Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews March 2, 2024
February 24, 2024
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
What happened on the mountain to trigger the disastrous events?
This questions plagues Krakauer throughout the book. There is no definitive answer—any theory is at least in part speculative and uninformed. However, the most likely explanation is that a combination of events contributed to the death of so many climbers. Krakauer says: "[O]n Everest it is the nature of systems to break down with a vengeance" (358). The breakdown of trust, common sense, control and foresight all cause mistakes that negatively impact the expedition. Each person in some way does or says something that begins a chain of events that initially seem inconsequential but later carry much import. As an overarching cause, Krakauer points to the inherent nature of the expedition—a number of inexperienced clients who do not know each other and who invested large sums of money to get to the top. Even Hall himself says that some kind of disaster on the mountain is inevitable. This raises the possibility that humans' arrogance in believing that they can pay money and climb to the top of the world bears responsibility for the tragedy.
What is the significance of the Sherpa's belief in Sagarmatha, the goddess of the sky?
Whether or not the reader buys into the theory of a Buddhist deity being responsible for the tragedy, the fact that the Sherpas on the expedition believe it is significant. The Sherpas believe in the aspects of the climb that they cannot control. They know that no matter how many precautions they take, they cannot ensure their safety of the safety of anyone else. Instead of actively worrying about these elements beyond their power, they attempt to appease the deities by showing respect. To them, the best way to decrease the chance of bad "luck" or adverse conditions on the mountain is to show sincere respect. Thus, they pray, light incense and construct altars throughout the climb. Strangely, a number of Sherpas die or are injured in unusual ways—one comes down with what is thought to be altitude sickness, but the typical remedies do not have any effect. Another Sherpa is struck in the head by not one, but two falling rocks. The explanation that the anger of Sagarmatha caused these events is every bit as likely as the explanations offered by Krakauer or the other climbers. The main difference between the theories of people such as Krakauer and the Sherpas centers on the concept of respect. Krakauer blames human error—arrogance, failure to adhere to safety regulations and failure to exhibit foresight. However, in all of the different manifestations of human error he cites, Krakauer never once mentions a lack of respect. Lack of respect could involve more than the angering of a goddess, and opens up a whole area ripe for investigation and regret.
What are some of the challenges Krakauer faced when writing a narrative about the 1996 expedition?
Writing a novel about something as sensitive and awful as the 1996 expedition is a tough challenge no matter who the author is. In this situation, Krakauer must wear many different hats. He is the author of the novel, the narrator of the story and a climber in the expedition. His vantage point then is blurred—when he describes events, which Krakauer is describing them, the author, narrator or mountain climber? He also is subject to criticism and scrutiny because writing about the facts incorporates hindsight, a degree of judgment and thorough analysis—all elements that did not exist on the mountain. As an author, Krakauer must avoid over-dramatizing the events, or dwelling on aspects of personal significance that might be less relevant to the narrative as a whole. Krakauer must achieve and maintain a delicate balance between his different roles, above all he must remain engaging and artistic in his narration.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Into Thin Air!