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Into Thin Air

Jon Krakauer


Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

I suspected that each of my teammates hoped as fervently as I that Hall had been careful to weed out clients of dubious ability, and would have the means to protect each of us from one another's shortcomings.

This quote reflects Krakauer's thoughts in Chapter Three, as the helicopter is taking the group to the road leading to Base Camp. Krakauer is concerned about the clients' general lack of climbing experience, particularly because he knows how important it is for teammates to support, assist and trust one another. Before they even reach the mountain he puts a tremendous amount of hope and trust in his guides to unify the group and keep them safe. This task is enormous—the guides must look after themselves and their own safety, the safety of each and every one of the clients, and they also must pay attention to the ways in which members of the group relate to one another. This thought underscores the inherent, basic danger in guiding a group of strangers up the tallest mountain in the world.

Most of the people who live in this rugged country seem to have no desire to be severed from the modern world or the untidy flow of human progress.

In Chapter Four, Krakauer and the group are in "Sherpa Country." He describes the Sherpa lifestyle and dispels many of the myths involving Sherpas. Krakauer discusses the ways in which the business of guiding people up Everest has changed the Sherpa culture. The economies of Nepal and Tibet as well as the well being of the Sherpa communities depend on Everest-related tourism. Sherpas now own teahouses and lodges, and hire themselves to bring food, water and supplies to climbers. There is intense competition between Sherpas to assist guides during climbing expeditions, and a Sherpa is paid at least ten times the average Sherpa's year income for assisting a guide. Krakauer expresses some disappointment in the modernization of the Sherpa community, but notes with some surprise that the Sherpas fully embrace Western culture. They wear baseball caps and America paraphernalia, and use the Everest revenue to build roads and schools. Whereas Krakauer and the reader might, in some respects, see the changing Sherpa culture as ruinous, this quote points out that the Sherpas themselves are surprisingly open and happy about the resulting changes.

Finally I woke up enough to recognize that I was in deep shit and the cavalry wasn't coming so I better do something about it myself.

Beck Weathers says this to his teammates in Chapter 20 about how he was able to pick himself up, half frozen and left for dead, out of the snow. With this quote, Weathers emerges as an unlikely hero. He is loyal and steadfast in his promises, but the feat of strength and spirit he pulls off in this chapter is incredible. This episode exemplifies the consistent theme of solitude versus teamwork. Weathers is abandoned on the mountain, and a rescue group finds him, but thinks he is beyond saving. At that point, it seemed his fate was in the hands of his teammates, who let him down. Miraculously, Weathers regains consciousness and single-handedly finds and gets himself to Camp Four. Once he is there, his teammates try and warm him up, but again they leave him, thinking he cannot live through the night. Again, Beck defies the odds alone. Beck is the only climber who relies on his team members but survives despite their failure.

They helped outsiders find their way into the sanctuary and violate every limb of her body by standing on top of her, crowing in victory, and dirtying and polluting her bosom.

A Sherpa orphan writes this in a letter to Krakauer, described in the epilogue. Krakauer struggles to figure out what happened and why, and receives large quantities of angry letters accusing him of speculating and pointing the finger at the wrong people. An orphan Sherpa writes him, blaming the Sherpas who accompanied the expedition. Throughout the book, Krakauer describes the Sherpa's belief in Sagarmatha, goddess of the sky, deity responsible for the events that take place on Everest. In fact, some of the Sherpas believe that Ngawang died not from altitude sickness, but because of punishment. In this letter, the young Sherpa states his belief that Sherpas failed to protect Everest and actually participated in the exploitation of the mountain. In direct contrast to the previous quote about the Sherpas' embracing some of the modern changes, this Sherpa cites those precise changes as the cause of the disaster. The quote also demonstrates how many theories there are about what happened.

Mortality had remained a conveniently hypothetical concept, an idea to ponder in the abstract. Sooner of later the divestiture of such a privileged innocence was inevitable, but when it finally happened the shock was magnified by the sheer superfluity of the carnage…

In Chapter 21, Krakauer reflects on how the Everest disaster continues to affect him. He joined the expedition to write an article for a magazine and to experience climbing Everest. Instead, he came down with a redefined notion of mortality, and a number of questions he will never be able to answer. This quote introduces the concept of the expedition as a grotesque lesson in life and death. Krakauer also brings up the subject of lost innocence, of what happened changing him forever by destroying that innocence. Krakauer grapples to describe the enormity of what happened on the mountain in words, because words cannot represent human life and the loss thereof. He goes on to say that every day, not two or three hours pass that he has not thought about Everest and what happened there. The inability to get past the disaster and to gradually wean in from one's life signifies just how enormous and catastrophic it was and how far and wide it reaches.

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