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.