Into Thin Air
When Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10,1996, he hadn't slept in fifty-seven hours and was reeling from the brain-altering effects of oxygen depletion. As he turned to begin the perilous descent from 29,028 feet (roughly the cruising altitude of an Airbus jetliner), twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly to the top, unaware that the sky had begun to roil with clouds... Into Thin Airis the definitive account of the deadliest season in the history of Everest by the acclaimed Outside journalist and author of the bestselling Into the Wild. Taking the reader step by step from Katmandu to the mountain's deadly pinnacle, Krakauer has his readers shaking on the edge of their seat. Beyond the terrors of this account, however, he also peers deeply into the myth of the world's tallest mountain. What is is about Everest that has compelled so many poeple--including himself--to throw caution to the wind, ignore the concerns of loved ones, and willingly subject themselves to such risk, hardship, and expense? Written with emotional clarity and supported by his unimpeachable reporting, Krakauer's eyewitness account of what happened on the roof of the world is a singular achievement.
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Chapter One - Everest Summit: May 10, 1996 • 29,028 Feet
Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, which is why it is often referred to as "the roof of the world." This picture illustrates what a climber sees when standing on the summit. (This annotation contains an image)
Krakauer is already facing two major problems. What are they?
This is a clue about what will happen later in the text, which is called foreshadowing. Watch the video below and consider what Krakauer's use of foreshadowing adds to the story. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter Two - Dehra Dun, India: 1852 • 2,234 Feet
A theodolite is an instrument used to measure the height of mountains. The one used to discover Mount Everest probably looked similar to the one below. (This annotation contains an image)
In what year is the summit of Everest finally reached?
Pictured here is the Hillary Step which is described as being the last major obstacle before the summit. (This annotation contains an image)
The phrase, "and finally collapsed exhausted at the top like a giant fish when it has just been hauled up from the sea after a tremendous struggle," is a simile. Watch the video below to learn more about similes and metaphors and consider what this simile helps you to understand about the climbers' mental and physical states. (This annotation contains a video)
Here is a view of Mount Everest's West Ridge. Use the picture to help you understand why ascending the mountain via the West Ridge is considered a great feat. (This annotation contains an image)
As a child, Jack Krakauer dreams of _____.
Here we have an allusion to the character Walter Mitty from James Thurber's short story, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Watch the preview for a 2013 movie version of the story and consider what Beck Weathers is saying about himself. (This annotation contains a video)
Explain what Peter means when he says, "Some people don't understand that an Everest expedition can't be run like a Swiss train," and what is he attempting to justify?
Explain the original assignment request from Outside magazine. Then explain Krakauer's reasoning behind refuting the assignment, and his new proposal for an article.
In these lines, Krakauer's description includes two examples of personification. Watch the video below to help you identify the two examples and then consider how they add drama and suspense into the writing. (This annotation contains a video)
To help readers fully understand the tragedy and horror of his experience on Mount Everest, Krakauer includes background information on previous climbs, climbing techniques, specific climbers' histories, and vivid descriptions of the settings he encounters. And each chapter includes endnotes that expand the explanations.
Chapter Three - Over Northern India: March 29, 1996 • 30,000 Feet
Why do Krakauer's palms feel clammy?
Pictured here is Rob Hall, Krakauer's guide for the expedition. (This annotation contains an image)
How many attempts did it take Rob Hall to reach the top of Mount Everest?
Here we see the idea of trusting teammates and avoiding careless mistakes. As you continue reading, consider how the actions of each individual can influence the outcome of the expedition.
Chapter Four - Phakding: March 31, 1996 • 9,186 Feet
Here is a picture of Namche Bazaar with Kongde Ri peak in the background. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following are Krakauer's guides for the climb?
Here, we see an emerging theme, one that has been referenced a couple times already: controversial changes in the area caused by increased interest in climbing Mount Everest. Watch the video below on emerging theme, and, as you continue reading, notice how this theme continues to be portrayed. Also, look for more emerging themes. (This annotation contains a video)
Consider the simile, "Ten thousand feet above, the huge backlit spike of Ama Dablam hovered over the head of the valley like an apparition." How does the use of the word "apparition" add to the description?
Why does looking at the gorge fill Krakauer with a sense of dread?
