Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 19

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 19

South Col, 7:30AM, May 11, 1996, 26,000 Feet

  • It's the morning after the disaster and Krakauer is trying to make sense of what happened. Of course, spending another "night at 26,000 feet without supplemental oxygen" (19.8) doesn't help either.
  • Meanwhile, Hutchinson has really stepped up to the plate after the disaster. In fact, he has just organized a search team to locate the bodies of Weathers and Namba.
  • To his shock, they're both alive—but barely. Unfortunately, it's clear that they would die on the trip back to Camp Four, so the search party heads back to think of a new plan.
  • The next morning, Beidleman slowly leads Fischer's clients down to Camp Three. A Sherpa is struck by a falling boulder (and luckily survives), which freaks everyone out.
  • The folks down at Camp Three heard about the disaster yesterday and have been doing their fair share to help. In particular, David Breashears (the director of the Everest IMAX film) has helped a great deal, shuttling up oxygen and spare batteries to Camp Four.
  • That morning, they see someone approaching Camp Four. And holy smokes, it's Beck Weathers.
  • Despite being blind as a bat and "barely alive" (19.27), Weathers somehow weathered the storm and made it back to camp. Dude's a warrior. They give him help, but no one honestly expects him to survive the night.
  • That's about when the two Sherpas return with Gau in tow. After hearing that Fischer is still up on the mountain, Boukreev rushes to rescue his friend.
  • But it's too late. After grabbing a few mementos to give to Fischer's family, he covers his friend's face and heads back to Camp Four.
  • That night, a crazy storm tears through Camp Four. Along with their shrinking stores of oxygen, this is the last straw: Hall's remaining crewmembers must leave A.S.A.P.
  • The next morning, Hutchinson and Krakauer gather Groom, Taske, Fischbeck, and Kaischke, and begin their descent. Ang Dorje is already down, having been convinced to descend by Hutchison after Hutchinson found the poor dude "sobbing uncontrollably" (19.35) over Hall's death.
  • Krakauer stops by Weathers's tent, expecting him to be dead. He's wrong, though: Weathers is still alive, but his tent collapsed overnight, nearly suffocating him. No one heard his cries over the storm.
  • After getting assistance for Weathers, Krakauer rushes to join the group for the descent. After all, he might end up in a similar state—or worse—if he waits any longer.