Into Thin Air

Jon Krakauer Character Analysis

Author and narrator of Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer is an experienced mountaineer and journalist who gets an opportunity to climb Mount Everest, thanks to the sponsorship of Outside magazine. Krakauer respects his guides, Andy Harris and Rob Hall, but finds that he has little in common with his teammates, most of whom are wealthy and somewhat “out-of-touch” with the realities of high-altitude mountaineering. Throughout the book, Krakauer learns about Himalayan culture—particularly the culture of the Sherpas, a small ethnic group that lives mostly in Nepal and Tibet. He also reconfirms his dislike for large, organized group expeditions, which he finds tedious and fundamentally opposed to the rugged, individualistic nature of mountaineering. The turning point in Krakauer’s story comes on May 10, when he climbs to the summit of Mount Everest and makes his way back to his tent, just before a terrible snowstorm hits the mountain. While Krakauer survives the snowstorm, many of his teammates die, leaving Krakauer with a severe case of survivor’s guilt. In many ways, Krakauer wrote Into Thin Air to get over his guilt and make sense of his contradictory feelings about the expedition. Some journalists and professional mountaineers have attacked Krakauer for obscuring the facts about the May 10, 1996 disaster, and for irrationally blaming Anatoli Boukreev for the disaster—perhaps to mitigate some of his own gnawing sense of guilt.

Jon Krakauer Quotes in Into Thin Air

The Into Thin Air quotes below are all either spoken by Jon Krakauer or refer to Jon Krakauer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Danger and Mortality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of Into Thin Air published in 1999.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Four hundred vertical feet above, where the summit was still washed in bright sunlight under an immaculate cobalt sky, my compadres dallied to memorialize their arrival at the apex of the planet, unfurling flags and snapping photos, using up precious ticks of the clock. None of them imagined that a horrible ordeal was drawing nigh. Nobody suspected that by the end of that long day, every minute would matter.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mount Everest
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

Getting to the top of any given mountain was considered much less important than how one got there: prestige was earned by tackling the most unforgiving routes with minimal equipment, in the boldest style imaginable. Nobody was admired more than so-called free soloists: visionaries who ascended alone, without rope or hardware.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

By this time Hall was a full-time professional climber. Like most of his peers, he sought funding from corporate sponsors to pay for his expensive Himalayan expeditions. And he was savvy enough to understand that the more attention he got from the news media, the easier it would be to coax corporations to open their checkbooks.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Rob Hall
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

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I wasn't sure what to make of my fellow clients. In outlook and experience they were nothing like the hard-core climbers with whom I usually went into the mountains. But they seemed like nice, decent folks, and there wasn't a certifiable asshole in the entire group—at least not one who was showing his true colors at this early stage of the proceedings. Nevertheless, I didn't have much in common with any of my teammates except Doug.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Doug Hansen
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

The transformation of the Khumbu culture is certainly not all for the best, but I didn't hear many Sherpas bemoaning the changes. Hard currency from trekkers and climbers, as well as grants from international relief organizations supported by trekkers and climbers, have funded schools and medical clinics, reduced infant mortality, built footbridges, and brought hydroelectric power to Namche and other villages. It seems more than a little patronizing for Westerners to lament the loss of the good old days when life in the Khumbu was so much simpler and more picturesque.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

This was Doug's second shot at Everest with Hall. The year before, Rob had forced him and three other clients to turn back just 330 feet below the top because the hour was late and the summit ridge was buried beneath a mound of deep, unstable snow. "The summit looked sooooo close," Doug recalled with a painful laugh. "Believe me, there hasn't been a day since that I haven't thought about it." He'd been talked into returning this year by Hall, who felt sorry that Hansen had been denied the summit and had significantly discounted Hansen's fee to entice him to give it another try.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Doug Hansen (speaker), Rob Hall
Related Symbols: Mount Everest
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

"If you get killed," she argued with a mix of despair and anger, "it's not just you who'll pay the price. I'll have to pay, too, you know, for the rest of my life. Doesn't that matter to you?"
"I'm not going to get killed," I answered. "Don't be melodramatic."

