Jon Krakauer (born April 12, 1954) is an American writer and mountaineer. He is the author of best-selling non-fiction books—Into the Wild; Into Thin Air; Under the Banner of Heaven; and Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman—as well as numerous magazine articles. He was a member of an ill-fated expedition to summit Mount Everest in 1996, one of the deadliest disasters in the history of climbing Everest.
Krakauer, photographed in 2009
|Born||April 12, 1954|
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Alma mater||Hampshire College|
|Home town||Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.|
Linda Mariam Moore (m. 1980)
Krakauer was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, as the third of five children of Carol Ann (née Jones) and Lewis Joseph Krakauer. His father was Jewish and his mother was a Unitarian, of Scandinavian descent. He was raised in Corvallis, Oregon, from the age of two. His father introduced the young Krakauer to mountaineering at the age of eight. He competed in tennis at Corvallis High School, and graduated in 1972. He went on to study at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, where in 1976 he received his degree in Environmental Studies. In 1977, he met former climber Linda Mariam Moore, and they married in 1980. They lived in Seattle, Washington, but moved to Boulder, Colorado, after the release of Krakauer's book Into Thin Air.
After graduating from college, Krakauer spent three weeks alone in the wilderness of the Stikine Icecap region of Alaska and climbed a new route on the Devils Thumb, an experience he described in Eiger Dreams and in Into the Wild. In 1992, he made his way to Cerro Torre in the Andes of Patagonia—a sheer granite peak considered to be one of the most difficult technical climbs in the world.
In 1996, Krakauer took part in a guided ascent of Mount Everest. His group was one of those caught in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which a violent storm trapped a number of climbers high on the slopes of the mountain. Krakauer reached the peak and returned to camp, but four of his teammates (including group leader Rob Hall) died while making their descent in the storm.
A candid recollection of the event was published in Outside magazine and, later, in the book Into Thin Air. By the end of the 1996 climbing season, fifteen people had died on the mountain, making it the deadliest single year in Everest history to that point. This has been exceeded by the sixteen deaths in the 2014 Mount Everest avalanche, and the 2015 earthquake avalanche disaster in which nineteen people were killed. Krakauer publicly criticized the commercialization of Mount Everest following this tragedy.
Much of Krakauer's popularity as a writer came from his work as a journalist for Outside. In November 1983, he was able to give up his part-time work as a fisherman and carpenter to become a full-time writer. In addition to his work on mountain climbing, the topics he covered as a freelance writer varied greatly; his writing has also appeared in Architectural Digest, National Geographic Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Smithsonian. Krakauer's 1992 book Eiger Dreams collects some of his articles written between 1982 and 1989.
On assignment for Outside, Krakauer wrote an article focusing on two parties during his ascent of Mt. Everest: the one he was in, led by Rob Hall, and the one led by Scott Fischer, both of whom successfully guided clients to the summit but experienced severe difficulty during the descent. The storm, and, in his estimation, irresponsible choices by guides of both parties, led to a number of deaths, including both head guides. Krakauer felt the short account did not accurately cover the event, and clarified his initial statements—especially those regarding the death of Andy Harris—in Into Thin Air, which also includes extensive interviews with fellow survivors.
Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains (1992) is a non-fiction collection of articles and essays by Jon Krakauer on mountaineering and rock climbing. It concerns a variety of topics, from ascending the Eiger Nordwand in the Swiss Alps, Denali in Alaska or K2 in the Karakoram, to the well-known rock climbers Krakauer has met on his trips, such as John Gill.
Into the WildEdit
Into the Wild was published in 1996 and spent two years on The New York Times Best Seller List. The book employs a non-linear narrative that documents the travels of Christopher McCandless, a young man from a well-to-do East Coast family who, in 1990, after graduating from Emory University, donated all of the money ($24,000) in his bank account to the humanitarian charity Oxfam, renamed himself "Alexander Supertramp", and began a journey in the American West. McCandless' remains were found in August 1992; he had died of starvation near Lake Wentitika in Denali National Park and Preserve. In the book, Krakauer draws parallels between McCandless' experiences and his own, and the experiences of other adventurers. Into The Wild was adapted into a film of the same name, which was released on September 21, 2007.
