Into Thin Air

Summary

Chapter 6

Summary Chapter 6

Hall gives them a 10:00 am turn-around time, meaning that if they are not all at Camp One by then, they all must turn around. By 10:00 am only half of the group is at the Camp, so they all go back. For the first time, Krakauer has an opportunity to observe the climbing abilities of his teammates, and is impressed with some while increasingly worried about others.

Ten minutes after reaching Base Camp, Krakauer is struck by an ultraviolet radiation headache that leaves him virtually incapacitated. Hours later and after finally successfully ingesting medication, the headache abates.

Krakauer's wife, Linda, calls. He ends the chapter describing their relationship. Linda had been happy when, years earlier, Krakauer decided to quit climbing. When he first received the assignment from Outside Magazine, he told Linda he would stay at Base Camp, but she knew better and was distraught when bringing him to the airport to leave for the expedition.

Analysis

This chapter puts the process of acclimatization into perspective. The group must ascend and descend seven times before actually climbing to reach the summit. The process sounds exhausting, especially after considering Krakauer's description of the Icefall. The group must climb that deadly terrain a number of times, and it seems as if the odds of encountering peril would increase each time. The climb itself is arduous, and Krakauer describes having trouble breathing and moving quickly. It is nearly impossible to imagine making that trek, much less having to do it again and again as required by the acclimatization process.

Consistent with the other chapters, Krakauer again recognizes the place of money on the mountain, this time as a "toll road" up a treacherous slope. The idea of sending people ahead to carve out a safe path usable by every climber is a good one, but like almost all of the good, safe ideas associated with climbing the mountain, it costs money. When a climber is on the mountain, especially at a dangerous area like the Icefall, safety is worth almost any price, and the guides have learned to capitalize on that.

Krakauer's relief in not having to be roped to his fellow climbers is almost palpable. In previous chapters he mentions that trusting one's teammates is essential, but he also expresses doubts in some of the clients' experience and climbing abilities. As much as teamwork is important, there is more of a sense of autonomy in this chapter, at least in terms of the physical climbing. Krakauer seems more than happy to accept that. The concept of teamwork is stressed in conjunction with the turn-around time. Half of the group, including Krakauer, arrives at Camp One before 10:00 am, but some climbers have not. There is no equivocation here, as everyone turns around and descends back to Base Camp at the appointed time.