Into Thin Air

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Postal publisher who, along with Jon Krakauer, joins Rob Hall’s expedition to Mount Everest in 1996. Hansen is one of the only people on the expedition with whom Krakauer feels any rapport; he admires Hansen’s honesty and relates to his lower-middle-class background. Unlike most of the climbers on the expedition, Hansen is only able to go to Everest because of the help of other people; a local school puts on fundraiser to supply the funds for Hansen’s Everest climb. In 1995, Hansen went on an expedition with Rob Hall, but had to turn back early, in 1996, he’s determined not to let the same thing happen. Hansen’s enthusiasm eventually backfires when he and Hall climb to the summit too late, and get caught in a deadly snowstorm. Ultimately, he freezes to death.

Doug Hansen Quotes in Into Thin Air

The Into Thin Air quotes below are all either spoken by Doug Hansen or refer to Doug Hansen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of Into Thin Air published in 1999.
Chapter 3 Quotes

I wasn't sure what to make of my fellow clients. In outlook and experience they were nothing like the hard-core climbers with whom I usually went into the mountains. But they seemed like nice, decent folks, and there wasn't a certifiable asshole in the entire group—at least not one who was showing his true colors at this early stage of the proceedings. Nevertheless, I didn't have much in common with any of my teammates except Doug.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Doug Hansen
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Soon after Krakauer meets his teammates, he senses that he has little in common with them. Krakauer is only able to afford to climb Mount Everest because a national magazine, Outside, sponsors his permit. Krakauer hails from a lower-middle-class background, and generally doesn’t have very much in common with the other people on his expedition (who are, with a few exceptions, the kinds of people who can afford to take a two-month, 65,000-dollar vacation to the Himalayas). Doug Hansen, the one teammate with whom Krakauer feels a close bond, is the exception that proves the rule: Hansen, like Krakauer, is only able to afford an Everest trip because of the help of other people (in Hansen’s case, the sponsorship of a local elementary school).

The passage conveys one of the major problems with group expeditions as compared with solo climbs—there’s no guarantee that the people on the group will get along with one another. As we see later in the book, this disorganization and lack of a close connection between climbers sometimes leads to major problems.

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Chapter 5 Quotes

This was Doug's second shot at Everest with Hall. The year before, Rob had forced him and three other clients to turn back just 330 feet below the top because the hour was late and the summit ridge was buried beneath a mound of deep, unstable snow. "The summit looked sooooo close," Doug recalled with a painful laugh. "Believe me, there hasn't been a day since that I haven't thought about it." He'd been talked into returning this year by Hall, who felt sorry that Hansen had been denied the summit and had significantly discounted Hansen's fee to entice him to give it another try.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Doug Hansen (speaker), Rob Hall
Related Symbols: Mount Everest
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, we learn more about Doug Hansen’s backstory. Hansen is a postal worker who hails from a lower-middle-class background. He was only able to afford to travel to Mount Everest because of the help of a local elementary school. However, the first time Hansen tried to climb Everest, he was forced to turn back before he reached the summit. Rob Hall, Hansen’s group leader, was so sorry for Hansen that he offered to bring Hansen back the next year, at a greatly discounted rate—an offer that Hansen eagerly accepted.

In many ways, Doug Hansen is a tragic character. Unlike most of his other teammates in 1996, he has some genuine drive—he’s determined to make it to the summit, rather than failing as he did in 1995. However, Hansen’s drive and determination ultimately prove to be fatal flaws: as we come to see, his desire to reach the summit leads him to stay out long after Krakauer, and as a result, he gets caught in a storm and freezes to death.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Each client was in it for himself or herself, pretty much. And I was no different: I sincerely hoped Doug got to the top, for instance, yet I would do everything in my power to keep pushing on if he turned around.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Doug Hansen
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

As Hall’s expedition begins its climb to the summit of Mount Everest, Krakauer takes a moment to think about his relationship (or lack thereof) with his peers. Krakauer has never felt a very strong connection with the other mountaineers, and he’s worried that they’re too unfocused and unmotivated (with the notable exception of Doug Hansen). Thus, as Krakauer prepares to ascend, he feels no particular loyalty or connection to people climbing with him—in other words, if one of his teammates experiences setbacks of any kind, Krakauer will continue to the summit, rather than risking his own chances by hanging behind.

Krakauer’s comments underscore one of the flaws with large excursions to the summit of Mount Everest—the “every man for himself” philosophy works much better on a solo expedition than on a group expedition. Because everyone on Hall’s trip is dead-set on reaching the summit, the overall structure of the group is disorganized and chaotic.

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Doug Hansen Character Timeline in Into Thin Air

The timeline below shows where the character Doug Hansen appears in Into Thin Air. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
Commercialization Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...Hutchinson, a cardiologist, John Taske, an anesthesiologist, Frank Fischbeck, a publisher from Hong Kong, and Doug Hansen, a postal worker. The team’s medic will be Caroline Mackenzie, who won’t be climbing... (full context)
Chapter 4
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Commercialization Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...of beautiful vistas, and Krakauer feels that he’s in a dream. Krakauer enjoys talking to Doug Hansen and Andy Harris. Andy explains that, while he’d never been to Everest before, he’s... (full context)
Chapter 5
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Commercialization Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...from diarrhea, dehydration, and headaches because of the altitude. During this time, Krakauer bonds with Doug Hansen. Hansen tells him that he’s been involved with several women, each of whom left... (full context)
Chapter 9
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Back at Camp Two, Krakauer examines his toes and fingers—they’re stiff, but not seriously frostbitten. Doug Hansen, on the other hand, has some serious damage to his toes; furthermore, his larynx... (full context)
Chapter 10
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
A day after the first attempt to reach Camp Three, the team tries again (however, Doug Hansen stays behind to let his throat heal). The team climbs up the mountain slowly.... (full context)
Chapter 12
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Commercialization Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...expedition with real mountaineering credentials.” Bruce has gotten lost, and is suffering from severe hypothermia. Doug Hansen is also doing poorly—he hasn’t slept in days, and feels horribly nauseous. While Krakauer... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Commercialization Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
...summit as well. An hour into the climb, two members of Hall’s team, Frank and Doug, turn back. However, Hall runs into Doug, says something to him (as Krakauer puts it,... (full context)
Chapter 15
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...arrives at the top of Everest at 2:10, followed by many of the other clients. Doug Hansen doesn’t make it to the summit until 4 pm. (full context)
Chapter 17
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Hall follows Fischer down the summit. While climbing down, Hall notices Doug Hansen climbing up—even though it’s more than two hours past Hall’s 2 pm cutoff time.... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
...Over the radio, he hears Hall desperately calling out for a bottle of oxygen for Doug Hansen. Alarmed, Cotter radioes Hall to descend from the mountain immediately; Hall refuses to descend... (full context)
Chapter 21
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
...afternoon, Neal Beidleman presides over a memorial service for the dead climbers, including Scott Fischer, Doug Hansen, Yasuko Namba, and Lopsang. Shortly after the service, two Japanese journalists approach Krakauer with... (full context)
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
...Krakauer finally flies back to the U.S., knowing that he has a responsibility to visit Doug Hansen’s family and return Doug’s possessions. Back in Seattle, Krakauer reunites with Linda. He gains... (full context)