Into Thin Air (Anglais) Broché – 1 juillet 2011
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Among my five teammates who reached the top, four, including Hall, perished in a rogue storm that blew in without warning while we were still high on the peak. By the time I'd descended to Base Camp nine climbers from four expeditions were dead, and three more lives would be lost before the month was out.
The expedition left me badly shaken, and the article was difficult to write. Nevertheless, five weeks after I returned from Nepal I delivered a manuscript to Outside, and it was published in the September issue of the magazine. Upon its completion I attempted to put Everest out of my mind and get on with my life, but that turned out to be impossible. Through a fog of messy emotions, I continued trying to make sense of what had happened up there, and I obsessively mulled the circumstances of my companions' deaths.
The Outside piece was as accurate as I could make it under the circumstances, but my deadline had been unforgiving, the sequence of events had been frustratingly complex, and the memories of the survivors had been badly distorted by exhaustion, oxygen depletion, and shock. At one point during my research I asked three other people to recount an incident all four of us had witnessed high on the mountain, and one of us could agree on such crucial facts as the time, what had been said, or even who had been present. Within days after the Outside article went to press, I discovered that a few of the details I'd reported were in error. Most were minor inaccuracies of the sort that inevitably creep into works of deadline journalism, but one of my blunders was in no sense minor, and it had a devastating impact on the friends and family of one of the victims.
Only slightly less disconcerting than the article's factual errors was the material that necessarily had to be omitted for lack of space. Mark Bryant, the editor of Outside, and Larry Burke, the publisher, had given me an extraordinary amount of room to tell the story: they ran the piece at 17,000 words -- four or five times as long as a typical magazine feature. Even so, I felt that it was much too abbreviated to do justice to the tragedy. The Everest climb had rocked my life to its core, and it became desperately important for me to record the events in complete detail, unconstrained by a limited number of column inches. This book is the fruit of that compulsion.
The staggering unreliability of the human mind at high altitude made the research problematic. To avoid relying excessively on my own perceptions, I interviewed most of the protagonists at great length and on multiple occasions. When possible I also corroborated details with radio logs maintained by people at Base Camp, where clear thought wasn't in such short supply. Readers familiar with the Outside article may notice discrepancies between certain details (primarily matters of time) reported in the magazine and those reported in the book; the revisions reflect new information that has come to light since publication of the magazine piece.
Several authors and editors I respect counseled me not to write the book as quickly as I did; they urged me to wait two or three years and put some distance between me and the expedition in order to gain some crucial perspective. Their advice was sound, but in the end I ignored it -- mostly because what happened on the mountain was gnawing my guts out. I thought that writing the book might purge Everest from my life.
It hasn't, of course. Moreover, I agree that readers are often poorly served when an author writes as an act of catharsis, as I have done here. But I hoped something would be gained by spilling my soul in the calamity's immediate aftermath, in the roil and torment of the moment. I wanted my account to have a raw, ruthless sort of honesty that seemed in danger of leaching away with the passage of time and the dissipation of anguish.
Some of the same people who warned me against writing hastily had also cautioned me against going to Everest in the first place. There were many, many fine reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act -- a triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument.
The plain truth is that I knew better but went to Everest anyway. And in doing so I was a party to the death of good people, which is something that is apt to remain on my conscience for a very long time.
From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Revue de presse
--Galen Rowell, The Wall Street Journal
From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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This is a very disturbing story,and honestly a story which should be read by anybody who intends to go on top of Everest.I am not myself into mountaineering but this book explains the difficulty of climbing, the commercial pressure on the guides to get all their clients to the top, the danger of collapsing at high altitude with all the side effects,the unpredictable climate, and of course the possibility of death for anybody experienced or not.
"Into thin air" will be on my mind for a long time. Jon Krakauer writes very effectively, he's very honest with himself, and with the other people who did share this awful experience. That makes it even more interesting to read.
