absolutely everyone. Everyone was a hero in that film.
I agree! The movie was good to look at, but it kind of glossed over the human errors and mistakes which have seriously aggravated the consequences of the violent storm. IMO Rob Hall and Scott Fisher were both honorable guys, but they made a string of abysmally bad decisions which led to the high death toll. Unfortunately Jon Krakauer shied away from clearly pointing out that Fisher and Hall are the ones whose actions and decisions were really bad. Krakauer might’ve hesitated to point at two people whom he knew and liked and who couldn’t defend themselves anymore. And he might not have wanted to hurt their loved ones. This is understandable but it’s journalistic negligence nevertheless. And the movie unfortunately also shied away from all serious controversies.
Instead of pointing at the main culprits who died because of their bad decisions, Krakauer chose to point at some of the paying clients and at AB instead, who were all still very much alive when Krakauer’s articles and then his book were published. I really don’t get why so many people believe that AB could not defend himself. He could and very much did defend himself vigorously! Personally I think that AB was a wonderfully gifted mountaineer with superhuman physical strength and an honorable human being who eventually rose to the occasion In the end he did some pretty heroic stuff. That said, AB’s wasn’t the best guide, and some of Krakauer’s criticism of AB’s performance as a professional guide was well founded and has been endorsed by more than one expert. Scott Fisher himself had been pretty frustrated with AB’s performance as a guide in the weeks before the tragedy. AB’s personality, his ambitions and his uncompromising pride weren’t really compatible with having to babysit a bunch of rich people who should not have been allowed to summit at that particular day! Maybe, Maybe, Scott Fisher should never have hired AB in the first place as a guide, and as his boss Fisher definitely neglected to instruct AB in a clear and precise way from the very beginning. Maybe, it’s true that AB was less a guide and more an expert consultant and therefore not responsible for babysitting tue clients. But apparently AB’s exact duties have never been sorted out precisely.
However, IMO Jon Krakauer exaggerated AB’s shortcomings for some reason – maybe because of some lingering personal antagonism or because AB was still alive back then. We always hesitate to criticize the dead, It’s very hard to say if the outcome would’ve been better if AB had chosen to use oxygen, and if he hadn’t descended ahead of his clients. Yes, AB later saved three lives in a very heroic fashion, and he didn’t hesitate to risk his own life – but it’s definitely possible that he could have prevented that those people might not have needed to be rescued in the first place, if he had remained with them. It’s not all black and white and AB is a flawed hero! Maybe more hero than flawed, but prone to make mistakes nevertheless, and it’s not at all unfair to point this out.
While I agree that Jon Krakauer may have exaggerated AB’s mistakes and should’ve criticized instead the main culprits Rob Hall and Scott Fisher much more, I think it’s totally beyond the pale to criticize Jon Krakauer for not helping to rescue others after he had reached the safety of his tent. He would’ve been totally useless because he simply wasn’t fit enough anymore. This is true btw for other paying clients, too, but no one blames them for remaining in their tents! If they had all rushed out in order to help, it might’ve been necessary to rescue them all overagain! It’s also silly to compare Krakauer’s actions /inactions with AB’s valiant efforts! Krakauer and the other clients were not professional guides after all, and they might’ve caused more harm than good.
In the wake of the tragedy both – Krakauer and AB – were stubborn and reluctant to admit that their personal assessment of the tragedy may not have been completely accurate. And then AB died short time later, which was a big loss for the mountaineering scene! I think that the idolisation of AB by his fans started shortly after his tragic death, and they constructed this image of the shining hero versus the villainous and jeallous journalist with the poison pen who had dared to sully AB’s squeaky clean image with his completely unfounded accusations.
The truth is that AB’s performance as a guide wasn’t as flawless as his great mountaineering achievements, and he made a few mistakes. And Krakauer’s assessment of AB’s personality and his actions may have been a tad too harsh and some of his accusations were apparently unfounded. As an investigative journalist he should have looked much more critical at Hall and Fisher instead!
That’s about it! It’s absolutely fascinating that this tragedy still generate so much psssion even after almost 25 years! I guess that it will still be discussed in the future – just like Waterloo or the battle of Little Bighorn. And the blame will be shifted whenever our human society will develop different values.
After reading ‘Into Thin Air’ my conclusion is that Krakauer was remorseful for not at least trying to save the stricken climbers. I also find him rather contradictory in that he criticises Boukreev for not using oxygen and then goes on to suggest that the use oxygen should be banned because it allows otherwise unqualified people to attempt the summit. Krakauer used oxygen on his attempt and would likely have failed without it so I guess that means he himself wasn’t qualified to be there. Fact is, Boukreev was a hero that day who saved the lives of three Mountain Madness clients.
Krakauer isn’t to blame for the loss of 4 members of his team – he was a client. Rob Hall was responsible because of bad judgement. He focused all his energy on helping an unfit client reach the summit well after his own strict cut off time. It was a bad call that cost him his own life as well as the lives of Yasuko, Harris and very nearly, Weathers.
Rob Hall didn’t want to disappoint Doug (Doug didn’t made the summit the year before and this was his last change). I do understand Rob, nobody could predict the blizzard… but he should stick to the protocols.. Easy to say that now, I know… But that is what killed them both for shure (maybe they could survive If the left, maybe not).
Scott fisher was ill. He had to stay at camp IV. It’s just sad what happend there :(.
Wow! What an interesting interview of someone who actually knew AB and who is more able than anyone of us to judge AB’s performance as a guide and Krakauer’s assessment of AB’s personality! As I said in my previous comment – AB was a great mountaineer but not a great guide. And apparently
certain social skills weren’t exactly his forte. Like most people he was a flawed guy who at the end rose to the occasion and performed a few pretty heroic feats.
Messner said something very interesting: the problems many people have with Krakauer is that his book about this tragedy boosted his career immensely and he became incredibly successful as a writer. This always attracts a certain amount of envy. But it is totally unfounded to accuse him of just having been greedy. At the time when he arrived at base camp he was just a moderately successful journalist who covered the mountaineering scene and other outdoor activities. And he was qualified to cover these subjects because he was not at all a couch potato but a bit of an outdoor buff himself. As to monetary motives: he was making a living as an outdoor journalist. There is nothing at all wrong with this – and AB may have actually earned much more money at the time than Krakauer! But while Krakauer wasn’t there just for the money – he was also thrilled to get a chance of climbing the highest mountain on earth. But AB was definitely there solely because he needed the money for his upcoming projects and because he thought that the job as a guide would enable him to train and acclimatize himself for his next big climbing adventure. He wasn’t in Scott Fisher’s employment because he had the ardent desire to help less gifted hobby climbers to fulfill their once-in-lifetime dreams. Now, most guides do their job because they need the money. Nothing at all wrong with that. But I think it’s very disengenious to condemn Krakauer of being in it just for the money, while exactly the same could be said about AB – and for all the other professionals who want the money of their very affluent clients. Mount Everest has become a giant ATM-machine and an important
job generator ever since George Mallory started his ultimatitely ill fated attempts to conquer Mount Everest, previously known as Chomolungma. And while Krakauer’s career was ultimately boosted by a terrible tragedy, it should be acknowledged that his gripping, although not always fair account of what he witnessed in 1996, has pointed out the undeniable flaws and the dark downside of unbridled Everest tourism. And he reached a world wide audience.
Mount Everest has continued to claim many lives – mainly because so many people who should never be there, have been lured to Everest by it’s fairly low treshhold of technical difficulties. But since 1996 most companies which guide paying clients all the way to the summit, are much better organized and have higher safety standards. The big remaining problem is that especially Nepal sells way too many permits. The sheer amount of people still generates all sorts of problems, and disasters have happened since 1996, and they will happen in the future. Mount Everest has been turned into a grizzly graveyard over the last hundred years. But the mountain has also helped the local populations in Tibet and Nepal to earn a steady income and rise their living standards considerably. It’s hard to say what the future will have in store. I guess that enviromental problems and considerations will become more pronounced. The mountain needs to get cleaned up regularly and many dead bodies might have to be removed eventually. The melting glaciers may soon change the traditional routes.
After reading Krakauer’s book and as much literature as I can find on the net to date including letters of exchange between Krakauer and De Walt.
If I surmise, I find that Boukreev upheld two principles;
1) if people need oxygen to summit then they shouldn’t be on the mountain
2) people who don’t belong on a mountain (that need babysitting) shouldn’t be there
The arrogance of the presuppositions is sublime, to believe that the only he and others with similar capabilities are deserving to clime Everest.
“Guiding” lesser people per se seemed was beneath him, perhaps the challenge to Fischer’s authority, pride and arrogance caused him to reject his duties as a guide and find reasons to rapidly descend the mountain ahead of the clients that he was responsibly charged to assist in the descent.
In which case it seems that profit exceeded principles as Boukreev “lowered” himself to accept a job as a guide. He was not attending as a member of an expedition to suit his own personal goals, he accepted a job as a paid guide to bring less experienced and paying mountaineers to Everest.
