Into Thin Air – Epilogue and Authors Note

Krakauer ends the text by describing what has happened since, and the interactions he has had with his teammates. Lou Kasischke writes him a letter in which he says “Everest was the worst experience in my life” but that he has moved past it. Lou and Beck Weathers keep in touch. After arriving home from Everest, Weathers had his right arm amputated below the elbow, as well as his fingers and thumb on his left hand. His nose had also been amputated and then reconstructed. Lou mentions Beck in his letter, and how the experience has left Beck scarred and injured and probably unable to practice medicine anymore. Lou says that Beck “doesnt play the blame game” and is handling the tragedy amazingly well.
At the time Krakauer writes this chapter, it has been over six months since Everest, but “no more than two or three hours have gone by in which Everest hasnt monopolized my thoughts.” Krakauer talks about the letters his Outside Magazine article received, many of them highly critical of his decisions and actions. He describes a letter he received from Scott Fischers sister, condemning him for being critical of others, speculating about what happened and Krakauers own role in the tragedies. Just before receiving this letter, Krakauer learns that Lopsang died in an avalanche on Everest. Krakauer had also recently learned that Anatoli Boukreev had been in a serious car accident in Kazakhstan, and suffered severe head injuries.
Krakauer describes a message posted in an Internet discussion about Everest. The message is from a Sherpa orphan. He talks about how Sherpas were “expected to protect [Sagarmathas] sanctuary from outsiders but…helped outsiders find their way into the sanctuary and violate every limb of her body…” (372). The Sherpa orphan blames the Sherpas for the 1996 disaster, calling it “sacrilege.”
The text ends as Krakauer demonstrates how the experience has “poisoned” many of the people involved. The wife of one of the victims is hospitalized for depression, marriages and relationships have dissolved—lives were in turmoil. Sandy Pittman returned to New York to a flurry of bad press and anger. Magazines, newspapers and television programs all represented her negatively for her part in the disaster.
Krakauer says that even Beidleman, who rescued the clients in the storm that night, punishes himself for not being able to save Yasuko Namba, who wasnt even his client.
Authors Note
Krakauer describes the anger cause by his article for Outside Magazine. He acknowledges having hurt some of the friends and families of the people who died on the mountain, and he apologizes. He explains that he believed the story of what happened on the mountain needed to be told, and his intent was to be as thorough and accurate as possible. He expresses his “profound condolences” to a long list of people, and expresses this thank you to another.
This last chapter informs us of just how much this disaster has transformed the climbers lives. Krakauer has already addressed this issue in previous chapters, but restates much of it here, as if his previous words did not address the enormity of his and the other survivors grief.
As a reader, it is difficult to know how to react to this chapter. It is unspeakably sad—everything all of the survivors have undergone during and since the horrific experience elicits extreme pathos from the reader. In fact, the sadness of the final couple chapters builds up until it is almost too much for a reader—a totally outside third party—to absorb and understand.
This chapter reads more like a journal entry than a chapter of text. Perhaps Krakauer ends so strongly this way not just to release his own sadness and anger, but as a means of catharsis for everyone in his group. In a sense, he purges for them all—he catalogs their sadness, describes their letters, the deterioration of their lives after the disaster. Almost of all of them show up in the end, still grappling with the effects of what happened, and in a sense, Krakauer issues a gigantic apology both to and on behalf of all of them.
Krakauer is fully aware that in order to write this text he has had to draw conclusions about what happened and why, and that sometimes these conclusions do not portray certain people in a positive light. Krakauer does lead us to certain conclusions with his text. The South African team is perhaps the most criminal, refusing to help anyone and everyone throughout the entire expedition. The Taiwanese team is portrayed as fairly incompetent. Lopsang refuses to help Hansen and Hall at the summit, Boukreev descends too quickly, leaving behind many clients who need his help. While Krakauer never explicitly accuses, he does suggest that many people made many poor decisions. He does not exclude himself from blame, however, believing that he contributed directly to Andy Harriss death, and being terribly upset with himself for having mistaken Adams for Harris just outside of camp on the night of May 10.