Study Guide

Into Thin Air Man vs. the Natural World

By Jon Krakauer

Man vs. the Natural World

This one isn't even fair. On one side, we have a horde of mountain climbers: ambitious folks who've put their lives on hold in order to conquer Mount Everest. On the other, we have Everest herself: a nasty lass who isn't afraid of showing these young upstarts who's boss. Although the mountain climbers win many of the early battles in Into Thin Air, successfully ascending the mighty mountain, they quickly come to realize that ol' Everest isn't going down without a fight. Finally, when all the dust settles, we gain a better understanding of just how powerful the natural world can be—and how helpless humans are in the face of such power.

Questions About Man vs. the Natural World

  1. Why are altitudes above 8,000 meters known as the "Death Zone"? Think about it literally and metaphorically.
  2. Is Krakauer fully prepared for the reality of Everest? Explain.
  3. In what ways does Everest subvert the guides' expectations?
  4. Are disasters such as this one inevitable due to the nature of Everest? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Everest is an especially tricky mountain because it affects people in ways that aren't always easily identifiable—especially in terms of the mind.

Although the vast majority of expeditions on Everest are run professionally, the volatile nature of the mountain makes disasters such as this inevitable.