Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 21

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 21

Everest Base Camp, May 13, 1996, 17,600 Feet

  • Krakauer and Ko. pass the Khumbu Icefall on the morning of May 13, and with that, they've finally made it to safety.
  • A memorial service is held the following day. Over the next several days, the badly wounded are airlifted to safety while those who are relatively unscathed leave camp on foot.
  • Krakauer returns to civilization only to be met by a "swarm of print and television reporters" (21.7). After enduring their questioning, Krakauer holes up in a hotel room and consumes marijuana to ease his emotional agony.
  • He returns to the United States on May 19. Krakauer is absolutely guilt-ridden, constantly questioning whether he could have done more to help his friends. The sad truth is that he probably couldn't.
  • Unfortunately, those who remained on the mountain weren't quite as self-reflective. For example, the IMAX team continues its plans for the summit despite the disaster—and luckily survives unscathed.
  • Others aren't so lucky. An Australian dies on the north side of the mountain just two days after Krakauer leaves Base Camp, while Bruce Herrod of the South African team dies after reaching the summit on May 24.
  • Herrod's death marks "the twelfth casualty" (21.52) of the Everest climbing season.