Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 12

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 12

Camp Three, May 9, 1996, 24,000 Feet

  • Krakauer begins his ascent on the morning of the 9th. There's a long line of climbers ahead of him, which is bad because it's quite dangerous to unclip your rope and pass someone.
  • He arrives at Camp Four in the early afternoon. Unfortunately, the weather is looking nasty, which is scary because Hall's team is going for the summit "in less than six hours" (12.13). Gulp.
  • Krakauer is sitting in his tent when somebody begins yelling outside the door. When he opens it, he's met by Bruce Herrod from the South African team, and dude looks seriously messed up.
  • Doug Hansen is in similar shape. Although the poor guy has hardly slept or eaten for days, he seems dead set on reaching the top of Everest this time around.
  • Though Krakauer is feeling better, it's not by much: He's been coughing like a fiend since he arrived at Everest and it's only getting worse.
  • Around 7:30 that night, the storm "abruptly ceased" (12.19). This is crucial: If the storm hadn't stopped, everyone currently chilling at Camp Four would be forced to turn back around.
  • Hall's Mountain Madness team leaves for the summit just before midnight. Fischer follows a bit later, tailed by Makalu Gau (the head of the Taiwanese team) and two Sherpas.
  • A bit into the climb, two members of Hall's team—Frank Fischbeck and Hansen—break from the line and decide to head back down. Two down, a bunch to go.
  • Time is of the essence now. The climbers must reach the summit early in the day or turn around otherwise—reaching the summit too late leads to a much more deadly descent.
  • Cruising at the head of the line, Krakauer sees an odd sight: Lopsang Jangbu dragging Sandy Pittman using a technique known as "short-roping" (12.32). This technique is usually only used when a climber is injured or incapacitated, neither of which Sandy is.
  • Krakauer waits for his companions to catch up; Hall decreed that the group must stay together. Once he starts moving again, he passes by Lopsang puking in the snow, which is quite shocking.
  • Lopsang has good reason to be tired, though—he's been forced to lug Pittman's "satellite phone" (12.39) all the way to Camp Four just so the lady can continue to update her blog.
  • Oddly, however, Pittman never asked Lopsang to short-rope her—he simply latched on and started dragging. Krakauer suspects Lopsang wants to ensure Pittman reaches the top in order to generate more publicity for Fischer, whom Lopsang respects a great deal.