In my view, the excuses to descend ahead of the rest are unconscionable, with or without permission or direction from Fischer. To make tea and prepare to help potentially ailing clients to camp if required ? Were there not Sherpas already at camp specifically assigned to that purpose ? And if he did have to assist ailing clients he would have to climb back up again, but the point is moot since he had no radio to know if any of the clients needed help in the first place.
Nobody doubts the commendable actions of rescuing his three stranded clients but I wonder if it was driven from penitence or a sting of conscience of his actions knowing full well he should have stayed with his clients on the descent. His rescuing his own clients, not forgetting two that were on another team were left to die, was heroic but does not exonerate him from his actions in descending alone.
Thank you, and goodnight.
It’s been a while since I’ve read both books… But I feel compelled to “defend” Boukreev from what I feel is an overly simplistic summation. In fact, I agree with the two principles stated by Hambone; but not the extrapolation that therefore he rejected his duties as a guide.
Boukreev was hired as a guide – and understood his duties to be – preparing the route and being able to assist if there was a problem. Not shepherding clients up and down the mountain (the role that Krakuer felt he should have had – but not what Boukreev claims was agreed with Fischer). Boukreev also states it was agreed he would descend ahead of his clients – it was not an individual decision, and while history tells us it was a poor decision, there was a rationale for it.
I should add that I’m generally more sympathetic towards Boukreev (finding Krakuer’s account of the situation somewhat arrogant). With the benefit of hindsight Boukreev made judgemental errors – but the facts remain that 1) the storm could not be foreseen and 2) Boukreev was not acting, or hired, as a “traditional” guide.
Thank you… And good morning 🙂
In a” A Day to Die For” the author, Graham Ratcliffe, who was on the mountain at camp 4, I think, claims both Fisher & Hall knew bad weather was forecast. He was in a smaller group & actually claims they both approached his group & persuaded them to climb later in the what was forecasted to be heavy weather. This would’ve Fisher & Halls clients a chance to summit before the weather set in. The weather forecasts were not available to his smaller group. He expresses some outrage at being put in this situation. This book was published in 2013.
[i]If I surmise, I find that Boukreev upheld two principles;
1) if people need oxygen to summit then they shouldn’t be on the mountain
2) people who don’t belong on a mountain (that need babysitting) shouldn’t be there
The arrogance of the presuppositions is sublime, to believe that the only he and others with similar capabilities are deserving to clime Everest.[/i]
You see arrogance, I see a realistic assessment of the situation vs entitlement. Just because someone wants to do something doesn’t mean they are capable of doing it, at least not until they put in the work/training needed. Maybe never, if they are not physically, intellectually, emotionally etc. suited for it.
I have read both books and watchel all videos telling about this tragedy and to what has been said there already Iwanted to add only one missing boint – even sitting in our armchair now, we have far more complete information than people had on the mountain thaat day. Everyone that tragic day acted in the light of information they had. As Anatoly all way up did not know where Fisher is an will he tourn around clients or not, as it was late already and he was definetly worried about clients oxigen supply which they will definetly run out if they still summited…. So also Neil was staying on the summit and was affraid why clients are still summiting if it is too late. He expected someone below (Fisher) will tourn around them, but he didnt. When Anatoly was going down he was sure there are enough guides who stay with clients – Fisher, Hall, Harris, Beidleman, Groom and sherpas, but he did not know that half of them have problems themselves and will never come down nor help the clients… So, he expected there will be enough people to help get down the clients, but no one in the South Col in case of emergency. If they had all information, may be they would act differently…
First: paragraphs people! One point per paragraph, then hit “return” twice. I’m sorry, but I had to skip many comments because I see a “Hillary Step of text” ahead, with no oxygen for climb.
Second: Anotoli is hero. Krakauer is asshole. < Russian 2 English translation 😉
Third: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust. RIP to Hall, Fischer, Namba et al. And Bowie.
Scaling mountains is hard. All types of mountains. They summited.
You offer peace which is nice 😀
But your comment speaks a different language. I think it is incredibly ignorant and sumplistic to call AB a hero and JK an asshole!
I was very impressed by the video of Messner”s assessment of the controversy. He has met both guys, and he had seen AB “in action”. Therefore he is far more kompetent and knowledgeable than most of us. And Messner said without holding back that Krakauer has described AB’s character and actions absolutely correctly. This shows that it’s far from certain that AB was a hero who didn’t do anything wrong while JK was an asshole.
I read most of the entries here, I was a close friend of Anatoli (I lived in Kazakhstan from 1993-1999). The one comment that struck me as odd has to do with Anatoli’s apparent lack of remorse over what happened and the tragedy. I can assure you he was very remorseful because I witnessed this first hand in Almaty, shortly after he returned home. He related the entire story to a small group of his friends and shed tears of remorse as he explained his inability to do more to rescue others. Anatoli was a stoic individual who could be misread by those distant to him. On another side, those who accept the challenge of high altitude expeditions know the the risks, someone will die, some will not reach the summits they seek, while a scant few are successful. You can read all the books, view the movies and TV shows, but there are interpretations of the events in 1996. In 1996, my friends and I were blessed to witness firsthand accounts, listen to the words from the source, and more importantly, we were able to look into Anatoli’s eyes and feel his pain. Moreover, he never sought fame and fortune from those events, unlike JK who immediately published his stories for profit, upon returning home. Of course Anatli reacted to set the record straight as possible and defend his actions. Another very very important thing to remember about where the events took place, above the death-zone, where mental faculties are functioning at a minimum while the body slowly dies: so the effort to recall event with any accuracy is minimal. Consequently, when I read JK’s book, I was appalled at its suggestion that it was ‘the gospel’ in regards to what transpired on Everest in 1996. At best, both books are renderings from very foggy and stressed memories and unless some actual video footage is found to support each version, they should be considered renderings tantamount to reflections and not used as ‘evidence’ to support arguments. The only truth I know is from watching one of the strongest and more respected Russian man I ever met weep while relating his experiences: it broke part of his heart and that is not something easily hidden from close friends.
I agree with you that it’s fairly clear that Boukreev was remorseful about what happened that year on Everest.
But, please… to say “he [Boukreev] never sought fame and fortune from those events, unlike JK who immediately published his stories for profit, upon returning home.” is ridiculous. The only reason Krakauer was there was because he was under contract to Outside to write about the experience. The deal was struck long before tragedy struck.
No, he didn’t have to write a follow-on book, but I think it’s a stretch to claim that his primary motivation in doing so was to seek fame and fortune.
I completely agree! I I fully believe that AB may have been very remorseful and that he may have had a much more accessible side for those whom he triste and who knew him well. It’s good to know that.
But this doesn’t mean at all that Jon Krakauer is a poison pen asshole who was there solely in search of fame and fortune . This cannot be true because JK had no way of knowing what would happen! He was there in order
to earn a moderate amount of money as an outdoor journalist. And AB was there in order to earn good money as a guide. So, both were there mainly for the money – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s ridiculous to criticize JK for something which is true for anyone who was there in order to make a living from Everest. It was like that from the very beginning almost exactly 100 years ago, when George Mallory arrived in 1921 with his first English scouting expedition.
JK was very lucky in many ways because his career really took off after the tragedy. This doesn’t sit well with many people. But I have to say that JK is a very gifted writer and he came up with a spellbinding account of how he perceived what happened. I read some of the other books, too -and from an artistic point of view JK’s book is by far the best book. If he was always fair is another question. My gut feeding was that JK hesitated to put the biggest amount of blame on his dead friends Rob Hall and Scott Fisher – although they deserved it! They made a string of extremely bad decisions! And one of Fisher’s failures was that he didn’t harness AB and didn’t instruct him properly about his duties as a guide. AB was a great mountaineer, but guiding was apparently not his forte.
I think that JK was tad harsh towards AB. Maybe, he felt more comfortable to point at a living guy who could defend himself than blaming his dead friends. But as a journalist JK should have pointed out that Hall’s and Fisher’s abysmally bad decisions claimed many lives – including their own!
Similar question and answer and mutual relation as – Why America hate, Russia.
One lazy, deceiver and asshole lair, and another honest noble and brave hero.
It is in a way very moving to see that 20 years after the tragedy, people still remember the tragic deaths of Scott Fischer, Rob Hall, Andy Harris, Doug Hansen and Yasuko Namba that day on Everest, and try to figure out what happened that night on the mountain. Sadly I think that the Krakauer version of the events won, and that people forgot about the heroic actions of Anatoli Boukreev. It seems so unfair.
