On the morning of May 10, six Indian climbers, part of a recreational expedition organized by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, set out for the top of Everest. Three climbers turn back, while three others succeed in reaching the summit. By the time they do so, it is 4 pm, and visibility is low. Afterwards, the three Indian climbers fall to their deaths, though it’s not clear how.
In this short chapter, Krakauer emphasizes the intrinsic danger of climbing Everest by recapping another, unrelated disaster that occurred on the same day as the one Krakauer was involved with.
On the morning of May 11, two Japanese climbers set out for the summit; they’re shocked to find the body of one of the Indian climbers; however, they choose to continue rather than take care of the body. Shortly afterwards, the Japanese climbers come upon the bodies of the two other Indian climbers, one dead and the other near-dead. Instead of stopping to help the still-living Indian climber, the two Japanese climbers continue, and reach the summit just before noon. They turn back and climb down the mountain, where they again ignore the Indian climbers.
Like many of the other climbers Krakauer describes in this book, the Japanese climbers are so set on reaching the summit of Mount Everest that they choose not to hang back and take care of the dead bodies they find. The climbers’ behavior might seem cold and callous, but it’s also logical and pragmatic—as tragic as the Indian climbers’ deaths may be, there’s no practical reason for the Japanese climbers to delay their own expedition.
A week later, other members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police expedition attempt a summit climb, and discover their teammates’ bodies. Again, the climbers do not stop to take care of the bodies—they continue with their expedition, and make it to the summit.
Even the other members of the Indian climbing team don’t hesitate on their ascent to the summit of Everest—their priority is climbing, not tending to the dead.