Chapter 18

At about the same time Hansen arrives at the summit, three climbers from India radio that they too have reached the summit, having climbed up the Tibetan side. Because of the wind and snow they do not realize that that have not actually reached the summit. Their distance from the summit explains why they never encountered Hall or Hansen. When Boukreev begins to search for the abandoned clients, two Japanese climbers and three Sherpas find one of the Indian climbers in the snow, frostbitten but alive. The Japanese team continues climbing, not wanting to risk their summit attempt.

Soon, the Japanese climbers find the other two Indian climbers and again refuse to help in any way. Despite the winds and adverse conditions, the Japanese make it to the summit. It is unlikely that they encountered Hall, struggling to stay alive on the South Summit.

Chapter 19

This chapter focuses on Krakauer, resuming on May 11 when he realizes that many of his teammates and guides are dead. After having spent the night at 26,000 without gas, everyone at Camp Four struggling. Krakauer's teammate, Lou Kasischke is snow blind and incoherent, and other teammates appear to be in a deep sleep or unconscious. Krakauer looks for a full oxygen canister but cannot find one. In the absence of their guides, Stuart Hutchinson, the client in the best physical and mental condition, steps into the role.

Hutchinson rounds up four Sherpas to retrieve Weathers and Namba's bodies. They find the bodies, and unbelievably, Namba is still breathing. Her limbs are frozen, her skin is white and she is close to death. Beck is also still breathing. The Sherpas ask Hutchinson what to do, and after considering their options they decide that it is best to leave Namba and Weathers where they are. The remaining climbers at Camp Four try to decide what to do, but most of the climbers are in no condition to descend.

Beidleman, looking after Sandy Pittman and the other rescued climbers, descend to Camp Three. During the climb down, one of their Sherpas is struck in the head by a rock.

The IMAX team joins in the rescue attempt, offering batteries and oxygen and trying to climb up from Camp Two to join the abandoned teams. That day, at 4:35 pm in the afternoon, Beck Weathers arrives at camp, "somehow arisen from the dead." Weathers tells them that he remembers freezing and drifting into unconsciousness, but then he came to and summoned the will not only to move, but to actually make it back to camp. They give Weathers oxygen, bundle him up in sleeping bags and with hot water bottles, but are pessimistic about his prognosis.

Having just seen Weathers walk into camp, Boukreev decides that leaving Fischer was the wrong decision. He leaves again to get Fischer, but by the time he arrives, Fischer is dead.

That night, they are hit with the worst storm yet, and it threatens to rip up Krakauer's tent. He and Hutchinson spend the night trying to secure the tent, and in the morning convince everyone that they have to leave immediately. As they are getting ready to go, Krakauer decides to visit Weathers, who is assumes is dead, one last time. Again, defying belief and the odds, Weathers is alive, stripped of his sleeping bags by the wind. He had been yelling for help for hours. Unsure of what to do about Weathers, they give him an injection and hot tea, wondering if they should attempt to get him down but unable to leave him again.

Chapter 20

The group heads back down the mountain and Krakauer realizes there are half as many people descending as there were ascending. They make it back to Camp Two. The weather is warmer, supplies more plentiful, and the conditions of the climbers begin to stabilize. Doctors are waiting, and immediately begin working on Gau. An hour and a half later, the Sherpas bring Beck Weathers down the mountain alive.

The next morning, Krakauer walks down to the tip of the Icefall to look for a place a helicopter might be able to land. Guy Cotter at Base Camp had arranged for a helicopter for Beck, but landings on the Icefall are treacherous. The helicopter lands safely, but can only take one passenger. Gau's feet had been fully thawed at Base Camp and he cannot stand at all; they send him instead of Beck.

The climbers are discussing how to get Beck down the Icefall when they hear the helicopter returning for Beck. The chapter ends with Krakauer, now out of danger, beginning to realize the enormity of what he has just experienced.


Chapter 18 is a brief interlude, focusing on the Japanese climbing squad. This group has the opportunity to save or help all three of the Indian climbers, but opts not to because they covet their opportunity to reach the summit and they do not want to expend time or energy doing anything else. Krakauer juxtaposes the callousness of this group with the desperation of Krakauer and his teammates to save the others. Krakauer does not actually comments on the actions or inactions of the Japanese climbers, but comments on them instead in the way he creates a single, short chapter to describe exactly what they refused to do and why. "We were too tired to help. Above 8,000 meters is not a place where people can afford morality," a member of the Japanese expedition explains (314).

In this chapter, the expedition is left without a guide. The absence of leadership in the face of the tragedy they have just endured is particularly crippling. Hutchinson attempts to fill this void, but the remaining group of climbers are in such bad shape that rounding them up to do anything or go anywhere is nearly impossible.

When Namba and Weathers are both found alive, the climbers' worlds are thrown again into upheaval. Having to essentially write off Weathers and Namba is more difficult than if they had discovered them both dead. The possibility that Hall, Harris and/or Fischer are still alive is haunting, and for the sake of moving on it is easier to believe that they are all gone.

Weathers actually walks into camp later, again upsetting any recent stability in camp. Now, the climbers are forced to reckon with the guilt of having left Weathers for dead, and they must decide how best to handle Weathers who is in a rather gruesome condition and cannot descend the mountain.

The group lets down Weathers again—during the night his sleeping bags are blown off in the wind and he screams for help for hours. Again, they assume he is dead and it is only when Krakauer goes to have one last look at him that they realize Weathers is still alive. Weathers personifies the almost superhuman will that exists in some climbers. Seeing that will and spirit reminds the group of Hall and Fischer, and Boukreev cannot live with his decision to leave the unconscious Fischer on the mountain the same way he had initially left Weathers. Boukreev has to check again, and Fischer is really gone.

Krakauer spends a large portion of the chapter marveling that Weathers is alive. Weathers's description of regaining consciousness and climbing back down to camp is startling and sounds like many out of body, near-death experiences: "'When I first came to, I thought I was laying in bed. I didn't feel cold or uncomfortable…Finally I woke up enough to recognize that I was in deep shit and the cavalry wasn't coming so I better do something about it myself'" (329). Weathers feat is beyond comprehension, so much that it brings up the possibility of the influence of a higher power. When taking in the context of the Sherpas and their belief in the goddess of the mountain, Krakauer invites the reader to consider this possible aspect of the story.

When one of the Sherpas in this chapter is killed, the influence of a god or gods is considered. The Sherpa is hit by a falling rock, and then, after having sliding down the rope and having been sent into cardiac arrest, is hit by a second rock. These events are so arbitrary and specific that Beidleman thinks: "'What's going on here? What have we done to make this mountain so angry?'" (326). This question harkens back to the Sherpa's belief in Sagarmatha, and in her potential to get angry.

Beck continues to astound everyone and manages to push on. The helicopter taking Gau seems cruel—Gau had been unconcerned and unhelpful for most of the expedition, while Beck had been left for dead more than once, and was putting up one hell of a fight. When both Beck and Gau are evacuated, all of climbers are out of danger and stable. Without anyone to take care of or worry about at the camp, their thoughts begin to turn back to what just happened. The period of reflection begins here.