Summary and Analysis
Ten months after finding out that their son has died, Walt and Billie McCandless travel with Krakauer by helicopter to visit the Sushana River bus. The author notes that it takes the helicopter 15 minutes to cover the distance it took McCandless four days to walk.
After spending a half-hour or so walking quietly around the bus, Billie finally climbs inside. Both parents smell their dead son's jeans. They wander in and out of the bus for the next two hours. Walt places a memorial plaque inside the door. Billie arranges a bouquet beneath the plaque. She also leaves survival supplies and a first-aid kit under the bed.
Billie McCandless tells Krakauer, "Many people have told me that they admire Chris for what he was trying to do. If he'd lived, I would agree with them. But he didn't, and there's no way to bring him back . . . Most things you can fix, but not that."
Krakauer ends this story of adventure that resulted in tragedy with a low-key but heartbreaking scene. By this point in the narrative, the reader has probably come to know Christopher McCandless better than many of those who crossed his long and tortuous path; thus, we share in their sense of loss. It is because of Krakauer's reporting and writing skills and his capacity for empathy with the misguided young man that the reader is able to do so, rather than merely judging McCandless for what he did and failed to do.