Thursday, January 05, 2006

Arrogance is strength - Jon Krakauer versus Anatoli Boukreev

Anup casually pointed me to an article on the death of the legendary climber Anatoli Boukreev. After returning from our Everest Base Camp trek in 2004, we have never needed a reason to get started on mountaineering related discussions. Anup, Vinod and I, the EBC 2004 gang, have exchanged gigantic volumes of text on these discussions. Today's topic started with Anatoli Boukreev's death, and then about what a legend he was.

A little about 'supplementary oxygen':
More than 95% of those who do mountaineering (excluding people like Sherpas who reside in mountains), make use of supplementary oxygen while climbing at high altitudes. At about 5356 metres above sea level, the oxygen content in air is reduced by half as compared to that at sea level. And we are barely at Mount Everest Base Camp now. 50% of normal oxygen intake. 8850 metres ASL, oxygen content in air is reduced to a third of what is found at sea level. That's top-of-the-world, 33% of normal oxygen. Oxygen canisters come into picture at roughly 7500 metres to ensure that the climber does not suffer from hypoxia. Climbers have often reported of hallucinations at extreme altitudes too.

Getting back to Anatoli Boukreev. And Jon Krakauer. And arrogance. Well, reams of pages, several hundred sites, audio versions, videos and movies have been dedicated to the 1996 Everest tragedy. From there sprung the much publicised book Into Thin Air penned by Jon Krakauer, the representative of the 'Outside' magazine. Jon Krakauer summitted Everest, and so did Anatoli Boukreev, on that particular 10th of May. It was the behaviour of Anatoli on that day that Jon attempts to refute, and Anatoli defends. This is worth a read, and for mountain lovers, following the links is just another wonderful thing.

In a nutshell, the issue goes thus:
Facts: Jon Krakauer is a climber, on his maiden Everest attempt, client of an expedition led by an experienced Rob Hall. Anatoli Boukreev is a genius climber, playing guide of an expedition led by another experienced person Scott Fischer. Both expeditions chose May 10, 1996 as their summit day, along side a few other expeditions. Being a guide, Anatoli Boukreev (a) decided to climb down the summit ahead of his clients and (b) chose to summit without supplementary oxygen. Jon strongly objected to both these points (in his book) and later expressed in print that he found Anatoli arrogant for not accepting what he thought were mistakes. Readers might also be interested in reading the correspondence about clarifications from Jon Krakauer about the Everest Revelations in his book Into Thin Air.

On a side note, I must say I am damn impressed by the climbing resume of Anatoli Boukreev. You must not miss it. It takes that type of a resume to be really arrogant, and say 'balls to you'.


At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HEy Nike thats cool...
Wish there were bloggers like u before we undertook the EBC trek. But nonetheless, its a short write - rich in content and full of information :)


At 1:25 AM, Blogger Storm said...

Oh yes... the extra attitude disorder ;). Now I know why you wanted to climb that water fall :D.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Aniket Anikhindi said...

well it goes without saying that the extra attitude disorder as you have aptly put it, exists.

but the reason why i wanted to climb that water fall is summed up in three words "because its there!".

i have posted an article that speaks more on "because it's there". the permanent link is:

check it out :)

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was in the right place to save his teammates then went up again to try to save Scott. 48 hours after he went on a speed record solo climb on Lhotse( you might try to find why he did that and what his thoughts were on the top)
He visited Scott's resting place in the following year as well as Yasuko Namba's. Read " Above the Clouds" Different culture different worlds than JK and his friends. It is up to you to choose.


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