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Into Thin Air

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Summary

Chapter 15

Summary Chapter 15

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.

Analysis

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.