Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 15

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 15

Summit, 1:25PM, May 10, 1996, 29,028 Feet

  • As the title states, we're going back in time a few hours to see how the rest of the climbers fared.
  • Neil Beidleman arrives at the summit a few minutes after Krakauer departs. He waits for Fischer and the rest of the team for nearly an hour, but no one shows.
  • Unfortunately, Beidleman has no radio and can't get in touch with Fischer. Though nervous about "the advancing clock" (15.11), he decides to wait for more climbers to arrive.
  • Pittman and Lopsang arrive next—Pittman is running low on oxygen and dead tired. They're followed by a bunch of people we've met already: Charlotte Fox, Tim Madsen, Lene Gammelgaard, Hall, Groom, and Namba. Phew. They send the good news back to Base Camp
  • But there are two friendly faces missing: Fischer and Hansen. Hall decides to stay behind for Hansen, who should be there in mere minutes but doesn't actually arrive until 4:00PM.
  • Fischer's absence is more conspicuous. Though we've already mentioned the "physical and mental strain" that the expedition is taking on him, there's another thing that might be hindering him—a "mysterious disease" that causes "intense sweating" and shaking "spells" (15.16-17).
  • Around 3:10, Beidleman decides to lead the group down, despite the fact that Fischer has not yet arrived. They pass Fischer about twenty minutes later, and he's looking quite unwell.
  • Not as bad as Pittman, however. The poor lady has basically passed out and must be dragged down the mountain.
  • Meanwhile, Groom and Namba are about "500 feet below" (15.27). They notice Martin Adams heading in the wrong direction, but quickly point him toward Camp Four.
  • That's when Groom stumbles across Weathers, who's still shivering in the snow. Weathers and Namba are too weak to move, so the trio waits for Beidleman to catch up and joins the large party.
  • As the weather explodes into a "full-blown hurricane" (15.33), Beidleman decides to take an indirect, but safer, route to Camp Four. They get lost pretty quickly
  • The storm gets so bad that they can't see an inch ahead of them. Eventually, the group gives up and forms a desperate huddle, frantically trying to keep one another warm.
  • Back at Camp Four, Krakauer is still sleeping. Apparently, Hutchinson tries to get the Kraken's assistance for a rescue mission, but Krakauer is too delirious to respond.
  • The storm breaks around midnight. Beidleman gathers everyone who can walk (himself, Schoening, Gammelgaard, Groom, and two Sherpas) and heads for help, leaving Pittman, Fox, Weathers, and Namba, who are all in dire straits. Madsen decides to stay behind, as Fox is his girlfriend and leaving her to die would certainly land him in the doghouse.
  • Beidleman and Co. run into "a very worried Anatoli Boukreev" (15.46) about twenty minutes later. Boukreev was the first to descend to Camp Four and is now frantically searching for his clients.
  • Krakauer sees this as a wrong move, as he believes that guides should stay behind to help their clients, while Boukreev argues that it was better for his client that he was at Camp Four.
  • At 12:45AM, they arrive at Camp Four looking haggard. Mike Groom in particular seems close to death.
  • Unfortunately, the bad weather prevents a real rescue mission from being undertaken. Finally, Boukreev heads out alone—and although it takes hours (and several trips), he finally locates the five remaining survivors.
  • It's a bad scene. Madsen is doing okay, but struggling; Pittman, Fox, and Weathers are in another world; and "Namba appeared to be dead" (15.60). Dang.
  • Boukreev is only able to take one person at a time, so he starts with Fox. While Madsen is waiting for the guide to return, Beck Weathers abruptly walks away and disappears into the storm.
  • Finally, Boukreev returns and lugs Sandy Pittman back to camp; Madsen follows behind.
  • Beidleman "broke down in his tent and wept for forty-five minutes" (15.65) after learning that Yasuko had died.