Rattled by his brush with death, Krakauer smokes some pot to calm his nerves, but accidentally lights his tent on fire, burning his hand.
Krakauer’s fiery accident is reminiscent of Chris’ rash actions, making his mistakes in the wild seem more probable and forgivable.
Nearly burning the tent reminds Krakauer of his volatile relationship with his father. The two became estranged because Krakauer did not pursue a college and medical career like the one his father wanted. Concluding that his ambitions are just as important as his father’s, Krakauer makes a second attempt to scale the mountain, but turns back when a snowstorm nearly buries him alive. Realizing that desire alone will not save him from death on the trail, Krakauer decides to ascend a less challenging route.
Like Chris, Krakauer diverges from his fathers’ expectations to define his own measure of success. The relentless snowfall teaches Krakauer that his will power is no match for the powers of nature and that he must adapt to conditions in order to survive and accomplish his goals, anticipating a lesson that McCandless will also learn in Alaska.
On the path, the view of a distant city fills Krakauer with an intense sense of loneliness, as he imagines people watching TV, eating dinner, and making love.
The absence of human contact compels Krakauer to recognize the value of companionship, foreshadowing a similar discovery Chris will uncover in Alaska.
Almost at the summit, Krakauer’s pick-ax nearly fails to latch, but he finds a solid spot to anchor himself and mounts the peak. He lingers briefly, takes some photographs, and then descends. Krakauer hitches a ride with a boater who doesn’t believe that he climbed Devils Thumb, nor do any of the locals care about his ascent. Krakauer realizes that his climb did not change his life, predicated as it was upon chance and motivated by his innocent fascination with the unknown. He believes that McCandless was not suicidal when he walked into the woods, but simply curious and eager to test his limits.
Krakauer’s climb is fraught with danger, but the climax at its peak is rather brief and uneventful, emphasizing Krakauer’s point that this climb was more life threatening than life changing. That no one believes or cares about Krakauer’s achievement underlines this point. Krakauer has earlier connected Chris to nonconformists of the past. In this story he connects Chris to young men in general, presenting Chris’ desires as similar to his own and just extreme versions of all young men’s desires to test themselves. That such tests do not actually create change in the young men who go through them is, perhaps, the important lesson for them.