- A starred award from Kirkus Reviews. The Kirkus Star is one of the most prestigious designations in the book industry. It is awarded to books of exceptional merit.
- Best Nonfiction Books of 2014
- A nomination for the 2014 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction.
- A Kirkus's Indie Book of the Month Selection.
"A vivid, intimate memoir that, with great clarity and attention to detail, tells an unforgettable survival story." Read the Kirkus Review...
The Midwest Book Review
Kasischke's miraculous account of survival is paired with the love story of his connection with his wife Sandy. Intense and profound, "After the Wind" is highly recommended.
"The 1996 Mount Everest disaster was written about in books, newspapers, and outdoor journals. Climber Lou Kasischke, however, has a different story to tell–a story of endurance, heartbreak, extreme physical challenges, and questionable decisions. In the end, it is also a story of the deep and abiding love between Kasischke and his wife, which brings hope and redemption to this tragedy. Kasischke's voice is genuine, that of a man who wanted to push himself to the edge physically, but also wanted to do what is morally right. Engrossing, exciting, and ultimately inspiring."
Swiss Mountain Guide
International Federation of Mountain Guides Association
"A thorough analysis of the 1996 Everest disaster...and the best preparation for my Everest ascent." Read Jean Pavillard's review...
"Starred BlueInk book subject of upcoming Universal movie" - Irene Sanders, Blue Ink Review
After the Wind received a starred award from BlueInk Reviews.
"After The Wind is a thoughtful, well-written love story of Kasischke's dedication to his wife and anchor Sandy and his passion for climbing. It delivers an edge-of-your-seat description of navigating and mountaineering Everest and is punctuated with beautiful illustrations nestled in each chapter. Those new to the story, as well as anyone hooked on Krakauer's original tale, will find After the Wind an engrossing read." Read the BlueInk Review...
"[...] Kasischke’s account provides an eye-opening look at the perils and extreme conditions on Everest. Evocative illustrations by Jane Cardinal further enhance the text, and include maps and time lines." Read Publishers Weekly's review...
New Orleans Review
"[After the Wind] does not look to capitalize on reconstructing the events of those who died; instead, he presents his story humbly as one man’s experience of a horrific day. The true stylistic success of the work is found in its description of the climbing itself. With sparse prose, Kasischke captures the unrelenting elements of Everest militating against his own indomitable will." Read Michael Olausen's review...
The US Review of Books
"This rieting book examines what went wrong before and during the expedition...including a series of ill-advised decisions just below the summit...Kasischke also examines what holds true when all else fails, when survival is no longer likely. He offers a fascinatingly personal look at what he believes saved him. Ultimately, this is a survival story about love–of mountaineering, of God, and of the deep and abiding bond between a husband and wife."
New York Book Festival
"Kasischke offers a unique perspective...the voice of experience. Kasischke's perspective and analysis of what happened...may shock those who have relied on Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer, as the most accurate account of what happened...Readers will be drawn into this thrilling book, which combines the author's obvious expertise with a page-turning style and a knack for vivid descriptions. You'll feel like you are there with him in a tent that's barely holding together in a raging storm at 26,000 feet, and you'll perhaps get a glimpse of what courage and fortitude means in a life or death situation...Readers will truly understand the hard choices that were faced on Everst."
The personal love story transcends the expedition narrative.
While Lou Kasischke's After the Wind clearly acknowledges the tradition of narratives written in the wake of major climbing feats (Maurice Herzog's Annapurna, David Roberts' Moments of Doubt, and more recently Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air or Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb the latter two both produced within months of the same events described here), Kasischke ultimately transcends the expedition narrative form altogether. Kasischke allowed nearly 18 years to "settle" his thinking about the events on Mount Everest in May of 1996; he applies his considerable skills in both mountaineering and risk assessment to help understand how a series of faulty decisions led to such disastrous consequences even as he leads the reader deeply into his own personal narrative of a gently sophisticated love, not for a mountain or a set of skills, but for his dedicated and understanding, though deeply skeptical, wife.
These expedition narratives often employ a subtle passive construction either to emphasize the climbers' frailty in the face of the mountain's power, or to diminish responsibility for decisions with poor outcomes. Kasischke carefully documents the facts that led him to select Rob Hall as his expedition leader; chief among those facts was Hall's apparent ability to make good decisions about route finding, group safety, and weather, even under the pressure of proximity to the summit, clients' expectations, and his own need to build a business of leading paying clients to summit prizes. The only time this familiar passivity emerges in After the Wind, Kasischke uses it to describe his and others' curious inability to recognize initially the poor decisions leaders were making in continuing up the mountain long after the prescribed turn-around time. In short, Kasischke and several others realized in time that they needed to turn back (just 300 vertical feet from the summit) and they survived; others who decided not to turn back perished.
