Killer Peak Essay, Research Paper
Killer Peak On May 10th 1996, 23 climbers from 5 different expeditions were surprised by a fierce storm on the South Col of Mount Everest. 24 hours later eight of them were dead. Jon Krakauer was part of a group led by experienced climbers Rob Hall, Mike Groom and Andy Harris. Fellow climbers Doug Hansen, Beck Weathers, Yasuko Namba, Frank Fishbeck, Lou Kasischke, John Taske and Stuart Hutchinson had paid up to 42,000 each to be taken to the summit. By the morning of May 11th Harris, Hansen, Namba and Weathers were all unaccounted for. Krakauer, back at Camp Four after a terrifying night battling the elements, takes up the story on that fateful morning After a night at 26,000 feet with supplemental oxygen, I was even weaker than I d been the previous evening after coming down from the summit. Unless we somehow acquired some more gas, I knew my team-mates and I would continue to deteriorate rapidly. Searching out the rest of our crew, I found Fishbeck and Kasischke lying in a nearby tent. Lou was delirious and snow-blind, unable to do anything for himself and muttering incoherently. Frank looked as if he was in a severe state of shock, but he was doing his best to take care of Lou. John Taske was in another tent with Mike Groom: both men appeared to be asleep or unconscious. As I went from tent to tent I tried to locate some oxygen, but all the canisters I found were empty. One thing a climber faces is hypoxia a semi-hallucinatory state caused by lack of oxygen, which dulls the senses and any decision-making progress. This, coupled with my profound fatigue, exacerbated the sense of chaos and despair. Thanks to the relentless din of nylon flapping in the wind, it was impossible to communicate from tent to tent. The batteries in our one remaining radio were nearly depleted. Rob and Andy were gone, and although Groom was present, the ordeal of the previous night had taken a terrible toll on him. Seriously frost-bitten he was unable even to speak.While I tried to recover after my fruitless search for Harris, Hutchinson organised a team of four Sherpas to locate the bodies of Weathers and Namba. The search party had set off before Hutchinson, who was so exhausted and befuddled he d forgotten to put his boots on and had tried to leave camp in his smooth-soiled liners. The Sherpas soon found the two bodies on a slope of grey ice freckled with boulders. Both bodies were partially buried, their backpacks maybe 100ft away. Their faces and torsos were covered with snow; only their hands and feet sticking out. The wind was screaming across the Col. The first body turned out to be Namba, but Hutchinson couldn t discern who it was until he chipped a three-inch carapace of ice from her face. Stunned, he discovered that she was still breathing. Both her gloves were gone, and her bare hands appeared to be frozen solid. Her eyes were dilated. The skin on her face was the colour of white porcelain.
Hutchinson turned his attention to Beck, who lay 20ft away. Beck s head was also caked in a thick layer of frost. Balls of ice the size of grapes were matted to his hair and eyelids. After clearing the ice from Beck s face, Hutchinson realised he was still alive too. Beck was mumbling, but I couldn t tell what he was trying to say. I tried to get him to sit up but he couldn t. He was as close to death a person can be and still be breathing. One of the four Sherpas decided to leave Beck and Yasuko where they lay. Even if they survived long enough to be dragged back to Camp Four, they d certainly die before they could be carried back down to base camp, and attempting a rescue would only endanger the lives of the other climbers, most who would have trouble getting down safely. Beck Weathers does not remember Hutchinson finding him and chipping ice from his face. He remained comatose for 12 hours. Then, late in the afternoon of the next day, for some unknowable reason a light went on in Beck s inanimate brain and he floated back into consciousness. Beck was blind in his right eye and able to focus his left within a radius of only three feet, he started walking into the wind, knowing that the camp was that way. Had he been mistaken, he would have fallen down the Kangshung face, a fall of 7,000ft, only 30ft in the opposite direction. About 90 minutes later he encountered some smooth, bluish looking rocks , which turned out to be Camp Four. Following his helicopter evacuation, Beck had his right arm amputated below the elbow. All four fingers and his thumb on his left hand were removed. His nose was amputated and reconstructed with tissue from his ear and forehead. Although a record number of people died in the spring climbing season on Everest in 1996, only one in six of the climbers who passed base camp died. Compared to the average ratio of 1 in 4, that makes 1996 a safer than average year.