Top positive review
Great Book on Iffy Subject
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 7, 2021
No, "Eiger Dreams" isn't as good as "Into Thin Air," but you have to keep in mind what this book is: a collection of articles written by Krakauer for magazines like "Outside" and "Smithsonian." He's writing over a period of years for an audience that is more specialized and likely pro-climbing. He covers some interesting settings: the Himalayas, K2, Yosemite, Alaska, and the canyons of Arizona, and he describes some interesting people, such as the two Brit brothers who spent as much time fighting, drinking, and womanizing as they did climbing. In fact, climbing appears to attract "characters": a lot of long-haired anti-establishment types. In his twenties, Krakauer counted himself among this set, and his personal essay about quitting his framing job in Colorado and going to Alaska to climb the Devil's Thumb is particularly compelling. I say you need some perspective in reading "Eiger Dreams" because it's so pro-climbing. This is Krakauer's background. Behind this, there's constant mention of the dangers, but they are largely glossed over until the late pieces about K2 and Denali and how many people were dying trying to climb them. There's a paragraph or so where Krakauer pays lip service to this danger and questions the ethics of a sport where the injury and death count seems to rise every year. But, like I said, not really the focus of these articles, and what climbing buffs would want to be constantly reminded while they're reading about their sport of horrible frostbite, amputations, and deaths from falls and avalanches? I am not a climbing enthusiast. While I found "Eiger Dreams" consistently engaging and well-written, I found myself second-guessing the decisions of the climbers, even those engaged in "exploration." What's the point of summiting a huge mountain at great personal expense and risk? This isn't true Lewis and Clark style exploration, of potential use to future generations. No one's going to settle on the high, icy slopes of Everest. These are just the selfish goals of people with big egos and maybe too much money. We establish police forces, suicide hotlines, seat belts, and a hundred other things to protect people from themselves, yet we allow climbers to do whatever they want on high, icy, unsafe terrain. This is my personal belief, and it's perhaps a testament to "Eiger Dreams" and particularly to Krakauer's skill as a writer that I appreciated the book even though it did nothing to change my opinion of climbing as idiotic and self-indulgent.