I don’t know anything about mountaineering, but I am a writer by profession (not a native English speaker though, so sorry for the broken English) and I really think that Krakauer’s account of the events is deeply tainted by his will to frame the events into a narrative. As a writer, he needed psychological explanations to people’s behavior, he needed strong characters, and he also needed a villain. I was also struck by the way he talks about himself in Into Thin Air, always underlining the fact that he was the best climber of Hall’s clients, that he was a seasoned mountaineer, that he was one of the first to summit – I mean how can you display such vanity in a book that retraces the stories of people who died a terrible death ? It should be about them, not you. In contrast, The Climb elaborates on the complex, intricate factors that made both expeditions more dangerous than they should have – the problems that inevitably arise with the logistics of such expeditions, the pressure that was added by the presence of the media (a fact that Krakauer conveniently glosses over), the intrinsic and inevitable competition between Hall and Fischer. It seems much more robust to me – but it cruelly lacks the romanesque strength of Krakauer’s story. People are so easily seduced by a good story. The reality and its complexities is less appealing.
What Boukreev did that night is an act of pure selflessness and duty. I would have been very interested to hear him about his upbringing (growing up in post-war Russia must certainly have shaped his personality) and his mountain ethics. I saw that some of you like Mark C had known him. I would be very glad if you could tell me more about him. If that’s ok I am be glad to give you an email adress where you could contact me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tonight I’m thinking of all the people who’ve been to Hell 20 years ago, of the ones who made it back, and of the ones who didn’t.
Sorry, never saw the request and did not follow threads very well over the years, I will respond to your email if you are still interested in a private discussion about this board and Anatoli.
Read Krakauer first. Fantastic, wanted more, and found this discussion more fascinating and enticing than anything on my trawl thru the www😱. As a non climber, my draw is the human interactions and personalities.
My two bit worth, Neil Biedleman’s thoughts on a recent revisit :http://aspenpeak-magazine.com/full-exposure-neal-beidlemans-return-to-mount-everest
I’m just so gobsmacked that Anatoli’s astuteness and fore sightedness (is that a word?) has just sailed over the heads of these rocket scientists, Krakauer included. Acclimatisation is very individual and unpredictable, even by other scientists and doctors! For someone who is compos mentis at high altitude sans o2, introducing it suddenly will also produce unpredictable results. That’s where experience kicks in.
Shame Krakauer’s tone of blame detracted from an excellent read.
RIP to all who passed.
Never heard of these fascinating people or events until I started researching for a trip to the valley of flowers! Had to re-watch Everest after getting familiar with these Chomolungma 1996 events.
It seems to me that B was probably driven to defend himself from K’s criticism because HE WAS RIGHT, and the results of his actions bear that out. He eschewed oxygen- which he did NOT need and which left more for team members who DID. He descended rapidly in advance because that is what the leader instructed him to do, and doing so DID leave him rested enough that he could later rescue the missing members of HIS party, that HE was responsible for. If he’d made different decisions, the people he’d accepted responsibility for would likely have died. And the article’s claim that “…B should have told Fischer not to carry on up but should have gone back up himself…he should have used his initiative and judged that Scott Fischer was in no state to proceed to the summit.” #1, Fischer was the Leader, not B. And #2, it’s unreasonable to expect B to have made that judgement about Fischer’s state when Fischer himself did not. It seems like because he acted heroically, B is now expected to have super-human powers of persception and persuasion, under circumstances that were as challenging to him as everyone else.
Excellent post. I get that people don’t want to speak ill of the dead so Fischer and Hall, among others, have escaped major criticism. But Boukreev is dead, too, and people still knock him left and right.
So…Fischer made his own choices. He had a chronic liver condition he left medically untreated for a decade, knew he had HAPE, knew he was exhausted, but kept going. Which, ultimately, is no more insane that even attempting Everest in the first place; you have to make it through the icefall, which is horrifying, and then you have to make it through the Death Zone and if you do? You still have to descend. It’s all calculated risk. Fischer shouldn’t have made those choices in terms of survival but he knew what he was doing. Blaming Boukreev is just b.s., frankly. It’s like when people blame Hall for Hansen not descending. You can order someone to descend but if they won’t you don’t have a whole lot of options. Boukreev was known to have complained that they shouldn’t have been on the mountain that day (I believe at least one of the Sherpas did as well). Didn’t matter. Fischer was hellbent on summiting.
I completely agree that Boukreev’s heroic actions that day came back to bite him in the sense that people then decided that since he was capable of all of that, then he should’ve been capable of more. It’s idiotic. He did not only what most climbers couldn’t, he did what most climbers *wouldn’t*. He risked his life to save seven others, and attempted to save Fischer (and I believe made a play for Hall as well). Meanwhile, Krakauer wouldn’t even bring himself to drag a 90 pound climber a thousand feet back to base camp.
Mark C. I sat at a dinner table in 1996 Kazakstan and listened to Anatoly recount the tragic events on Everset, shortly after his return home and months before anything was in print about the events. So, having received first hand-fresh information that is not gleaned from media, I feel I have something to interject in the ongoing conversations regarding the 1996 climbing season and the criticism that continues.
What’s not being discussed is the cognitive abilities of the teams while in and above the death zone. Moreover, most of the comments I have read appear to be forgetting or ignoring this one important factor: the ability to cognitively function at extreme altitudes. It appears from the comments in this ongoing thread that most folks don’t have a barometer of what it is like to spend time where the tragedy took place. It was also a question for Anatoly at the dinner table, I asked why decisions were made that seemed so obtuse from such an experienced group of individuals and team leaders. Anatloy’s reply helped me understand what was going on with the climbers that led to what is commonly being called mistakes or even feats of heroism. His response was mirrored by another Everest climber several weeks later when another discussion and criticism session broke between friends and new acquaintances.
Anatoly’s reply (surprized a little by my questions) was to challenge me to an exercise (which I never did, but it crystallized my understanding). He said to stay away for three consecutive days and then drink vodka till I was impaired [quantities very for each person] and then get into an argument with my wife! As funny as this might read, it would give some understanding to how much cognitive abilities are retained while at extreme altitudes. Basically, your motor controls are functioning on such a primitive level it amazes me climbers are able to light their stoves to sustain themselves. The cognitive functions are, at best, diminished to the point that basic conversation is tedious and confusing. Kazbek Valayev, the first Kazakh national to reach the summit of Everest summed it up as being a stumbling drunk while freezing to death while continually arguing with everyone about nothing and then everything.
So, I ask those who are making statements about the could of-should of-would of variety, how much cognitive abilities along with severe physical impairment of each person played a role in the outcome? Could we leave it at a point where we are not trying to find blame in any one team or a member. Could we realize that, unless we were on Everest in 1996, or we had first hand information from a team member, information that paints any specific picture will be countered by another perspective? Let’s agree that not one person in 1996 went up Everest to die on purpose, not one team member went there to become a hero or a villain, and not one of them went to become an asshole in the eye of the public upon completion of the climb.
As much as we would like to know exactly what transpired on Everest in 1996, most of us will never know and even fewer will never understand from a first hand experience level. I trusted in what Anatoly said at dinner, through his retching sobs and tears, that he would have done more but there was a limit to his abilities and he wanted to live, there was a limit with regards to others at camp as well, they were already spent and dealing with their own survival situations. Everest at its highest camp is a place where tying one’s shoes become a five minute fight with your fingers and brain connectivity, its a place where a 12lb ascent rucksack feels like 50, and its a place where you can feel the ghosts of the dead beckoning you to leave!
In the end, Boukreev saved lives. He was the only one that saved lives on that fateful expedition. Nobody that Boukreev was in charge of was hurt. Boukreev saved three other people that were not part of his group. While all of this was happening, the coward Krakauer stayed in his tent like a little bitch. Then, Krakauer has the nerve to criticize Boukreev? What a gutless human being.
So, 20 years after the ’96 Everest tragedy, 20 years after Krakauer’s Outside mag article and nearly 20 years after reading “Into Thin Air”, I still don’t understand how the actions Krakauer believes believes Anatoli Boukreev should’ve taken would have changed anything. Bottom line: The expedition clients that Anatoli Boukreev was responsible to, and for, made it home. The guides responsible for the expedition Krakauer was on lost many of their clients.
I’ve always found the insistence that Boukreev should’ve made different choices rather cruel, to be honest. Yes, his choices were somewhat unorthodox but also resulted in him saving more than half a dozen lives; every MM client made it off the mountain that day. Who’s to say that if he’d made different choices *more* lives could have been saved? In reality it’s far more likely there would have been more casualties and the lives lost, tragic as it is, weren’t worth more than the lives saved.
Boukreev made the right choices because, in my opinion, I think he was brutally aware of his own abilities and limitations unlike so many others on the mountain that day. He knew he needed to continue to descend to get more oxygen for the clients as well as warming tea. And he was right. I’ve always found it so sad that he died with many still blaming him for not “saving more” when his efforts that day were almost super human.
Agree that Jon wanted to tell a story. He was simply a journalist. His vision could have been affected by the altitude and therefore he bitches about AB.
AB was a great climber, thorughly trained and knew what to do.
Agree with LateComer and Old Fart. And man, this board is so damn good! 👍
Marck C: totally moved by what you experienced. It must have been chilling to sit and listen to AB.