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Linda Krakauer (speaker)
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

When Fischer questioned Ngawang, he admitted that he'd been feeling weak, groggy, and short of breath for more than two days, so Fischer directed him to descend to Base Camp immediately. But there is an element of machismo in the Sherpa culture that makes many men extremely reluctant to acknowledge physical infirmities. Sherpas aren't supposed to get altitude illness, especially those from Rolwaling, a region famous for its powerful climbers. Those who do become sick and openly acknowledge it, moreover, will often be blacklisted from future employment on expeditions.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Scott Fischer, Ngawang Topchke
Page Number: 112-113
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

Ian Woodall, however, declared that the South Africans would go to the top whenever they damn well pleased, probably on May 10, and anyone who didn't like it could bugger off.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Ian Woodall
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

"If client cannot climb Everest without big help from guide," Boukreev told me, "this client should not be on Everest. Otherwise there can be big problems up high."

Related Characters: Anatoli Boukreev (speaker), Jon Krakauer
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

Each client was in it for himself or herself, pretty much. And I was no different: I sincerely hoped Doug got to the top, for instance, yet I would do everything in my power to keep pushing on if he turned around.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Doug Hansen
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

Now, as Beidleman clung precariously to the rock 100 feet above the clients, the overly eager Yasuko clamped her jumar to the dangling rope before the guide had anchored his end of it. As she was about to put her full body weight on the rope—which would have pulled Beidleman off—Mike Groom intervened in the nick of time and gently scolded her for being so impatient.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Yasuko Namba, Neal Beidleman, Mike Groom
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

Beck was nearly persuaded to descend with me when I made the mistake of mentioning that Mike Groom was on his way down with Yasuko, a few minutes behind me. In a day of many mistakes, this would turn out to be one of the larger ones.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Beck Weathers, Yasuko Namba, Mike Groom
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 15 Quotes

Fischer hid the fact from everyone, as well, that he may have been clinically ill during the summit attempt. In 1984, during an expedition to Nepal's Annapuma massif, he'd picked up a gastrointestinal parasite, Entamoeba histolytica, which he was unable to entirely purge from his body over the years that followed. The bug emerged from dormancy on an irregular basis, producing bouts of acute physical distress and leaving a cyst on his liver. Insisting it was nothing to worry about, Fischer mentioned the ailment to few people at Base Camp.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Scott Fischer
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

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Boukreev's susceptibility to the cold was doubtless greatly exacerbated by the fact that he wasn't using supplemental oxygen; in the absence of gas he simply couldn't stop to wait for slow clients on the summit ridge without courting frostbite and hypothermia.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Anatoli Boukreev
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 16 Quotes

Was I really so debilitated that I had stared into the face of a near stranger and mistaken him for a friend with whom I'd spent the previous six weeks? And if Andy had never arrived at Camp Four after reaching the summit, what in the name of God had happened to him?

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Andy Harris, Martin Adams
Page Number: 231
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 17 Quotes

Two full bottles were waiting for them at the South Summit; if Hall had known this he could have retrieved the gas fairly quickly and then climbed back up to give Hansen a fresh tank, But Andy Harris, still at the oxygen cache, in the throes of his hypoxic dementia, overheard these radio calls and broke in to tell Hall—incorrectly, just as he'd told Mike Groom and me—that all the bottles at the South Summit were empty,

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Rob Hall, Andy Harris
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

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"I'm looking forward to making you completely better when you come home," said Arnold. "I just know you're going to be rescued. Don't feel that you're alone. I'm sending all my positive energy your way!"
Before signing off, Hall told his wife, "I love you. Sleep well, my sweetheart. Please don't worry too much."

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Rob Hall, Jan Arnold
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 19 Quotes

There was only one choice, however difficult: let nature take its inevitable course with Beck and Yasuko, and save the group's resources for those who could actually be helped. It was a classic act of triage. When Hutchinson returned to camp he was on the verge of tears and looked like a ghost.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Beck Weathers, Stuart Hutchinson, Yasuko Namba
Page Number: 260
Explanation and Analysis:

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Upon first finding Beck in the tent, I was so shocked by his hideous condition—and by the unforgivable way that we'd let him down yet again—I nearly broke into tears. "Everything's going to be O.K.," I lied, choking back my sobs as I pulled the sleeping bags over him, zipped the tent doors shut, and tried to re-erect the damaged shelter. "Don't worry, pal. Everything's under control now."

