After the Wind is a story that’s taken Lou Kasischke nearly 20 years to tell. And history will thank him for the effort.
It’s an emotional, visceral memoir about his having survived Mount Everest’s most infamous day – May 10, 1996 – and at its essence, is a love letter to his wife Sandy, as well as an apology for his “selfish” obsession with climbing.
He says it took him this long to write it because he didn’t want to be part of the media circus following the tragedy and its fixation on the dead. And there were a lot of dead on Everest in 1996 – nine all told, four of them from his team alone, with a fifth left permanently maimed.
For the millions who followed the story and read the various books, articles, and blogs, After the Wind is a trove of first-hand, eyewitness details about what went so terribly wrong on the mountain. Until now, Kasischke and his teammates had remained all but silent, except for one: Jon Krakauer, who wrote the bestselling Into Thin Air.
Krakauer came to Everest as an embedded journalist on Kasischke’s team for Outside Magazine, a position which, in Kasischke’s view, dangerously changed the team dynamic by putting undue pressure on its climbers and their leader, Rob Hall, to perform and perform well in the perilous world of high altitude. For Hall, it also became a goal to set a new record of putting more clients on the summit than any other team ever had. This detail, unlike so many others we’ve read over the years, finally begins to explain how and why Hall made so many catastrophically bad decisions on summit day, resulting in the deaths of nearly half of his climbing team, including himself.
After disaster struck, and the living were left to count the dead, most of the survivors retreated from the mountain, determined to keep their private hell private. Thankfully for those who have followed the story for nearly two decades, and are still hoping for more and better insight into the tragedy, Kasischke changed his mind.
Jennifer Jordan is the author of two books on K2, “Savage Summit” and “The Last Man on the Mountain.” Like millions, she has also been following the Everest 1996 disaster since its first hours.