But the wind itself is also an active character here; it is the force that continually buffets the climbers, sucking warmth from them and, with the diminished oxygen of high altitude, addles their thinking. "After" the wind then certainly refers to a time just after Kasischke decided to turn around: the point of relative stillness when he has freed himself from the "storm" of desire and determination pulling him to the summit. But as the epigraph from 1 Kings clearly states, "After the wind, a still small voice," this is the key to Kasischke's transcendance of the expedition narrative form. Other climbers have certainly included moments of mystical thinking in their narratives (Roberts, Messner), but Kasischke presents the "still small voice" that stops him from continuing up the mountain as the voice of his wife, Sandy, reminding him of his promise to "come home." This fact is presented without an ounce of sentimentality, just as the rest of Kasischke's narrative offers clear, precise language introducing climbers and non-climbers alike to the intricacies of a challenge as big as Everest. The inclusion of this "still small voice" gently, simply cuts through the will, desire, and determination of a life lived in pursuit of a dream that vanishes in the clear recognition of a far more important truth: the power of love.
After the Wind then refers not just to the time immediately after Kasischke decided to turn back, the moment of recognition of this greater goal, but also to the time it has taken him to reflect after the storm of controversy surrounding the events of May 1996. Most expedition narratives employ challenges on the mountain as metaphors for challenges in the life of the climber: for Kasischke, the wind is, of course metaphorical, just as in 1 Kings, but the wind is also, crucially, the force that hurls climbers to their deaths; the still small voice is no metaphor either: it was his wife's literal voice inside him urging him to come home. The summit really lies in northern Michigan where Kasischke makes his home.
After the new 2015 movie of "Everest" was released it brought out my quest to see if I could find more information to add to what I already knew about the event. I have climbed with Scott many years ago, read and seen most of that which has been written and documented, and was skeptical about whether there was anything new that Lou could add to my understanding of the unfortunate chain of events leading up to this historic calamity. Lou’s detailed account from his viewpoint while on the mountain, in the midst of the struggles, both outer and inner really showed in his first-hand and candid account of certain decisions made and risks taken by other climbers (including expedition leaders) is startling. He also thoughtfully reevaluates several critical events leading to the tragedy, and introduces some eye-opening considerations and personal viewpoints about its causes and how it might have been avoided. Mountaineering and climbing in the "Freedom of the Hills" is so much more than the commercialism of climbing Everest and for those of us who know and understand that, this book explains the "reasons of why" we climb, to find life in all that which surrounds us, to search and be closer to our soul, and to really hear.... and listen to the sound- "After the Wind". Lou listened to the sound, made the right decision, fortunately --- just a few hundred yards from the summit --- a decision which saved his life and made it possible for him to return to Sandy and tell the compelling and moving story of why he survived and, unfortunately, why others did not. A must read for those yearning to hear - the sound - "After the Wind".
Just finished reading your book...loved everything about it (except that it ended). The physical book was beautiful: the drawings were outstanding. The story you told was touching, informative, and thought-provoking. Thank you for writing it. I hope you will write another book as you indicated you might. I've already recommended the book to two friends and one stranger (someone at the library who saw me with the book.)
I remember when the horrific tragedy of 1996 occurred on Everest. Since that time I have read just about everything I can get my hands on about it. So much didn't make sense out of such capable people.
I found your book and could not put it down. I felt like I could truly understand what it was like to climb that mountain. You shed so much light on the questions I have had. I appreciate your honesty in telling your story and hope you know how powerful your words are as you put them on paper.
All I can say is WOW. And thank you!
Just finished your book this evening. I was very moved by your version of the 96 Everest tragedy. I was also very touched by your love for your wife and family. You were smart, prepared, and had the sense to understand summiting Everest was not worth dying for. I really enjoyed your perspective, and just as much, I enjoyed your analysis of the disaster and how it unfolded. I've read all of the books on this ill-fated expedition, and your book provided insight that no other account has.
Above all else, I'm glad you made it back to your wife and kids.
My deepest and most heart-felt condolences on the loss of Sandy.
I have read everything, and I mean everything, about the 1996 climbing season on Mt. Everest and your account was the best, by far. I literally could not put it down. I hope it receives the widest possible circulation and appreciation.
I've read all available accounts of the '96 tragedy over the years. Yours was by far the most compelling account because of it's heartfelt honesty in your motivations and the inclusion of your wife and loved ones in your story. It was a page turner. I'm glad you are a man of faith. It is the most reasonable way to live life. I am a retired youth pastor and have guided trips into the Rockies of Montana, the Canadian wilderness and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as part of my ministry to teens and young men over many years. I am a firm believer in using the outdoors and guided trips to build strong and faithful men. Your book will be required reading for my next excursion.