"In March 1996, Outside magazine sent [Jon Krakauer] to participate in, and write about a guided ascent of Mount Everest", on Rob Hall's Adventure Consultants expedition. In addition to Hall's eight clients, Scott Fisher's Mountain Madness guided expedition also had eight clients. Scott Fisher: "We've got the big E figured out ... we've built a yellow brick road to the summit." Krakauer did reach the Everest summit on May 10, 1996 at 13:10. Worrying about his dwindling oxygen, he left the summit after just five minutes, finally making it back to his tent on the South Col at about 18:45, "more exhausted than I'd ever been in my life." "The storm abruptly metastasized into a full-blown hurricane, and the visibility dropped to less than twenty feet ... nineteen men and women were stranded up on the mountain by the storm, caught in a desperate struggle for their lives."
Two guides, two Sherpas, and seven clients had reached the South Col, but "staggered blindly around in the storm, growing ever more exhausted and hypothermic." In a small break in the storm, Camp Four was slightly visible. "Pittman, Fox, Weathers, and Namba were too feeble to walk", so Neil Beidleman, Klev Schoening, Lene Gammelgard, the two Sherpas, and Mike Groom stumbled off into the storm, making it back to the tents on May 11 at 00:45. Fisher's guide Anatoli Boukreev had descended to Camp Four in advance of his clients, and was the only strong climber left. Boukreev courageously single-handedly attempted to brave the storm to rescue the missing climbers, but had to return to the tents. But Boukreev didn't give up. He went out again by himself and was able to find the climbers, and brought back first Charlotte Fox and then Sandy Pittman and Tim Madsen. Yasuko Namba was dead and Beck was a lost cause.
Rob Hall waited for Doug Hansen to reach the summit at around 16:00, but Hansen turned into a "zombie" on the descent. Andy Harris picked up oxygen from the South Summit and walked back up towards Hall and Hansen. "at 4:43 on the morning of May 11 ... [Hall] had descended to the South Summit. And at that point neither Hansen nor Harris was with him." The continuing storm on May 11 stopped the Sherpa's rescue attempt. Rob's pregnant wife in New Zealand was patched through to speak to Rob late on May 11, " 'I love you. Sleep well, my sweetheart. Please don't worry too much.' These would be the last words anyone would her him speak."
Scott Fisher was not very strong on summit day, and reached the summit late at 15:40. Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa was able to help Fisher descend, but he collapsed just below the Balcony about 400m above the South Col. Anatoli Boukreev reached Fisher late on the evening of May 11. "Down suit is unzipped, pulled off his shoulder, one arm is outside clothing. There is nothing I can do. Scott is dead."
Amongst the tragedy, there was a ray of joy. Beck Weathers collapsed on the South Col late on May 10 and was left for dead. Miraculously he regained consciousness on May 11 and stumbled back to Camp Four at 16:35 with his "bare right hand, naked to the frigid wind and grotesquely frostbitten ... outstretched ... [looking like] a mummy in a low-budget horror film." Beck miraculously survived the night and the IMAX team with David Breashears and Ed Viesturs helped him descend to Camp Two the next day. Lt. Colonel Madan Khatri Chhetri rescued Beck from Camp Two in his helicopter on May 13.
Krakauer's writing is excellent, providing enough information, but keeping the story tight and to the point. He provides his inner thoughts and comments candidly on his own performance and mistakes, and the other clients and guides. Rob Hall's last minutes speaking to his wife are almost too heartbreaking to read. The photos are absolutely excellent. Although Krakauer is critical of Anatoli Boukreev's guiding practices, he fully acknowledges Toli's extraordinary performance in single handedly rescuing three clients during the storm. For a rebuttal from Anatoli Boukreev, read The Climb.
Krakauer était journaliste et surtout alpiniste chevronné, il préparait un reportage sur les expéditions commerciales sur l'Everest. Il raconte de façon très personnelle l'ensemble de cette affaire. Son témoignage est captivant et poignant, et le lecteur réalise pleinement la dureté et les risques de ce type d'expédition.
La fin du livre est gâchée par le compte rendu des polémiques qui ont suivi la publication de la première édition. En effet, les principaux survivants du drame se sont bien sûr rejeté la responsabilité des événements. Or, l'auteur est partie prenante, son livre a été écrit aussitôt après la catastrophe et un peu de recul aurait été bénéfique. Paradoxalement, alors qu'on accompagne l'auteur à plus de 8.000 mètres, c'est la hauteur de vue qui manque un peu.
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