Into Thin AirEdit
In 1997, Krakauer expanded his September 1996 Outside article into what has become his best-known book, Into Thin Air. The book describes the climbing parties' experiences and the general state of Everest mountaineering at the time. Hired as a journalist by the magazine, Krakauer had participated as a client of the 1996 Everest climbing team led by Rob Hall—the team which ended up suffering the greatest casualties in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster.
The book reached the top of The New York Times' non-fiction bestseller list, was honored as "Book of the Year" by Time magazine, and was among three books considered for the General Non-Fiction Pulitzer Prize in 1998. The American Academy of Arts and Letters gave Krakauer an Academy Award in Literature in 1999 for his work, commenting that the writer "combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer. His account of an ascent of Mount Everest has led to a general reevaluation of climbing and of the commercialization of what was once a romantic, solitary sport."
Krakauer has contributed royalties from this book to the Everest '96 Memorial Fund at the Boulder Community Foundation, which he founded as a tribute to his deceased climbing partners.
In a TV-movie version of the book, Krakauer was played by Christopher McDonald. Everest, a feature film based on the events of the disaster directed by Baltasar Kormákur, was released in 2015. In the film, Krakauer is portrayed by Michael Kelly. Krakauer denounced the movie, saying some of its details were fabricated and defamatory. He also expressed regret regarding Sony's rapid acquisition of the rights to the book. Director Baltasar Kormákur responded, claiming Krakauer's first-person account was not used as source material for the film, and alleged that his version of events conflicted with the plot.
In the book, Krakauer noted that Russian-Kazakhstani guide Anatoli Boukreev, Scott Fischer's top guide on the expedition, ascended the summit without supplemental oxygen, "which didn't seem to be in [the] clients' best interest". He also wrote that Boukreev descended from the summit several hours ahead of his clients, and that this was "extremely unorthodox behavior for a guide". He noted however that, once he had descended to the top camp, Boukreev was heroic in his tireless rescue attempts of the missing climbers. Five months after Into Thin Air was published, Boukreev gave his own account of the Everest disaster in the book The Climb, co-written with G. Weston DeWalt.
Differences centered on what experienced mountaineers thought about the facts of Boukreev's performance. As Galen Rowell from the American Alpine Journal wrote to Krakauer, "the fact that every one of Boukreev's clients survived without major injuries while the clients who died or received major injuries were members of your party. Could you explain how Anatoli [Boukreev]'s shortcomings as a guide led to the survival of his clients…?" In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Rowell cited numerous inconsistencies in Krakauer's narrative, observing that Krakauer was sleeping in his tent while Boukreev was rescuing other climbers. Rowell argued that Boukreev's actions were nothing short of heroic, and his judgment prescient: "[Boukreev] foresaw problems with clients nearing camp, noted five other guides on the peak [Everest], and positioned himself to be rested and hydrated enough to respond to an emergency. His heroism was not a fluke." Conversely, Scott Fischer, the leader of Boukreev's team who died on the mountain, had complained continuously about Boukreev's shirking responsibility and his inability to meet the demands put upon him as the top guide—complaints documented in transcripts of radio transmissions between Fischer and his base-camp managers. After the publication of Into Thin Air and The Climb, DeWalt, Boukreev, and Krakauer became embroiled in disagreements about Krakauer's portrayal of Boukreev. Krakauer had reached a détente with Boukreev in November 1997, but the Russian climber was killed by an avalanche only a few weeks later while climbing Annapurna.
Under the Banner of HeavenEdit
In 2003, Under the Banner of Heaven became Krakauer's third non-fiction bestseller. The book examines extremes of religious belief, specifically fundamentalist offshoots of Mormonism. Krakauer looks at the practice of polygamy in these offshoots and scrutinizes it in the context of the Latter Day Saints religion throughout history. Much of the focus of the book is on the Lafferty brothers, who murdered in the name of their fundamentalist faith.
In 2006, Tom Elliott and Pawel Gula produced a documentary inspired by the book, Damned to Heaven.
