On April 26, Krakauer wakes up at 4 am and prepares for the day’s final acclimatization climb: from Camp Two to Camp Three. He’s exceptionally cold, and, as the climb proceeds, he begins to lose feeling in his feet and fingers. Suddenly, Hall gives the order that everyone needs to turn back to Camp Two—there’s a dangerous storm.
The passage conveys the escalating danger of Everest—it’s getting colder, and the weather is getting nastier. Nevertheless, Hall still exercises extreme caution with his clients.
Back at Camp Two, Krakauer examines his toes and fingers—they’re stiff, but not seriously frostbitten. Doug Hansen, on the other hand, has some serious damage to his toes; furthermore, his larynx is inflamed from coughing and wheezing. Hansen is worried that he’ll be unable to continue with the expedition, and Krakauer is saddened—he and Hansen have become close friends over the course of the journey so far.
The weather is beginning to take a toll on the clients: Doug Hansen may be unable to proceed with the expedition. While this would be incredibly disappointing for Doug, it would be even more dangerous for a sick man to proceed with the summit climb, and Hall, being cautious, seems unlikely to accept such a possibility.
Back at Camp Two, there continues to be a lot of ill will between Rob Hall and the South African team. There are also rumors among the Sherpas that Ngawang Topchke died because two of the climbers have been having sex, angering Sagarmatha, the goddess of the sky. To compensate, the Sherpas build small stone altars, and say prayers before teams enter the Icefall. Krakauer also notes that, while the Sherpas pay lip-service to Sagarmatha’s prohibition on extramarital sex, many of them have extramarital sex in secret.
While Krakauer seems not to believe in the Sherpas’ religion on any literal level (he even implies that the Sherpas themselves don’t entirely), he entertains the basic premise that humans will be punished for disrespecting the natural world. Indeed, it’s possible to interpret all of Into Thin Air as a cautionary tale about the power of nature.
There are a large number of accomplished mountaineers on the Nepalese side of Everest in 1998, including Fischer, Hall, and Pete Schoening. However, there are four especially gifted climbers: Ed Viesturs (an American who’s starring in an IMAX film about Everest), Anatoli Boukreev (a guide working for Fischer), Ang Babu, who’s working for the South African team, and Lopsang Jangbu, the uncle of Ngawang Topchke. Lopsang has been climbing since he was twenty, when he demonstrated his vast strength by reaching the peak of Everest without supplemental oxygen. Lopsang is a great admirer of Scott Fischer, and tells Krakauer, “I think Scott has many big plans for me.”
On the surface of things, it seems highly unlikely that the expeditions will suffer any casualties, because there are four excellent mountaineers available to keep the less experienced clients safe. Later on, Lopsang’s intense loyalty o Scott Fischer will cause him tremendous grief and guilt.