Jon Krakauer is the author of the best-selling Into the Wild, Under the Banner of Heaven, and Into Thin Air, and is the editor of the Modern Library Exploration series. His writings have been published in Outside, GEO, Architecture Digest, Rolling Stone, TIME, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the National Geographic.
In the closed community of mountaineering there are legendary figures unknown to those outside. Krakauer, who writes about climbing for Smithsonian magazine, introduces some eccentrics and the places they gather. John Gill's reputation rests on ascents less than 30 feet high--he climbs boulders. The hard-drinking, pugnacious Burgess twins from Yorkshire are first-rate climbers and con men; they haven't held a job since 1975, yet manage to wander the globe bagging difficult peaks. Others climb frozen waterfalls in Valdez, Alaska, or attempt hazardous hang-gliding and bungee-jumping in Chamonix, where nearly 6000 people climb Mont Blanc every year. After taking us to Mt. McKinley (Denali), which has claimed more lives than the Eiger, Krakauer also describes canyoneering in the Mogollon Rim of Arizona and recounts his own nearly fatal solo climb of the Devil's Thumb in Alaska. Armchair adventurers can't ask for better entertainment. (Apr.)
Climber-turned-journalist Krakauer circles around the question of why a climber climbs by writing of various aspects of that culture. Revising pieces that appeared in Outside and Smithsonian magazines, he describes being tent-bound in a storm, and the competition among bush pilots flying climbers to Denali. Fresh material discusses related sports: frozen waterwall climbing and box canyon exploration. The obligatory chapters on particular climbs--an aborted attempt on the Eiger Nordwand, a lone ascent of the Devil's Thumb--are less successful in revealing to nonclimbers the emotions that drive a climber. Entertaining but not memorable.-- Paula M. Strain, M.L.S., Rockville, Md.
The author of Into Thin Air "has taken the literature of mountains onto a higher ledge." --New York Times Book Review "Armchair adventurers can't ask for better entertainment than this tour of the legendary locations of mountaineering and the eccentric climbers who gather there." --Publisher's Weekly