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Jon Krakauer Responds to Questions

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					Jon Krakauer Responds to Questions

Did Chris destroy those cabins?                  And talk at length with experienced hikers
Q: I was wondering what you thought about        who have done the trip and know the
the destruction of the Forest Service and        country intimately.
private cabins. One ranger thought it was
Chris but the authorities never even             A touching portrayal of a remarkable
considered him a suspect. What is your take      person
on this situation?                               Q: I was hoping that I could just make a
   Michael Juday                                 comment about Mr. Krakauer's book. I just
   Juday@mail.NTU.EDU                            finished it and I loved it! I was enthralled
A: I remain fairly certain that McCandless       the whole time and appreciated Jon's
had nothing to do with the destruction of any    personal accounts as well. Not being the so-
of those cabins. My extensive research           called "brightest bulb on the tree," some of
convinced me that McCandless never               the deeper meaning was lost on me I am
walked very far upstream along the Sushana       sure, but the tragedy of Chris McCandless'
River from the bus (i.e., toward the cabins).    death was not. Thank you for writing such a
His photos clearly indicate that when he         touching portrayal of a truly remarkable
roamed from the bus, he went downstream          human being.
(north, toward the Sushana's confluence              Amy C. Bryan
with the Toklat)--the opposite direction from
the cabins.                                      A: I'm pleased and flattered that you
   I didn't mention it in the book, but more     enjoyed the book so thoroughly. I continue
than one knowledgeable local thinks a bear       to find it intriguing that some people seem to
was in fact responsible for the damage.          love the book and find McCandless an
                                                 admirable, even noble, character--and others
Are there better ways of planning these          clearly hate the book, and think both its
sojourns?                                        subject and its author are world-class
Q: My dream is one day to walk the entire        chumps. (See the following question.)
length of the Pacific Rim Trail in its
entirety, solo. However, I plan to have a        His hubris and narcissism are inexcusable;
safety net in the form of filing a backcountry   you romanticize idiocy
permit and keeping people informed of the        Q: I just finished re-reading Jon Krakauer's
status of my journey (even somewhat of a         original article on the life and death of Chris
pilgrimage, considering the length). We all      McCandless, as well as some of the letters to
need to get away--really, absolutely. But are    the editor that followed its publication. I live
there better ways of planning these sojourns     in Alaska, and I can well understand the
than others?                                     disdain with which Alaskans viewed the last
    Robert Theodore Konig                        adventure of Chris McCandless.                            Many people up here (and in other parts
A: Your dream to walk the Pacific Rim Trail      of the world) actually live the kind of life at
solo sounds like it would be a fun trip, and     which McCandless was play-acting. The real
needn't be very dangerous if you take the        tragedy behind this story is what he left
proper steps: Read everything you can about      behind: grieving, bewildered family and
the route, the weather, the ideal season for     friends. I realize that mistakes happen and
travel. Tell people where you intend to go,      McCandless likely had no death wish, but
and when, so they can keep tabs on you.          that's not really the point.
    The hubris and narcissism with which he       publication has been very hard for them,
blindly launched into the wilderness are not      primarily because it's stirred up a lot of
things we can excuse. Although I liked some       painful memories all over again, and
parts of Krakauer's tale, I think it is           brought a new round of unwanted attention
irresponsible to romanticize a stupid act by a    from the media. I have immense respect for
guy who by all indications should have            the McCandlesses, and remain exceedingly
known better.                                     grateful     for    their    generosity    and
    Olav Ormseth                                  magnanimity, for their willingness to help                       me with the book despite the heartache they
A: Obviously, we differ in our assessment of      knew it would cause them. They were
Chris McCandless. I know you aren't the           motivated to cooperate largely in the hope
only Alaskan who believes that McCandless         that my book would bring new information
was a jerk, and likewise believes that I'm a      about Chris to light, and that more people
jerk for writing about him as I did. With all     who spent time with Chris during the last
due respect, however, I don't think you           two years of his life will come forward after
really understand McCandless. Nor, I would        reading it.
venture, do you really comprehend the main            Chris's extended family (his half-siblings
thrust of Into the Wild. I have to bear most      from Walt's first marriage--Sam, Shelley,
of the responsibility for that. As the book's     Shawna, Stacy, Shannon, and Quinn, all of
