Uncertainty, Adventure and the Thrill of It All: Eiger Dreams

by smartpoodle / Apr 02, 2011 / 0 comments

Uncertainty, Adventure and the Thrill of It All: Eiger Dreams

I always considered myself to be an adventurous person – that was until I read Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains by Jon Krakauer. This is not a new book, as it was originally published in 1990 and then republished in 2009. But my philosophy is that any book is a new book if you haven’t read it yet.

Eiger Dreams is an anthology of articles the author published in various magazines. He wrote it seven years before personally experiencing the tragedy on Mount Everest, where eight fellow climbers were killed by the wrath of the high altitude. Following that horrific experience, Krakauer published an article in Outside Magazine, and then a bestselling book called Into Thin Air. It was later made into a movie.

Luckily for me Eiger Dreams is a lot lighter of a book than Into Thin Air. Krakauer does an amazing job of describing mountain and rock settings, and his portrayals of the mountain masters, who thrive on the danger of it all, really come to life in his stories. You’ll feel as if you know each character in the book very well. Each climber is inspired for very different reasons. And every chapter takes you to a different part of the world, each with unique challenges and potential triumphs.

I really liked the story about the village of Chamonix, France, where pretty much half the people in the town are avid mountain climbers, gliders or serious risk takers of another sort. The trials and tribulations of the adventure seekers in most of the author’s stories are astounding. The chapter about climbing Alaska’s Mount McKinley was enough to keep me from venturing up any hill steeper than 100 feet. Imagine wintry weather so severe that your tent blows away and you are forced to survive in a creepy, dark, smelly cave for days on end, with little or no food supply. Wearing every stitch of clothing you brought on your trek is nowhere near enough to keep you dry and warm. And the only thing to keep your mind off your impending doom is to sing songs from old TV shows for hours on end. The mountaineers in that story were so determined to make it to the top of McKinley that they refused to let relentless blizzards stop them. As I read the story, I suffered right along with them until I realized I was dry and cozy in my own bed.

Krakauer himself is a daredevil, who cannot get enough the action. It seems that nothing turns him on more than risking it all. I think that he loves the adventure, more for the people he meets along the way, than for the actual climb. What a fascinating life he and his climbing peers have led. I’m just glad he lived through it all to share it with us. Read it, and you’ll agree. You don’t even have to be a thrill seeker to appreciate the risk-taking thrills of others.

I, for one, am perfectly content to camp in a tent on ground level with my Coleman stove, air mattress, water hook-up and a store nearby, should - God forbid - I realize I’ve forgotten the graham crackers to make s’mores on the campfire.




Debbie Glade is the Geography Awareness Editor for Wandering Educators.