Below is a picture of the Tengboche Monastery where Krakauer receives a special blessing from the head lama of all Nepal before beginning the ascent. (This annotation contains an image)
Rob Hall's feelings exemplify the concept of irony. Watch this video to learn more about irony, and then, using what you know will happen later in the book, consider how Hall is foreshadowing an ironic twist of events. (This annotation contains a video)
Read this article, written on April 20, 2014, which describes the dangers and mistreatments Sherpas face while employed by mountain guides. As you continue reading, connect ideas mentioned in the article to the book. (This annotation contains a link)
What lesson do you believe Krakauer wants us to learn from Kami's horrific death? Use information from the article, "After Everest Disaster, Sherpas Contemplate Strike," to further support your answer.
Chapter Five - Lobuje: April 8, 1996 • 16,200 Feet
The sentence, "Sculpted by the intense solar rays, glowing a radioactive shade of turquoise, the towers reared like giant shark's teeth out of the surrounding rubble as far as the eye could see," is an example of which type of literary device?
Here is a photo of Everest Base Camp. Study the climber's current location and use it to compare to higher camps as the story continues. (This annotation contains an image)
The line, "Retiring to my tent at night, I was serenaded by a madrigal of creaks and percussive cracks, a reminder that I was lying on a moving river of ice," is an example of personification. Consider what this description dramatically conveys about the current setting.
Rob Hall and Gary Ball's dedication to good and honest climbing helped to remove how many tons of garbage from Base Camp?
This is a photo of a climber using ice axes to ascend Bridal Veil Falls in Utah. This is probably one of the most extreme forms of ice climbing. (This annotation contains an image)
Unfortunately, Mt. Everest is also known as the "Highest Trash Dump in the World." Below is a picture of the types of trash taken off the mountain by groups such as Fischer's clean up expedition. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes Scott Fischer?
At Base Camp, effects of the altitude include vertigo, wheezing, lack of sleep, gastrointestinal distress, and _________.
Chapter Six - Everest Base Camp: April 12, 1996 • 17,600 Feet
The fact that the Canadian climber's crampons did not fit his brand new hiking boots illustrates which of the following points?
Explain the mood created by the description, "followed Rob into the eerie blue labyrinth."
Why must climbers complete the Icefall without being tied to one another?
Watch this video of climbers making their way through the dangerous Icefall. Use the video, along with Krakauer's description, to understand the intense danger associated with this area of the climb. (This annotation contains a video)
What does the simile, "As the glacier moved, crevasses would sometimes compress, buckling like toothpicks," tell you about the dangers of climbing through the Icefall?
What nearly causes a divorce in Jon's marriage to Linda?
Consider what this example of personification tells us about why Krakauer risked his marriage and gave up more promising financial endeavors to do the story for Outside.
Chapter Seven - Camp One: April 13, 1996 • 19,500 Feet
Consider the sentence, "Everest has always been a magnet for kooks, publicity...and others with a shaky hold on reality." Using information collected earlier in the text and any background information, decide if you agree or disagree with this statement and provide justification from the text and from the world to support your opinion.
Here is a photo of Wilson standing next to Ever Wrest in 1933. (This annotation contains an image)
How long does it take Maurice Wilson just to arrive at the foot of Everest?
Explain the meaning of the line, "marginally qualified dreamers like some of my cohorts." Provide specific examples of how Krakauer's fellow climbers fit this description.
Learn more about Schoening's miracle save by reading this article. As you continue through the story, consider Schoening's level of stamina and leadership on this particular climb. (This annotation contains a link)
Consider the use of the word "bribed" in these lines. What does this tell us about how Krakauer views himself and the others on Hall's expedition?
Based on the information you have heard about the Taiwanese group, what can you predict about their performance on the 1996 Everest hike?
In your opinion, was the Taiwanese climbing group, led by Makalu Gau, actually successful when it came to their McKinley climb? Explain your answer.
Throughout Chapter Seven, which of the following motifs is expressed?
Below is a video explaining motifs. Watch it and then use the information to help you answer the following question. (This annotation contains a video)
Would you have dropped off of the climb if you learned all of this information about Woodall? Support your decision with details from the text.