I still remember hearing Rob Hall and some other climber’s names some years before the expedition. Though I didn’t know any of them, it feels so tragic and personal! 😢
The whole thing is sad! We all see so many mistakes! (A) was a Great climber. No one is taking that away. As a guide, he had different responsibilities, and he didn’t fulfill those responsibilities as a guide. As a head guide, wouldn’t he also be responsible for turning ppl around if it was past the agreed upon time? I just don’t see, if you are a Head Guide, going down to make “tea” when you have clients on a mountain?! When (A) guided again as “Head Guide” he climbed with Os and didn’t leave any client alone! (JK) was a paying client to climb the beautiful Everest! Discounted, but a paying client! Not his responsibility to do anything but survive!!!
Well, you could argue it wasn’t A’s responsibility to save anyone who wasn’t on his team. And since everyone on his team but Fischer made it off the mountain…
I agree! AB was a great mountaineer but not exactly a best guide. It’s hard to pin down, though, if the outcome would’ve been better if he had acted differently. Maybe not – who know? In the end he saved three lives by talking a great personal risk. That shouldn’t be forgotten.
However, I detected a glaring contradiction in AB’s reasoning: a commenter told that he met AB at a dinner party soon after the tragedy. AB gave a very vivid account of how altitude-induced hypoxia clouds your judgement and affects how you perceive certain things. AB was of course absolutely right!! But who detects the glaring inconsistency? Since AB had a very fit but still human body he would have been affected by hypoxia just like anybody else – and that is precisely the reason why he should never have guided without oxygen!! He may have tolerated high altitude conditions much better than most people. But the thin air did affect him nevertheless! Even if he had the subjective impression that he was still functioning just fine! But since he came up during that dinner with the comparison of a husband who tries to argue with his wife after having consumed a fair quantity of vodka, I will stick with that comparison, although it has certain shortcomings. When AB argued that his performance without oxygen was totally fine, he behaved like someone who can easily tolerate a considerable amount of alcohol, and then claims that the alcohol would not influence his performance in a negative way because he was totally used to it! This guy would’ve been sent ASAP to the next AA meeting!
Messner has always been a great advocate for conquering mountains “by fair means” and he and his partner Peter Habeler were the first human beings who managed to climb Everest without oxygen in 1978. But they were responsible just for themselves. Messner has given many vivid descriptions of how your perception and judgement is impaired in high altitudes. And there have been many scientific tests who confirmed this, even if the tested person feels totally fine! Messner said that guides who are responsible for other human beings should be in the best possible state, which means that they should climb with oxygen! AB was not an exception even if he tolerated thin air seemingly better than most humans. It was stupid and ignorant of him to believe that his organism was the exception and wasn’t affected by altitude hypoxia! I have no idea why he adamantly refused to use oxygen when he worked as a guide. Didn’t he want to do it because he wanted to get used to the thin air in order to prepaire himself for his next project? If that was the case, he was mixing private priorities with his duties as a guide. Of course it was Scott Fisher’s mistake that he allowed AB to guide without oxygen, although all available scientific tests suggest that it isn’t a good idea. He should have arranged such a test for AB in order to show him that even the great AB wasn’t immune and that the thin air would affect his physical and his mental prowess, even if he himself didn’t notice it. I saw a documentary and it was an eye opener.
I have had such an experience btw myself when I climbed Mont Blanc with my husband and a friend. The interesting thing was that I was affected by the altitude in an annoying physical way. And I had a splitting headache and a sick stomach. My husband and our friend didn’t report these symptoms and they felt fine! But I soon noticed that their perception and judgement was definitely impaired. They suddenly became annoyed with me when I told them after a rest in a mountain hut that we needed to continue because we had the plan to climb Mont Blanc. They told me that they had made just such a nice nap and I was interrupting this. Well, we finally managed to continue and we summited😀 But when we left, my husband forgot his rucksack on the summit. Since he was walking behind us, we hadn’t seen that something important was missing. And when we finally found out, it was already too late to go back and retrieve the rucksack. Unfortunately there were quite a few important items in it: money, credit card, car keys, passport and our appartment keys. This created a big hassle, because we had to ask a guide who planned to summit the next day, to retrieve the rucksack and we needed to stay one night in a hotel. The guide could not miss the rucksack because it was right on top of Mont Blanc. The whole of Chamonix laughed about the silly guys who forgot their rucksack 😉
But the interesting thing is that my husband never had the impression that there was anything wrong with his mental faculties, and our friend and I were also not 100% alright. We should have noticed that something important was missing. But we neglected to check.
Maybe, it would not have changed anything if AB had taken oxygen. But it is true nevertheless that on summit day he wasn’t in his best possible condition because he refused oxygen.
It’s interesting that AB did take oxygen on his next guiding job. He argued that he wasn’t in tip top physicak shape at the time. But this change of heart shows IMO that he finally conceded that although he tolerated great altitudes well, he could nevertheless benefit from oxygen.
In regards to Anatoli’s next Everest ascent and the use of O’s, he was in a horrific bus crash between Bishkek and Almaty, he nearly lost his sight in one eye and was physically beat up: bus blew tire at speed and rolled. So, the O’s were a precaution to possible complications at altitude since he had not been up high since the crash. and YES, please use their names, this is not a twitter feed ya schmucks!
One question. Why would Anyone who found Beck & Yasuko leave them, when they were found to be alive on both days? Why wouldn’t they try to bring them to camp?
Krakauer, as far as I know, never really gave a satisfactory answer as to why he and the others abandoned Weathers and Namba. I know at one point he said that (I believe it was) a guide who told him that neither was likely to make it and so they made a “triage” call, which is in and of itself bs. That’s not what triage is. Side-stepping that, there’s no excuse to leave them a thousand feet from base camp to freeze to death, especially Namba, who was only 90 pounds. Drag them back to base camp, put them in a tent, give them the pictures of their families they brought, and let them die with their fellow climbers.
Personally? And this is going to sound ugly but let’s not kid ourselves: what happened on that mountain was ugly. I think when he and the others went back to see if Weathers and Namba were alive they did so believing they wouldn’t be. Triage is just how they justified it in their own minds. They did not want to be responsible for Weathers and Namba, especially given W and N’s conditions. I think K and the others didn’t want to be around W and N when they died.
Krakauer comes on like a prototypical McCarthyist who doesn’t like Russians.
Scott Fischer killed himself. He was sick when he started out from base camp and he was struggling as he waited at the Hillary Step where Boukreev met him and suggested going down. Fischer agreed.
Fischer also blatantly ignored Boukreev’s advice that the entire team should descend significantly down the mountain below base camp to properly acclimatize. As it was, climbers like Sandy Hill Pittman were not sufficiently acclimatized and she would have died had others not interceded with injections and had Boukreev not rescued her. Pittman did not bother to thank him or acknowledge his rescue.
Both Fischer and Hall had set guidelines for their clients to start heading down by 2:30 pm at the latest. That was a sane plan. Both Fischer an Hall were still messing around at 4:30 pm with Fischer in a lineup at the Hillary Step. That was irresponsible leadership and if Fischer had stuck to his 2:30 pm limit for remaining on the mountain Boukreev would have not been in the situation he was presented with.
He went above and beyond by staying high as long as he did and he was the one who strung the safety ropes along the dangerous ridge leading to the Hillary Step. He also free climbed the Step and threw down a rope.
Boukreev did everything right, it was team leaders Fischer and Hall who screwed up. Krakauer ran as fast as he could down the mountain passing a helpless climber who had been instructed by Hall to stay where he was and await help. Someone should have taken him down much earlier. Krakauer could have helped him.
When Boukreev sought help on the South Col to rescue climbers, Krakauer did not respond.
I think he was dealing with guilt from his inability at altitude and used Boukreev, a guy who struggled with English, as a scapegoat.
Actually, you are ALL wrong. Jon Kracker DOES NOT hate Anatoly Boukreeeev, because Boukreeeev is not even Russian! He is Canadian, and he is alive and well, and currently resides in Winnipeg.
In fact, no one even died on Everest that day! It was made up by Hollywood.
A Trump voter.
Michael…”he [Karakauer] 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”.
Fischer was an egotist who could not accept Boukreev’s credo that guides are not their to babysit climbers. It was Fischer’s fledgling company and he was catering to their ego’s. Sandy Hill Pittman should never have been up there. She paid a Sherpa to short-rope her, a practice of a guide tying a short rope between him and his client and literally dragging them up the mountain. Boukreev did not believe in that kind of babysitting, rather he thought his function was to show the route and how to climb it.
Lene Gamelgaard, who was on the expedition because she had a blatant crush on Fischer, had a tantrum because Fischer did not want her to climb without oxygen. It was Boukreev who calmly and graciously sat with her at base camp and talked sense into her. Without the oxygen she would have died.