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Beck Weathers
Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 21 Quotes

Before this year, however, Hall had had uncommonly good luck with the weather, and it might have skewed his judgment. "Season after season," confirmed David Breashears, who has been on more than a dozen Himalayan expeditions and has himself climbed Everest three times, "Rob had brilliant weather on summit day. He'd never been caught by a storm high on the mountain." In fact, the gale of May 10, though violent, was nothing extraordinary; it was a fairly typical Everest squall. If it had hit two hours later, it's likely that nobody would have died. Conversely, if it had arrived even one hour earlier, the storm could easily have killed eighteen or twenty climbers—me among them.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), David Breashears (speaker), Rob Hall
Page Number: 284-285
Explanation and Analysis:

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Epilogue Quotes

For Neal Beidleman's part, he helped save the lives of five clients by guiding them down the mountain, yet he remains haunted by a death he was unable to prevent, of a client who wasn't on his team and thus wasn't even officially his responsibility.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Yasuko Namba, Neal Beidleman
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:

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Jon Krakauer Character Timeline in Into Thin Air

The timeline below shows where the character Jon Krakauer appears in Into Thin Air. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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It is the afternoon of May 10, 1996, and Jon Krakauer, the author, hasn’t slept for 57 hours. He stands at the summit of Mount Everest,... (full context)
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Later on, Krakauer notes, people will wonder why he, Boukreev, and Harris continued to climb down from Everest... (full context)
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Krakauer begins his descent from the summit. He’s in pain, and he feels weak because there’s... (full context)
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Krakauer asks Harris to turn off the valve in his regulator, allowing him to conserve oxygen... (full context)
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Krakauer climbs across Hillary’s Step and reaches the fresh oxygen tank. As he inhales oxygen, he... (full context)
Chapter 2
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On May 22, 1963, Krakauer was nine years old. A team headed by Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld climbed to... (full context)
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By the time he was thirty, Krakauer had mixed feelings about Everest—strangely, he thought it wasn’t challenging or beautiful enough to be... (full context)
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In 1995, one of Krakauer’s editors asked him to join an Everest expedition and write an article about it for... (full context)
Chapter 3
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It’s March 29, 1996, and Krakauer is sitting on a plane, flying into Kathmandu. His plane lands and he meets up... (full context)
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Krakauer and the other mountaineers on the expedition go to a hotel, where they meet Rob... (full context)
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On March 31, Krakauer and the other mountaineers assemble at the airport and prepare to fly to the base... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Krakauer and the mountaineering team march toward Everest along the Dudh Kosi, a large river. As... (full context)
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The team eats dinner, and Krakauer notices that Hutchinson, Taske, and Weathers, the three doctors in the group, dominate the conversation.... (full context)
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...be fair, tourism has also introduced better schools and hospitals to the Sherpa community, and Krakauer senses that it’s a little patronizing for Americans to “lament the loss of the good... (full context)
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...has adjusted to the altitude, meaning that they’re ready to proceed. Before doing so, however, Krakauer visits a Buddhist monastery, where the head monk of Nepal, the rimpoche, has just finished... (full context)
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The first six days of the climb are full of beautiful vistas, and Krakauer feels that he’s in a dream. Krakauer enjoys talking to Doug Hansen and Andy Harris.... (full context)
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...villages to another small lodge in the town of Lobuje. The lodge is filthy, and Krakauer develops a bad cough from inhaling acrid smoke. On April 7, Krakauer learns that Tenzing,... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Krakauer notes that, in no small part, Fischer is the reason that Krakauer is climbing Everest... (full context)
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As they spend a few days at Base Camp, the other climbers on Krakauer’s team suffer from diarrhea, dehydration, and headaches because of the altitude. During this time, Krakauer... (full context)
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Krakauer worries that his lack of experience with high altitude will prevent him from climbing Everest.... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...then on to Camp Two for a longer period, and so on. On April 12, Krakauer’s birthday, the team prepares its climbing equipment. Krakauer learns that most of his teammates haven’t... (full context)
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On April 13, the team begins to travel across the Icefall. Krakauer has traveled icefalls before, but none as dangerous as the Khumbu. The climbers proceed separately... (full context)