Following an order to refuse water to Mr. Veron, what does the Sherpa, Ang Dorje, do?
Quiz 1: Chapters 1-7
Chapter Eight - Camp One: April 16, 1996 • 19,500 Feet
Krakauer is fortunate enough to be climbing with the best and most conscientious guide, so he knows that going back and forth through the Icefall is an imperative part of the acclimatization process; however, it still stands as one of the most dangerous parts of the climb. Using his description and the video from earlier, determine and explain how you would feel about having to cross it multiple times while attempting to summit?
In these lines, Krakauer uses a simile to explain the weather. Consider how the drastic change in temperature may affect him and his climbing partners.
After seeing the bodies, what does Jon Krakauer realize is "at stake"?
We can infer that Deshun Deysel is _________________.
Given this information, whose expedition would you rather be on, Fischer's or Hall's? Explain your opinion using details from the text.
Here is a picture of a Gamow Bag which is probably similar to the one used with Ngawang. Gamow Bags are designed to help people struggling with severe altitude sickness and can decrease effective altitude by up to as much as 9743 feet. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the story of Ngawang's death teach us about climbing Mount Everest?
A picture of New York featuring Pittmans' story is below. Do you think that Sandy Pittman's fame will at all factor into her ability or motivation to climb the mountain? (This annotation contains an image)
Along with being oblivious to her critics, Sandy Hill Pittman is described as being all of the following except __________.
Chapter Nine - Camp Two: April 28, 1996 • 21,300 Feet
Jon Krakauer wrote this book about a year after returning from the experience. Notice how precise his details are when describing his experience. He is able to state exact times, dates, and elevation levels of different events that occur during the climb.
Here, you can see climbers make their way up the, "tilted sea of ice," that is called Lhotse Face. (This annotation contains an image)
Krakauer's current physical condition includes all of the following except ______.
Why is Doug currently very discouraged about finishing the climb?
The strung prayer flags Krakauer walks through probably looked like the ones below. The five colors of the flags, blue, white, red, green, and yellow, represent the elements -- sky, wind, fire, water, and earth. It is believed that health and harmony are found through balance of the five elements. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes Lopsang?
Chapter Ten - Lhotse Face: April 29, 1996 • 23,400 Feet
Consider what you have already read about climbing Mount Everest. Do you consider mountain climbing a reckless sport? Use proof from the text, videos, and outside articles to justify your response.
Here, Krakauer confesses that those on the climb, after experiencing toil, tedium, and suffering for a week, are looking for a state of grace. Look for the theme -- seeking spirituality -- to play a bigger role as Krakauer continues to struggle up the mountain.
Krakauer admits that his opinion of Beck Weathers changes as the climb continues. This is due, in part, to which of the following of Beck's traits?
Many people in the book, thus far, have been described as wanting to climb all the Seven Summits. The Seven Summits refer to the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. They include Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Carstensz Pyramid, Vinson, and Everest.
Describe the internal conflict Krakauer experiences while reporting and taking notes on the trek.
Throughout Chapter Ten, Krakauer explores which of the following motifs?
Notice the structure Jon Krakauer writes in. He jumps between past and present and weaves non-fiction reporting together with descriptive narrative. As you continue reading, consider how the structure engages you in the story.
Study this view from Camp 3, Krakauer's current location. Think back to earlier pictures from lower altitudes and compare the similarities and differences. How might these differences make climbing easier or harder? (This annotation contains an image)
At this point, how many staff and climbers have suffered from a serious condition involving altitude? How many from Hall's?
Consider what we already know. Does the window of clear, calm weather arrive granting the teams to summit?
Why do you think it is important that not all climbers attempt to summit at the same time?
Chapter Eleven - Base Camp: May 6, 1996 • 17,600 Feet
Use this diagram to understand the locations of, elevations of, and distances between the camps. (This annotation contains an image)
What are the predetermined turn around times for Hall's group?
From the beginning of the climb, Fischer allows his climbers to move independently up and down the mountain which causes some health issues for himself as well as his clients.
Consider Boukreev's belief that "If client cannot climb Everest without big help from guide...then client shouldn't try. Otherwise there can be big problems up high." Explain, using information learned in the text, whether you agree or disagree with this statement.
