Study Guide

Neal Beidleman in Into Thin Air

By Jon Krakauer

Neal Beidleman

Although we don't spend much time with Neal Beidleman over the course of Into Thin Air, the dude pulls through when it counts—in a major way.

The least-experienced guide on his team, Beidleman is thrust into prominence after being left alone with his clients on the top of the mountain. Scott Fischer isn't looking good; Lopsang Jangbu is occupied; and Anatoli Boukreev is already back at Camp Four. With no other choice, Beidleman bravely leads the clients down the mountain amid a raging storm, eventually being forced to separate from the group in a desperate attempt to get help.

Although this was the right decision—several clients were unable to move and would have died otherwise—it's one that haunts Beidleman well after returning to civilization. This centers on Yasuko Namba, who's the only person in that group to die; to this day, Beidleman can "still feel her fingers sliding across [his] bicep, and then letting go" (E.29). Although Beidleman survives this unprecedented disaster—and even saves a few lives along the way—even he leaves a piece of himself on the mountain that fateful day.