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Beidleman reaches the summit just after Krakauer leaves, at approximately 1:25 pm. Boukreev and Harris are already there. Klev Schoening reaches the top twenty minutes later. By 2:00 pm, there is still no sign of Fischer or any of his clients, and Beidleman begins to worry about how late it is. Since 2:00 pm is the turn around time, Fischer and Hall and the rest of the clients presumably should have turned back by then. Beidleman doesn't have a radio so he cannot contact Hall or Fischer.
At 2:10 pm, Sandy Pittman appears with Lopsang and a couple other climbers. Hall, Mike and Yasuko Namba, the Japanese woman, summated at approximately the same time. Hall thought Doug Hansen and Fischer were just behind him, but they aren't—Fischer does not reach the top until 3:40 pm and Hansen not until 4:00 pm.
According to information Krakauer received later, it appears that Fischer was actually ill during the summit attempt. During the climb from Camp Three to Camp Four he was reported to be fatigued, largely due to the number of unplanned climbs he had to make to assist various climbers in his group. In 1984 on another mountain climbing trip in Nepal, Fischer contracted an intestinal parasite and never entirely got rid of it. Every now and then, Fischer relapses, and from the time he was at Base Camp during this expedition he was suffering attacks nearly every day. Despite looking haggard, no one thought that Fischer was in serious trouble.
Beidleman is nervous about staying on the summit and is confident that Fischer is okay, so he descends. Sandy Pittman is rapidly deteriorating, becoming nearly comatose on the descent. They give her an injection of dexamethasone, a drug designed to reduce the effects of high altitude, and a new canister of oxygen. About twenty minutes later, able again to control her movements, Pittman begins to descend.
On the way down, the climbers see someone who has veered off the path, descending the side of the mountain that leads down into Tibet. The climber is Martin Adams, who had reached the summit with Beidleman. They direct Adams to the tent and then notice another climber—Beck Weathers. Weathers had kept his promise, waiting for a guide for hours. Mike Groom guides Beck down.
Yasuko Namba's oxygen runs out just above the South Col, and she sits down, refusing to move. Groom drags her with Weathers, down the mountain. Krakauer is only fifteen minutes ahead of them, but in that time the weather has gotten so bad that there is no visibility and the winds have reached hurricane speeds. Beidleman leads them down and around a gentler incline; a route that takes them over on the Tibetan side, and although they know they are at the same altitude as the tents, they cannot see them. The harsh wind pushes them away from the direction of the tents, and they get hopelessly lost. For two hours Beidleman, Mike Groom, two Sherpas and seven clients are wandering around in the storm. They are only 1,000 feet from the camp.
Back at camp, Stuart Hutchinson wakes Krakauer up, asking him to join him in banging pots together to lead the lost climbers to camp. Krakauer and everyone else are too exhausted to get up, so Hutchinson ventures out half a dozen times looking for their teammates. Unsuccessful and freezing, he is forced to return.
The storm breaks, and four of the clients are too cold and sick to walk. Beidleman, Klev Schoening and the Sherpas leave Tim Madsen to look after the other clients, and search again for the camp. They find it twenty minutes later and tell Boukreev where to go to find the others. Boukreev gets lost searching for them, returns to camp for better directions and then leaves again. He eventually finds them, and Pittman, Weathers and the doctor, Charlotte Fox are incapacitated, and Namba looks dead. Boukreev tries to revive them, to get them all to keep moving. Beck stands up, arms spread out, and is blown off the mountain. Boukreev gets Pittman and Fox back to camp and reports that Weathers and Namba are dead.
In this chapter, Krakauer describes what happened after he left the summit, and uses his subsequent research and interviews to fill in the events that happened when he wasn't present. The chapter breaks from the narrative in that the events are described in hindsight, and Krakauer interrupts his own story to tell the story of everyone else. The transition to an omniscient narrator is a break from his previous structure, but allows the reader to know what is happening with the other climbers. The reader knows Krakauer is safe earlier on, and the disaster primarily involves other members of the expedition.
Krakauer's descriptive style allows the reader to see where the breakdown actually occurs on the mountain. Basically, there is a lack following through with promises. The turn around time means virtually nothing, as climbers continue to ascend more than two hours after the turn-around time. Boukreev leaves climbers behind on the summit, descending significantly in front of them. In later analysis, many blame Boukreev's behavior for some of the resulting tragedies. Later, Boukreev explains "It is much better for me to warm myself at South Col, be ready to carry up oxygen if clients run out" (275). He does eventually find them, but perhaps some of the loss of life could have been averted had he remained with the clients during the descent.
Weathers does keep his word, however, and hours after promising Rob Hall that he would wait for a guide if he couldn't see. Keeping his promise compromises his safety, because the guides that should have been descending did not do so. The clients, all weak and exhausted, begin to deteriorate rapidly. The situation spirals out of control—the storm, the precarious physical state of the clients, getting lost on the way to the tent. The group has so many factors against them during their descent that it is amazing any of them make it. Krakauer and the other people at camp are too exhausted to participate in the rescue effort.
Boukreev and Madsen are left to rescue the others. Weathers and Namba are so incapacitated that they are barely conscious, and Pittman and Fox are not fairing much better. At this point, a rescue requires carrying the climbers one by one back to camp, compromising the rescuer's strength and subjecting them all to the risk of getting lost again. Because the rescue attempt is so taxing, they decide to leave Weathers and Namba, figuring that no rescue can help them now. At the time, no one thinks or mentions that Fischer and Hall are missing.
Krakauer's research is evident in this chapter—almost all of what he describes is not from firsthand experience. He is inside his tent trying to rest while these rescue attempts are being carried out. The recreation of what happened with the group is a piecing together of stories, many of them from emerging from memories sketchy from high altitude and fatigue.
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