The group tries again the next day to get to Camp Three, except for Doug Hansen who stays behind because of his injured larynx. The climb takes them up the Lhotse Face, a steep incline that requires full exertion in the thin air. Krakauer observes that there are few adrenaline rushes, and that the "ratio of misery to pleasure" was great. Krakauer realizes that even though climbers have a variety of motives in getting to the top of Everest, money or bragging rights were simply not enough to power a climber through these conditions.

Krakauer describes one of his teammates, Beck Weathers, who made the mistake of wearing a new pair of boots for the climb but was pressing on despite terrible pain. A physician who fell in love with climbing, Beck had vowed to climb the highest summit in each of the seven continents. Krakauer realizes that many of his teammates possess a similar drive, even though he had not initially thought so.

The more Krakauer gets to know and like his teammates, the stranger he feels about being there in the role of a journalist. None of them knew going into it that one of their fellow clients would be jotting down things they were saying and doing. Later, in a television interview, Beck Weathers said that it put extra pressure on both him and Rob Hall to know that someone was recording their every move.

Krakauer finally makes it to Camp Three. At 24,000 feet, he is still almost one vertical mile below the summit. Krakauer describes feeling "stupid," and hopes it is due to the solar radiation rather than to HACE—high altitude cerebral edema, a condition that causes swelling of the brain at high altitudes. A member of Fischer's team came down with a case of HACE while at Camp Three just a few days earlier. As night falls, the temperature plummets and Krakauer's head clears a little. After a sleepless night, they descend back down to Base Camp. By this time, Krakauer, like everyone else, is experiencing a multitude of physical problems. He has lost twenty pounds, mostly of muscle, and developed a bad cough back when they stayed at Lobuje. His bouts of coughing are so strong that they tear cartilage, leaving his entire trunk tender and sore.

While back at Base Camp, they discuss their summit plan. Hall plans to summit Everest on May 10, a date that has yielded successful summits for him in the past. The only difficulty is that the window of opportunity to summit is short due to weather patterns, and everyone on the mountain plans to summit at or around the same time. The groups develop an order for summating, beginning with a Swedish climber, Goran Kropp, who is to summit on May 3. Next, a team from Montenegro, then the IMAX team on May 8 or 9. Hall and Fischer are both supposed to summit on May 10, and other groups promise not to attempt the summit on that date. Ian Woodall, however, says that the South African team will summit whenever they wish, even on the tenth. Hall, still thinking about the possibility of a catastrophe, is angered at the notion that the South Africans will be anywhere in the vicinity during their summit attempt.


As Krakauer struggles to climb the Lhotse Face, he knows that each of his teammates is enduring the same hardships. This makes him reconsider his opinions of people, because the fact that they are suffering the same problems he is means that they are stronger than he thought. Whatever their reasons for climbing the mountain, he affords them greater respect. At this point, Krakauer realizes that "climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain…a Calvinistic undertaking. The sheer hardship makes it such that no one could keep climbing if his or her heart and body wasn't fully committed to it.