Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 11

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Chapter 11

Base Camp, May 6, 1996, 17,600 Feet

  • On the morning of May 6, Hall's team leaves Base Camp to begin their ascent. Anybody feeling butterflies yet?
  • After arriving at Camp Two, they spend the next day resting. Oddly, Fischer looks a little out of whack, having been exhausted by his constant shuttling between camps.
  • Fischer is also beefing with Boukreev. Boukreev is an insanely talented climber, but shows little interest in actually helping clients. He even refuses to take supplemental oxygen, which is controversial—a lack of oxygen will place an inevitable strain on his valuable mental faculties.
  • While climbing to Camp Three, Andy Harris is struck in the chest by a falling boulder. Although he's a little woozy, he seems okay.
  • That night, the guides hand out supplemental oxygen to the clients: "for the remainder of the climb" they will "be breathing compressed gas" (11.27).
  • Though this has always been a controversial practice, it wasn't until 1978 that Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler completed the first supplemental oxygen-free ascent of Everest. Before this, many doubted if it was even possible.
  • The next morning, an accident happens: As Taiwanese climber Chen Yu-Nan crawls outside of his tent, he trips and falls 70 feet down the slope before getting stuck in a crevasse.
  • Although he's "battered and badly frightened" (11.41), he seems okay. The Taiwanese team decides to leave him behind and go for their own attempt at the summit, which is funny because they agreed to wait until after Hall and Fischer to make their climb.
  • But Chen's condition worsens and he dies. Oh man. The Taiwanese team leader seems rather apathetic, though, and continues to climb.

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