Study Guide

Scott Fischer in Into Thin Air

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Scott Fischer

Rob Hall might be the most respected mountain guide on Everest in 1996, but young Scott Fischer is out to make his mark in a major way. Bold, brash, and absolutely fearless, Fischer leads his team in an unconventional way, which causes some to wonder if that unconventional style contributed to the disaster in its own small way

After all, this is the first time Fischer has ever guided clients up the mountain. On one hand, that's a great thing: Fischer is driven by a desire to blow the world away with his unique approach to mountaineering. On the other hand, it also means that he doesn't have the same level of insight into the mountain as Hall. Regardless, Fischer sees this climb as a way to earn the "celebrity in the world of the climbing community" that has "eluded him" (5.39) for so long.

Although this intense drives him helps him achieve great things, it also causes him to ignore some huge red flags about his personal health. Krakauer notes that Fischer's freewheeling approach forces him to travel back and forth between the different camps frequently, which leaves him "exhausted from the physical and mental strain of the preceding weeks" (15.15) by the time he reaches the summit. Even bigger than this, however, is a chronic liver illness that Fischer has been ignoring for nearly a decade. Both of these factors come back to haunt him, as we see the normally tough Fischer laid low as the storm descends upon the mountain.

Like Hall, however, Fischer deserves more than a mere summation of his missteps. Fischer is universally adored by clients and guides alike, and many—like Lopsang Jangbu and Anatoli Boukreev—are devastated by his death. This is because Fischer's bold and fearless style provides inspiration for those who aren't quite so bold and fearless, showing them their true potential through his actions.

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