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Adventures on Inca Trail and in Amazon rain forest!

Over 15 years lat­er, we’re proud and hon­ored to see that Scott Fis­cher’s lega­cy still inspires young peo­ple all over the world. We were espe­cial­ly hap­py to receive a note from a teacher in New York who has been teach­ing Into Thin Air to her Eng­lish stu­dents. It sounds like the stu­dents have been total­ly cap­tured by the adven­ture and tragedy of the book and have tak­en away some valu­able lessons for every­day life. Thank you to the stu­dents of Ellenville High School in New York for shar­ing your sto­ries and essays with us, and thank you to teacher Kristy Wil­son for shar­ing her story:

I dis­cov­ered Ever­est in Moab. 

I know it’s weird.

I wan­dered into Back of Beyond Book­store while on vaca­tion with my hus­band, and there it was: a used copy of Into Thin Air. I for­get what book I brought with me to read, but I was­n’t read­ing it. I liked Krakauer and already taught Into the Wild to my seniors who take my col­lege cred­it-bear­ing class. I fig­ured it was worth the read. 

My hus­band and I had dri­ven out from the Catskill region of New York last year to Canyon Coun­try, tow­ing our raft trail­er, and spent two weeks float­ing stretch­es of the Col­orado and Green Rivers. 

By the time we got to West­wa­ter Canyon, I could not put the book down. Between Skull Rapid and Last Chance Rapid, I was catch­ing my breath on the South Summit. 

When I came back home and start­ing teach­ing in the fall, I had seniors for the first time. I had always taught juniors and fresh­man. Any­way, I want­ed the class to feel fresh and inter­est­ing for my kids but also present them with the kinds of writ­ing projects they will need to do in college. 

At the same time, the new, nation-wide stan­dards estab­lished by the Core Cur­ricu­lum” demands that teach­ers incor­po­rate more non-fic­tion into our cur­ricu­lum, so it occurred to me that I could teach Into Thin Air and address of all the things I need­ed to. It meant I’d have to return to my (lit­er­al) night­mares of Doug Hansen and Rob Hall, unable to descend the upper moun­tain, and Scott Fis­ch­er strand­ed just beyond every­one’s reach, but I knew my kids would love it. 

Before we head­ed up the moun­tain, stu­dents researched Ever­est expe­di­tions and had to deter­mine which com­pa­ny they would choose to escort them up the moun­tain. They watched Youtube videos of Pheriche, Base Camp, the Khum­bu Ice­fall, and the Lhotse Face as we ascend­ed. They wrote adver­tise­ments for both Moun­tain Mad­ness and Adven­ture Con­sul­tants, which adorn the class­room walls around an Ever­est poster beneath prayer flags. 

Into Thin Air assignment

My kids are enjoy­ing Into Thin Air as much as I do. I’ve nev­er had this many pleas­ant inter­rup­tions (“Ms. Wil­son — let me get this straight — they got up at 11:30 PM to start the climb to the sum­mit?” or, YOLO!” or, Scott Fis­ch­er would be the guide I’d want to be with. He’s sav­age!”). Before we even start­ed the book, they bub­bled with ques­tions. Moun­taineer­ing is a world so far removed from every­thing they know that it feels like we’re dis­cussing mar­tians on a dai­ly basis. 

I am so thank­ful that Mark Gun­log­son at Moun­tain Mad­ness has giv­en my stu­dents an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see that there are real, mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions between what they read and the world out­side their hometown. 

They are stu­dents for whom the ascen­sion of a moun­tain has trans­lat­able sym­bol­ism. Ellenville, their small town at the base of the Shawan­gunk Moun­tains in upstate New York, is not a wealthy town, and many of their fam­i­lies strug­gle to improve their lives. Even if it is dif­fi­cult for some of them to under­stand want­i­ng to climb a moun­tain, they can under­stand hav­ing goals we all want and hope to achieve. 

What a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence. Thanks, Moun­tain Madness!

Below are some reflec­tions about the book from the Ellenville students:

Tyler A.:

Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air is an extra­or­di­nar­i­ly in depth reliv­ing of the hor­ri­ble events that took the lives of many on May 10„ 1996. One of the men who unfor­tu­nate­ly lost his life that fate­ful day was Scott Fis­ch­er, the founder and lead guide of Moun­tain Mad­ness Guid­ed Expe­di­tions. I admire his tenac­i­ty, deter­mi­na­tion and abil­i­ty. Although he was a bit dif­fer­ent than most climbers, I very much liked him and even though his tac­tics and style of climb­ing were dif­fer­ent from oth­ers his meth­ods worked. 

Jon Krakauer stat­ed in his book that that even though he thought Scott was a lit­tle reck­less, he admired his skill and accom­plish­ments. I believe that Scott was by far one of the most qual­i­fied peo­ple climb­ing Ever­est that day and I was crushed when I learned he had not made it off the moun­tain. I felt as though Scott was some­one I per­son­al­ly knew through Krakauer’s book and felt grief when I read that he had died. Scott seemed like the kind of per­son that I would have a hard time NOT get­ting along with. I like his wild boy antics, his fear­less­ness and the slight bit of cock­i­ness he had, not because he was arro­gant, but because he had amaz­ing con­fi­dence in him­self. I like the way Krakauer por­trayed Scott Fis­ch­er in his book Into Thin Air and I strong­ly believe that he did an amaz­ing job telling the sto­ry of what hap­pened that hor­ri­ble day in 1996. Scott Fis­ch­er is a man who was both fear­less and coura­geous. He, among the oth­ers who lost their lives on May 10th 1996, will for­ev­er be remem­bered and always be missed. ”

Melis­sa R.:

In my opin­ion Into Thin Air is one of the best books I have read. Not only does it tell a great sto­ry but Jon Krakauer’s account of what hap­pened shows many dif­fer­ent sides. I was sucked in by the first chap­ter. Although most peo­ple have their own opin­ions of what it’s like on Mt. Ever­est or of how the climb­ing cir­cle is in the world, Jon Krakauer shines a light on the many small but impor­tant details about the moun­tain. I have a new appre­ci­a­tion for the guides who risk their lives to make sure clients make it to the sum­mit safe­ly; not only are they respon­si­ble for them­selves and their clients, but they have to mind the oth­er groups on the moun­tain and work togeth­er to try to ensure the safe­ty of every­one. Some might be turned off by the idea of climb­ing this impres­sive moun­tain after read­ing the book and know­ing about the tragedy, but it made me want to go even more. I am look­ing for­ward to mak­ing it pos­si­ble for myself to go and attempt the summit.”