The presence of those groups on the mountain makes Hall's comment about the inevitability of disaster especially salient.


This chapter deals almost entirely with the kinds of people who attempt to climb Everest. Krakauer calls most of them dreamers. That connotation isn't as negative as connotations that could be associated with the concept of wealth being the defining chara cter trait of climbers.

The anecdotes Krakauer tells in this chapter relate certain personalities to the resultant experiences. Surprisingly, the outcomes aren't entirely predictable. Denman and Wilson both make it extraordinarily far up Everest, and Denman lives to talk about i t. Without explicitly saying so, Krakauer demonstrates that luck is an essential factor that dictates the outcome of climbing attempts. One can decrease the impact of luck with training, experience, skill and strength, but inexperienced climbers can make it to the top while experienced climbers can be stumped near Base Camp. One can't help but remember what Scott Fischer said to Krakauer about having a "yellow brick road to the summit." That kind of certainty, while reassuring to a prospective client, see ms farsighted, even dangerous.

Up to this point, Krakauer has expressed some concern over the lack of experience of some of his teammates. In this chapter, that concern extends to other climbing expeditions, namely the Taiwanese and the South Africans. The Taiwanese appear to be largel y incompetent, as described by Krakauer, while the South African guide appears to be sketchy. As Hall talks about the possibility of having to help one of these other teams in the event of an emergency, it is similarly possible that if Hall's group has a problem, these are some of the people who could be called upon to help. The idea that expeditions like Fischer's are on the mountain is reassuring, but is tempered by the knowledge that teams such as the Taiwanese and South Africans are also there.

The South African expedition ties politics to climbing the mountain. Woodall wanted to lead a racially mixed South African team to the top of the world. Climbers and nationalists stood behind the idea to enforce its symbolism and statement against aparthe id. Despite the positive objective, however, Woodall from all accounts lied—about his nationality, his climbing group and his permit. "Woodall had no interest in the birth of a new South Africa. He took the dreams of the entire national and utilized them for his own selfish purposes," says Edmund February, a climber who decided to abandon the expedition (130). Everest reflects life in that it contains people who are qualified and unqualified, sincere and insincere, strong and weak, honest and dishon est. Perhaps the only kind of person not likely to be found on Everest is a poor one.

The idea that Everest is not immune to the shortcomings of people and can easily become a part of selfish or dangerous motives is just another element of danger. The problem here is that the ways in which peoples' personalities and motives will manifest t hemselves on the mountain is not immediately predictable, nor is it something other climbers can safeguard against.