Chapter 3 Our climb began in earnest on May 9. By then we'd successfully negotiated the Khumbu Icefall, surmounted the Western Cwm, and now were halfway up a moderately steep, four-thousand foot wall of blue ice called the Lhotse Face, which the prudent climber will traverse very carefully. This extreme care is a function of the physics involved. With hard ice such as that found on the Lhotse Face, there is no coefficient of friction; you are traction free. Fall into an uncontrolled slide, and your chances of stopping are nil. You're history. A Taiwanese climber named Chen Yu-Nan would discover the truth of this, to his horror, on the morning of May 9. Because the Lhotse Face is a slope, you pitch Camp Three by carving out a little ice platform for your tent, which you crawl into exhausted, desperate for some rest. No matter how tired you are, however, you must remember a couple of fairly simple rules. One, don't sleepwalk. Two, when you get up in the morning, the very first thing you've got to do, without fail, is put those twelve knives on each climbing boot, your crampons, because they are what stick you down to that hill. Chen Yu-Nan forgot. He got out of his tent wearing his inner boots, took two steps, and went zhoooooooop! down into a crevasse, leading to his death. Our plan was simple. We were going to get up with the sun and climb all day to get to High Camp on the South Col late that afternoon. We would then rest for three or four hours, get up again and climb all night and through the next day to hit Everest's summit by noon on May 10, and absolutely no later than two o'clock. This point had been drilled into us over the preceding week: Absolutely no later than two. If you're not moving fast enough to get to the summit by two, you're not moving fast enough to get back down before darkness traps you on the mountain. We reached High Camp on schedule late that afternoon. The South Col (from the Latin collum, or "neck") is part of the ridge that forms Everest's southeast shoulder and sits astride the great Himalayan mountain divide between Nepal and Tibet. Four groups-too many people, as it turned out-would be bivouacked there in preparation for the final assault: us, Scott Fischer's expedition, a Taiwanese group and a team of South Africans who would not make the summit attempt that night. Altogether, maybe a dozen tents were set up, surrounded by a litter of spent oxygen canisters, the occasional frozen body and the tattered remnants of previous climbing camps. If you wander too close to the South Col's north rim, you'll tumble seven thousand uninterrupted feet down Everest's Kangshung Face into the People's Republic of China. Make a similar misstep on the opposite side, and you zip to a crash landing approximately four thousand feet down the Lhotse Face. The wind was blowing quite hard when we crawled into High Camp. It was cold. And at some visceral level I was secretly grateful because I knew that we couldn't climb in those conditions. I was pretty hammered. I said to myself, If you can just rest tonight, you are bound to feel better tomorrow than you feel right now. This was rank self-deception. The whole point is to arrive at High Camp with just enough energy to get to the summit and then retreat in one piece. I wasn't going to get any stronger up there. Quite the opposite. They call it the Death Zone, because above 25,000 feet, the mountain slowly kills you, whether or not you ever leave your tent. So we turned in. Doug Hansen, Lou Kasischke, Andy Harris and I all lay under the tent in our sleeping bags, listening to the wind howl. Then about ten that night, the gale quite suddenly blew itself out. A perfect, albeit frigid calm came over the Death Zone. "Guys," Rob said, sticking his neck into our tent. "Saddle up! We're going for it!" I started pulling my geWeathers, Beck is the author of 'Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest' with ISBN 9780375504044 and ISBN 0375504044.