Study Guide

Into Thin Air Chapter 8

By Jon Krakauer

Chapter 8

Camp One, April 16, 1996, 19,500 Feet

  • Hall's team heads out for their second trip to Camp One "just before dawn" (8.3). Krakauer can immediately tell that his body is handling the altitude far better.
  • But they won't be heading back down so quickly this time—the plan is to stay at Camp One for two nights, then head up to Camp Two for a three-night stay.
  • Krakauer arrives at Camp One to find Ang Dorje, the lead Sherpa climber on their team, digging trenches for their tents.
  • Ang Dorje has been climbing for most of his life. While working as a cook for an expedition, Dorje met a Canadian couple who fell in love with him so hard that they supported him financially and put him through school.
  • After returning to the Himalayas, Ang Dorje became a highly sought-after climbing guide. Hall has worked with Ang since 1992 and frequently refers to him as "my main man" (8.11).
  • After a day spent huddled up in Camp One, the crew heads to Camp Two on the morning of the eighteenth. It's a relatively easy climb up "the gently sloping floor of the Western Cwm" (8.13).
  • Though it was cold before, it's crazy hot right now since the sunlight's reflecting harshly off the snow.
  • Krakauer passes a corpse on the way up; Hall suggests that it might be a Sherpa who died a few years prior. Yeesh.
  • He stumbles across another body a few days later while exploring the area around Camp Two, though he hardly bats an eye this time.
  • After returning to Base Camp, Krakauer and Harris visit the South African tent. Deysel is the only one there, but neither man has the heart to tell her that her name isn't on the climbing permit.
  • The duo returns to their tent to find Hall, along with Dr. Caroline Mackenzie (Hall's doctor) and Ingrid Hunt (Fischer's doctor) "engaged in a tense radio conversation" (8.21).
  • Earlier that day, Fischer was descending to Base Camp when he stumbled across Ngawang Topche, a Sherpa on his team, sitting on a glacier and acting funky.
  • Turns out he's been feeling off for the last several days. Although Fischer tells him to descend to Base Camp immediately, Ngawang's pride leads him to trek up to Camp Two instead.
  • The poor guy is "stumbling like a drunk" and "coughing up blood" (8.23) by the time he arrives at his tent. This is almost certainly High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, better known as HAPE.
  • Because Fischer has allowed his clients to travel freely between camps, there are no guides from his team at Camp Two right now. That's bad, because Ngawang must be rushed down A.S.A.P.
  • This leaves the burden on Klev Schoening and Tim Madsen, a ski patrolman from Aspen. They give Ngawang some basic medical treatment, but nothing seems to work.
  • Finally, the pair begins "dragging Ngawang laboriously down the mountain" (8.27). Neil Beidleman, a guide from Fischer's team, meets them halfway and helps Ngawang to Base Camp.
  • Fearing the cost, Fischer decides not to hire a helicopter to evacuate Ngawang. The poor guy isn't getting any better, though, so the team requests that a doctor be rushed to Base Camp.
  • Because Fischer has other responsibilities, Ngawang's life is thrust upon Ingrid Hunt's shoulders. Hunt is capable but overworked, and this is a tense time for everyone involved.
  • When the doctor arrives, he immediately requests a helicopter evacuation. It takes a few days for this to happen (until April 24), but Ngawang is finally brought to lower ground. Unfortunately, it's not enough—he's brain dead when he arrives and will be dead by June.
  • Nobody at camp is aware of this, however. In fact, people on the outside know more about the situation because they're able to read "Internet sites […] posting dispatches" (8.41) from Everest.
  • The most notable reporter behind these dispatches is Sandy Hill Pittman, a wealthy socialite who is a client of Fischer's.
  • Pittman is kind of notorious. She showed up two years ago to climb Everest, but brought along her nine-year-old son as well as his nanny. Mom of the Year, right here, folks.
  • (Pittman's husband is Bob Pittman, "the co-founder of MTV" (8.46), BTW.)
  • Pittman has already climbed six of the notorious Seven Summits (the highest peaks in each of the seven continents). And what's missing? Everest, of course.
  • This lady is also known for climbing in style. She's brought a portable television, a satellite phone, gourmet food—the works.

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