author, it was my job to make McCandless          whom live in Colorado) also miss Chris
understandable to the reader. And in your         terribly, and they, too, continue to grieve for
case, at least, I apparently failed.              him.
                                                      Anyone wanting to make a contribution
How is his family doing? Where is the             to Chris's scholarship fund should send it to:
scholarship fund?                                 The Chris McCandless Memorial Fund, c/o
Q: Comment, then a question. Fantastic            Villard Books, 201 East 50th Street, New
work, I read it in five days. The entire          York, NY 10022.
McCandless experience questions so much
about life in the 20th century and our            What did Chris weigh before he began to
relationship with ourselves. Question: Has        starve?
the family's "faith" which was shaken badly       Q: How much did Chris weigh when
by his death, returned? What is their             Gallien dropped him off at the Stampede
emotional status? And is there an address for     Trail? At 5 feet 7 inches and (say) 130
donations to the scholarship fund? Thank          pounds, I have calculated he would need
you.                                              about 3,500 calories per day to maintain this
   Paul Bonesteel                                 weight. Depending on how much hiking he                              did per day to find food, it could have been
A: Chris McCandless’ immediate family             more.
(Walt, Billie, and Carine) are still devastated      I would also like to compliment you on
by the death of their son/brother. The loss is    how well you have written this tragic story. I
likely to eat at them for many years to come,     have a 24-year-old-son; I easily identified
I fear. And I'm not sure what the state of        with Chris's parents. Also, I recalled a
their religious faith is (if that's what you're   younger me who just as easily identified
wondering). The nature of their current           with Chris.
belief (or lack thereof) is something they           Dave Carlson
haven't shared with me.                    
   Walt, Billie, and Carine have each told        A: Chris was extremely fit when he arrived
me that they think Into the Wild is an honest,    in Alaska in April, 1992--photos of him
well-told book--but I know that its               from that period show him to be buff, honed,
and very muscular. I would estimate that he       A: Had I picked up Alex Supertramp
weighed 135-145 pounds at that time.              hitching to Alaska, I would have gently tried
                                                  to offer him some advice, tried to convince
Wasn't death the predictable outcome of           him that he was perhaps underestimating the
such naiveté?                                     seriousness of the challenge he'd created for
Q: I haven't read the book yet, but I'd like to   himself, but I think I would have soon come
know what exactly intrigued you about             to the realization that attempting to talk him
Chris's story? Didn't it seem to you, as it did   out of his plans would have been an exercise
to me, on first uptake, like the predictable      in futility.
end for someone very naive about how                  Actually, I have encountered a number of
much the world/nature is "willing" to break       McCandless types over the years in the
one's fall?                                       backcountry--usually brazen, impetuous
   Ronald M. Ulfohn                               young climbers with unrealistic schemes to                               attempt some crazy ascent or another--and I
A: I'm not entirely sure what it is about         have tried to persuade most of them that
McCandless' life and death that so                maybe they should reconsider their plans
captivated me. It had a lot to do, no doubt,      given current avalanche conditions, or the
with the way his life mirrored important          weather forecast, or their lack of experience,
events in my own life when I was his age.         or whatever. But I don't think my words of
But it was much more that that, too. I guess I    caution have ever had any effect. When
admire his courage, his resolve, his lofty        you're young and cocky and self-absorbed,
ideals. I'm in awe of the extent to which he      you are quite sure that you already know
acted on his beliefs and lived out his dreams.    everything you need to know, thank you.
   And no, I don't think that Chris's death       You're disinclined to listen to advice from
was predictable or inevitable. Sure, it wasn't    some clueless middle-aged dweeb like me
a complete surprise, given his recklessness       who reminds you way too much of your old
and overconfidence, but I was a lot more          man.
reckless and foolish than Chris at that age,
and I managed to stay alive. Defying the
apparent odds, most kids somehow survive
their youthful hubris, their heedlessness,
their innocent mistakes--the drugs and drunk
driving and unprotected sex and outrageous
acts of bravado. Chris McCandless didn't
use drugs or drink much or engage in sexual
adventure, but he did not lack for bravado.
And he happened to be among the minority
of audacious kids, sadly, who did not pull

If you'd given him a ride, what would you
have said to him?
Q: Jon, if you were driving through Alaska
and you picked up a hitchhiker like "Alex,"
who was heading into the wilderness with
only 30 pounds of gear, what would you say
to him? Would you try to dissuade him?
   Claudine Chamberlain