High Crimes

In the fall of 2000, I read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air in one evening. Krakauer's intimate knowledge of the failed expedition led by Rob Hall in 1996 made this one of the most devestating narratives I've ever encountered. At times apologetic, Krakauer's book shined a light on Mt. Everest in a way that heightened public consciousness about the strange subculture that had found an obsession on its climes. The book chronicled the destruction that the huge camps of international climbers wrought on the mountain and the complex dynamics of the mountain economy that fed the fortunes of both inexperienced guides and the Sherpa community that served them.

Great, great stuff.

Twelve years after the climb in which eight adventurers lost their life, Michael Kodas delivers the riveting High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed. In the last decade, things have only gotten worse on the mountain. Last year, better than 600 climbers topped off the peak, up from just under a hundred back in the mid-'90s. Kodas' crisp prose and meticulous profiling of numerous colorful characters makes this book sing. His proximity to some very shady climbers--at one point his guide contemplates the various ways he can sabotage Kodas so he doesn't come home--is fascinating. And his re-telling of the tragedy that befell Nils Antezana, an amazing and accomplished man, is both heart breaking and executed with respect.

Kodas outlines the backgrounds of numerous climbers. These people, abusive, driven and obsessed, have dedicated their lives to summitting Everest. They steal each other's equipment, not the least of which are the $400 bottles of oxygen needed for survival above 8,000 meters.

Here's a decent synopsis at the NYT.

High Crimes is a superb companion and update to Krakauer's book. Read them both...

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