Boukreev did far more than his part. He had every right to save his own life after Fischer’s irresponsibility in not enforcing a 2:30 pm turnaround time. He was still waiting to get up the Hillary Step at 4:30 pm. He was sick and the combo cost him his life while putting Boukreev, his clients, and other guides in a compromising situation.
That should have been Krakauer’s story but he too had idolized Fischer and could not be objective about Fischer’s complicity in his own death and the death of other climbers. So, he blamed it on a Russian.
The tragedy was entirely the fault of the team leaders Hall and Fischer. Had they stuck to their 2:30 pm turnaround their clients would have missed the storm and returned to the South Col before dark and before the storm.
Sam…”Krakauer, as far as I know, never really gave a satisfactory answer as to why he and the others abandoned Weathers and Namba”.
I don’t understand your point, Sam. At the time Beck Weathers was abandoned on the South Col during the night, Krakauer was in his sleeping bag in his tent. Anatoli Boukreev was the one doing the rescuing, in a blizzard. He tried to recruit Krakauer but the latter did not respond.
Boukreev did not mention triage or anything like that. He rescued his clients under extreme conditions going out twice. I think he determined nothing more could be done for Weathers or Namba, the latter being unable to stand and Weathers being comatose.
He went back up the mountain next morning to the balcony to check on Fischer. He was dead, and Boukreev tied his backpack around his head to stop birds getting at his eyes.
Beck Weather amazingly survived the night and freaked everyone by walking into camp like a zombie, with one arm frozen stiff. They put him in a tent but the wind continued to blow hard and it blew his tent door open and the sleeping bag off him. It’s amazing the guy survived at all.
Both Weathers and Makalu Gau were helped down the mountain by David Breashears and his crew who climbed up specifically to help.
Robert Meyer…”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”.
It doesn’t matter what his decision was on O2, what matters is that he betrayed his decision to turn his clients around by 2:30 pm. Had he done that, all his clients and himself would still be alive, barring a freak accident.
Part of Boukreev’s reasoning for climbing without O2 is that running out of it would create a sudden brain situation in which a person might develop sudden hypoxia or cerebral edema. Even with oxygen, Scott Fischer developed HACE and died simply because he was sick and rundown before climbing to the summit.
I think Boukreev acted professionally and lent experience to a situation Fischer lacked. Fischer was a maverick climber, not a skilled, highly conditioned athlete like Boukreev.
It’s not as if Boukreev suddenly bolted down the mountain like Krakauer did. He was up there for two hours past the allotted turn around time of 2:30 pm. He strung the safety line across the ridge leading to the Hillary Step then free climbed it to attach a rope and throw it down. He waited for Fischer and discussed the situation with him. Fischer agreed with him that he should go down.
It had to have occurred to Anatole that he might die if he stayed up there much longer. When you are an experienced climber and you see leaders messing around incompetently more than two hours after the agreed upon turn around time, what are you to think? You can’t keep standing up there till you die. I don’t think loyalty as a guide extends to blindly accepting the stupidity of others.
Old Fart…”The guides responsible for the expedition Krakauer was on lost many of their clients”.
They also lost their own lives. BTW…Krakauer was supposed to be on Fischer’s expedition but succumbed to opportunism and got on Hall’s crew. Something to do with the magazine’s covering each expedition. That turned me against him from the start.
re: Krakauer – it was opportunism from the getgo. He couldn’t pay for the climb, so the magazine negotiated with Hall and Fischer, who both wanted media exposure. In the end, Hall agreed to waiver the entire fee so Krakauer was booked on his expedition.
MWC…”So, I ask those who are making statements about the could of-should of-would of variety, how much cognitive abilities along with severe physical impairment of each person played a role in the outcome?”
There is no doubt in my mind that mental impairment was at work. Messner reported it on his solo ascent of Everest. Difference is, Messner was in the region at altitude for two months acclimatizing before he tried to climb. Even at that, by the time he got down he was such a wreck that he was in tears and had to be helped back to his tent by his girlfriend.
Anatoly tried to talk Fischer into taking the entire expedition well below base camp to build up their O2 levels. He did it himself after Fischer disagreed. Meantime, Fischer got a serious infection and decided to climb despite it. That’s obviously what killed him since he had a lot of experience at altitude prior to that and he was using O2.
You might argue that mental impairment caused Fischer to ignore the agreed upon turn around time of 2:30 pm. Hall had agreed to it as well and he was on O2 and not suffering. He died from stubbornness trying to fulfill the dreams of a client who had failed to reach the summit before. He stayed up there well past the 2:30 deadline.
Then there’s Biedleman. He was on O2 and should not have been that impaired. He did not complain to Fischer about being up there 2 hours past the deadline. It’s not as if they were all zombified and unable to think. As a guide, Biedleman should have considered herding the clients down the mountain at 2:30. He seemed more concerned about carrying out the directives of Fischer.
They just refused to think sanely. I think Fischer was more interested in appeasing his clients than returning safely to his family. That’s the real sad part for me, the wife and kids he left behind, Same with Rob Hall whose wife was pregnant.
When Fischer talked with Anatoly and agreed that he should go down why was he not aware that he was more than 2 hours past the turn around time? Mental impairment???
Could be but I have read many accounts of climbers at high altitude and all of them were aware of when they should get down. Some of them purposely ignored that through sheer ambition and some paid the price.
When Anatoly climbed K2, he admitted to hitting the wall. He had been so busy helping string safety ropes that he had not paid attention to his energy levels. He admitted that the summit of K2 was the closest he had ever come to danger. On his way down he fell due to a loose crampon and had to self arrest to stop himself going over a cliff.
Although I have never climbed at altitude I don’t think mental impairment was that much of an issue. When Biedleman and Lene Gamelgaard got back to the South Col and were lost they were still thinking coherently. Biedleman noticed stars through the cloud of the storm and immediately knew which way to go, When they got to the camp they aroused Anatoly and he immediately went to the rescue.
Kartikeya “Similar question and answer and mutual relation as – Why America hate, Russia”.
Few things to straighten out first. America is a continent not a country. Why the good people of the US began calling themselves Americans is not clear. The name of the country according to their constitution is the United States OF America.
You don’t have to be particularly literate in English to understand ‘of’ America means ‘in’ America, or part of America, as in the continent of America. Canada is in America and Mexico too. So is Costa Rica, Argentina, and Chile.
Not all people in America hate Russians. Even in the US, Anatoly was awarded the highest honour of the climbing community, and his girlfriend was a US citizen. Even Scott Fischer liked him and pursued him to become a guide on his expedition.
What Krakauer had against him is never made clear but he seemed to dislike him with a passion. There are many people like Krakauer in the US but there are many, good, open-minded people as well.
You can’t even claim that the US hates Russia because many US people don’t. Many were misinformed based on the brutal Stalinist era but many of those people fail to realize that the Russian people suffered under Stalin. It was not their choice.
K-Moderately arrogant american who is good with words. Viewed in America as being on top of his game. Motivated to maintain that reputation. Brainwashed with cold war propaganda. I believe he took oxygen that wasn’t his to take. Hubris clearly evident in the strong defense of himself.
B-Slavic hard man who gets the job done without drama or pouring out of his emotions, Strategic. Pragmatic. No air of arrogance in my view, just a love for mountains, contaminated by having few options for earning a decent living.
My husband died on Annapurna too, and I am glad they are together.
Culturally Stereotype much? “Brainwashed with cold war propaganda”? Really?
This comment is in poor taste so I am not approving it.
– A review on other people story where even the ones present on the event has different versions, they weren’t all together, it was a very hard situation where breathing was extremely hard (imaging thinking, analysing and remembering a situation);
– “if the climbers had had a little more time”. This is a so generic and out of reality questioning. You might ask “what if Rob had left Doug and climbed down?”. What if Doug had listened to the sherpas and gave up reaching summit?”. I think this are more valid questions to try to understand what went wrong than a useless and pointless “what if they had more time”. It’s like asking “what if they hadn’t climbed in first place?” or “what if people could fly up to 10 thousand meters of altitude?” Nope, there is no point in asking “if they had more time”. Well if they had 300 days more, that would had been be nice! But how this helps in this reflection?
– Calling Boukreev of “B” and Krakauer of “K”… come on. Are you a rapper?
– Fact: the storm f*cked them;
– Fact: bad choices like Rob waiting for Doug (but I believe many understand why he did that). Or Scott climbing so tired;
– There was a serie of mistakes and difficulties that culminated with the tragedy. Not one guy responsible for this;
– Climbing Everest is kinda… risk. Did you know that? I mean, very risk.
So making this kind of analysis helps no one, serves nobody. People who intend to climb Everest should know better that they might face a situation where it’s you alive (and not quite certain or maybe with frostbites) or both alive or both dead.
I believe that many choose themselves which is understandable.