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Back at Base Camp, Krakauer and the other climbers talk about their strengths and weaknesses. Krakauer has noticed that Frank... (full context)
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The next morning, Krakauer receives a phone call from Linda, his wife, to the Base Camp line. Linda tells... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Krakauer notes that Everest has always been a haven for “kooks, publicity seekers, hopeless romantics, and... (full context)
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At Camp One, Krakauer meets some members of Scott Fischer’s team, including Klev Schoening, a former Olympic skier, and... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...to Camp One—this will be their second acclimatization excursion. On his way to Camp One, Krakauer notices that his breathing is more relaxed than it was during his first journey to... (full context)
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Krakauer reaches Camp One around 9 am. There he finds Ang Dorje, the climbing sirdar—i.e., the... (full context)
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Two days later, the team prepares to climb to Camp Two. Krakauer feels extremely hot from the exertion of climbing, and tries to prevent himself from getting... (full context)
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On April 22, the group marches back down to Base Camp. There, Krakauer and Andy Harris go to visit the South African team. Harris and Krakauer meet Ian... (full context)
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Krakauer returns to his team, where he finds Hall, Dr. Mackenzie, and Scott Fischer’s doctor, Ingrid... (full context)
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...corporate sponsors to hire alpinists to guide her up to the top of Mount Everest. Krakauer had never met Pittman before this Everest trip, but he’d heard a lot about her.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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On April 26, Krakauer wakes up at 4 am and prepares for the day’s final acclimatization climb: from Camp... (full context)
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Back at Camp Two, Krakauer examines his toes and fingers—they’re stiff, but not seriously frostbitten. Doug Hansen, on the other... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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.” (full context)
Chapter 10
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...behind to let his throat heal). The team climbs up the mountain slowly. Most people, Krakauer observes, believe that mountaineering is a sport for reckless thrill-seekers. But while mountaineering can be... (full context)
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Krakauer revises his opinions of some of his teammates at they climb the mountain together. Initially,... (full context)
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Krakauer becomes increasingly uncomfortable in his role as a journalist, as he senses that his peers... (full context)
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Krakauer arrives at Camp Three, and immediately begins to help two Sherpas chop ice. Although he’s... (full context)
Chapter 11
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On the morning of May 6, Krakauer and the team leave Base Camp for the summit. Krakauer perspires heavily from the exertion... (full context)
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On May 7, the team reaches Camp Two, and Hall declares a day of rest. Krakauer notices Fischer at Camp Two, looking irritable. Because he gave his clients a higher degree... (full context)
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Both Hall and Fischer’s team arrive at Camp Three. Krakauer is the first to arrive, and while the other team members trickle in, he chops... (full context)
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...Chen’s memory. Despite the large number of accidents on the climb to Everest so far, Krakauer and the rest of his team try to remain focused on their mission. “There would... (full context)
Chapter 12
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On the morning of May 9, Krakauer and his teammates wake up early for the day’s climb. During the climb, Krakauer steadily... (full context)
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Over the course of the afternoon the weather deteriorates. In the evening, Krakauer sits in his tent. He hears a voice saying, “Let him in quickly or he’s... (full context)
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...Frank and Doug, turn back. However, Hall runs into Doug, says something to him (as Krakauer puts it, “we’ll never know what was said”), and as a result, Doug turns back... (full context)
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...Hall ordered everyone to stay close together. As the team gets closer to the summit, Krakauer notices members of Fischer’s team and the Taiwanese team getting closer together. (full context)
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Krakauer reaches the Southeast Ridge of Everest at 5:30 am, with the understanding that he needs... (full context)
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At 7:10 am, Krakauer sees Hall arriving at the Southeast Ridge, and Hall gives him the go-ahead to climb.... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Krakauer and Ang Dorje arrive at the Balcony—the steep mountain slope leading up to the summit—around... (full context)
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Around 11 am, Krakauer is with three guides, Andy Harris, Neal Beidleman (working for Scott Fischer), and Anatoli Boukreev... (full context)
