Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At 6 am on May 11, Stuart Hutchinson wakes Krakauer from a deep sleep. Hutchinson explains that Andy Harris isn’t in his tent, and probably never made it back. Krakauer begins to weep. He remembers pointing Harris toward the tents—now, it seems so obvious that he should have been more careful to help Harris. Krakauer feels especially guilty because he’d told Hutchinson that he’d seen Harris arrive safely at the camps (he assumed that Harris would be able to make it all the way back).
As soon as Krakauer wakes up, he begins to feel a sense of guilt: he knows that he should have been more careful to take care of Andy Harris, instead of allowing Harris to stagger off in the general direction of the camp. However, Krakauer’s behavior seems more forgivable when one considers that he too was suffering from severe oxygen deprivation and exhaustion.
Themes
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Hutchinson tells Krakauer that Beck and Yasuko Namba must be dead, and that Scott Fischer has gone missing. Around the same time, David Breashears, an old friend of Krakauer and the leader of the team of climbers making an IMAX film about Everest, radios Woodall, who’s stationed at Camp Four, and asks Woodall to give the South African radio to Krakauer, so that Breshears can talk to Hall. Woodall refuses.
Woodall’s refusal to lend a radio to Krakauer further endangers Hall’s life—another reminder of the disorganization of the guided expedition system (too many cooks in the kitchen) and Woodall’s selfishness.
Themes
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
After the expedition, Krakauer notes, he spoke with many people involved in the disaster. One was Martin Adams, who remembered seeing Krakauer ahead of him, climbing down the Balcony. During his own descent, Adams slipped and fell into a crevasse. Amazingly, he managed to climb out. By this time, it was dark outside, and he couldn’t see the tents of Camp Four any longer. Shortly afterwards, Adams arrived at the edge of Camp Four, where he encountered another climber, whom he was unable to identify, due to the storm. The climber pointed Adams toward the tents, and warned him not to slip on the ice; ignoring the advice, Adams walked toward the tents and slipped almost immediately. As he interviews Adams, Krakauer realizes something: previously, he thought he’d run into Andy Harris outside of Camp Four, and watched Harris slip on the ice. It occurs to Krakauer that the climber he encountered may have been Adams, not Harris.
In this chapter, Krakauer moves around a lot, jumping back and forth between the events of May 10 and the aftermath of the disaster. This passage is important because it establishes that Krakauer may have been wrong to think that he ran into Andy Harris the previous afternoon. In his oxygen-deprived state, it’s entirely possible that Krakauer mistook Martin Adams for Andy Harris (after all, it’s easy enough to mistake one man for another when both are wearing heavy climbing gear). In a small or solo expedition, it would be impossible for mistaken identities to create such major confusion, underscoring the point that going alone may often be safer than group climbs.
Themes
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Individualism and the Group Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
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