Personal bad choices, bad choices from someone that creates more risk situations to others, fear of losing your own life, this is accountable. And how people react at that particular time may not seem logical on a later analysis. But -40ºC, a huge storm, lack of oxygen, exhaustion, fear, those things coordinates the moment that one makes a choice. It’s even hard to move, to see. People make bad choices in the comfort of their homes imagine in such horrible conditions. This is not NASA fixing a satellite after years of training and billions of investments with calculate conditions.
It’s good to analyze to learn. To learn, not to make empty speculations.
“The problem with B, is that…”
Some people got saved by him, remember that. “That would have saved Namba’s life”. 100% sure? Sometimes chancing one thing changes other things so can this affirmation be 100% correct or just a possibility? The problem with Boukreev was being on Everest, guiding many “tourists”, a bad storm, a bad plan B. The same for the others.
“is tiring to interact with people in your second language”
Come on… the cold, the exhaustion, the lack of oxygen, the storm are less important? Well, writing “B” instead of Boukreev is easier even seated in a warm room writing on the computer.
“It’s really much simpler then just to stick to the plan”
Oh, it’s much simpler not going to Everest. The issue is when the problem is shown, what can be done, what went wrong? That’s why I’m saying that your “ifs” are so empty.
And why for example did you question Boukreev not getting Beck Weathers down if the plan was Beck waiting for Rob? Sticking to the plan isn’t much simpler?
“the main factors contributing to the disaster on Everest in 1996 were the lack of radios among all the guides… Rob Hall’s decision not to turn climbers back”
Again, not one guilty. The storm was not a problem? The cold, the wind, the exhaustion, been late to descend, the fact that people not quite prepared for the Everest were there are not MAIN factors? The radios? Wasn’t the color of Rob’s socks? Like those guys who drinks liters and liters of beer than say “ow, I’m feeling bad, might have been that little olive from the pizza!”
If you’ve been to Everest, read both books, it looks like you’ve learnt little. Or you simply have a very poor analysis capability.
When someone stands still and another act’s the person that stand’s still will look for any reason to justify his action’s.
Jon sure does get alot of stick for climbing Everest and then being weak after it..you know, like any other human has been before him. Just because Anatoli was a hero doesn’t make Jon a bad person. Also, use their names, not letters. Its infinately annoying and lazy.
Because unlike Krakauer, Anatoli Boukreev was firstly a man, and secondly he was fearless.
Couple thoughts from a non-mountaineer who’s read both Into Thin Air and The Climb:
1 – Guiding amateurs up Everest was a relatively new endeavor in 1996, lots to learn (probably should be much more selective, among other regulations?)
2 – Having too many people waiting in line in the Death Zone can’t be a good idea
3 – Every staff member – leaders, guides, sherpas etc. should have a working radio
4 – Turn around times should be sacred
5 – I wonder if Boukreev had an opportunity to do it again, if he might’ve positioned himself at the balcony, and sent Sherpas down in advance?
6 – None of us know if Boukreev had taken different steps if they’d have played out better or worse. In the end, he was at Camp 4 as the storm reached its climax. He did what he could from that position. Would he have been better positioned to help from the balcony? Would he have been physically compromised and less helpful had he been at the balcony or higher?
7 – Most of us imagine a guide as someone who walks along side throughout a journey. To Boukreev, and other non-English speaking mountaineers, this might’ve been an unrealistic assumption.
8 – It’s a painful story, and I wish amateurs would leave the 8,000+m mountains to the professionals.
Late to the discussion here…..I just read through pretty much every comment and I have to say that that there are some really excellent observations and comments here. This event has left a legacy of discussions almost 25 years after it occurred, and that is pretty impressive.
I have spent the better part of the last three nights reading and watching everything I can get my hands on regarding this tragic event. I did read JK’s book when it first came out and do vaguely recall feeling unsettled that AB and LS were especially singled out as behaving irresponsibly during those few days. I am trying to get my hands on a copy to re-read it as a refresher, as well as I am wanting to read The Climb and other publications by those who were there who have written about these events.
I want to add in some thoughts. All just my own opinion.
Rob Hall had already sucessfully led 39 clients to the summit prior to 1996. He paid out-of-pocket for JK to climb Everest in order to mount additional publicity for Adventure Consultants via Outside magazine. Somewhere within their agreement, I suspect there must have been a clause about ‘no negative publicity’ towards Adventure Consultants and that may be why JK chose not to print harsh criticism about RH’s actions during these events. Just my opinion.
Rob Hall, up until May 1996, was a stickler for safety and had a hard rule about his 2PM turn around time. What changed this time? I suspect that DH’s inability to summit during his previous attempt in 1995 was the reason for RH’s change of heart. I also suspect that RH may have been also suffering from impaired judgement due the length of time he had spent in the ‘death zone’ with little to no oxygen. He seemed to forget about Beck Weathers and should have directed someone to go back and help him once he knew that he was going to help DH summit so late in the day. Radios amongst everyone climbing could have made a difference and may have saved at least one other life that day. Had he left Doug, and worked with Andy to decend together, the two of them would have likely survived and may have even been able to help save Yasuko later on. Beck could have also saved himself a day of laying in the snow.
Scott Fisher, as dedicated as he was to assisting Dale Kruse back down to base camp, made an error in judegement and should never have attempted to summit so late in the day. In addition, it was his responsibility as the leader to know where his staff and clients were at all times and Lopsang Sherpa short-roping Sandy Pittman was another big mistake. As a leader, he should have know what was happening and should have directed LS return SP to camp 4 if she was unable to climb on her own, just as he himself did with DK. SF had some very experienced climbers in the group and it was his ego that fed him to try to summit long after his clients did. Sorry to sound harsh, but I can’t understand why he didn’t turn back when he knew that everyone else had already made it to the top and were on their way down. I would appreciate clarification if I have this detail incorrect.
Neal Beidleman has been shamefully overlooked here. He needs to be labelled a hero during this event. He was also a true warrior. He literally dragged at least three climbers (Buck, Yasuko and Sandy) down and led two others, Charlotte Fox and Tim Madsen as far as he could take them and then set out to get help from AB at camp. His actions enabled AB to be able to get to the other three clients and bring them to safety.
As for the JK and AB ‘feud’….these are my thoughts.
AB’s actions speak for themselves.
He set the ropes, summitted, stayed for over an hour, and made the decent safely with one of the clients, Martin Adams (albiet, he only took him part of the way) He went out three times and rescued three other people and then attempted to rescue SF the next day. The backpack that he did or didn’t have when he reached the summit? Maybe its only a coincidence that the only person who apparently summitted without a backpack was also the only person who was able to go back out and rescue three others that night. The oxygen he didn’t use to accomplish these tasks? Again…maybe only a coincidence. He shouldn’t be judged for following instructions (and even going above what was expected by setting the ropes and breaking the trail) and for not staying behind. After all, two team leaders, and several guides and some Sherpas were still behind him. He needed a radio and SH should have supplied him with one.
JK’s actions also speak themselves.
He summited ahead of others, descended ahead of others and made it back to safety ahead of the others. He did what he set out to do. He wanted to the best and live to tell about it. His failure to re-enter the storm to help rescue the others likely weighs very heavily on his conscience. That may be enough punishment for this man to endure, even 25 years later.
Should he have pointed fingers at everyone elses failiings? He’s a writer. He gets paid to tell a story. Conflict and tragedy sell books. Hell, most of us here likely bought his book!
Sorry, this got long and I have no idea if anyone will come after me and get through reading this.
Peace to all and to those who still lay on Everest.
@Everest Obsessed, it’s been some time since I read most of the books on the fateful Everest ascent, and I think your observations are spot on.
Except for the comment: “His failure to re-enter the storm to help rescue the others likely weighs very heavily on his conscience.” I’m not sure that his inability (or decision not to) help with the rescue would or should weigh on his conscience, given how many other people were unable assist under the terrible conditions. But I believe the way he portrayed Boukreev indirectly led to Boukreev’s death – and that should on his conscience.
Anatoli was killed climbing on Annapurna, an avalanche took his life, not the words of a fellow climber and author. Your comment is not only incorrect, it is absurd. Anatoli was my friend and I met with him several times after the tragic events in 96, and communicated with him up till his death on Annapurna: there’s no plausible connection between being killed in an avalanche and the writings of Krakaur. Although Anatoli was disturbed, angry, and somewhat confused by Krakaur’s POV/book and articles, he was also very circumspect about his involvement and attempt to rescue stricken climbers in 96; his only wish was to rescue more and he was very remorseful for missing life signs of others he could have helped. However, in his words and the words of others who have climbed at extreme altitudes, (paraphrased) – “Your cognitive and physical abilities are so impaired /limited it’s amazing that people even make it back, at all, let alone attempt anything more”. The linking of Anatoli’s death on Annapurna to Krakaur’s portrayal of him is quite odd, and to some extent offensive: you do not, obviously, have any real knowledge of the individuals involved, nor the experience to make such a claim. Also remember that with every bit if negative press has a positive side. Krakaur lit a very effective fire under the story of Anatoli’s participation in 96, and as bad as it might have seemed at the time of the books (Krakaur’s) release, that fire encouraged Anatoli to write his own (assisted by Westin-DeWalt, of course) book, and share more of his experiences with friends and the public. Unfortunately, Anatoli would not see much of the positive side due to his early death.
