Study Guide

Doug Hansen in Into Thin Air

By Jon Krakauer

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Doug Hansen

Doug Hansen's story is perhaps the most devastating in all of Into Thin Air. It's like if Rudy ended with its titular character warming the bench or Remember the Titans ended with everyone actually forgetting those… those… what do you call 'em again? In other words, Doug Hansen is going to break your heart

The guy is a classic underdog. First, he's one of the few clients who aren't rich as sin, and he works as a postal worker back in Seattle. In fact, he's only able to afford this expedition because "the students of Sunrise Elementary School […] sold T-shirts to help fund his climb" (5.49). That gives us more warm fuzzies than the cutest panda video on the planet.

We can imagine that this places a lot of pressure on the guy to succeed—nobody wants to let tiny children down. On top of that, Hansen made an attempt on Everest a few years earlier with Hall but was forced to turn around within spitting distance of the summit. This not only places a lot of pressure on Hansen to make it to top this time around, but also on Hall, as "it would have been especially hard for him to deny Hansen the summit a second time" (17.10). Ah, we see. (Do you see, too? No? Swing by Hall's page elsewhere in this section.)

This confluence of factors leads Hansen (and Hall) to make a serious mistake—pushing for the summit despite it being way later than the agreed-upon turnaround time. We could come up with a million hypothetical reasons for why this happens, but that'd be pure conjecture on our part. Regardless of the reasons, it's clear to us that Doug Hansen was resolutely determined to reach the summit this time around—no matter the cost.

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