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The group goes on their last acclimatization trip in this chapter, from Camp Two to Camp Three, spending the night there, at 24,000 feet before returning to Base Camp. They leave Camp Two at 4:45 am, and the temperature is negative seven degrees Fahrenheit. Doug Hansen and Krakauer both awake feeling terrible—cold, exhausted and suffering from various maladies such as frostbite.
They begin to climb in a wind chill that dips to forty degrees below zero. Krakauer underdresses, anticipating more solar radiation when the sun comes up, and he becomes too cold to climb. His fingers and feet are numb. He stops to wait for a guide when Hall gives a radio command for everyone to descend. Nearly all of the team members have frostbite, and Doug Hansen has an injury to his respiratory tract. Two weeks before the expedition he had minor throat surgery and was now susceptible to infection. They determine he has a frozen larynx. Doug is afraid that he will have to stop climbing, and is particularly disappointed, especially given that he came within a few hundred feet of the summit in 1995.
Morale at the camp is low, and Hall begins to argue with the South African and Taiwanese team about stringing up a rope to climb up a particularly treacherous pass called the Lhotse Face. Initially, members from each group were supposed to ensure that the ropes were in place, but for some reason that plan hadn't come to fruition. When Sherpas from Hall and Fischer's teams leave to secure the ropes, the Sherpas from the South African and Taiwanese teams keep sleeping, refusing to help. Later, the Taiwanese guide apologizes to Hall, but Woodall, a South African, gets angry and begins swearing and making threats. This begins a feeling of animosity between Hall's team and the South African team.
During this time, Ngawang has not yet died, and they receive reports on his condition. The Sherpas maintain that he does not have HAPE. Instead, they believe that Sagarmatha, the goddess of the sky, is punishing him because one of climbers on Fischer's team did something to anger her. That climber supposedly had a relationship with another climber high up on the mountain, toward Lhotse Face. She did this at Base Camp too, but, as Lopsang one of Scott Fischer's Sherpas and Ngawang's nephew, explains that the higher one goes, the more disrespectful sexual activities between unmarried couples are. The Sherpas, Buddhists, attempt throughout the climb to appease Sagarmatha by building altars, raising prayer flags, lighting incense and praying. The Sherpas required each time to participate in a religious ceremony before first attempting the Icefall.
When Ngawang dies, Lopsang descends all the way down the mountain to be there. He then re-ascends, but is exhausted. Fischer is worried—Lopsang is his top Sherpa, and without him at full strength his group is compromised. Lopsang is considered a legendary climber, having summated Everest numerous times without supplemental oxygen, and has demonstrated "such astonishing prowess above 26,000 feet" (168).
This is the chapter in which most of the people in the group start significantly feeling the effects of the journey. Most encounter frostbite or worse, and for the first time the team hits weather that prevents them from going as far as they'd planned. Not yet up as high as Camp Three, they are already pushed back by the unpredictability of Everest. "Even without unleashing the worst it could dish out, the mountain had sent us scurrying for safety" (163).
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