So glad to see that someone is still following this discussion since it had been over two years since the last reply.
Thank you for your comments and for the friendly debate.
I think that anyone who was there and didn’t make an attempt to go back out in the storm to assist others has a heavy conscience about it…..whether they were capable of doing so or not is a different story. Survivors guilt is a very real thing and can make people twist things in their minds.
JK is happens to be the only one there who sold his book rights to make a movie about it a year later.
His portrayal of Bourkeev may just be misplaced anger at himself for his own errors. Not defending him, as I believe that he had a responsibility to fact check and get the viewponts of everyone there instead of rushing his book off to the Publisher within a couple of months.
He is the one who informed others that Andy Harris had made it back safely, when, in reality, Andy was out there perishing alongside (or very close to) where Rob Hall was found.
He claimed to have been good friends with Andy during the entire expedition, claimed to have had an entire conversation with Andy during the storm and said he saw Andy stumble back to the tents, when in reality, it was more than likely Martin Adams from the other team whom he had spoken to and saw. His state of mind was obviously altered.
Would it have changed the outcome had he not said that? Probably not…but I can’t imagine being the one to misinform others about seeing someone and saying that they made it back safe, when the real story is that Andy likely never made it below the Southeast Ridge on his own steam.
I am interested in reading more on your viewpoint about how “the way he portrayed Boukreev indirectly led to Boukreev’s death – and that should on his conscience.”
Do you believe that Boukreev’s death in the 1997 avalanche can be attributed to a state of mind altered by JK’s published opinion of him? Did he drive him to climb that mountain on Dec 25th?
@Everest Obsessed, had to re-visit the library to check my source on this!
tldr: yes, JK’s depiction of Boukreev led him to attempt climbing a mountain he knew was far too dangerous, as he felt he had to restore his reputation.
Graham Ratcliffe (“A day to die for: Everest’s Worst Distaster”) wrote what I found to be a very balanced assessment of what happened. He makes it clear that the storm had been forecast, and that Boukreev had raised concerns about the weather condition.
I personally agree with his opinion, founded on talking to many of the survivors, that thie failure to heed the storm warning was the single biggest contributor in a chain of errors:
“Arguably, with the weather being explained away as ‘a rogue storm that blew in without warning’, a disproportionate burden of blame was unfairly placed on Anatoli’s shoulders. It weighed heavy on this very private man. His reputation, the respect he had earned over many years of climbing, was left in tatters…
As with Alison Hargreaves, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, he was under pressure and this was forcing him into decisions against his better judgement. His reasons were different from theirs, but the outcome would be the same. He came down from his preparatory climbs on Annapurna for a rest. It was a mountain that he knew was precariously laden with snow that winter season. By 18 December 1997, he reported that at lower elevations they had 11 feet of new snow. The need for continued success must have been preying on his mind because he went back up onto a mountain that he knew was far too dangerous to attempt in such conditions. One week later, on Christmas Day of 1997, Anatoli was swept to his death by an avalanche while making his attempt on Annapurna. Had the full facts behind the 1996 disaster been placed in the public domain would Anatoli have faced such fierce criticism? Would he still be alive today? Was Anatoli Boukreev the final fatality of the 1996 disaster?”
Ratcliffe also speaks to your point (He’s a writer. He gets paid to tell a story. Conflict and tragedy sell books): “I have no problem with someone making a film or writing a book about such events, and in doing so making a profit. That is not only the way of the world but also how the wider public becomes aware of what happened. However, in doing so, all the important facts necessary to understanding what caused the disaster should, in my view, appear in the account.”
But I’ll leave the last word to Boukreev, who’s quoted by Ratcliffe as saying in an interview that he gave at Everest Base Camp the following year, in May 1997: “And people forget about everything when they speak about money – you can rewrite history as you like.”
There were, I believe, seven books written about this Everest tragedy. It’s well worth reading Ratcliffe’s book as well as Nick Heil (Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season) and Beck Weathers (Left for Dead: My Journey from Everest). They are add a bit more depth and understanding to what happened.
@EverestObsessed…You put across your points Very well …logically & without bias…That there was a clear failure of Leadership is very obvious…Sacrosanct TAT was breached …had they stuck to TAT, no tragedy would have occurred…Scott couldn’t say No to Sandy Hill Pittman…she had the money & media power…Beidlman was also a Hero…though Unsung
I too am glad to see people still reading and commenting here! I tried a couple weeks ago, but I don’t think my comments ever got added…?
Have read Krakauer’s book twice, Boukreev’s once, and enjoyed them both, but it is painful reading. Recently got a used copy of JK’s illustrated edition – great to see more photos of the two teams.
My general feeling is that like almost everything in life, there are shades of gray with so little black and white. Everyone made mistakes that day, and many of the leaders and guides paid with their lives. Turn around times are meant to be sacred, but there was so much publicity available with Krakauer and Pittman, that life threatening risks were taken. Egos were involved – who could summit the highest number of clients and have the added publicity and bragging rights from that year’s summit season. Success would’ve meant unprecedented publicity and notoriety.
My feeling is that Boukreev wasn’t cut out to be a nursemaid-style guide. I don’t think Russians/Khazaks of his background could even wrap their heads around this fledgling “tourist industry”. Remember, amateurs paying to summit Everest was still pretty new in ’96. I do wonder what he might’ve been able to accomplish if he had stopped his descent at the Balcony, and gathered up groups to send down. Who knows, he may have lost his own life had he tried it. Overall, I think every guide and leader needed a radio and clear instructions as to what their responsibilities were on summit day.
Sorry at the slowness in adding your comments. We no longer update this blog – only the conversation on this post is still going.
@Mark Carrera, you are correct – I’m commenting here (as are many others) from the position of having read almost all the available books on this topics, with much interest. I do not not know, nor have I spoken to, any of the participants. So I will respectfully defer to your position as to whether Boukreev pushed himself too far as a result of the negative portrayal by Krakauer.
But an absurd positon? No, this view was strongly espoused by Ratcliffe, who I quoted extensively above, and who spent considerable time interviewing the participants, including Boukreev. His book came across as a balanced and considered analysis of the situation. (To be fair, you may have read my intiial short response, before I cited references. My bad!)
Now, since you do know the various participants, what I would find very interesting is whether you feel that Ratcliffe was an “independent” commentator, and if you feel that his account and analysis was an inpartial and fair assessment.
Appreciate your feedback – thank you.
@oilvered – There is a big difference between interacting with a participant who’s freely relaying their thoughts, feelings, and raw unedited emotions and an interview where one is presumably prepared and engaged to produce a product. Having been interviewed many times in my life, I know first hand that the end result is often not exactly what I intended or the context has been altered to fit a specific narrative. We have all seen this in the way sensationalized stories are carried in the media and it is all about ratings which = ‘cash’. I don’t believe that anyone is truly ‘independent’ if they are producing a ‘piece’ for publication at nearly any level.
The only impartial people I know, with regards to Anatoli and 96, are the few people who listened to Anatoli relay his adventures because there was no ‘agenda’ on the listeners side: we had no stake in the game other than lending sympathetic and if not a critical ear to his words. It’s all in the eyes, and I can detect the second someone goes off script and embellishes or BS’s when relaying experiences. Anatoli never embellished his story while speaking to close friends, his words were clear, his emotions in concert with the gravity of the content he was relaying. I don’t think the interviews were wrong or corrupt, but I feel some loss of context in the translation from what he might have meant to say to what was in the final cut or edit. Responses could easily be out of context.
On the topic of Annapurna, Anatoli often talked about new mountains and new routes up the ones he had already climbed – all the time. Remember, we are talking about someone who’s at the apex of their career in high altitude mountaineering. So, much like anyone who’s at Anatoli’s level, be it a F1-racer or boxer, there’s always another challenge to test their skills. Nobody I know was shocked or amazed that he was on Annapurna and so soon after his bus-crash ordeal that nearly blinded him. Nearly losing his eyesight caused him much more angst than nearly anything else in his life (at the time). It is where he lived and loved life. And like anyone holding elite status in extreme sports, death while participating on ones passion is clearly understood and expected by those around them. So, I find it amazing that some people believe he was on Annapurna with the emotion and thought of redemption as part of the agenda. To me, Anatoli was simply doing what he had trained nearly all of his life for; climbing nearly impossible routes on the worlds tallest mountains.
In closing, there’s a lot of comments and pontificating from the pulpit of pulp on this blog, but few are connected directly to the participants of the 96 disaster – mine included to some degree. Just keep things in perspective regarding investigative reading and experiential learning: my experiences with the climbing community exceeds whatever I have watched or read about Anatoli, 96, and Annapurna.