Tensions between Fischer and Boukreev are growing because Fischer does not believe Boukreev is worth his unusually generous fee. One of the main problems with Boukreev's guiding abilities are his _____________________________.
Again, Krakauer foreshadows an event that will happen later. Think about the effect the sentence, "Neither woman imagined that these would be the last conversations they would ever have with Fischer," has on you as a reader.
A picture of a bottled oxygen container with a mask is seen here. Imagine the weight carrying multiple oxygen tanks would add to already weary trekkers. (This annotation contains an image)
Messner achieved a great feat by climbing the mountain alone and with no oxygen. Do you think this was a good idea?
The word which best describes Mike Groom is ____.
Unable to conquer his _________________, Krakauer chooses not to obey Hall's warnings of the need to use supplemental oxygen while sleeping and takes his mask off. This leads to a restless and breathless night.
Chapter Twelve - Camp Three: May 9, 1996 • 24,000 Feet
The quotes and phrases which begin each chapter are called epigraphs. Epigraphs are included in texts to summarize, preface, or connect us to other texts. When reading this particular epigraph, what do you think it may be telling us about the larger text?
The fact that multiple teams are attempting the summit on the same day creates which of the following hazards?
Here, we see Krakauer battling with a few different things. His current conflicts include remaining safe when he is unclipped from the rope, using extra strength to pass the other climbers, and becoming so out of breath that he may puke.
Below is a picture of the Geneva Spur which is the remarkable setting Krakauer is currently grateful for. Consider if you could be grateful for this view having climbed so extraneously for the past hours. (This annotation contains an image)
Using the description of the South Col and, specifically, the sentence, "If there is a more desolate, inhospitable habitation anywhere on the planet, I hope never to see it," explain the conditions of the launching pad.
The sentence, "And I mean it had gnawed at him every single day," is what type of figurative language?
The sentence, "Every time I coughed, the pain from my torn thoracic cartilage felt like someone was jabbing a knife beneath my ribs, and brought tears to my eyes," is an example of what type of figurative language?
Krakauer points out that the Taiwanese do not follow protocol and head up the mountain anyway, even though they previously agreed not to. Consider why Krakauer repeatedly points out problematic behaviors of the various groups and guides.
If something happens to Doug as he continues the ascent, this situation may be seen as which of the following?
Which of the following may describe why Hall looks pointedly at Krakauer when giving the order that his word is law?
At this point, about how many hours has Hall's group been climbing?
How do Krakauer's current thoughts support the idea that climbers should not climb unless they can do so without supplemental oxygen?
Reread the last paragraph. Consider what words act as clues, telling us that Lopsang will survive the climb.
In your own words, summarize the short-roping of Pittman and make a prediction as to what kind of effect this seemingly isolated incident may have on the catastrophic events yet to unfold.
Chapter Thirteen - Southeast Ridge: May 10, 1996 • 27,600 Feet
Lopsang claims that Hall and Fischer instruct him and Ang Dorje not to go ahead to fix the ropes because ___________.
It is becoming clearer why the short-roping of Pittman may have caused greater problems later on. Lopsang would have been farther along on the mountain and could have put the ropes in.
"Thus the slopes of Everest are littered with corpses," is an example of imagery. Watch the video below to understand more about imagery. As you continue reading, look for ways Krakauer's use of imagery makes the book come alive. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Krakauer believe Ang Dorje refused to help with the ropes?
Though you have seen a photograph of the Hillary Step before, here is a picture of it on a particularly crowded day. Use this image to help you visualize the crowd Krakauer will run into on his descent. (This annotation contains an image)
Use this diagram to understand the distances between the day's starting point, the Hilary Step, and the actual summit. (This annotation contains an image)
The view Krakauer sees of the dry Tibetan plateau would be similar to the one in this picture. It really does look as though he is on "the rooftop of the world." (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter Fourteen - Summit: 1:12 P.M., May 10, 1996 • 29,028 Feet
Jon Krakauer and Andy Harris are both suffering from a major lack of oxygen. Make a prediction as to what will happen later based on this information.
The sentence, "was a lapse that's likely to haunt me for the rest of my life," is an example of which of the following literary devices?
"In a day of many mistakes, this would turn out to be one of the larger ones," tells us what about Beck's decision to wait for Mike?
