Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 17

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 17

Summit, 3:40PM, May 10, 1996, 29,028 Feet

  • We're going back in time once again. Great Scott! Where's Doc Brown when you need him?
  • Fischer reaches the summit around 3:40PM to find Lopsang waiting. Fischer is looking crazy out-of-sorts, so he heads down a few minutes later, soon after the arrival of Makalu Gau.
  • That leaves Hall alone on the top of the mountain, still waiting for Hansen to arrive. It's actually shocking that he hasn't told Hansen to turn around, as it's now hours past their agreed "turn-around time" (17.8).
  • Finally, Hansen arrives. The two men hustle down the mountain, but it's too late: Hansen, now completely out of oxygen, collapses onto the ground.
  • Hall radios down for some oxygen, but Harris is still convinced that the bottles on the South Summit are empty. Harris finally realizes his mistake an hour later and begins climbing up to the two stranded climbers.
  • Meanwhile, Fischer is being assisted by Lopsang "a few hundred feet below" (17.19). Lopsang forces Fischer to wear an oxygen mask, as Fischer ripped his own off soon after leaving the summit. Still, Fischer is now straight-up refusing to move.
  • That's when the storm explodes above them. Makalu Gau emerges from the snow above and huddles up as well. Lopsang stays there for several hours, but finally heads to Camp Four to get help.
  • Lopsang gets lost and overshoots Camp Four, forcing him to climb up the Lhotse Face to reach the camp. Krakauer suspects that he mistook Lopsang's footprints for Harris's.
  • Meanwhile, Hall has been in radio contact with Base Camp all afternoon. The people down there try to convince him to head down and leave Hansen behind, but Hall refuses.
  • The next details are a bit hazy. Apparently, Harris reached Hall and Hansen a few hours earlier, but he is now nowhere to be found. Hall also reports that Doug Hansen "is gone" (17.36).
  • Two Sherpas head up to rescue Hall the following morning, but are forced to turn back around due to weather. They're able to reach Fischer and Gau, however, though Fischer has already succumbed to the elements.
  • At 6:30PM, the folks at Base Camp are able to patch in a call to Hall from his wife. The two share a tender moment.
  • Hall's body is found twelve days later.