@mwcarrera – thanks for the detailed response. No disrespect was intended in my comments, and I appreciate you calling out that my “interpretation” (of Anatoli pushing himself too hard as a result of how he was portrayed by Krakauer) was incorrect.
@olivered : -), No worries, my friend, I did not take your comments to be anything but a perspective derived from your investigation and keen interest in Anatoli, 96, and Everest. Also, I know from experience not to read emotion (sadness, anger, angst, happiness) into blogs or emails unless explicitly entered into the dialog.
The topic of Everest and everything under that simple but ominous word incites a lot of dialog, generates a huge amount of interest, and is a wonderful topic of conversation at any level. So, I continue to follow this blog and participate in the discussion from time to time because it’s interesting to see different perspectives. I also respect the amount of very good and some not-so-good media (books, TV, Movies) that have been produced to date on the 96 disaster, they are a resource of information for curiosity seekers.
I am no expert on Everest, but I do have some important insights to the character of Anatoli, so I comment on this specific area of the blog whenever I see something that needs a little more thought and perspective. Above all, I appreciate the interest in events that are part of my own history and its small, very small, connection to the Everest community.
If I had a wish to change how things developed, media wise – regarding 96, it would be the speed that Krakaur release both the Outside Magazine article (he might not have had a choice in the article timing since he was under contract – I respect that aspect of it) and his book. I remember when we first heard about the article being published and the accusations against Anatoli, we all were shocked because families had barely had time to morn losses and here’s a slap in the face by one of the few people who could have used the opportunity to assist the healing process for many. Instead, he gaslighted Anatloli which started a long burning controversy.
And, then the book was released, another fast action by Krakaur – but this appeared as a charge forward for fame and profit. Way to fast and far to critical of many aspects that he, Krakaur, was partly responsible for. Although much of this has already been covered and is the title of the blog, it would be my wish that Krakaur took more time and reflected more about how his writings would create community instead of creating controversy and separation for many.
Continue to investigate and write about your findings and perspective, I thoroughly enjoy the dialog. Peace.
@oliverd – Thank you for your insight into the book, “A day to die for: Everest’s Worst Distaster” as well as for your comments about AB’s reasoning for climbing Annapurna.
My plan is to read all publications and then come back here with additional comments once I have done this, since the only book I have read is JK’s publication and admittedly, I need a refresher since it has been many, many years.
@kenanddot – thank you for continuing to publish comments on this blog. I am really glad I found it as it contains logical observations, much insight into the rationale of the people who lived to tell their story and has allowed me to see the events from both sides of the ‘battle’ so-to-speak. The best place I have found thus far to read comments. Reddit doesn’t have much.
@DR MCS, thank you for the kind words. Agree 100% that the violation of the TAT was the leading contributor to the tragedy that unfolded. A devastating loss that sadly has never faded from many minds, as evidenced from the 300+ comments on this blog.
@matt – “Boukreev wasn’t cut out to be a nursemaid-style guide” – Agreed. Nor should he have been required to provide such a service on a place like Mount Everest. ANYONE who requires such a guide doesn’t belong climbing on a hill above 25 degrees, in my opinion. Egos were also the enemy here. Nailed it!
@Mark Carrera – I am very sorry for the loss of your friend. I am grateful that Anatoli decided to write his book and tell his side of the story from those days and I am eager to read the events in his own words once I get a copy. Please know that even though Anatoli isn’t here today to know how his actions have impacted many people’s perceptions these events, there is a whole internet world of people who still know that he was a hero and that he still remains one almost 25 years later, without even reading his book. Although it is very sad that he had such a short time to hear what people thought of his book, his actions speak louder than anything put into print as a result from what happened that day.
Can anyone here guide me to where I can find the 1997 TV movie, Into Thin Air: Death on Everest so I can re-watch? I have searched high and low and can’t find it on YouTube or on anywhere on the net. My renewed interest in this story came from recently watching the 2015 movie Everest and I have spent the better part of a week watching interviews, reading articles and pretty much everything I can find. This has been an excellent resource for someone like me. Kudos to @kenanddot for allowing comments to continue. I hope to read more!
I finally found the 1997 movie Into Thin Air online.
Sadly, I wish I hadn’t.
I get it….its a movie, and I broke my own personal policy of not watching a movie after reading a book, regarless of the timing….but since the events were supposed to be “Based on a True Story”, I exempt myself from that policy, eager for more details of the true story.
Not sure if it was a ‘creative license’ that the Producers used or if it is just a horrible representation of the events as I understand them to have occurred.
I was really shocked at how how JK is depicted as so heavily involved with communications between RH and his wife Jan, as well as during the entire time he was stranded up there, and while searching for oxygen. It seemed like JK (per the movie) was his radio lifeline the entire time, when I understood it to be primarily Helen Wilton, the Base Camp Mgr.
In the movie, it is shown that JK mounts a futile rescue to find RH with Ang Dorjee Sherpa…. and even begs ADS to continue on….then later banging pots and pans to guide the lost climbers back to camp. Two major events that I understood he had no part in during the real situation.
The entire situation with Andy Harris being reported (by JK) as safe and alive back at camp is strangely omitted. I think JK was rightfully ticked that AH messed up his oxygen level, and on some level, felt that what AH did was worse than what JK did afterwards. JK survived…AH didn’t….sure wish we had AH’s account of what happened at the Oxygen dump and above Hillary Step.
Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa = a true warrior as well. Tried his best to save Scott, even lowering him down below Hillary Step many hours after short-roping SPH up the mountain while being burdened with a heacy load. The endurance he must have had to do what he did….as well as helping other Sherpas save the Taiwanese climber, Makulu Gao, who is very much overlooked in this movie.
So many other observations…but these are the main ones bugging me right now.
I cannot get these tragedy out of my head!
Yes, that movie’s pretty bad…
You’ve probably seen this documentary, I thought it was overall pretty well done:
Also, this recent interview with Krakauer is good too – he reiterates adamantly how he wishes he had never gone to Mount Everest:
And lastly, the lecture Krakauer gave in Boulder the year after the tragedy:
In this last video from the Boulder, CO lecture, he also talks extensively about Chris McCandless and “Into the Wild”.
Like many of the commenters here, I too have revisited this story again and again, through books, videos, and the internet. There’s something so heartbreaking about the lost lives, and so confounding how so many mountaineers with impressive credentials got lured in by the need to summit their clients. And it still continues, every year more people dying and leaving their frozen bodies on the mountainside.
Another book that has captured me in a similar way is “Shadow Divers”, by Robert Kurson. There’s an eerie similarity between high altitude climbing and deep water diving, and Kurson does a great job at chronicling the obsessive, driven nature of these divers. If you like “Into Thin Air”…
You can also perform on a number of tables or in tournaments. The two occasions — held on the same day — will consist of a poker run and a horse show. Then, the device pays the participant with money or some other thing.
JK didn’t blame AB at all. His book portrayed AB as a heroic human being, not as a god, which was apparently super offensive to AB and his stan club. AB’s ghostwritten response is a good account of the disaster but goes way too far in settling a personal score that didn’t exist anywhere but AB’s mind. The only one who truly comes out of into thin air looking like a real POS was sandy pittman, and she clearly more than earned that stigma.
A lot of these commenters seem to forget that this disaster happened at an altitude that makes everyone act like idiots in a horrible storm that would kill any living thing. I doubt any of the people who are criticizing JK for not being harsher on Hall — who paid with his life for his folly — would have the guts to write a book to that effect with their own names attached to it.
I can’t believe people are still commenting on this post fifteen years later (and years after we stopped regularly maintaining the blog, too). Then again, the post itself was more than a decade after the events. I guess this is a drama that people still find powerfully moving and engaging. To me the real lessons are not about any individual’s culpability but the culture of high-altitude mountaineering and its strange combination of the idealistic and the exploitative.
I still check back from time to time to see if any new opinions have been shared. Strangely, I remember where I was on May 10, 1996, when I heard a radio report about the unfolding disaster. I had been to Nepal only 3 years earlier, so it shocked me all the more. Ken, you mention the culture of high altitude mountaineering: a few posts back I mentioned a book called “Shadow Divers” by Robert Kurson. The culture of deep water divers has a lot of similarities, both idealistic and exploitative, and unfortunately often fatal as well. Thanks for the blog!
David Breashears was getting regular weather updates from London & also from the Dutch team in base camp & he passed them on to Rob Hall & Scott Fisher …this issue has not been highlighted in the book ….it wasn’t a freak storm…I also do not understand as to why Scott Fisher & Anatoli did not carry Radio on them on Summit day…Toli was made the scapegoat & real issues were swept under the carpet…
Dr MCS – Probably had a lot to do with the competition to summit the most clients – thinking they could beat the storm system. And a lot of foggy thinking at high altitude.
Also, pressing on because a big article in Outside magazine was going to essentially publicize the climbing company that had the most success. A lot of type-A personalities, not to mention a ton of money on the line with future clients, and murky thinking at altitude.