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Krakauer and the guides proceed toward the summit, stopping to inhale condensed oxygen every three or... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Once he’s made it to the top of Everest, Krakauer doesn’t linger long; he hurries back to Camp Four, lest he run out of oxygen.... (full context)
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At this point, Krakauer is on the verge of blacking out. He shouts for Andy Harris to run ahead... (full context)
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Around 3:30 pm, Krakauer leaves the South Summit, without either Harris or Boukreev (who are helping other clients). He... (full context)
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Krakauer proceeds to climb down the Balcony. The climb is difficult, since by this time there... (full context)
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A short time after Krakauer reaches the bottom of the Balcony, “Andy Harris suddenly appeared out of the gloom beside... (full context)
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Krakauer proceeds toward Camp Four at a slow pace, confused about why Harris didn’t wait for... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...1:25 pm with his client, Martin Adams. There, they find Andy Harris and Anatoli Boukreev (Krakauer departed eight minutes previously). Beidleman is an aerospace engineer, as well as one of the... (full context)
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Krakauer flashes back to the previous day, May 9. That afternoon, Fischer began to feel ill,... (full context)
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...the way up, he crosses paths with Martin Adams and Anatoli Boukreev, as well as Krakauer and Andy Harris. Although Fischer is visibly exhausted and sickly-looking, nobody thinks that he’s in... (full context)
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Back at Camp Four, Krakauer is sitting in his tent, very cold. Stuart Hutchinson, who’s been back since 2 pm,... (full context)
Chapter 16
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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... (full context)
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Hutchinson tells Krakauer that Beck and Yasuko Namba must be dead, and that Scott Fischer has gone missing.... (full context)
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After the expedition, Krakauer notes, he spoke with many people involved in the disaster. One was Martin Adams, who... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...to de-ice his canister, and breathes fresh, concentrated oxygen. On the morning of May 11, Krakauer thinks that he sees Hall climbing down the mountain, and begins to cheer. However, it... (full context)
Chapter 19
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On Saturday morning, May 11, Krakauer and some other clients look for Andy Harris, but can’t find him. The events of... (full context)
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Ironically, Krakauer notes, Rob Hall had been worried that one of the less competent teams would get... (full context)
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Back at Camp Four, Krakauer breathes some bottled oxygen and begins to feel better. Together, he and Hutchinson try to... (full context)
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Krakauer tries to decide what to do about Beck Weathers—does he try to carry Beck down,... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Krakauer and the remaining clients begin their slow, painful descent on May 12. A few Sherpas... (full context)
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Around 1:30 pm, Krakauer and the clients reach Camp Two. There, the wind isn’t as strong, and it’s slightly... (full context)
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Breashears informs Krakauer that a helicopter is on its way to Camp Two. The helicopter can only fly... (full context)
Chapter 21
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On the morning of May 13, Krakauer is climbing down the Khumbu Icefall. When he makes it through the Icefall, he finds... (full context)
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...Fischer, Doug Hansen, Yasuko Namba, and Lopsang. Shortly after the service, two Japanese journalists approach Krakauer with questions about Yasuko Namba. Krakauer realizes that he faces a “swarm of print and... (full context)
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On May 19, Krakauer finally flies back to the U.S., knowing that he has a responsibility to visit Doug... (full context)
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Krakauer faces the truth about his time climbing Everest. Along with Mike Groom, he was the... (full context)
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How can we prevent a disaster like the one Krakauer experienced from ever happening again? One simple way to do so would be to ban... (full context)
Epilogue
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In the months and years following the Everest disaster, Krakauer’s teammates begin to move on with their lives. Lou Kasischke writes Krakauer a letter explaining... (full context)
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...hand, along with his nose. Beck doesn’t blame any of his teammates for his suffering. Krakauer notes that Beck and Lou have been able to move on with their lives instead... (full context)
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Krakauer’s Outside article about Everest prompts other angry responses, especially from relatives of the deceased climbers.... (full context)
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...at least five lives, he blames himself for being unable to save sixth: Yasuko Namba. Krakauer visits Neal Beidleman, and together, they talk about their depression and guilt. Beidleman remembers Yasuko... (full context)