Consider clues that Krakauer has told us about Andy's behavior and physical condition throughout the descent from the summit. Think about how these factors could interfere with Andy's ability to help or even wait for Krakauer.
Quiz 2: Chapters 8-13
Chapter Fifteen - Summit: 1:25 P.M., May 10, 1996 • 29,028 Feet
Why does Beidleman sit at the summit and wait for Fischer for such a long period of time?
When Michael Groom sees Beck Weathers, he describes him as being _____________.
The phrase, "...it was necessary to walk directly upward into the teeth of the storm," is an example of personification. Consider the image this description evokes for you as a reader.
Suspicion regarding Boukreev's (pictured here) guide skills and etiquette surface quickly after he ascends from the summit. Consider what you have heard about his actions on May 10, and determine your own opinion on his choices of that day. (This annotation contains an image)
In your own words, briefly describe what happens to Beck Weathers as he waits for rescue.
Chapter Sixteen - South Col: 6:00 A.M., May 11, 1996 • 26,000 Feet
Why might Woodall say no when asked to share his radio?
Chapter Seventeen - Summit: 3:40 P.M., May 10, 1996 • 29,028 Feet
Explain Krakauer's speculations on why Hall does not stick to his 2:00 p.m. descent time.
With this miscommunication between Andy Harris and Rob Hall, we see chaos begin to erupt. Consider how many climber's small mistakes on the ascent added to the unfolding catastrophe.
Harris, though debilitated himself, attempts to do which of the following?
Although Rob Hall is fighting for his life and suffering from a severe lack of oxygen, he is still able to remain focused on what?
Chapter Eighteen - Northeast Ridge: May 10, 1996 • 28,550 Feet
In this paragraph, what does the author's use of the words, "what they believed" and "what appeared to be" tell us about the Ladakhis summit?
Consider the Japanese reaction to the suffering Ladakhi climbers as they attempt to make their own ascent. How do they illustrate the idea of conditional morality? Have we seen this with any other climbers, earlier in the story?
Do you believe the Japanese should have helped the Ladakhis? Support your opinion using details from the text.
Chapter Nineteen - South Col: 7:30 A.M., May 11, 1996 • 26,000 Feet
With all Adventure Consultant guides dead, missing, or debilitated, who steps up to lead the remaining members?
Which two climbers are left for dead?
After so much unexplained tragedy and horror, even Beidleman and Schoening seem ready to believe which of the following?
Explain the definition of irony. Why is it ironic that Hall's expedition finds itself in the most danger on the climb?
Remarkably, Beck Weathers has made his way back to camp. Here is a picture, taken a few days later, of his facial frostbite. (This annotation contains an image)
Though putting up a good fight, Beck Weathers is once again left behind with the idea that he will not live much longer. Describe Krakauer's reaction to the death and tragedy surrounding him.
Chapter Twenty - The Geneva Spür: 9:45 A.M., May 12, 1996 • 25,900 Feet
Stuart seems to be showing very erratic behaviors. Consider behaviors of distressed climbers heard about earlier. How does Hutchinson compare?
Why does Lopsang think he is bad luck?
A photograph of Makalu Gau after his rescue. (This annotation contains an image)
A photograph of the hospital tent where both Weathers and Gau receive treatment. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter Twenty-One - Everest Base Camp: May 13, 1996 • 17,600 Feet
When Krakauer returns to Base Camp, what two things does he receive?
Upon getting off the chopper, Krakauer is immediately thrust into what?
The article below is entitled, "Life After Everest," and includes the survivors' tales of what happened to them physically and mentally once they returned home. (This annotation contains a link)
Krakauer is unable to find peace even over a year after the climb.
Though weather is not always predictable, what other mistakes were made by the guides which helped make the catastrophe even worse?
Consider the meaning of the statement, "Wisdom comes easily after the fact." Explain a time in your own life when this idea is applicable. Use your example to connect to the text as you continue reading.
After reading, has your opinion on the use of supplemental oxygen changed? Explain your answer using details from the text.
What theme is Krakauer emphasizing by using the repeated allusion to Walter Mitty? Explain specific examples where this theme has been stressed earlier in the story.
Quiz 3: Chapters 15-21