When selecting a nonfiction title for the classroom, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster is a smart choice. In this book, Jon Krakauer recounts his experience climbing Mount Everest during one of the most disastrous Everest expeditions in history. In May 1996, eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a blizzard as they descended from the summit. Throughout Into Thin Air, Krakauer, who participated in the expedition as a journalist, chronicles the timeline of events leading up to and during the disaster.

Although covered by Krakauer in the book, prior to reading, students may benefit from a short lesson dedicated to the geography and conditions of Everest, as well as its history with those who have tried to reach the top. In addition, Into Thin Air can be easily paired with other stories that involve the perils of the outdoors, including Krakauer's other nonfiction work, Into the Wild.

Learn more about teaching Into Thin Air below.

Summary of Into Thin Air

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 1996
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 1320
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11-12

Into Thin Air is journalist Jon Krakauer's account of his experience climbing Mount Everest in 1996. Krakauer is hired to write an article for Outside magazine about the commercialism on the mountain, such as the different groups that are paid to guide climbers and help them adjust to the harrowing elements. During his journey, a storm hits and causes the deaths of eight climbers and leaves several others stranded.

Content Warning: Into Thin Air contains some profanity, racial prejudice, and descriptions of death.

What Your Students Will Love About Into Thin Air

  • The thrilling action and suspense
  • An engaging nonfiction book that reads like a novel

Potential Student Struggles With Into Thin Air

  • Keeping track of people's names
  • Reading about the deaths of many climbers

Learning Objectives for Into Thin Air

  • Identify the motivation behind the climbers that keeps them going despite their suffering.
  • Consider the role of perseverance and determine whether it ultimately hurts any of the climbers.
  • Understand Mount Everest as a symbol of beauty and malice and the relationship between man and nature.
  • Trace how Krakauer's view of mortality changes over the course of his climb.
  • Point out instances of racism and nationalism directed toward the Sherpa climbers and how this has been brought about by commercialization.

Literary Elements in Into Thin Air

  • Flashback
  • Irony
  • Metaphor
  • Personification
  • Symbolism
  • And more!

Major Themes in Into Thin Air

Commercialism — Krakauer is hired to report on the enterprise that has become Mount Everest and finds that it manifests itself in a variety of ways. Some examples of this are the enormous amounts of money guiding services charge their clients, the tourist revenue Nepal and Tibet collect, and the competition between guide services for media coverage.

Related Works:

Trust — Throughout the book, Krakauer specifies how important it is to trust teammates. Although he is climbing with strangers, it is necessary to have confidence in them even though he is uncomfortable doing so.

Related Works:

Loyalty — While related to trust, loyalty is so important in Into Thin Air that it is a separate theme. Many times, a climber, especially a guide, will risk his or her life to help another. Lopsang Sherpa is fiercely loyal to Fischer—when Fischer is lost on the summit, Lopsang refuses to give up searching for him despite the deadly weather.

Related Works:

Other Resources for Into Thin Air

Order Into Thin Air Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
Into Thin Air Paperback Student Edition