Krakauer begins by talking about how Everest summons dreamers. Many of the people on his and other expeditions have even less climbing experience than he does. He harkens back to a 1947 expedition involving a Canadian named Earl Denman, who had very little mountain climbing experience. Denman didn't even have permission to enter Tibet, yet he was able to convince two Sherpas to accompany him. Denman made it across Tibet, and up the way to 22,000 feet before encountering a storm that forced him to tur n back.

Thirteen years before Denman, a similarly unqualified man named Maurice Wilson attempted the climb. His motivations were different than that of most climbers, however. Wilson wanted to climb in order to achieve publicity to spread his belief that fast ing and having faith in God could solve the problems of the world. It took him months to actually get to the base of the mountain, because he didn't have permission to fly over Nepal. When he finally began to climb, he encountered problems on the glaciers , repeatedly getting lost. He reached 21,000 feet and after a series of small ascents and descents, finally made an attempt at the summit. One year later, another climber found his body.

Krakauer talks about the criticism surrounding the increasing number of unqualified climbers attempting to climb Everest, but he is quick to point out that just because someone pays a large amount of money to climb the mountain doesn't necessarily mean th at he or she is unqualified.

While waiting for his teammates at Camp One, Krakauer sees Klev Schoening and Pete Schoening. The latter is a Himalayan climbing legend. Schoening was famous for making several successful climbs, but was also well known because of his rescue durin g an unsuccessful attempt. While trying to lower a climber stricken with altitude sickness, Schoening was holding a rope attached to the sick man and four other climbers. One of the climbers slipped, pulling all of them off. Schoening reacted instinctivel y and was able to hold all five men and prevent them from falling, thus patenting the now popular roping technique called The Belay. Schoening, an example that not all clients are unfit to be on the mountain, is a member of Scott Fischer's team. Krakauer acknowledges that his team is not as strong as Fischer's, but is stronger than some of the other teams he has seen on the mountain, including members of a Taiwanese expedition he sees descending awkwardly and dangerously.

Krakauer launches into a description of the reputation of Taiwanese climbing expeditions. They are notorious for being untrained and careless, and for getting in trouble on the mountains. He tells a story about a Taiwanese expedition getting into serious trouble on Alaska's Mount McKinley. The same leader of that expedition led a climb up Everest in 1996.

The South African team is also notoriously troublesome. The whole country stood behind an expedition that was supposed to represent the end of apartheid, climbed by both white and black men and one woman. The expedition got held up when it was revealed th at the lead guide, Ian Woodall, had broken a number of promises about who was actually going to go on the expedition, and had also deceived people into thinking that he was from South Africa when he was actually British. On Krakauer's second day at Ba se Camp he learned that some of the climbers that were to be in the South African expedition had resigned before arriving at the mountain because Woodall was a "jerk," and they didn't want to trust him with their lives.