Reading progress update: I've read 135 out of 382 pages.

The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest - G. Weston DeWalt, Anatoli Boukreev

Ah, we're getting to the heart of the matter:

"Most of the members of both the Fischer and Hall expeditions agree about what was supposed to have happened. They were told that Ang Dorje, Hall’s climbing sirdar, and Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa, Fischer’s climbing sirdar, were supposed to leave Camp IV well ahead of the clients and fix ropes so that as the clients and guides advanced, they would not have to wait. But that’s not what happened.

   Neither Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa nor Ang Dorje Sherpa nor any other Sherpas had departed early to fix ropes. When he was debriefed after the climb, Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa said that a member of a Montenegrin expedition that had made a failed bid on the summit on May 9 had told him, “Already fix rope, you no need anything.” ❖ Subsequently, when Jon Krakauer wrote about the climb for publication, he cast suspicion on the explanation, saying that guides from Fischer’s and Hall’s expeditions who should have been told there had been a change in plans were not and that Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa and Ang Dorje Sherpa both left Camp IV with their expedition members carrying three hundred feet of rope in their packs, an action “for which there would have been no reason” if fixed ropes were in place.

   Krakauer’s “evidence” has been troubling to some, who have found it circumstantial. Fischer did not arrive at Camp IV until five-thirty on the evening of May 9, and by several accounts was, at best, extremely tired. In the gale that was blowing, with the security of the camp and climbers on his mind and struggling with his own well-being, it seems entirely within reason that he had gotten a report from Lopsang and felt he had one less thing to worry about. To not consider that scenario— and a similar one for Rob Hall— is to suggest the possibility that both Fischer and Hall made a purposeful decision to hold their Sherpas back or not to inform their guides, when they started the climb, of their Sherpas’ failure to perform. Either action would have seriously compromised their guides and clients; it could have contributed to their deaths. Whatever their philosophical differences and personal styles, that was not the kind of men they were.

   As for the rope that Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa and Ang Dorje Sherpa carried onto the mountain, many experienced high-altitude climbers have wondered, why not? A climbing sirdar would take rope onto the mountain for the same reason you keep an extra pair of shoelaces in your dresser drawer. Things happen. A rising storm can bury ropes. You can find ropes improperly fixed. An alternative route might have to be established. An accident might necessitate additional ropes. Your information might not be 100 percent reliable."