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.

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).