Dateline   |  September 06, 2013

Into the Death Zone, Part 2

The climbers gather at Mount Everest’s bustling Base Camp and begin preparing for their summit attempt, anxiously waiting for the weather to cooperate.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> narrator: the scene.

>> you can see how many people are here at base camp . there's probably 1,000 to 1,500 people here. there's heated showers, satellite dishes. people throw raves and parties with costumes and everything.

>> a reporter that was reporting for "outside" magazine, said the camp is hardly a retreat in the himalayas.

>> it's almost like a middle east sound of men moving rocks around, moving rocks to build kitchen tents and platforms.

>> narrator: base camp is not just a high altitude waiting room. climbers spend the next few weeks trekking to the camps higher up on the mountain and then back down again. it's hard, dangerous work. everest pushes people to the edges of what the human body can endure.

>> 19,700 feet. you see the line of people that will hike all the way up to camp two for further come long nicization.

>> camp one i arrived yesterday at 1:24. this is camp two.

>> you don't make a straight assent to the summit. you make it up to different camps to climate advertise. we went up to camp one, then descended. then we went up to camp two and spent almost a week there. it's really to get your body to adjust to the conditions up there.

>> what's your frame of mind ?

>> i was nervous, very nervous, very anxious. i had no idea whether i would be able to summit.

>> if syria shah was nervous, she didn't show it. but she had to be taught everyone. she was by all accounts a willing student, liked by her teammates. but as you can see on this video from her own helmet cam , other climbers were easily passing syria , because she was slow, very slow. it was a serious problem. experienced climbers like jon kedrowski know just how dangerous that could be.

>> the safety of the mountains, leaving early, moving fast, getting to camp early. you're already cutting the risk down by not being faster.

>> narrator: but as the time for summit drew closer, a bigger problem emerged, one that would threaten everyone's climb, the elements.

>> the weather is determined when you're actually going to do your summit attempt.

>> narrator: that weather usually clears in may, allowing climbers to try for the top. but by mid-may 2012 , that had. happened.

>> these climbers are all ready to go.

>> narrator: forecasters predicted a razor thin weather window starting on may 18 . it would be the first and perhaps the only chance for hundreds of climbers to race to the top .

>> having your first weather window on may 18 is exceptionally late.

>> they don't know if there's going to be another turnopportunity.

>> they don't know if there's going to be another summit window.

>> narrator: base camp is buzzing.

>> we didn't know if 1,300 people or so would be attempting the summit on may 18 .

>> narrator: even on some of their training runs, crowds became an issue, causing traffic jams on the mountain.

>> people are all trying to climb these roads, so the best thing is to go back to camp.

>> what's the problem you're concerned about?

>> i think, yeah, getting caught in a line where you can't move up or down and then weather moves in and at high altitude your body might shut down and you get caught exposed for too long.

>> so you substitute the danger of climbing in bad weather , with the comfort of climbing with 100 or 200 of your best friends .

>> narrator: so the decision has been made, with 26 hours of good weather coming, the climbers get ready to leave, so did their sherpas.

>> syria shah would have two sherpas climbing with her on climb day. even jon kedrowski would have his sherpas to help him to the top of the mountain .

>> narrator: but the sherpas were jittery, three had died in the past two weeks.

>> these were all deaths that were seen as preventible or freak accidents that shouldn't have happened. and that really rattled the works force.

>> narrator: despite that bad omen, jon , jon --

>> coming up, a first brush