Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 1

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 1

Everest Summit, May 10, 1996, 29,028 Feet

  • Jon Krakauer, our narrator, is standing on the summit of Mount Everest. Wow—that was quick.
  • He's chilling (literally) with Anatoli Boukreev, a paid guide from another climbing group, and Andy Harris, a paid guide from his own team. A selfie or two later, the trio begins their descent.
  • Then Krakauer drops a bomb on us: By the end of the night, more than six climbers will be dead. Whoa.
  • As he descends, the Kraken (good nickname, huh?) realizes that he has a huge problem—his oxygen tank is "almost empty" (1.10). Uh-oh.
  • Unfortunately, there are a ton of people trying to reach the top at the moment, so Harris and Krakauer must wait for traffic to clear before descending the Hillary Step, a narrow ridge just below the summit.
  • Krakauer asks Harris to shut off his oxygen valve, hoping to conserve some O2 for the long descent. Oddly, however, this somehow makes Krakauer feel more alert. Weird.
  • Ten minutes later, he suddenly feels "on the brink of losing consciousness" (1.14). That's when he realizes that Harris accidentally turned his O2 tank on full blast—and now it's empty. Gulp.
  • Panicked, Krakauer hustles down the mountain, passing several of his teammates (Rob Hall and Yasuko Namba) as well as Scott Fischer, the leader of Boukreev's group.
  • It's now 3:00 (two hours since he left the summit) and Krakauer has reached the relative safety of the South Summit. He looks up and sees storm clouds blotting out the mountain peak. Oh no.