Jon Krakauer and Emile Hirsch

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Many people have pointed to a few decisions Chris made—not taking a map, not having an axe and carrying a small-caliber rifle—saying he made critical mistakes that lead directly to his death. "But this was by design," Jon explains. "[Chris] believed that if you're going to have an adventure and you know the outcome, it's not an adventure. It's not a challenge. So he cut it down to the bare minimum that he thought he would need to survive."

Because he took such a big chance and his margin of error was so slim, when Chris finally did make a mistake, he paid a heavy price. Chris died from eating seeds from a wild potato. Though the seeds were listed in a book Chris had as being from an edible plant, they were covered in a poisonous mold that prevented his body from digesting food. So even though he continued eating, his body couldn't absorb the nutrients and he died from starvation.

When hunters found Chris's body four months after his death, his remains weighed just 67 pounds. "People have a misconception about starvation," Jon says. "It's a terrible way to die. It's not you just have hunger pangs and you go to sleep. [Instead], your body chemistry changes, your brain chemistry changes from the lack of nutrients, so you have convulsions and dizziness and terrible shivering, heart palpitations."
FROM: Oscar® Winner Sean Penn: His First Trip to The Oprah Show
Published on September 20, 2007