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Into Thin Air

Chapter 12

Summary Chapter 12

Around 7:30 that night, the weather improves. Hall confirms that they will press on to the summit in the morning. At 11:35 pm, Hall's team leaves. Fischer's team leaves one half hour later, and just after Fischer's group, the Taiwanese team leaves for the summit, totaling thirty-three climbers.

A few hours later, Frank decides to turn back—something inexplicably "doesn't feel right." Doug Hansen also steps out of line, but after a conversation with Rob Hall steps back in and continues.

Before they left for the summit, Hall made them all promise to listen and obey him on the mountain, and most importantly, to stay within 100 meters of each other so he could more readily keep track of them. This means that the faster climbers must wait for the rest of the group to catch up. Krakauer spends time waiting, and it is excruciating—every second counts on the climb since there is an appointed turn-around time. While waiting, Krakauer sees Lopsang pulling Pittman up the mountain on a tether.

At around 5:30 in the morning, Krakauer reaches the Southeast Ridge where he stops and waits for the rest of the group. Fischer and the Taiwanese group both pass him. Nearly two hours later, Rob gives Krakauer the go ahead to continue. Further up the mountain, Krakauer sees Lopsang on his knees in the snow, vomiting. After hauling eighty pounds of equipment and Pittman herself, he is exhausted. There is some question as to why Lopsang "short-roped" Pittman, as she claims she didn't ask him to. Krakauer ends the chapter by noting that "at the time" Lopsang's decision doesn't seem terribly serious (223).

Analysis

Krakauer is encouraged to see Frank and Lou somewhat rejuvenated, and Krakauer makes good time up the mountain. By this time, the landscape, while hauntingly beautiful, is bleak. "If there is a more desolate, inhospitable habitation anywhere on the planet, I hope to never see it."

Morale at the camp is low. The weather is inhospitable, and one summit attempt had already been thwarted. In particular, Doug's health is precarious and Bruce Herrod shows up having been separated from his team. There is a lack of stability at the camp. In the silence there is suffering and worry, and health problems are abounding at a staggering rate.