Notable Oregonians: Jon Krakauer - Writer, Mountaineer
Jon Krakauer was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on April 12, 1954, the third of five children. From the age of two, he was raised in Corvallis, Oregon, where his father introduced him to mountaineering as a child. Krakauer played basketball at Corvallis High School before graduating there in 1972. He earned an Environmental Studies degree from Hampshire College in Massachusetts in 1976. Working as a carpenter and commercial salmon fisherman after college, he divided his time between Colorado, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest. Krakauer continued to work on a part-time basis to support his mountaineering and writing ambitions until 1983, when he became a full-time writer. In 1980, he married former climber Linda Moore, with whom he lives in Seattle, Washington.
Krakauer built his resumé in both mountaineering and writing in the ensuing years. He recorded significant mountaineering accomplishments beginning in 1977 with his pioneering solo climb of a difficult Alaska peak. In 1992 he climbed the West Face of Cerro Torre in the Patagonian Andes, a peak that is considered to be one of the most difficult technical climbs in the world. Krakauer also developed a very successful writing career, beginning as a journalist with Outside magazine and including freelance work for National Geographic, Smithsonian, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and others.
His experiences as part of a tragic 1996 climb on Mt. Everest led Krakauer to write the 1997 bestselling book Into Thin Air. The work describes in stark and gripping terms the disastrous descent of two climbing groups in a storm that led to eight deaths in a single day. The book was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and won several awards. It remained on the bestseller list for two years, sold millions of copies, was translated into 24 languages, and was adapted as a television movie.
Krakauer's book Into the Wild was published in 1996 and occupied the bestseller list for more than two years. The book tells the true story of a well-off college graduate who gave away everything he owned and set off to find himself through nature and exploration. Two years later, he was found dead in the wilderness of Alaska with little more than his diary. The book was adapted into a successful feature film directed by Sean Penn in 2007.
Under the Banner of Heaven became Krakauer's third bestselling book after its release in 2003, this time looking at fundamentalist Mormons who continued to practice polygamy. The controversial book examines the actions of Dan and Ron Lafferty, a pair of Utah brothers who believed they were ordered by God to kill their sister-in-law and her 15-month-old daughter.
Krakauer's latest book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman was published in 2009. The book is about former National Football League player Pat Tillman. Tillman gave up his successful and lucrative career to enlist in the U.S. Army after 9/11 and become an elite Army Ranger. He was later killed in action under suspicious circumstances in Afghanistan and made a "hero" by the government.