"After the Wind," was the most exciting book that I have ever read in my life. Knowing Lou since we were kids hanging out in the south end of Bay City together with our friends really made the book special. Many times I cried like a baby, just knowing the quality and character of Lou on a personal level amplified the reality of the climb! I am truly thankful for his safe return from the mountain, and wish him and his family well.
Lou, I just finished reading your page turner of a book. I have read dozens of mountain climbing books and wanted to tell you how much I appreciated yours because of three facets which I found particularly outstanding. 1. The drawn maps (and kudos to Jane Cardinal for her artistry) were especially helpful. I have never been able to memorize the route because photos have been too cluttered thus I lost track while reading and had to keep going back and forth in other books, 2. I liked your careful explanations of gear and techniques, 3. It really is a love story! Clearly you and Sandy are of one heart and soul. I was so thrilled to hear someone else express the inner voice of the other and the constancy of its presence in however one spends a life. The story itself, of course, stands by itself as one of the greatest survival stories of all time, my other favorite being "Mawson's Will." I hope you keep writing because you definitely have more to say. Thanks for a two day good read!
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Blogger: Hike Bike Travel
Couldn't put your book down on a recent flight and so interesting to get another perspective. I've read loads of mountaineering books including two others on the tragedy you were caught in. As someone in the media, I completely concur with the shift of the dynamics on a team. It would be even worse now.
You also have the best descriptions of any book I've read on the various sections of the mountain - and I can feel the fear come through the pages when you go through the Icefall. I have hiked around Manaslu and loved almost every minute of it, but the world of extended high altitude climbing has no appeal.
View her blogpost about After the Wind.
Thank you. The book has helped me significantly in recognizing the courage it takes to say no when it comes to personal ambition that could lead to poor decisions and leave my wife and kids to suffer should I die prematurely. I am a 54 year old arborist, still involved in the day to day risks of running a small successful tree business. I have always had a high tolerance for risk, but in retrospect have made some very foolish decisions that almost took my life. I look forward to a long, productive career and family life as I take to heart the true meaning of courage you present. Godspeed.
I climbed my first mountain following my wife's death from cancer in 1997. In some ways, I think that climb was - metaphorically speaking - a way to go toe-to-toe with God. I was just mad at the time, and climbing became an outlet. I have since climbed mountains (the real and the proverbial) on a semi-frequent basis. On a couple of occasions, mistakes have nearly cost me my life. I guess that's not unusual. I don't even know a climber that doesn't have a story or two of a time that they have looked into the eyes of death. That's what made your book so gripping for me.
Anyway, to the point.
I never write to authors, and honestly, I rarely remember their names a couple of weeks after I've read their book. However, your book moved me because I was able to see the love you have for your wife, and the fight to get back to her. My wife's been dead for a lot of years now, but that love still resonates with me. So perhaps, that is what inspired me to write to you. I wanted to say 'Thank you' for such a gripping and accurate account of your adventure. It was well worth the read. I hope that God continues to bless you and Sandy all the days of your life. Best regards and wishes.
Review submitted to After the Wind website
18 years in the making, Lou Kasischke’s recently-released After the Wind is one of the finest mountaineering books I have read! In Fallen Giants, Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver masterfully recount the history of Himalayan mountaineering and the evolution of the stories written about the great climbs there. After the Wind breaks new ground, as it works simultaneously at a number of different and important levels serving as a true gift to the mountaineering world.
Through Lou’s physical descriptions of 29,028’ Mount Everest, the reader gains a vivid, immediate feel for each step of the climbing route of Rob Hall’s expedition—from the over-populated Base Camp of May 1996; through the terrifyingly unpredictable Khumbu Icefall; into the relatively flat Western Cwm, called the Valley of Silence because it provides the last sheltered place from the sounds of the wind; up the Lhotse Face, a 4,000’foot wall of sheer ice; onto the South Col, gateway to “the Death Zone…one of the most inhospitable places in the world…a natural wind tunnel” producing “a roar of rage” that was both deafening and maddening; and on summit day, May 10, 1996, past the Balcony and Southeast Ridge to Lou’s high point of 28,700’, just 300 vertical feet short of the summit.
