It seems almost inevitable that the group will run into problems with the Taiwanese or South African expeditions. The genesis of the problem, however, is surprising—these groups agree to help secure a rope up a difficult pass in the mountain, and then refuse to help when called upon to make good on the promise. Securing the rope is not simply something that helps the clients, but it is a necessity for every climber. The fact that these groups, and especially their Sherpas, are unwilling to help upsets the concept of mutual trust. The Sherpas in particular are there to help, and that they cannot be troubled to provide even the most basic assistance lends credence to Hall's prediction that disaster is inevitable. Their lack of cooperation also ads an unnecessary tension to the climb. Everyone on the mountain already has numerous obstacles to overcome without having to worry about inter-expedition animosity. Woodall's response seems particularly immature, and undoubtedly the climbers must wonder what would happen if someone had to call upon Woodall to help in an emergency.
The relationship between Fischer's primary Sherpa, Lopsang, and Ngawang is revealed in this chapter. Lopsang actually makes an entire extra climb when descends to be with his uncle, and then climbs up again to rejoin the group. He covers territory that the other climbers have toiled and sweat over with remarkable speed. Krakauer barely comments on his absence, except to say that the extra trip has made Lopsang tired. This demonstrates the strength and skill of the Sherpas. However, Lopsang is in rough shape—his uncle has just died, and he has physically overexerted himself. With each passing day it seems as if some of the climbers who anchor the expeditions become less and less strong.
Krakauer is fascinated that the Sherpas believe that Ngawang is stricken with an illness other than HAPE. The concept of retaliation by a God on Everest is an entirely new concept altogether. The idea that to make it up the mountain safely, one must appease Sagarmatha is simple and Krakauer seems to embrace it. Perhaps it is a way to reduce the complexities of climbing Everest into one all- powerful entity. While the presence of a god means that humans might not have control over the outcome of situations, it gives humans a chance to control the happiness or appeasement of that god. The Sherpas strict adherence to the Buddhist traditions of prayer, lighting incense and performing rituals is an attempt to reach those uncertain variables that might dictate the eventual outcome of the climb.