On May 13, Krakauer descends into Base Camp. Finally safe, he begins weeping "like I hadn't wept since I was a small boy." They hold a memorial service on the mountain, giving eulogies, reading Buddhist scriptures, burning incense and praying.
The next morning, a helicopter arrives to take doctor Fox and Mike Groom, who both have badly frostbitten feet. A few hours later, the rest of the group leaves Base Camp. They return to Namche Bazaar where they wait for their flight into Kathmandu. While there, three Japanese men—Yasuko Namba's husband, his brother, and an accomplished Himalayan climber acting as a guide and interpreter, approach them. The men ask many questions about what happened on the mountain; Krakauer cannot answer them all. Japanese reporters were littering the area, as Namba's climb had been big news in Japan. Krakauer finds it nearly impossible to deal with the questions—the experience could not be "reduced to sound bites."
Krakauer has a very difficult and emotional time trying to deal with the questions—both his own and the reporters. Back in the U.S., Doug Hansen's family meets Krakauer at the airport. Krakauer gives them Hansen's belongings, not knowing what to say to them. Krakauer describes becoming "reacquainted" with his wife, and experiencing the ordinary pleasures of life in Seattle (351). He is never quite able to get out from under the umbrella of what happened, and when he finally speaks to Jan, Rob Hall's wife, "she spent more time comforting me than vice versa." Krakauer addresses his changed perspective on mortality, and how his own guilt in the disaster will forever affect him.
Krakauer theorizes about what happened and why. He attributes some of the disaster to sheer arrogance, especially in the thought that guides could get anyone up the mountain. He attributes some of the blame to timing and to ignoring the turn-around time. The weather was another contributing factor. Krakauer also speculates that Hall and Fischer, though friends, were also competing for the same business. For one to get fewer clients to the top than the other would be bad for business, so both pressed themselves and their clients. Krakauer attributes the disaster also to hypoxia, and to the impaired judgment that is inevitable at high altitudes. The fact that many of the climbers do not fully realize the risk of what they are doing also contributed to the disaster.
Krakauer mentions that the climbing of Everest is not a highly regulated business, primarily because the countries are so poor and welcome the business so much they want as many people to climb as possible. Ironically, 1996 was a statically safe year on Everest. "Between 1921 and May 1996, 144 people died and the peak was climbed some 630 times—a ratio of one in four" (357).
Krakauer ends the chapter by relaying information about other expeditions. On May 17 on the Tibetan side, an Austrian and a Hungarian climber had reached 27,230 feet without supplemental oxygen. The Austrian fell ill, having contracted both pulmonary and cerebral edema, and even with oxygen and medication, died. The IMAX team regroups and makes another attempt at the summit. They ascend with some other climbers on May 22; sixteen climbers in all. One of the IMAX climbers, a friend of Fischer and Hall's, sees both of their bodies on the way up.