Into Thin Air Themes

Into Thin Air Themes


In 1996, commercial climbing was a new industry and had many people were skeptical of it. Commercial climbing meant that beginners could be guided up Mount Everest if they were willing to pay a load of money. People feared that with so many inexperienced climbers heavily relying on a guide, something would go wrong. However, people didn’t predict that commercial climbing would lead to competition between companies that would negatively impact the judgement of the guides. Rob Hall’s decision to continue climbing past his two o’clock turn around time was impacted by competition with Scott Fischer’s expedition. In the end, commercial climbing is what can be blamed for the deaths of eight people, and leads many to criticize the business of climbing. Some people feel it’s right because it helps people get to the top of Everest who wouldn’t normally be able to, and others think it’s wrong because it can impact a guide’s judgment. This controversy fuels the theme of morality in Into Thin Air.


Loyalty, however, is probably the most important theme in the book because as a team, everyone must trust and rely on each other. As an experienced climber on a team with many inexperienced climbers, Jon Krakauer didn’t trust his teammates to know what to do in an emergency. He found that he couldn’t count on them even though they received the benefits of being able to count on him. Loyalty also meant that climbers, especially guides, would risk their own lives to save someone else’s life. Doug Harris exemplified loyalty when he was seen “plodding slowly up the summit ridge to assist Hall and Hansen”. Harris was in incredibly ill, yet displayed loyalty by risking his life to attempt to get oxygen canisters to his client and primary guide. He never ended up finding them and died in the process, but exemplified the book’s theme of loyalty. Another example of loyalty was when Mike Groom “gave [Jon] his oxygen bottle”. Obviously Mike would’ve been more comfortable with supplemental oxygen than without it, but he knew how much Jon needed it, and displayed loyalty by giving it to him.


In this case leadership is very similar to morality because in commercial mountaineering anyone with money can sign up. Many beginners end up relying way too much on guides when they climb. Additionally, as the group leader the the guide has the final say on an expedition, and in Into Thin Air Hall didn’t properly take on his role as the leader. He created a turn-around time but never enforced it, ultimately leading to the death of a few of his clients.

This section is currently locked

Someone from the community is currently working feverishly to complete this section of the study guide. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t be long.