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.

Krakauer also begins to feel a sense of guilt and responsibility in having joined the trip as a journalist. He feels that people are so thoroughly exhausted and spent on the mountain that having someone write details about them is stressful. This feeling probably is heightened by his newfound respect for some of his teammates, and the knowledge that in previously recordings or entries he described them in ways that weren't entirely positive. Causing additional stress to the climbers, and particularly to Rob Hall, even though it was far from his intention, is a lingering source of guilt for Krakauer.

The night at Camp Three is difficult, and the prospect of spending additional nights there and at Camp Four must be daunting. Base Camp seems an easy place to be then, as compared to a few weeks before when the air there felt barely breathable. Now though, all of the climbers are in ragged physical shape, having lost weight and developed health problems along the way.

Severe health problems continue to occur around Krakauer and his group. In addition to Lopsang having to deal with Ngawang's deal, another member of Fischer's group develops a serious health problem, HACE, and must descend immediately. Each chapter someone gets ill, hurt or even dies. It is as if Everest picks off climbers like flies, and the odds of actually making it to the top seem to decrease as the expedition wears on.

Developing a plan for reaching the summit so as to avoid a traffic jam there on the same day initially seems as if it will prevent some future difficulties. Hall wants to summit on May 10, and other groups seem to respect that decision except the South African group, which is yet again unwilling to help anyone. It is unclear if Krakauer is vilifying Ian Woodall, but from the book his complete disregard for the other expeditions and for safety is incredible. Woodall's refusal to consider other expeditions only adds more stress to an already tense and difficult situation.