Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 14

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 14

Summit, 1:12PM, May 10 1996, 29,028 Feet

  • Krakauer stays on the summit very briefly before heading back down. As he descends, he can see some nasty storm clouds gathering around the peak. Hmm…
  • After descending the Hillary Step, Krakauer waits for the other climbers to pass. He helps Harris by chipping some ice out of his oxygen tank; in return, Harris turns down the flow on Krakauer's. As we learned in the first chapter, however, Harris actually turns it on full blast, emptying Krakauer's tank in a matter of minutes.
  • Due to oxygen deprivation, the next few minutes are a blur. Kraken can remember seeing Sandy Pittman, Charlotte Fox, Lopsang Jangbu, and Yasuko Namba, but that's about it.
  • He also runs into Hall, who tells him that Beck Weathers has turned back around. To Krakauer's surprise, Hansen is still attempting the climb and passes by some time later.
  • His path finally clear, Krakauer hustles to the South Summit. He sees Harris rummaging through "a pile of orange oxygen bottles" (14.12) that were stashed previously, but the guide claims they're all empty.
  • Luckily, Mike Groom arrives and gives Krakauer his oxygen tank. They also realize that the bottles are actually full. That's weird.
  • Although Krakauer doesn't realize it at the time, it's clear in hindsight that Harris is starting to suffer cognitively due to the high altitude.
  • Meanwhile, the weather is worsening. Mike Groom heads up to help Yasuko navigate her descent, while Harris and Hall are aiding Doug Hansen. Krakauer continues his descent alone.
  • Around 5:00PM, Krakauer stumbles across Beck Weathers on the Southeast Ridge. It turns out that Weathers's vision has been deteriorating, so he's waiting here for Hall to come down before descending to Camp Four.
  • Krakauer tries to convince Beck to come along, but fails, and with that, he heads down "toward the South Col, 1,600 feet below" (14.33), where Camp Four is located.
  • The storm has now escalated into a full-on blizzard. Luckily he's missed the worst of it, but with his oxygen tank empty once again, Krakauer better keep hustling.
  • By 6:30, Krakauer is right above Camp Four. He'll just need to descend a "bulging incline of hard, glassy ice" (14.42) to reach it, which is a lot easier said than done.
  • As he sits to gather his strength, Krakauer notices Andy Harris approach him from behind. After a few frantic words, Harris starts sliding down the slope without a rope—which is crazy.
  • Naturally, he loses his balance and hits the bottom hard. He actually seems okay, though: Krakauer sees him get up, wave, and then trudge toward camp.
  • Krakauer finally makes his own descent, though his is tons safer. He reaches his tent and collapses inside to enjoy a much-needed rest.
  • Unbeknownst to our sleepy climber, however, stuff is seriously going down up above.