Study Guide

Into Thin Air Setting

By Jon Krakauer

Setting

Mount Everest

Would you believe us if we said that the setting of book about Mount Everest was… wait for it… Mount Everest? Since you're presumably waiting for your brain to reassemble after being so epically blown, we'll put this simply: Mount Everest can be a nasty place.

Home Base

Base Camp, on the other hand, might as well be the Ritz Carlton. These dudes have the hookup: Hall's tent boasts "a stereo system, a library […], [and] a satellite phone and fax" (5.13). This is evidence of the growing commercialization of Everest, as the vast amount of money being poured into the region inevitably leads to an influx of pricey creature comforts such as these. Still, you'd get a more authentic roughin' it experience by spending a night at your local campgrounds than at Everest Base Camp.

Interestingly, Base Camp is structured like a little city. Each expedition has its own set of tents, but a great deal of the decision-making happens as a group. This year, "Hall's Adventure Consultants compound served as the seat of government for the entire Base Camp" (5.16), as Hall is the most experienced guide on Everest. This is once again evidence of the growing commercialization of Everest, as the increasing number of expeditions on Everest makes cohesion between the groups integral.

High in the Sky

Of course, these connections to civilization disappear as you ascend the mountain. Sure, there are a few small campsites along the way, but there's nothing to see for the most part, except for ice and—well—more ice. Then, once you get high enough, you don't even see much of that anymore: At a certain point, "the vista was primarily sky rather than earth" (10.18). Perhaps because of this, Krakauer spends surprisingly little time talking about how the mountain actually looks.

In many ways, Mount Everest is defined by this haziness. Krakauer never really gets the chance to sit around and take in the beautiful natural scenery because he must instead focus all of his energy on successfully ascending the mountain. Plus, once you get to a certain height, you literally can't sit around and enjoy the sights since the air is too thin to support human life for more than a few hours. Though we spend the bulk of the book on Everest, the mountain remains distinctly apart from us—which, to be honest, is just the way we like it.