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This chapter follows Hall and Fischer. Fischer summits at 3:40 pm on May 10. Lopsang waits for him at the top. Gau, the Taiwanese leader, arrives a few minutes later, and Rob Hall waits for Doug Hansen. Fischer keeps saying he does not feel well; his stomach is giving him trouble.
Fischer begins his descent at 3:55 pm, and although he used supplemental oxygen for the climb, he removes his mask. Everyone except Hall leaves the summit and at about 4:00 pm Doug Hansen arrives at the top. Hall's appointed turn-around time was two hours past; perhaps Hall allows Hansen to continue because the previous year, Hall turned Hansen back on the South Summit, just hundreds of feet below the top. Hansen was bitterly disappointed, and Hall encouraged him to try again.
Hansen and Hall spend a few minutes at the top then begin their descent with Lopsang. Lopsang leaves them at the top of the Hillary Step, hurrying to catch up with Fischer. Just after Lopsang departs, Hansen runs out of oxygen. He is exhausted, having used up all of his energy and strength to reach the top. Hall tries to radio for help at 4:30 pm and 4:41 pm, asking for someone to bring oxygen. Hall does not know that full canisters were waiting on the South Summit—Harris tells Hall over the radio that the canisters are empty, just as he told Krakauer.
Hall decides to descend, but cannot bring the nearly incapacitated Hansen down the Hillary Step. A few minutes later, Mike Groom gets through to Hall and tells him about the waiting oxygen. Fifteen minutes later, at the South Summit, Lopsang meets Harris. Harris, now understanding that at least some of the canisters are full, begs Lopsang to help him deliver the oxygen to Hall and Hansen. Lopsang says no, because he is Fischer's Sherpa and much catch up with Fischer. Harris, despite hypoxia and an increasingly deteriorating physical state, attempts to bring the oxygen to Hall and Hansen himself.
Lopsang catches up with Fischer by 6:00 pm and tries to make him use the oxygen. Fischer's mental state is questionable, and he says: "'I am very sick, too sick to go down. I am going to jump'" (297). Lopsang talks Fischer out of it, and they start descending the South Col. By then it is thundering, and Fischer cannot continue. Exhausted and much smaller than Fischer, Lopsang cannot carry him, so he stops and waits with Fischer. A couple hours later, Gau and two Sherpas arrive. The Sherpas leave Gau, who is as incapacitated as Fischer, behind. Fischer asks Lopsang to get Boukreev and send him up. Lopsang descends, eventually finding camp and relaying the message to Boukreev.
Guy Cotter, a friend of Hall and Harris, is at Base Camp and receives Hall's radio message for help. He urges Hall to climb down and get oxygen for Doug, but forty minutes later Hall and Hansen are still at Hillary Step. During subsequent radio calls Cotter begs Hall to descend alone, but Hall refuses. In the middle of the night Hall radios again, sounding more and more disturbed and mentally frail. By this time, Hall has somehow gotten two oxygen canisters, but the valves are frozen. At 5:00 Base Camp patched in a call from Hall's wife. A while later, Hall radios that Doug is "gone." No one ever found Hansen's body; it is possible that he fell. Krakauer says it is similarly hard to figure out what happened to Harris's body—the only fact known for sure is that he was on the South Summit at nightfall on May 10.
The next morning, after having spent the night on the mountain, Hall manages to get the oxygen to work. Hall promises that he is going to descend, but never does. Ang Dorje and another Sherpa attempt to rescue him, even though the climb will be long and grueling. They get to within 700 feet of Hall, but cannot press on due to wind and the freezing temperature. Two Sherpas also attempt to rescue Fischer, but when they find him he is unresponsive and they decide he is a lost cause. They bring Gau, the Taiwanese guide, down.
Base Camp patches through one last call from Hall's wife. Ten days later, climbers find his body, still on the South Summit.
Almost everyone on the summit after the turn-around time encounters trouble. It is not clear why so many climbers, including Hall, ignore the turn-around time—perhaps hypoxia is a factor.
Some amazing displays of loyalty take place in this chapter. Hall is unwilling to leave Hansen behind, even though Hansen cannot descend on his own. Hall might be feeling responsible for Hansen—he talks Hansen into returning to Everest to reach the summit, and he allows Hansen to summit hours after the turn-around time. Hall's refusal to leave Hansen behind eventually causes his death.
Similarly, Harris cannot bear the thought of Hall and Hansen on the South Summit without oxygen. He begs Lopsang to deliver the canisters, but when Lopsang refuses, Harris tries to do it himself, despite his failing physical state. Harris's act of loyalty ends up causing his death as well.
Lopsang, although refusing to help Harris rescue Hall and Hansen, does so largely because he is exceedingly loyal to Scott Fischer. When he does catch Fischer, Lopsang waits with him and does not leave until Fischer implores him to get Boukreev. Then and only then does Lopsang leave, negotiating the mountain during a fierce storm to save his guide.
Ang Dorje and a Sherpa from another team attempt to climb the 3,000 vertical feet to rescue Hall. This is a rescue attempt so dangerous it could likely cause more disaster than relief, but they do it without hesitation, and give up only when they are absolutely postive they can climb no higher. Dorje is beside himself at having to leave Hall up there, knowing that all hopes of Hall getting down the mountain alive have just been dashed.
A stark breakdown in loyalty takes place on the Taiwanese team when the two Sherpas dump Gau because he is no longer able to climb on his own .Hall's previous fears about that team are actualized there as the Sherpas show no loyalty or concern over the deadly situation surrounding their guide. Ironically and just as Hall had predicted, Sherpas from another team rescue Gau.
Hall's death is perhaps the most disturbing, as he radios Base Camp with news about his progress, or lack thereof. They know exactly where he is, but they cannot get to him to help. They can only beg him to descend, but he is too tired and frostbitten to navigate the mountain. Hall's wife says: "Rob and I had talked about the impossibility of being rescued from the summit ridge. As he himself had put it, 'You might as well be on the moon.'" The frustration of being able to speak to Hall and knowing where he is makes his death all the more tragic. The thought of him on the summit ridge, knowing that he must descend but being unable to, being utterly alone and helpless is unbearable. After having looked after the safety of his clients, Hall ends up stranded, with no one looking after him.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Into Thin Air!