Friday, February 23, 2018

Classic Krakauer

Classic Krakauer by Jon Krakauer
Anchor: 2/27/18
eBook review copy; 160 pages
ISBN-13: 9780525562733

Classic Krakauer by Jon Krakauer is a very highly recommended collection of nine pieces written for various publications, including The New Yorker, Outside, and Smithsonian. As Krakauer notes "Most of the short pieces I wrote during the years between Eiger Dreams and Into Thin Air vanished into the crevices of time and have been forgotten. But Anchor Books has retrieved seven articles from this period, plus two more recent essays, and rescued them from oblivion with this new collection.." Personally, I recall reading several of these articles originally in the Smithsonian; they are what lead me to seek out anything written by Krakauer. 

The articles include:

Mark Foo’s Last Ride: Mark Foo was a big-wave surfer who "made no bones about his thirst for fame or his strategy for achieving it: ride the world’s biggest waves with singular audacity and do it when the cameras were rolling." His last ride was the Mavericks in northern California, a surfing location at the end of Pillar Point Harbor, where some of the world's largest waves can occur.

Living Under the Volcano: Mt. Rainier poses a serious threat to thousands of people who live in the shadow of the mountain. Geologists warn that the volcano will erupt again, but there is no way of knowing when that will happen. A serious threat is the fact that lahars (flash floods of semiliquid mud, rock, and ice) can happen spontaneously, and would roar down the mountain with  destructive speed and power.

Death and Anger on Everest: Russell Brice of a company called Himalayan Experience, or Himex, shocked climbers when on May 7, 2012, he made an announcement that, for safety reasons, he was pulling all his guides, members, and sherpas off the mountain. When a couple years later the ice bulge Brice was concerned about did break lose, starting an avalanche that killed sixteen, all whom were Nepalis working for teams. This has instigated sherpas demands for better compensation and other benefits based on the risks they take.

Descent to Mars: Located in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, just a few miles from Carlsbad Caverns, Lechuguilla Cave is a forbidding vertical shaft that you have to rappel down and then negotiate a labyrinthine of passages as you go even lower. NASA scientists are along on the expedition studying the microbes they hope to find there based on the fact that life on other planets might be microbial and would have have to derive its energy entirely from mineral sources, or eat rocks, and this kind of life could exist on earth in Lechuguilla Cave.

After the Fall: Two years after the unexpected, bizarre mountain climbing accident that killed a man, a law firm brought suit against the climbing instructor, the school, and the company that manufactured the climbing equipment (that the deceased used incorrectly) on behalf of the victim’s widow.

Gates of the Arctic: In 1980, eight and a half million acres of the Brooks Range in Alaska was set aside as the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. This park is a vast, untouched wilderness that contains no roads, trails, or campsites.

Loving Them to Death: After a young man died during wilderness therapy program, it was clear that his death was not an accident. His journal showed systematic abuse and neglect by the staff. This begs the question about oversight for these programs and the people who run them. 

Fred Beckey Is Still on the Loose: "For longer than I’ve been climbing, for longer than I’ve been alive, the most talked-about piece of writing in the sprawling literature of mountaineering has been a mysterious tome known as the Little Black Book." This book, written by Fred Becky, is rumored to be a list of the planet’s finest unclimbed mountaineering routes.

Embrace the Misery: "Lately you've found yourself wondering if the end of civilization might be at hand... [Y]our current angst should be dismissed as unwarranted paranoia. Most people in your privileged Western milieu have spent their entire lives inside a bubble of peace and prosperity, but to believe 'la dolce vita' will continue forever is delusional. Sooner or later, the party always ends. Every great civilization since antiquity has gone into decline, and you can’t really pin the blame on entropy. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the second law of thermodynamics, but in ourselves."

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday.

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