What separates Lou’s story from many of the more physically-focused and self-oriented mountaineering stories is the added dimension of Lou’s incredible relationship with his wife, Sandy, who follows the expedition’s climb from afar at the Kasischke’s home in Michigan. Though ever-so-subtle, there is a hint that Lou’s and Sandy’s relationship and their respective journeys during Lou’s climb share some similarities with that of Odysseus and Penelope in The Odyssey. As Lou prepares to leave for his climb of Mt. Everest, Sandy makes him promise her that he will return home safely to tell his story. Midway through his book, as Lou nears the high point of his climb of Mt. Everest, he hears two voices—on one shoulder is the Sirens’ song of ambition, his one opportunity to reach the top Mt. Everest and gain a glimpse of the world as few have seen it, and on the other is his promise to Sandy, Lou’s Penelope, to return home safely. As these opposing voices vie mightily with each other at 28,700’, a greater force intervenes, “My heart started to race and pound. My heart seemed out of control…I had never experienced anything like it before…I buckled and fell to my knees…My center was no longer the myopia of one foot in front of the other. My perspective opened up…Suddenly, the sound of the wind vanished. Suddenly, everything sent quiet…I had never experienced anything like this before…sheer silence…What would I hear—after the wind—saved my life.” From that point on, Lou’s is the compelling story of his hellish life-and-death descent from Everest to return to Sandy.
Jon Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air, brought world-wide attention to the Rob Hall’s 1996 Everest expedition disaster. Over the many years since it was published, especially for those who have studied it carefully, it has seemed that there were some inexplicable gaps in Krakauer’s story. It is understandable why it took Lou Kasischke 18 years to publish After the Wind, as he needed time and space to distance himself from and fully process his experience. Now, using his experience as a risk management lawyer, Lou has filled in and explained some important gaps.
Similar to a mountaineer’s carefully playing out his/her climbing rope, Lou Kasischke is masterful in helping his reader slowly discover the answer to three unexplained questions about the climb. The first has to do with the “crux” decision on the expedition. One of the most common and vitally important agreements that mountaineering parties make prior to their climb is the unconditional, predetermined turnaround time. On My 10, 1995, exactly a year before this tragic climb, at the agreed upon time, in sight of the summit of Everest, Rob Hall had turned his team around and headed down the mountain, because their time had come. This decision was one of the most important reasons why Lou Kasischke chose to join Rob Hall’s 1996 group. So, what was the reason, or more to the point, what was the confluence of reasons, why Rob Hall chose to disregard the turnaround time that he himself had established? Second, what impact did embedding Outside magazinewriter, Jon Kraukauer, have on the Rob Hall expedition? And third, why was it almost an inevitability that Rob Hall, the expedition leader who had incredible high-altitude climbing experience, would freeze to death near the summit of Everest?
With these questions answered, and his lessons learned and shared from the 1996 Everest climb, Lou says, “Surviving Everest made it important for me to embrace my personal story on a deeper level” (p. 301). Thus he concludes After the Wind with his “final” ascent, of 7,498’ Mt. Sinai, “The most sacred mountain in the world” (p. 300) reminding all of us that mountaineering and climbing experiences at their best should not done for extrinsic rewards, but rather with reverence and in accord with the heart, our integrity and with nature.
Author of two books on K2, "Savage Summit" and "The Last Man on the Mountain"
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.
Crouse Entertainment Group Consignment
After the Wind is a story of how love and a "still small voice" saved his life. It's chilling. Riveting. Tragic. Spell binding. In short it's a page turner. Lou waited a long time before deciding to publish his account. You'll be glad he did.
Greg Glade, Top of the World Books
Powerful and heartfelt! In the spring of 1996, Lou Kasischke joined renowned climber Rob Hall's Mount Everest expedition to attempt the last of his Seven Summits. Unfortunately, that spring season ended in the tragic deaths of many climbers, both guides and clients alike. By my count, there are now 22 books either by climbers who were there or others about the events. Do we need another? For those who have read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air I have recommended Anatoli Boukreev’s book ‘The Climb’ for another perspective. I would now add Lou Kasischke’s After the Wind as an important contribution to this story.
WOW! WOW! WOW!
I am a fan of high risk mountain climbing books and have read many (50 +) of the popular books on the subject. Why I became so engrossed is beyond me.
Mr. Kasischke analysis of the '96 Everest disaster is so clearheaded that the confusion, I had been confronted with, disappeared and the events fell into place. The cause and effect portion of the book is mature and without any agenda other than telling his story.
I wish his book had been one of the first I would be privileged to read as if now offers me a lens and framework with which to read others books of this genre.
As a non-mountaineer (although I do live on a very small and gentle Appalachian mountain) with no sense of direction I sometimes re-read the same book several times to get a better (though not full) understanding of what the heck is going on.
I am so glad he revealed the questioning of himself and he answered so many of the questions I have of these climbers primarily "Are you out of your mind"!
He demonstrated so much character throughout the ordeal and his book is the richer for it....