Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 4

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 4

Phakding, March 31, 1996, 9,186 Feet

  • After their arrival, the posse begins their long trek (on foot) to Everest. After a few days, they reach Namche Bazaar, the "social and commercial hub of Sherpa society" (4.8).
  • The group has dinner together that night, and Krakauer meets Mike Groom, another one of the trip's paid guides.
  • He also meets Stuart Hutchinson, John Taske, and Beck Weathers—three doctors and fellow clients. Weathers is so into right-wing politics that he might as well be named Glenn Beck.
  • Before we continue, we get some insight into the Sherpa people. Although many Westerners believe that all Nepalese are Sherpa, the Sherpa community actually only numbers around 20,000.
  • This relationship began "in 1921" (4.15) with the first attempt on Everest. Due to their strong climbing skills and ability to adapt to low-oxygen environments (like the peak of a mountain), Sherpa workers quickly become integral to countless Himalayan expeditions.
  • Naturally, this transforms Sherpa culture. Although many Western climbers long for the days when Sherpa culture was free of outside influence, it's clear that the influx of money is a boon to the community.
  • They continue walking. Although the terrain is quite gentle, their high altitude means that even small activities expend a lot of energy.
  • Later, they arrive at Tengboche, "the largest and most important Buddhist monastery in the Khumbu" (4.26) to receive the priest's blessing. Can't hurt, right?
  • During this trek, Krakauer spends a lot of time with Andy Harris, who won't stop talking about his lady-friend, Fiona McPherson. Krakauer also buddies up with Doug Hansen, an American postal worker who failed to reach the summit of Everest with Hall's group a few years prior.
  • A few days later, the group arrives at the base of the Khumbu Glacier, which represents their gateway into Everest. They plan on chilling in the tiny village of Lobuje for a night before undertaking the seven-day walk to Base Camp.
  • They're delayed, however, when a Sherpa under Hall's employ named Tenzig falls 150 feet while preparing their Everest route. Deeply concerned about his Sherpa employees—a sentiment not shared by every guide on Everest—Hall rushes off to aid in Tenzig's rescue.