Study Guide

Rob Hall in Into Thin Air

By Jon Krakauer

Rob Hall

Rob Hall is the most accomplished guide on Everest in 1996 by a long shot. Given this immense experience, it's shocking—and heartbreaking—that he walks headlong into such a devastating disaster.

The worst part is that Hall sees this disaster coming. As the leader of the most prominent commercial guiding firm on the mountain, Hall knows a thing or two about the changing landscape of Everest, with more people than ever flocking to the mountain who have less and less experience. He even directly states this, saying that "with so many incompetent people on the mountain […] it's pretty unlikely that [they'll] get through this season without something bad happening up high" (7.49).

Despite this foresight, Hall makes some serious tactical errors as his team barrels toward the summit. The most perplexing of these is his decision to keep leading Doug Hansen to the summit despite it becoming too late in the day for them to safely descend. Although no one knows for sure why this veteran makes such an amateur mistake, Krakauer suspects that "it would have been especially hard for him to deny Hansen the summit a second time" (17.10) after failing to lead him to the summit several years prior.

But no one knows for sure. So instead of dallying on his mistakes, of which we know little, we'd much rather focus on Hall's good qualities, of which we know a ton. As we encounter Hall in the book, he is dedicated to his clients above all else. He is also dedicated to his family, and he treats everyone with respect, whether they're wealthy Manhattan socialites or low-paid Sherpa cooks. In light of this, we think it's much more valuable to celebrate the way Hall lived, rather than question the way that he died.

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