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Krakauer covers the first days and nights of the trek in this chapter. They spend their first night in Phakding, a place close enough to the ground to sustain some homes and lodges. As they keep walking, they encounter Namche Bazaar, what Krakauer describ es as "Sherpa society." The chapter explains and deconstructs the stereotypes associated with Sherpas. Krakauer explains that not all Nepalese are Sherpas—in fact, only 20,000 Sherpas inhabit Nepal. They are a Buddhist mountain society who migrated from Tibet hundreds of years ago. Their villages are rugged and tough, and for the most part they don't use cars, bikes or any wheeled transportation. Yaks are used for transport, food, milk and other staples. Sherpas were first used as climbing guides in 1921, and ever since the economy of the villages is directly related to the Everest's climbing season. The culture has also been affected by the fact that about one-third of the people who have died on Everest were Sherpas.
Sherpas compete for spots on expeditions, and teahouses and lodges compete for the travelers' business. Trees are cut down for firewood, Sherpa teenagers wear blue jeans and paraphernalia from American sports teams and families spend time playing American video games. The influx of money has improved schools, medical facilities, bridges, energy supplies and other aspects of life.
As the climbers make their way to Base Camp, they begin the process of acclimatization. Because they have all just arrived from sea level, it takes longer and there are some days when the climbers don't go anywhere at all.
They arrive at Tengboche, the most important Buddhist monastery in the village. While there, Krakauer meets the "head lama" of Nepal. The lama speaks to them, blesses them and offers a token intended to please God and ward off harm. The lama shows Krakaue r a photo album of a recent trip to America. There were pictures in Washington, at the Lincoln Memorial and Space Museum, and in California. The lama shows his favorite two pictures: one of him with Richard Gere and another of him with Steven Seagal.
Krakauer finds himself spending most of his time with Doug Hansen and Andy Harris. Harris and his significant other, Fiona McPherson, had just begun building a house together, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity to climb the mountain. Harris and h is girlfriend had both climbed in the Himalayas and even helped run a medical clinic to treat altitude related sickness. Hall's girlfriend, Jan Arnold, had worked alongside McPherson during Hall's first climb up Everest. Arnold and Hall both summated Everest together in 1993, and during Krakauer's trek Arnold was seven months pregnant with their first child.
That night during dinner, Hall and Harris have a conversation about the inevitability of a disaster on Everest, especially given the lack of experience of some of the climbers that hire guides. No one realizes just how prophetic this conversation is.
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