Robert Millet, Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, an LDS institution, reviewed the book and described it as confusing, poorly organized, misleading, erroneous, prejudicial and insulting. Mike Otterson, Director of Media Relations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), told the Associated Press, "This book is not history, and Krakauer is no historian. He is a storyteller who cuts corners to make the story sound good. His basic thesis appears to be that people who are religious are irrational, and that irrational people do strange things."
In response, Krakauer criticized the LDS Church hierarchy, citing the opinion of D. Michael Quinn, a historian who was excommunicated in 1993, who wrote that "The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials". Krakauer wrote, "I happen to share Dr. Quinn's perspective".
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat TillmanEdit
In the October 25, 2007, season premiere of Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel, Krakauer mentioned being deeply embroiled in the writing of a new book, but did not reveal the title, subject, or expected date of completion. Doubleday Publishing originally planned to release the book in the fall of 2008, but postponed the launch in June of that year, announcing that Krakauer was "unhappy with the manuscript".
The book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, was released by Doubleday on September 15, 2009. It draws on the journals and letters of Pat Tillman, an NFL professional football player and U.S. Army Ranger whose death in Afghanistan made him a symbol of American sacrifice and heroism, though it also became a subject of controversy because of the U.S. Army's cover-up of the fact that Tillman died by friendly fire, that is, he was killed by another U.S. soldier. The book draws on the journals and letters of Tillman, interviews with his wife and friends, conversations with the soldiers who served alongside him, and research Krakauer performed in Afghanistan. It also serves in part as a historical narrative, providing a general history of the civil wars in Afghanistan.
Writing about the book in the New York Times book review, Dexter Filkins said that "too many of the details of Tillman’s life recounted here are mostly banal and inconsequential", but also stated, concerning Tillman's death, "While most of the facts have been reported before, Krakauer performs a valuable service by bringing them all together—particularly those about the cover-up. The details, even five years later, are nauseating to read". In his review in the Los Angeles Times, Dan Neil wrote that the book is "a beautiful bit of reporting" and "the definitive version of events surrounding Tillman's death".
Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His WayEdit
Three Cups of Deceit is a 2011 e-book that made claims of mismanagement and accounting fraud by Greg Mortenson, a humanitarian who built schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan; and his charity, the Central Asia Institute. It was later released in paperback by Anchor Books.
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College TownEdit
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (2015) explores how rape is handled by colleges and the criminal justice system. The book follows several case studies of women raped in Missoula, Montana, many of them linked in some way to the University of Montana. Krakauer attempts to illuminate why many victims do not want to report their rapes to the police, and he criticizes the justice system for giving the benefit of the doubt to assailants but not to victims. Krakauer was inspired to write the book when a friend of his, a young woman, revealed to him that she had been raped.
Emily Bazelon, writing for the New York Times Book Review, gave the book a lukewarm review, criticizing it for not fully exploring its characters or appreciating the difficulty colleges face in handling and trying to prevent sexual assault. "Instead of delving deeply into questions of fairness as universities try to fulfill a recent government mandate to conduct their own investigations and hearings – apart from the police and the courts – Krakauer settles for bromides," Bazelon wrote. "University procedures should 'swiftly identify student offenders and prevent them from reoffending, while simultaneously safeguarding the rights of the accused,' he writes, asserting that this 'will be difficult, but it's not rocket science".
Three Cups of Deceit controversyEdit
Krakauer was featured during a CBS 60 Minutes report on April 17, 2011, where 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft raised questions about humanitarian Greg Mortenson and the non-profit Central Asia Institute (CAI). Krakauer questioned the accuracy of events in Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea and whether Mortenson was kidnapped by the Taliban in 1996 as described in his second book, Stones into Schools. Krakauer went on to question Mortenson's credibility through the financial practices of CAI. Krakauer had been a financial supporter of Mortenson's work and had previously donated $75,000 before becoming disillusioned with him and his management of CAI. The 60 Minutes story largely retraced the conclusions Krakauer came to as described in his e-book, Three Cups of Deceit – How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way. The e-book was released the day after the 60 Minutes piece aired.
