Krakauer's Into Thin Air and Boukreev's The Climb
On the day of May 10, 1996, several climbers were attempting to descend the slopes of Mount Everest in blizzard conditions: a time at which every moment mattered. Emerging from the pack, two climbers reached the safety of the tents of Camp Four before the majority of their teammates. Anatoli Boukreev and Jon Krakauer recounted the situation of that day in very different ways, but Krakauer seemed to portray Boukreev as an antagonist in his book, Into Thin Air. Boukreev proved in his own book, The Climb, that multiple actions called into question by Krakauer were in fact valuable steps that an experienced climber used in order to rescue clients in need.
Krakauer repeatedly scolded Boukreev for not using supplemental oxygen above Camp Four during the summit push on May 10. Krakauer claimed that the lack of oxygen "didn't seem to be in their clients' best interests" (ITA, 186). The journalist seemed to be concerned that Boukreev, as a guide, should use oxygen because it would allow him to function more normally in the case of catastrophe. In fact, Boukreev disputed this point in The Climb, mentioning that he believed given proper acclimatization, it was safer to climb without oxygen. Krakauer himself suffered when he ran out of oxygen just before the South Summit: "entire sectors of my cerebral cortex seemed to have shut down altogether. Dizzy, fearing that I would black out, I was frantic to reach the South Summit." (ITA, 195) Boukreev believed that a climber who suddenly ran out of oxygen after consuming a tank would be in a much worse situation than one who had become used to climbing without gas at all. His decision not to use gas was primarily based on his past experience.
Expedition leader Scott Fischer had allowed Boukreev to summit without oxygen, knowing that he had already reached the top of the world twice without it (ITA, 186). Fischer had even considered reaching the summit without oxygen himself. The Russian climber used the philosophy that "every ounce counts" while ascending a mountain; even the slightest extra weight would have a profound effect on the climbing ability of an individual. Though he did not use oxygen above Camp Four, Boukreev carried a single canister of oxygen with him in case of emergency; he gave it to fellow guide Neal Beidleman when the need arose. Since each canister weighed at least a pound each, Boukreev was able to spare some valuable weight: another valuable technique learned through years of climbing.
Boukreev was also criticized for his lack of equipment during the trip to the summit. Krakauer noted that Boukreev did not always use the rugged climbing boots or full climbing outfits typical for guides. Boukreev justified this by repeating his philosophy of taking the bare minimum amount of equipment with him in order to save all of the energy possible. Boukreev also talked with teammate Martin Adams about the attire the Russian wore on the...