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During their next night at Lobuje, Hall calls on Harris's radio, announcing that they have successfully gotten Tenzing down the mountain. It took an entire day and thirty-five Sherpas to maneuver the injured man. Hall tells the rest of the group that they can make their way to Base Camp. They are glad to be leaving the lodge, especially since most of the group members are exhibiting signs of illness from having stayed in the filthy conditions. Harris spends the night sick, emptying his insides from an intestinal bug. The next morning, Harris is exhausted and dehydrated, but is determined to lead the group to Base Camp.
They climb, Harris struggling most of all. Krakauer describes the ice formations as a "translucent, frozen medium that glistened like polished onyx." A few miles east, they see hundreds of tents, housing climbers and Sherpas from over fourteen different expeditions. Hall meets them there, at their camp.
The group stays in a makeshift village, and will be there for approximately six weeks, acclimatizing. In the afternoons, in the sun, the temperature is warm enough to be comfortable in a t-shirt, but at night it is freezing. The comforts of Base Camp are surprising—Adventure Consultants have put together a campsite including a table, stereo, library, lights, phone and a fax machine. There is a shower with heated water, and they receive fresh vegetables and water every few days, delivered by yaks. Surprised, Krakauer describes how clean the campsite is. For a while, Everest was somewhat of a garbage heap, but one of the goals of the climbing expeditions has been to clean up the mountain. Hall and Ball were part of an effort in 1990 to remove five tons of garbage from Base Camp. Now, in addition to the basic fee, many guide services ask for a deposit to be returned if the mountain is left in the same condition as it was before the expedition arrived. Noticing the cleanliness of the area seems to give Krakauer greater appreciation of the business on the mountain.
Krakauer meets Scott Fischer at Base Camp. Fischer has climbed Everest before, once without oxygen, and guided an expedition up another towering mountain. Fischer and Hall are rivals but friends, having experience climbing with one another. Fischer's guiding service is called "Mountain Madness," and reflects Fischer's attitude—adventurous to the point of being slightly crazy. Fischer had experienced a number of climbing mishaps that should have killed him. Twice he fell from a height of over eighty feet. Krakauer had met Fischer in Seattle—in fact, Fischer was the one who first suggested that Krakauer write an article for Outside Magazine saying that Krakauer could make the climb because they'd "built a yellow brick road to the summit." Fischer lobbied for Krakauer to make the climb, and originally he was supposed to go with Fischer's guide service. However, plans changed when Rob Hall offered the magazine a better deal. Initially, Fischer was upset at the switch, but when Krakauer encountered him on the mountain, Fischer bore no grudge.
The effects of high altitude are significant even at Base Camp. Krakauer describes short walks to the mess hall as "leaving him wheezing" (87). Sleeping and eating were difficult, cuts and scratches didn't heal and everyone began to lose weight. Other members of the team have gastrointestinal problems or severe headaches. Despite being higher at the Base Camp of Everest than Krakauer had ever been before, Hall is confident of the acclimatization process.
Krakauer is at the foot of Everest and is already higher than he has ever climbed. Again and again, the enormity of the mountain and the task of climbing it are evident. Most of the team members are already dealing with effects of the high altitude, and the prospect of surviving at much higher elevations seems incredible.
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