I am not what you could really classify as the outdoorsy type. While I enjoy camping and swimming and hiking, I don't do it very often because I hate bugs and the cold and not being able to shower. My summer is usually filled with day-trips and picnics but nothing too high octane and never in the winter.
So why I insist on reading Jon Krakauer books, I will never know. I still remember reading Into Thin Air, a book about a deadly Mt. Everest climb, a few years ago and shivering in my bed beneath five blankets in September. While it might not be by Krakauer, I also read Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing that same semester. And then a few years later I read Shipwrecked at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong and Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine by Jochen Hemmleb, et al. I just can't seem to stay away from these books.
It should came as no surprise that I picked up Into the Wild a couple weeks ago and slowly began reading it. In the beginning, there's really nothing about the cold or anything like that, and from the first page, you know the guy starves to death in the summer and doesn't freeze to death in the middle of winter. After about a week of only reading five or so pages a day, I was hooked. This weekend, I couldn't put the thing down. And of course, yesterday I got to the part about Alaskan mountain climbing. I should have known Krakauer couldn't leave his own experiences out of the book. So I spent all of my reading time curled up in my bed, shivering. Can you blame me after reading a passage like this:
Night had nearly fallen by the time I emerged from the top of the serac slope onto the empty, wind-scoured expanse of the high glacial plateau. In shock and chilled to the core, I skied far enough past the icefall to put its rumblings out of earshot, pitched the tent, crawled into my sleeping bag, and shivered myself into a fitful sleep.
I think my body temperature dropped five degrees just typing that. But that is also what makes Krakauer such an amazing author and his books so hard to put down. You can be reading them on a tropic beach with palm trees arching up in the distance and the sun scorching you face and still feel cold. He pulls you into the story and refuses to let you go until the adventure is finished.
I will probably never climb a mountain nor hike alone into the Alaskan wild, but I will more than likely read another of Krakauer's books. I will shiver and I will cry, I will grow to understand a person with whom I have nothing in common and I will rage at the stupidity of high-adventurests, and I hope I can learn something from these men and women who have pushed themselves and the elements to the extreme.
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