”Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer Essay Sample

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Being at the top of the world at 29,028 feet may feel amazing to most people. However for some individuals who make it to the summit that feeling of elation never arises. Instead, they are too busy to appreciate the feelings since they are gasping for air. In thin air there is a tremendous lack of oxygen but an abundance of hubris. In Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, hubris, or excessive pride, was displayed by Dr. Seaborn Beck Weathers, Jon Krakauer, and the Sherpas during the disaster on Everest on the 1996 Everest expedition.

First of all, Dr. Seaborn Beck Weathers displayed hubris while he was on Everest. Beck was one of the clients from the Adventure Consultants Guided Expedition. Prior to his ascent of Everest, Beck received a keratotomy. Beck did not know until the expedition that the low barometric pressure at that high of an elevation caused his eyesight to deteriorate. When he discovered this side effect he still continued to climb Everest and did not give up the expedition. Since Beck did not inform the other team members of his condition it put the other team members into danger. This could have been easily avoided had Beck not been so full of pride. By not informing his team members, Beck put them into danger because his eyesight was not satisfactory for climbing Everest. When Beck finally decided to tell Rob Hall about his condition, Hall told Beck that since he had lost his perception of depth he had to descend the mountain with one of the Sherpas. Beck insisted that Hall let him stay on the mountain to wait and see if his eye sight improved.

Beck’s eyesight, however, did not improve. Therefore, Beck stayed exactly where Hall had told him to stay. Even though other climbers, including Jon Krakauer, had descended passed Beck and offered to assist him in his descent of the mountain, he refused to leave the spot that Hall had left him until Hall had returned. When Krakauer asked Beck if he would like assistance from him, Beck declared boastfully, “’Thanks anyway,” Beck said. “I think I’ll just wait for Mike [Groom]. He’s got a rope; he’ll be able to short-rope me down’” (Krakauer 199). Beck automatically assumed that Mike was going to be able to short-rope him down. Beck’s display of hubris on the mountain caused many issues on the mountain. Secondly, Jon Krakauer was a victim of hubris in his own book. When Krakauer was descending Everest, he made numerous detrimentally poor decisions. One of which was not checking the oxygen canisters when Harris had told him that all of them were empty. Instead, Krakauer and Groom nonchalantly accepted what Harris had said.

Neither one of them even thought that Harris might have been affected by a lack of oxygen due to their own deficiency of oxygen which impaired their own judgment. Also, they never thought to double check the oxygen canisters themselves. Another example of one of Krakauer’s poor decisions was when he was descending to Camp Four and claimed that he saw who he thought was Andy Harris. When the supposed Harris speaks to him, Krakauer pointed him towards camp and assumed that Harris arrived at camp safely. Krakauer was so assured that he saw Harris that he didn’t bother to double check if Harris was there when he himself returned to camp. In a conversion that Krakauer had with Martin Adams months after the Everest expedition, it became apparent that Krakauer had not, in fact, seen Harris. In the conversation, Adams stated, “‘So that was you I talked to out there on the ice,’ he stated, astounded, acknowledging that he must have been mistaken when he saw me crossing the flats of the South Col just before dark. ‘And that was me you talked to. Which means it wasn’t Andy Harris at all. Wow. Dude, I’d say you’ve got some explaining to do’” (Krakauer 230).

Krakauer then realized that he had made a huge mistake by misidentifying Martin Adams as Andy Harris. Hubris on Krakauer’s behalf had caused him to assume that Harris had safely returned to camp when he actually hadn’t returned at all. Krakauer was one of the numerous individuals that displayed hubris. In addition to Beck Weather’s and Jon Krakauer’s display of hubris, there was also hubris displayed by the Sherpas. The Sherpas were supposed to go ahead of the groups and fix the ropes on the mountain. However, this plan was not carried through for some reason or another. Since there were no ropes fixed, it caused large bottlenecks on the mountain while the climbers had to wait for the ropes to be fixed. This then slowed their ascent of the mountain causing the climbers to use more of their ever so precious oxygen. The climbers also had a deadline to reach the summit by 2pm that day. If the ropes would have been fixed there would have been fewer bottlenecks on the mountain.

Fewer bottlenecks on the mountain would have given the climbers more oxygen since they wouldn’t have had to wait for the slower climbers. One of the Sherpas had committed to short-roping Sandy Pittman which greatly exhausted him. Since he was so exhausted from short-roping Sandy, he was unable to help with the installation of the ropes on the mountain while the slower climbers were climbing. At one point when Jon Krakauer, Andy Harris, Neal Beidleman, and Anatoli Boukreev were waiting at the Hillary Step, Beidleman eventually asked, “‘Hey, Ang Dorje, are you going to fix the ropes, or what?’ Ang Dorje’s reply was an unequivocal ‘No’-perhaps because none of Fischer’s Sherpas were there to share the work” (Krakauer 187). The Sherpas displayed a large amount of hubris when they decided not to fix the ropes because all of the Sherpas weren’t there to assist.

Had the Sherpas fixed the ropes, which was part of their job, many lives would have been saved. Beck Weathers, Jon Krakauer, and the Sherpas on Everest during the 1996 Everest expedition showed characteristics of hubris which led to the horrific tragedy that happened during the 1996 expedition to the summit of Everest. Although hubris is found in all individuals according to the Greeks, people must learn to control their hubristic tendencies. When people can learn to overcome this and set our hubris aside we can better work together as a team, looking out for one another, rather than being so consumed with what only will affect us individually.

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