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Into Thin Air | Study Guide

Jon Krakauer

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Into Thin Air | Chapter 20 : The Geneva Spur, 9:45 A.M., May 12, 1996 (25,900 feet) | Summary



In this short chapter, Krakauer helps Hutchison correctly fasten his harness and reminds him to wear his goggles to protect against intense UV radiation. They're both exhausted, and Hutchison is confused and disoriented. Hall's group has to wait for other climbers before they can descend any further. Fischer's Sherpas are distraught with grief over his death.

The sun is shining, and it's hot at Camp Two. Makalu is treated for terrible frostbite at the medical tent. Krakauer is astounded to see Weathers, somewhat assisted by two others, walking almost on his own as he nears Camp Two. Weathers joins Makalu in the hospital tent, and doctors are stunned to see his frostbite is worse than Makalu's.

Krakauer and Breashears climb a bit to find a flat surface they can clear for a helicopter landing. Breashears locates a suitable spot and marks an X on it with red juice powder. A helicopter lands, and Makalu is put on board. Krakauer worries about Weathers, but soon the same helicopter returns and Weathers is taken to a Kathmandu hospital as Makalu had been.

Krakauer then sits to ponder what he's experienced over the past 72 hours. He wonders why so many people died, but he finds no answers. He simply cannot comprehend the extent of the tragedy.


With Krakauer's help, Hutchison gets ready to descend with the others. Climbers carefully guide Weathers into Camp Two where the doctors at the makeshift hospital at Camp Two are caring for Makalu. Makalu's hands and feet have "a dull whitish sheen like a dirty bathroom sink," and the doctors think this is the worst frostbite they've ever seen. That changes when they see Weathers, whose frostbite is "even worse than Makalu's."

Those at Base Camp and at Camp Two try to organize a helicopter rescue for the two frostbitten climbers. They finally get the Nepalese army to use one of their helicopters to carry the two climbers to Kathmandu. Krakauer and Breashears cooperate to find and clear a landing site. With both men in a Kathmandu hospital, they will survive.

A bottleneck occurs at a particularly treacherous point in the descent. Hall's and Fischer's teams must wait as climbers carefully descend a limestone cliff one at a time. Even with just two commercial expeditions at the site, climbers are forced to wait in a line before they can get down the cliff.

Lopsang Sherpa is heartbroken and tearful as he mourns for Scott Fischer. He keeps repeating, "I am bad luck ... Scott is dead. It is my fault. I am very bad luck."

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