In March of 1996, Outside magazine sent Jon Krakauer on an expedition to climb Mount Everest. Krakauer’s editors wanted him to write about the increasing commercialism of the summit. Krakauer stated he had given up mountain climbing long ago. He agreed to the climb for purely professional reasons. He later revised this statement, confessing a reawakened desire to climb mountains– like the heroes of his childhood once had done.
The climb turned to catastrophe. By the end of summit day, May 10th, 1996, eight people lay dead at the top of the world. Krakauer’s account has been described as a book-length confession– a compelling accounting of an expedition plagued by hubris, greed, poor judgment and bad luck.
I have climbed a fair number of mountains, most of them in Colorado. And I have, at times in my foolish youth, entertained thoughts of traveling to Kathmandu. I have thought about making this ascent into Heaven. Those desires stemmed from my own personal experiences in the Rocky Mountains. They do not come from competition or pride and I will not allow them to become poisoned with unconsidered commercialization– as irreplaceable Everest has been.
I do not mean to say these climbers got what they deserved– they didn’t. No one deserves to die on the face of mountain. What I find most intriguing about this story is not the conflict of man versus nature, but rather man’s flawed nature against a merciless void.