Scott Darsney, a respected mountaineer and friend of Greg Mortenson, wrote a response to Krakauer's allegations that was published as an exclusive article in Outside magazine's online version. Darnsey's response questioned the accuracy and fairness of both the Krakauer piece and the 60 Minutes report. He further stated that Krakauer either misquoted or misunderstood what he said when interviewed by the author. Darnsey went on to say that Krakauer took Mortenson's experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan out of context and added, "If Jon Krakauer and some of Greg's detractors had taken the time to have three or more cups of tea with Greg and others—instead of one cup of tea with a select few who would discredit him—they would have found some minor problems and transgressions. But to the extent to call it all 'lies' and 'fraud'? No way." Darnsey stated in reference to the possibility that Mortenson has been dishonest in his financial dealings through CAI, "If Greg is misappropriating funds, then show me the luxury cars, fancy boats, and closets full of shoes. This is not a "ministry" or a business gone corrupt." The Outside article also touched on the allegations that Mortenson lied about being held captive by the Taliban. In light of that controversy, Darnsey stated, "Greg recounted to me his imprisonment in Waziristan when I met him in Beijing. I don't doubt that he was held against his will." Darnsey's article went on to say that Krakauer is a respected journalist and a "stickler for details and getting the facts straight", but that he felt "the research needs to continue".
On April 5, 2012, the Montana Attorney General's office released a report noting financial "missteps" by CAI and Greg Mortenson. The Attorney General reached a settlement for restitution from Mortenson to CAI in excess of $1 million.
According to the May 3, 2013, issue of The Los Angeles Times, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the 2012 federal dismissal by Judge Samuel Haddon in Montana, stating he had ruled in accordance to the laws and rules governing class action suits. Haddon ruled correctly that readers were not entitled to financial compensation based on any of the arguments presented by the plaintiffs. The suit was filed days after the publication of the above titled book, as well as the "60 Minutes" presentation.
According to Central Asia Institute's Board chairman, Steve Barrett, announced on October 9, 2013, that the CAI and Mortenson have fully complied with all the specific actions and repayments as negotiated by the settlement with then Attorney General (now Governor) Steve Bullock.
Journalists Jennifer Jordan and Jeff Rhoads began investigating the claims against Mortenson and made a 2016 documentary 3000 Cups of Tea. In the film and interviews Jordan claims that the accusations against Mortenson put forward by 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer are largely not true. Jordan said in 2014: "We are still investigating this story. So far, our findings are indicating that the majority of the allegations are grossly misrepresented to make him appear in the worst possible light, or are outright false. Yes, Greg is a bad manager and accountant, and he is the first to admit that, but he is also a tireless humanitarian with a crucially important mission."
- Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains (1990) ISBN 0-385-48818-1
- Into the Wild (1996) ISBN 0-385-48680-4
- Into Thin Air (1997) ISBN 0-385-49208-1 (expanded from an article in Outside magazine)
- Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (2003) ISBN 0-385-50951-0
- Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (2009)
- Three Cups of Deceit (2011)
- Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (2015) ISBN 0385538731
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- "'Into Thin Air' author Jon Krakauer is not a fan of 'Everest'".
- Krakauer, Jon. Into the Air. Anchor Books, 1999 paperback edition. p. 187.
- Krakauer, Jon. Into the Air. Anchor Books, 1999 paperback edition. p. 218.
- DeWalt p.267
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- Author's postscript, 1999 edition of Into Thin Air.
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Mortenson still isn't talking. But the case is heating up, with important developments in the lawsuit and hints that the A.G.'s probe could go badly for CAI.
- "Montana Attorney General's Investigative Report of Greg Mortenson and Central Asia Institute" (PDF). Doj.mt.gov. April 5, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
We entered into a settlement agreement with Mortenson and CAI which guarantees in excess of $1 million in restitution from Mortenson for his past financial transgressions
- Kellogg, Carolyn (October 11, 2013). "Fraud suit against Greg Mortenson's '3 Cups of Tea' rejected – Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- "Central Asia Institute " October 9, 2013: Federal appeals court affirms dismissal of case against CAI and Mortenson". Ikat.org. October 9, 2013. Archived from the original on December 23, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- Jennifer Jordan. "About the Film". 3000 Cups of Tea. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
- "Greg Mortenson's Saga Not Over Yet: ExWeb Interview with "3000 Cups of Tea" Producers". ExplorersWeb. April 15, 2014. Retrieved December 9, 2017.