I recently attended the Banff mountain film festival in Canada. One of the key speakers was Simone Moro, the close friend of Anatoli Boukreev, the climber who was killed in an avalanche several years ago on Annapurna and whom Krakauer pretty much vilifies in this book as not having done enough to save the lives of those caught in the blizzard on Mount Everest in May of 1996. Needless to say, the vibe in the room was chilly whenever the subject of Krakauer's version of events came up; he was accused of slander and some in the room even claimed that he had not done much himself to save the lives of those in danger during the Everest disaster.
Nevertheless, as a reader of climbing nonfiction, I stand by Krakauer. I have always found his account of the Everest disaster an intensely moving and thought-provoking one. Like Joe Simpson's books, Into Thin Air reveals its speaker to be a climber with a conscience. Kraukauer loves climbing but is completely honest about the fact that such a dangerous sport so often puts one in the agonizing position of having to make life or death decisions under conditions that make clear thinking nearly impossible-- the cold, the lack of oxygen, the immense strain on the body at that great elevation. One gets the sense while reading that he is trying to make sense of this crazy sport as he writes, that this book is his process of figuring out the answer to the question: with all of the dangers and fatalities that result from climbing Everest, why on earth do people actually sign themselves up for this kind of thing?
In the years since I first picked up this book, I have discovered many other great climbing books in the adventure genre, although Krakauer's remains one of my all-time favorites. For more accounts of the Everest disaster, see also Boukreev's The Climb and Beck Weather's Left for Dead. If you enjoy Krakauer's writing, you might also enjoy Nando Parrado's Miracle in the Andes, a true account of the narrow escape of some members of a Uruguayan rugby team that survived by any means necessary-- and I do mean ANY means necessary--two grueling months in the Andes after their plane crashed in the mountains on the way home from a game. In addition, Joe Simpson's Touching the Void is a similarly remarkable story of a climber who survives unlikely odds after breaking his leg on the side of the mountain Siula Grande in Peru. There are also movie versions of both (Titled Alive and Touching the Void, respectively.) In addition, a movie version is due out soon for one of Krakauer's other wilderness adventure books, Into The Wild.