Study Guide

Anatoli Boukreev in Into Thin Air

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Anatoli Boukreev

Anatoli Boukreev might be the most accomplished climber on Everest during the 1996 climbing season. Unfortunately, his hard-nosed nature leads him make some questionable decisions in the hours leading up to the fateful disaster.

Though he's a paid guide, Boukreev seems more focused on his own ascent than his clients'. We can see evidence of this in his decision to forgo bottled oxygen, which is controversial because "without bottled oxygen he would be so severely impaired—both mentally and physically—that he would be unable to fulfill his professional duties" (11.36). Then there's also the fact that he immediately returns to Camp Four instead of waiting for his clients at the summit, leaving them stranded without any senior guides to help them descend.

While these actions certainly deserve criticism, Boukreev earns himself credit through his actions in the storm's aftermath. Time and again, we see him desperately trying to band together climbers for rescue missions, often being forced to venture forth into the thick snowstorm alone. He even makes an attempt to save Fischer, who's stuck on a very dangerous part of the mountain. No matter what we might say about Boukreev's actions before the disaster, the dude saves more lives in its aftermath than anyone else.

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